Thursday, January 21, 2021

Odds and Ends: All the Amazing Things I Forgot to Tell You This Week

 Hello, my lovelies, and Happy Friday!  We made it to the end of another week!  Yay!

So, you know that drawer in your house, probably in your kitchen, that is full of random things that don't belong anywhere else?  That is your frame of reference for today's blog post.  I have a "junk drawer" full of loose ideas in my head that I meant to share with you in earlier posts.  For instance:

A Ball of Feed Sack String, Next to a Golf Ball

Feed Sack String!!!

In a recent post about a vintage quilt repair that I was working on for a client, I shared this photo of the hand piecing seams that the original quilt maker stitched in a very thick, heavy thread:

This Quilt was Hand Pieced with Feed Sack String!

I shared the same photo in a Vintage Quilting group that I belong to on Facebook, and several members identified the mystery thread as feed sack string that they remember being carefully removed from the seams of feed sacks, flour sacks etc., rolled into balls (one of the group members sent me the above photo of her own ball of feed sack string), and reused for everything from tying quilts to wrapping packages.  As someone who will get in her car and drive 30 minutes away to get exactly the right fiber, weight, and color thread for a project, that level of thrift and resourcefulness is just awe-inspiring.

So of course this prompted research!  I am now halfway through the book Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric by Linzee Kull McCray.  It's fascinating and I highly recommend it to any other history buffs or vintage textile lovers.

"Good" Block Pinned in Place Over "Bad" Block, Ready to Stitch

I did finish that repair job this week.  For those who are curious, the client and I agreed that the best course of action was to reduce the overall size of the quilt so that I could cover some of the most badly deteriorated blocks with others that were in much better condition.  After my alterations, the quilt is roughly 45" square, the perfect size for the client's daughter to cuddle at story time.  In the photo above, I have one of those better condition blocks pinned in place and ready to stitch down.

Because the original quilter's seam allowances were narrower than 1/4" to begin with and have since frayed, and because the thicker white backing fabric is much stronger than the fragile quilt top fabrics, we opted to stitch the block patches in place with a machine zigzag stitch that would anchor those seam lines to the backing fabric.  I repeated that zigzag stitch along all of the block seams to strengthen them and to make the patches less obvious.  And I used a heavier than usual 28 weight Aurifil cotton thread in the needle (with 40 weight in the bobbin) for my zigzag, because somehow that felt more in keeping with the "personality" of this quilt.  

Check Out Donna K's Notorious R.B.G. Block!

Donna K's Version of my Notorious R.B.G. Block

Last November, I shared my "Notorious R.B.G." version of Preeti Harris's International Sisters block on the blog, and offered to share my foundation paper piecing pattern with anyone who wanted to make one of their own.  Donna K. took me up on the offer, and sent me this photo of her block (on the right) next to the printed version of my original.  Didn't she do an awesome job?  This makes me so happy!

LongArm Centering Tape is Awesome

Okay, and the last amazing thing I forgot to share with you is the GLEE that is mine, now that I have a pair of zero-center tape measures for my long arm frame.  

LongArm Centering Tape Measure, Taped to Leveling Bar at Back of my Frame

I'd seen other long arm quilters using these fiberglass measuring tapes in a variety of ways, and I'm so glad I finally ordered a couple of them to try.  Basically, it's just like any other cloth tape measure you might have in your sewing drawer except that it's 14' long and the zero mark is in the center of the tape to facilitate measurements from the center outward.  This tape measure on the leveling bar at the back of my frame is very helpful when I'm loading the top edge of a quilt, to ensure that the center of the quilt is dead-center and that the right and left edges are basted in place the exact same distance from that center point.  

Another LongArm Centering Tape, Stretched Across the Belly Bar

I also got a second centering tape to use at the front of my frame.  This one is attached to the left side of my frame and gets stretched across the front as I advance the quilt, so I can check that the seam lines are still nice and straight, and then I move the tape measure out of the way to proceed with quilting.  In this purple snowball block quilt, the blocks are all supposed to be 8" square.  By finessing those seam lines to land exactly on the 8", 16", 24" etc., not only is this insurance to make sure I'm not quilting a straight quilt into crookedness, but it also enables me to make minor adjustments that make the piecing look even straighter and more accurate than it really is.

"Trapping" the Seam Lines with Pins

In the photo above, you can see how I've "trapped" those seam lines exactly on the 24" and 32" marks, securing with one pine just below the unused quilt top roller (unused because I floated this quilt top), and one pin just above it, but out of the way of where my needle might accidentally hit a pin.

So I am loving my two pink centering tapes.  I know they will be a huge help with custom quilts, with any quilts that have fullness issues, etc.  And that's all I have for you today!  I think I'll make another block or two for my sampler quilt tomorrow, to reward myself for finishing the vintage repair, and then I'll load a fresh, new quilt on the frame...  

Happy stitching!


Jill said...

Very interesting about feedsack thread. Frugal (in a good way) and resourceful quilters and homemakers during the feedsack era. I’ve seen similar ‘thread’ in blocks and didn’t quite get it. Now I know. Thanks!

SJSM said...

My grandmother saved feed sack strings! Until I read this I had no idea. I remember I saw a ball of string at her home when we gathered for her funeral. Among some odds and ends were the cellophane wrappers from bread she would repurpose and a ball of string just like the picture. She saved everything and meticulously stored it to use later. There were not huge amounts of these saves so she must have consistently had these items used in her daily life.

Thanks for sharing. I learned another thing about my grandmother today...and she’s been gone since 1977.

Bonnie58 said...

Hi Rebecca. I love your blog and how your creative mind works!! Thanks so much for all of the tips and tricks you post . I really love your Notorious R.B.G. version of Preeti's International Sisters Block and, if it is still available, I would really love a copy of your pattern. I am in a Bee group with my LQG and would love to make a variety of variations of this block as a nod to how we women quilters have survived and thrived during Covid 2020-2021. I have Preeti's original tutorial and would love to add some additional fun to the mix. Thanks so much for your time

Lakegaldonna said...

Hi Rebecca.
Thanks for showing my RBG block. I think I'm going to order the smaller scale I dissent collar and redo the block. Our daughter is having a baby girl soon. On her baby wish list is a book called 'I admire Ruth Bader Ginsburg' which I ordered yesterday.

I think I'll make daughter a small pillow to use in the rocking chair with the block
If you ever go back to your EQ of the RBG block can you redo a section without the crown? I was just going to do it with graph paper but it' in sections so not sure how to accomplish that.

I made a feedsack quilt and removed the string. Quietly wishing that I had saved some of the string. Not a whole ball of it. That's one big ball of string that you pictured!

Frédérique - Quilting Patchwork Appliqué said...

Very interesting post, great story about the thread used in this quilt. Pretty International sister block make from yours!
Thank you for sharing.

Marti said...

One of my mother's favorite stories is about her paternal grandparents. When Grandpa went to the feed store, Grandma went with him so she could pick out the fabric and quantity of feed sacks for whatever clothing she had planned to make, or for quilt borders or backings. She also took apart the sacks and saved the string, but she never used it on quilts, at least not in any of her quilts that I now have. Mom's maternal grandparents lived just a few miles from the other grandparents, but that grandfather never let his wife go to the feed store with him to choose fabric.

chrisknits said...

I need those measuring guides!!! Great tip.