Friday, June 3, 2016

Farewell to Downton Abbey

Like just about everybody else in almost the whole world, I loved Downton Abbey.  My friend Debbie introduced me to it at a mini-retreat we had at her house a few years ago, and I was hooked.  So of course it was sad to see the series end last February.  But it's a good excuse to make a quilt!

Here it is, laid out flat.  It's quilted!  Not bound yet, but I'm still dithering about a color.  Right now I'm thinking red.
I knew the end was coming, so for Christmas I ordered myself a packet of the Downton Abbey fabrics.  It was nearly half price--what a deal.  I had lots of fun piecing the blocks. 
I chose the pattern from The Ladies Art Company catalog of 1928.  The time period was almost right for the dates the show portrayed (1912 to 1926).  The block I chose was called Sisters Choice.  I've always liked that block, plus the name really went with what Downton Abbey was about.  The show centers around the choices sisters Mary, Edith, and Sybil make, good and bad, and how that affects everyone around them.
I added seams in 4 places to the block above to make it easier to piece, and I made my blocks 10 in. square, so each segment finished at 2 in.

Here's the first block.  I was using the Singer 9W then.  I later switched to a different treadle machine when the 9W developed some minor problems.
All the blocks are different, although fabrics are repeated.  In addition to the official Downton Abbey prints, I scrounged up fabrics from everywhere to fit the color scheme and the time period.  The print above is from my thirties scraps.  The prints we think of as 1930s were actually begun in the 1920s, so I used them.
Of course I included Liberty of London fabrics!  The Crawley girls would definitely have shopped there. 
Here's another Liberty print.  I love them so much I can hardly bear to cut them.
I don't often do a pieced border, and it was a little scary, but it turned out okay, I think.
Here's the back, a thirties style print from Connected Threads.
This is a quilt-as-you-go quilt.  Once I had the blocks pieced, I added sashings to all but six of the blocks (the ones on the ends of the rows) and layered them with batting and backing into the stack you see above.  The backing is cut about an inch larger all around than the block section.
After a few disasters (such as the Terrible Quilt from 2 post ago), I learned how to quilt by the block and end up with a decent quilt.  Warning--it involves hand sewing!  But not a huge amount.  For machine quilting, I use my Pfaff electric sewing machine with a built-in walking foot.

Here's how I make my quilt-as-you-go quilts:
For the first block in each row, I just quilt it.  Because I'm going to "sew and flip" the seams surrounding this block, I can quilt right up to the edge if I want to.
Here's the back, all quilted.  I use old fashioned 100% cotton batting, so I quilt closely.  I just like that look anyway.
When the quilting is done, I very carefully trim away the excess batting and backing.
Here I'm ready to add the next block section. 
I stitch the second block section to the first quilted piece through all 4 layers.
I use a quarter inch seam, just like always.  Because there are sashings, there are no seams to match.
Next I add the backing, sewing over the same seam.  You could add both of these pieces at the same time, but I'm just trying to be careful.
Now I lay the batting piece on top of the backing.  Notice--I'm NOT catching the batting piece in the seam.  I find that makes bulky seams.  Since I am going to do lots of quilting, I am not worried about the batting shifting. 
Now I take the whole thing to the ironing board.  Here's where having 100% cotton batting helps.  I press the newly attached sections away from the seam with the iron.  (No poly, no melting!)  I do this on the front and on the back.  I want the piece to be smooth and flat, and ready for quilting.
Now I quilt the next block.  I probably should have quilted the sashing first, but at this point I hadn't decided what to quilt in the sashings so I left it for later.  In the end I just did a "railroad tracks" quilting, a quarter inch from the seams.
Here's the second block trimmed, and the third block ready to add.
Once the rows are done, I do a more traditional quilt-as-you-go joining.  I add the long sashing piece on the front of the first row and the backing for the sashing on the back of the first row, just like joining the sections above.  Then I add the front sashing ONLY to the next row.  I lay in a strip of batting, and pin the backing over the seam.  Here's where I hand stitch.  I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN PICTURES OF THIS STEP, SORRY.
The only hand stitching I do is to sew down the backing of each sashing strip.  In this quilt, there were 5 of these (6 rows of blocks).  Each of these seams is the width of the quilt.
After the sashing was joined between the rows, I quilted it (just the simple railroad tracks again). 

Just for fun, I timed myself.  I took me approximately 9 minutes to quilt each block.  There were 5 blocks in each row, so 45 minutes quilting, plus some time trimming and pressing.  I could easily quilt a row in an hour.  I didn't time how long it took to do the hand sewing.  Mostly, I just had it on the kitchen table and worked on it while supper cooked, etc.

The borders are joined sew-and-flip style.  To get this right, I ran down to my basement bookcase and got this book:
Machine Quilting in Sections, by Marti Michell.  I found this to be extremely helpful when adding multiple borders.  Basically, I added the first border plus all the batting and backing needed for all the borders together in one step.  Then I added the next two borders.

So now for the binding, and then the label!

I still miss Downton Abbey on Sunday nights.  Sure, some of the story lines were silly (Mr. Bates AND Mrs. Bates suspected of murders???), but for the most part it was extremely well done, historically accurate, and compelling television.  I don't think a quilt like mine would ever have graced a bed upstairs, but it could have been made by one of the servants from the scraps of everyone's clothing.  Maybe Mrs. Hughes, or Anna, or Baxter could have sewn it.  Hmm, Baxter seems to know her way around a sewing machine.

I wish you the joy of quilting this week.


  1. Lovely quilt. Don't think I would ever get a quilt done trying this method, I would give

    1. Thanks, Love of Quilts! (great name) For me, it's either quilt as you go, or hand quilt, if I'm doing it myself. It does take some persistence.

  2. Great quilt, I like that you used the sister's choice block. Yes I think Baxter would have pieced quilt patches.

    1. Thanks, Cathy! Baxter does seem very practical. It's amazing how real these characters are.


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