Vintage “Jacks on Six”

19 09 2016

img_0115Cindy, a friend of a friend, asked if I would finish a “Jacks on Six” quilt top her mother pieced years ago. She found the top while looking through some dresser drawers and thought it would be a wonderful gift for her soon expected granddaughter. I agreed to finish this family treasure for the next generation’s use and enjoyment.

As with most vintage quilt tops, this one did not lie flat when spread out on the floor. My usual solution is to use a high loft batting manufactured by Fairfield. But I wanted to give the quilt weight as well as pouf, so I used Hobbs 80% cotton/20% polyester AND Fairfield low loft polyester batting. The poly batting and simple meandering quilting in the quilt’s interior helped to ease in fullness. I used off-white thread because most quilts made in the 70s were quilted with white thread. A curling vine adds interest in the narrow white border.

Working with this quilt caused me to compare the “rules” we quiltmakers follow today with the quiltmaking conventions of the 70s.

Rule #1 – Thou shalt make quilts with 100% quilting cotton. Haven’t you heard this rule preached ad infinitum? The reason behind the rule is that using the same fibers throughout the quilt will ensure that it goes together without puckers resulting from uneven stretching and that the quilt will wear evenly over time. In contrast, besides quilt-weight cottons, Cindy’s quilt contains kettle cloth, seersucker, cotton/poly blends, and light weight canvas for home decorating.

Rule #2 – Thou shalt buy thy fabric at quilt shops for they shall surely offer quality merchandise. We love all the cotton manufactured especially for us quilters! And we patronize local quilt shops to purchase the solids, tone-on-tones, geometric prints, florals, stripes, and plaids. Contrast our current practice with the idea of making quilts with scraps left over from garment and home decorating projects. I don’t know about you, but I rarely make clothing; it’s less expensive nowadays to buy readymade clothing. And it’s generally less expensive to buy readymade curtains and pillows. But 40 years ago this was not the case. Many homemakers made clothing for themselves and their families as well as curtains and pillows for decorating. And thrifty ladies used the scraps to make quilts.

Rule #2a – Thou shalt surely not re-purpose bed sheets for thy quilt. Many bed sheets are woven with a higher thread count than quilting cotton, offering resistance to the needle which might translate into skipped stitches when machine quilting. Contrast this rule with a current trend among some quilters to use vintage sheets, softened with years of use, as quilt backings. You can appreciate the available source of white fabric found on the edges of a sheet too worn in the center for bed use. Cindy’s mother used white sheeting as a narrow border around the quilt.

Rule #3 – Thy scrap quilts shall look color coordinated. Nowadays fabric companies require designers to design 10-20 prints and tone-on-tones that would coordinate well in a “planned scrappy” quilt. Compare this marketing trend with the earlier practice of “everything goes” in a scrap quilt. Orange, red, and pink set side by side; large scale prints, ginghams, stripes; no matter the style, all can go in the same quilt.

Rule #4 – Thou shalt cut thy pieces accurately. Rotary cutters and rulers help us with this task. Consider the simple tools quiltmakers used prior to the invention of the rotary cutter:  scissors, light weight cardboard for templates, and marking pencils for tracing around the templates. Most quiltmakers today aim for precision in cutting whereas many quilters in past generations, who did the best they could with what they had, counted on copious hand quilting to compensate for piecing anomalies.

Rule #5 – Thou shalt piece efficiently. Today’s quilt designers study quilt block designs, asking, “Could this block be made a simpler way?” Take a close look at this “Jacks on Six” block. Notice that the block is made entirely of half square triangles. I would have substituted squares for 3 of the HST units. However, using triangles allows for an interesting mitered effect when using stripes as you can see in the photo below.


Rule #6 – Thou shalt sew consistent scant ¼” seam allowances. This is the biggie, the most important rule most quilt instructors harp on! Upon inspecting the back of this quilt, I discovered that the seam allowances varied from 1/16” to 3/8” in width. This inconsistency caused the blocks and the quilt to bubble (not lie flat).

Rule #7 – Thou shalt use neutral thread. Most quiltmakers these days piece with off-white, tan, light gray or pale yellow, feeling these neutral colors will blend with most of the fabrics in their quilts. Contrast this with quiltmakers in the past who sewed with whatever thread was currently on the machine or on the bobbin, leftover from a home sewing project.

Rule #8 – Thou shalt measure and trim block units prior to constructing the blocks. It’s always a great idea to compare the actual measurement of the sewn block units with the measurement given in the instructions. If your units aren’t the correct size, either adjust the seam allowance by re-sewing or trim the units to the correct size. The “Jacks on Six” blocks would have gone together more accurately if all the HSTs had been trimmed to the same measurement prior to assembling the blocks.

