Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Living in the Past

I love history.  I love quilts.  So naturally, I love quilt history.  And by that I mean REAL quilt history, based on facts and scholarship.
One of our most famous quilt historians is Barbara Brackman.  Her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns is used as the definitive reference for most of the quilt documentation projects which are digitized at the Quilt Index.  She also has a terrific blog.  Here's the link:  Barbara Brackman's Material Culture
I had been neglecting my blog reading for a while, and just stumbled across something wonderful last November.  It was Barbara Brackman's Stars in A Time Warp Quiltalong.  It started in January of 2015, and featured a post per week on different fabrics and prints in quilt history.
It was like taking an in-depth class, for free!  Each week participants made 6 in. star blocks using reproduction fabrics of the type featured in the blog post.
Since I started late, I could progress through the lessons at my own pace.  I rooted through all my scraps and yardage, looking for just the right pieces.  I unearthed fabric from the basement, digging for treasure.  My sewing room looked like a bomb went off.
And here is the result:
This is quilt #1.  It's a medallion set, with most of the fabrics reproducing the earlier part of the 19th Century.  The center is the bird block at the top of this post.  The bird is a reproduction of a chintz made by John Hewson of Philadelphia.
It's not a big quilt, which would have been more typical of this time period, but it fits a twin bed.
It was so much fun choosing the fabrics!  The center of the star above came from a scrap of curtain fabric I bought at a flea market.
Many of these fabrics have been in my repro stash for years.
This border is from 2000!

So that's the first quilt.  Here's the second one:
It was hard to get it all in one photo.  There are borders on all four sides, BTW.
Most of these reproduction fabrics copy the last half of the 19th Century.  I tried to use 4 fabrics in each block for the sake of variety.
The center of the blue block above is a toile with scenes from the life of Abraham Lincoln.  The fabric in the corners of the Lincoln star shows clasped hands and says The Union For Ever.

Stars in A Time Warp is still up!  Here's the link:  Stars in A Time Warp

So how am I going to quilt them?  I think I want quilting designs that work with the time periods.  Got any ideas?  I'd love to know what you'd do.  Leave a suggestion in the comments.

In other news, there's a "new" old sewing machine in my sewing room.
This is my Singer 9W.  She's been on a shelf in the basement for a few years, waiting for her turn to get back to work.
I had of course cleaned and oiled her and got her sewing when I first bought her, but this is her real shake-down cruise.
The Singer 9W is a sort of hybrid between a Wheeler and Wilson and a Singer.  In fact, she mostly takes after the Wheeler and Wilson side.  Singer took over the Wheeler and Wilson factories after they went out of business in 1905, and produced the 9W until around 1913.  So my machine is at least 100 years old.
The good news is, she works very well!  She has a nice consistent stitch, and so far not a smidge of tension troubles.  However, there are some things that I'm having to get used to.  For instance, the hand wheel turns AWAY from you, like a White, not like a Singer.  And the bobbins are very interesting.
The Singer 9W takes a round, flat bobbin.  This shows it in place.
This is what it looks like when you take the bobbin out.  It's hard to see here (not a good photo), but the bobbin goes in on a little lever, which you close when the bobbin is in place.
Winding the bobbins is a tad primitive.  You guide the thread onto the bobbin with your fingers, moving it gently back and forth to fill the bobbin evenly.  It reminds me of the Singer model 12 in this aspect.
In the photo above, you can see two bobbins on the machine bed.  The nearer one is an old bobbin, original to the machine.  I have 2 old bobbins, plus some newer ones originally made for a Featherweight.  Some of the Featherweight bobbins work, and some don't, because they are just a tiny bit too big to go in the machine.
I'm a 21st Century woman, and I really wouldn't have it any other way.  I like being able to vote, having better health care, occasional airplane travel, radio, television, telephones, indoor plumbing, oh, yes, and the internet.  But it's fun to wander through the past and discover how things used to be.  And if it involves sewing and quilts, sign me up!
Happy Quilting!


  1. So interesting and your quilts are beautiful. Thank you for putting this together and sharing.

  2. Your star quilt is beautiful, as s the lovely 9W. We share a love of old machines.

  3. Love your quilts, but I always stop and look at antique and vintage sewing machines. Your Singer 9W is lovely. The Singer 9Ws and Wheeler & Wilson 9s are sweet machines to treadle and hand crank.


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