I found THREE antique whitework coverlets, also known as counterpanes, recently. Two of them are embroidered, and one is a double-woven piece that is sort of mind-boggling in its complexity. I’ve looked up everything I can find on the Internet (I love the Internet!) and can’t find much about them, except that they’re probably from the early 1800s. Oh my goodness! How could I find something that precious and old in a little thrift store? I assume they are from the same family, and possibly by the same hand. One of the coverlets is signed, “Susannah Taboy” and the “s” characters are turned backward. Maybe done by a young Susannah.

The Double Weave

The double-woven piece was in the worst shape, with several breaks in the fabric and stained from improper storage in a cedar chest. (I’ll lecture about antique linen storage in another rant.) I soaked it and soaked it and soaked it some more–until I felt like I couldn’t get much further along in the whiteness scale, and I feared ruining the poor thing by trying too hard to save it.

There are  numerous breaks in the fabric, and I will try to fix those. The piece is comprised of three panels sewn together.

I can’t believe someone would basically throw these away. What a thrill for me to find them. Do you know anything about 19th century whitework coverlets/counterpanes? I’d love to hear from you!

I’ll post the other two later. Stand by.

Hope you can see the detail in this.

Hope you can see the detail in this.

Hope you can see the detail in this.

double weave c:u double weave cu

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My Berea Quilt, 2012

July 12, 2012

Our challenge was “hands,” but the hands quilt that I had started was too ambitious to finish by the deadline, so I finished another that was started. It’s now hanging (ta-da!) in the Art Quilters of Kentucky show at the Berea Art Council’s gallery in Berea, Kentucky. It will hang with all my sister art quilters’ works until August 25. I hope you all get to see it–it’s a fabulous show!Berea art quilt show entry, 2012Free motion on my regular sewing machine! Yikes!

I think this is a Biz chemical reaction–everything I soak looks like this, usually after several days, but this one was so funky that the reaction occurred very quickly. Looks like it’s soaking in coffee!

I think this is a Biz chemical reaction–everything I soak looks like this, usually after several days, but this one was so funky that the reaction occurred very quickly. Looks like it’s soaking in coffee!

And here she is, all clean sewed up, and bound. She looks happy, doesn’t she? So am I!

She looks finished now, like a picture finally framed.

July 11, 2012

Thread-Head

Months and months and months later, it’s probably about time I reported on the second life of this wonderful old six-pointed star quilt. After an adoption that just didn’t work out, the quilt came back to me–back to Tennessee, where I think she was born. The adoptive mom just could not deal with all that dirt. I don’t totally blame her…not everyone is as willing as I am to take on ancient, stinky, funky, antique dirt. I got lazy, and only did a half-way job of vacuuming the quilt. It was just taking too much time with not nearly enough immediate visual reward.

I want to see results, dammit. Like sweeping, you know? When you sweep with an actual broom, you get a nice pile of dirt and crumbs and, at least in our house, a dandy little wad (or big wad) of dog hair. You feel like you’ve done…

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Months and months and months later, it’s probably about time I reported on the second life of this wonderful old six-pointed star quilt. After an adoption that just didn’t work out, the quilt came back to me–back to Tennessee, where I think she was born. The adoptive mom just could not deal with all that dirt. I don’t totally blame her…not everyone is as willing as I am to take on ancient, stinky, funky, antique dirt. I got lazy, and only did a half-way job of vacuuming the quilt. It was just taking too much time with not nearly enough immediate visual reward.

I want to see results, dammit. Like sweeping, you know? When you sweep with an actual broom, you get a nice pile of dirt and crumbs and, at least in our house, a dandy little wad (or big wad) of dog hair. You feel like you’ve done something. When you vacuum, well, the floor might be clean, but you don’t get to experience that nice, satisfying pile of dirt.

So I threw the orphan quilt in the dryer on the “air only” cycle for 15 minutes, and got to scoop layers of dirt out of the filter. I did several 15 minute air cycles, til there was no more fuzz and funk on the filter. After the first cycle, playing “quilt in the dryer” was not nearly as much fun.

After the dryer exercise, when the excess dirt and debris had been forced out of the fibers, I zigzagged around the edges and trimmed up the wool batting that was trying to escape. I said a little prayer to the quilt gods, and put the quilt in the big spa tub with a cup of Biz and a half tub full of cool water. I thought about lighting candles, as well. I held my breath and covered my eyes as the beautiful quilt with all those wonderful old indigo fabrics soaked up the modern, chlorinated water and the enzyme-laden Biz. No immediate bleeding. Whew!

I checked it every hour or so that first day, and was so relieved to see no fading or color bleeding. After a day, the water was the color of coffee. Biz does that, even in the cleaning of items not nearly as dirty as this old sister. I changed out the water three or four times over the course of a week. Yes, a whole week, and decided the quilt was as clean as it was going to get. The Good Husband scooped up the soaking wet thing and carried it down the stairs in a large laundry basket. (Lordy, it was heavy!) We dumped it into the washing machine and I ran a short hand wash cycle with an extra rinse. I did put it in the dryer on air only for about an hour, which helped to damp dry, and then laid it over sheet-covered saw horses outside until it was nearly dry; then and only then, I hung it on the line til it was bone dry and full of Tennessee sunshine.

Hooray! It’s clean! I machine-sewed a narrow binding of a beautiful Civil War reproduction fabric and hand-hemmed it to the back side. Then I spread it out on the guest room bed (after I shoveled all the extraneous junk off the top of the bed) and sat down to just look at it.

Clean. Finished. A tiny hole repaired. Nicely bound. I wonder what the original maker would think about it now, in the year 2012, 150 years, at least, after her hard-working hands sewed it with tiny stitches over a period of months by the light of an oil lamp.

I can’t help but think that she would be pleased.

Rescued and Adopted

October 7, 2011

I found this quilt on my birthday(!) about four years ago in a very unlikely junk shop just outside Springfield, TN. It was wadded up and stuffed in a corner, and when I opened it up, it just took my breath away. I felt really lucky to have found it and rescued it. When I realized how old it really was (when I got it out into the light) I felt that it needed to be in a setting where it could be respected and enjoyed, which means not in my house, where the stuff that’s used is really used. I wasn’t sure if or how to wash it, or if it should be bound and finished, or used as is, or stored along with the umpteen other quilts I’ve “rescued” through the years.

The work in this quilt is just amazing…tiny, tight little stitches and perfectly matched points. About a jillion points. It dates from about 1880 and has wool batting. The fabrics include some copper rollerplate prints from the 1830s or so, and lots of indigos.

It sold this week to a buyer in Minnesota. I hope she loves it.

Rescued from a junk shop!

So in the late 80s, I was introduced to Phyllis Bowman-Butler’s wonderful painting, which she calls “Prisoner of Pretty.” I knew then that it must be interpreted in quilt form. She agreed, but made me promise to be the one to do it. Well, wonder of wonders, I finally got it finished. And it’s gonna be a part of the Tennessee Women’s Theater Project celebration of “Women’s Work,” in May. More about this later, beloveds. This photo is by my great good friend Susan Adcock. Find her at Pitcherlady.com and CarnyDog.com.

So now I’m gonna blog. I figure it’s the perfect time to crank one up, since I can’t seem to find the time to write, paint, sew, quilt, or play music. It makes perfect sense to me.

It’s interesting that on this page, the “Move to Trash” button is located right next to the “Publish” button.

Hello world!

March 31, 2010

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