Rule #9 – Thou shalt measure and trim thy blocks prior to sewing them into the rows of thy quilt. Despite our best efforts, quilt blocks don’t always turn out to be the correct size. Because fabrics are a bit stretchy and we aren’t robot seamstresses, we need to measure and trim all the blocks to the same size prior to assembling the quilt top. This is particularly important when making a sampler quilt. Following this rule is your quilt’s best chance of lying flat.

Rule #10 – Thou shalt measure thy quilt through the center to obtain the correct measurement for thy border strips. Following this rule avoids the wavy border syndrome.

Although Cindy’s mother did not follow all the current “rules” 21st century quilters espouse, her quilt has one benefit ours generally don’t. Memories.

Cindy said she took a trip down Memory Lane when she lifted the quilt top from the dresser drawer and unfolded it. The fabrics in the quilt recalled images of kitchen curtains, new school dresses, and her mother’s aprons. The memories prompted by fabric are certainly a benefit of an “everything goes” scrap quilt. These types of memories can’t be emulated by purchasing coordinated fabric from one line. No matter the broken rules for cutting and piecing, this is a quilt of enduring memories, truly a treasure for Cindy’s family.


Fat Quarter Challenge – September

15 09 2016

This year I’ve challenged myself to make a project each month with some of my hoarded fat quarters. And I promised to show blog readers my project on the 15th of each month. I’ve also invited you to join the challenge, making a project to share via digital photo sent to my email address (

My project this month is “Yellow Brick Road” with a fall theme. “Yellow Brick Road” is a very fat quarter friendly quilt designed in multiple sizes by Atkinson Designs. This pattern has been available for years and could be considered one of the first modern, blended quilt patterns. Click here to order a pattern from Missouri Star Quilt Company.

img_0143Several years ago I purchased a bundle of 5 fat quarters of coordinating fall fabric from JoAnns. Because I envisioned a lap size quilt, I knew I needed more fabric, so I hunted for several coordinating FQs in my stash. I had forgotten how quickly this pattern works up – I pieced the top of 30 blocks in just two days! Then I took the patchwork and two options for yellow/orange inner border to JoAnns in search of an outer border fabric. Currently their fall/harvest fabrics are on sale, and it was difficult to pick my favorite. I settled on a gold, rust, and green medium scale oak leaf print.


With polyester gold thread, I quilted a freehand, edge to edge design of meandering/3 loops/more meandering. I wanted to give the impression of leaves looping and spiraling to the ground. Perhaps you can see the design best on the dark fabrics shown below.


Hubby says the blended effect of the fabrics reminds him of leaves piled on a forest floor, all jumbled together and overlapping. Welcome fall with its rich earthy tones, pumpkins, acorns, and multi-colored leaves!

Remember to send me a picture of your FQ challenge project!

More VFG Blocks

6 09 2016

This past weekend I devoted several hours to catching up on my Vintage Farm Girl sampler quilt. To be honest, I was about ready to abandon the project because I just hadn’t found time to work on it. What with overnight guests, volunteer work, and picnics at our new property, summer and my enthusiasm slipped away. Do you ever feel like this about a quilt project? The fact that you have a U.F.O. (UnFinished Object) or W.I.P. (Work in Progress) is there in the back of your mind, prodding you to take action. But since you don’t have a chunk of time to work on it, you feel like giving up altogether.

My brain’s gentle prodding led me to look at and count the 6” blocks I had already made. Fourteen! I shouldn’t give up now! To add to the motivation, daughter Trinity texted asking if I’d made enough blocks already for the quilt. I said to myself, “Okay, it’s time to work on these blocks again. Pull out the instruction book and the fabrics, rev up the sewing machine, and get going.” It was fun to text Trinity pictures of each of the blocks as I made them.


For the next week or so, VFG blocks will be my go-to project when I have a spare hour to sew. All I needed to resurrect this project was a little prodding to evaluate by previous progress and the encouragement of a fellow quilter.

Do you have a tip for finishing a languishing project? What helps motivate you to finish a quilt you started months ago?


Magazine Winners

1 09 2016

On August 11 I issued a challenge to find design inspiration for quilting from a glass and ceramic tile mosaic which decorates the outside wall of Hoss’s restaurant in York, PA. Click here to read the blog post and ensuing comments. The ideas were amazing!


I especially liked Ronda’s correlation of a meteor shower with a section of the mosaic. Making a quilt to capture the memory of the astrological phenomenon is a great idea!

Maridee explained about the scrappy squares she’d use to “copy” a section of the mosaic. I also could SO make a quilt like that.

Pamela shared a couple of ideas; the sophisticated suggestion of rotating a block would make a wonky circular design, I think.

I’ll email these Quiltmakers 100 Blocks magazine winners asking for their USPS addresses. Special thanks to all who participated in the contest!

QN20816I’ve drawn a winner for Quilters Newsletter’s Best Christmas Quilts:  Suzan deSerres. Congrats, Suzan!

If your favorite quilt shop or newsstand does not carry this special magazine, you can order a print or digital copy from the online Quilt and Sew Shop. I kid you not, the magazine is packed with beautiful quilts. Order now and you’ll have time to make a couple for holiday gifts or decorating.





August FQ Challenge – Blog Readers Share

29 08 2016

In 2016 I’ve challenged myself to use several fat quarters each month and share them with blog readers. And I’ve invited blog readers to accept the challenge as well. Admittedly, some months we have more time to sew than others. So don’t worry if you haven’t sewn something with your FQs each month, just jump in when you can. I would love to show pictures of your projects to blog readers. It is so inspiring to see what you are making. Please attach your picture to an email which explains your project:

20160805_154957Chris sent a picture of a mug rug she made. “I finished a coaster. Not much, but better than nothing!?” What a fun, quick project, Chris. Thanks for sending a picture.

0721161431Tonya sent a picture of a modern quilt on her design wall. “I had less than a yard of the blue fabric with the “cartoon words” and wanted to make a child’s quilt for donation so I pulled about 12 fat quarters and a little extra yardage for more color.” Click on the picture to zoom in and see all the fun fabrics Tonya included in this bright and bold quilt.

Amanda has been a busy bee. She make two “Triple Star” quilts. She will add borders later. (Wouldn’t the pastel blue and yellow version be a sweet baby quilt?) She also make two smaller Double Stars. With borders, they will be perfect for wall quilts or table toppers. Amanda has plans to make some star quilts for Christmas gifts using printed winter motifs as star centers. (“Triple Star” was my FQ challenge project for June, and you will find a link to instructions for “Triple Star” on the Patterns page of this blog.)

IMG_3924     IMG_3926

Stacy accepted the FQ challenge and made a pillow cover with an envelope style closure on the back. One FQ for the front, plus one FQ for the back and front ruffle, plus a pillow form. And, viola, you have a pretty, decorative pillow.

Stacy's FQ pillow

Thanks, everyone, for sharing your FQ Challenge creations! With a new month just around the corner, it’s time to rev up our creativity for September’s challenge.

P.S.  Please note Stephanie’s comment in the comment section. Here’s a picture she sent to explain her project. This is going to be a gorgeous “Stepping Up” quilt, Stephanie!



“Black Forest Christmas” Published!

24 08 2016

IMG_0088The magazine of Best Christmas Quilts from Quilters Newsletter has hit newsstands! I spotted a handful at JoAnn’s in Fayetteville, and Deb found some at a Wal-Mart in Nebraska. Click here to order a copy from the online Quilt and Sew Shop.

Earlier this year, Quilters Newsletter editor Mary Kate issued a call for Christmas quilts. I sent digital pictures of several of my original designs, and “Black Forest Christmas” was selected for the collection. As a bonus, the quilt is shown in a red and green coloration because Deb M. also lent her quilt for photography.Deb's Black Forest Mystery

I designed this quilt as a mystery for a class I taught in Stuttgart, Germany several years ago.  Participants received one clue each month, working on the clues in class. The good news is that all the “clues” are given in Best Christmas Quilts with explanatory diagrams in full color.

IMG_0096The quilts in the magazine are organized by category:  Halls and Homes, Simple Gifts, and Bed Covers. By purchasing this special issue, you’ll get instructions for 24 projects. Such a deal, 24 patterns for the normal price of one! There’s something for everyone, no matter your decorating style, no matter your skill level. You need this magazine in your library. Small projects include mitten ornaments, table runners and pillows. Medium projects include wall quilts and a bed runner. And there is a sampling of large quilts like “Black Forest Christmas” for sofa throws and beds.

I guarantee you’ll be delighted and inspired!

Leave a comment to enter a drawing for a copy of Best Christmas Quilts. On September 1 I will notify the winner.


Vacation Sewing

17 08 2016

Do you like to take along a sewing/quilting project when traveling on vacation? I do! I usually reserve hand appliqué projects for down time when I’m away from home because I tend to be more motivated for slow stitching when away from my high speed machines. If I anticipate I’ll have time for machine sewing, I’ll pack the Featherweight Singer inherited from my grandmother.


Last week while visiting relatives in Pennsylvania, I machine sewed the FQ friendly baby quilt I posted about on Monday. In addition, I sewed a bunch of blocks for my Splendid Sampler project. I managed to hand sew the hexagon block on the road, and the others were sewn a few each day in between other family projects and outings.


For me, a vacation week is successful if hubby and I break out of our normal routine and relax. And I also like to have something to show for my week out of town. My handful of 6” blocks is my tangible take away.

Back in town again, we are excited to see progress on our house building project. Our contractor thinks it may be complete by the end of October!

IMG_0049 (1)

What type of sewing project did you take along on your summer vacation?