Friday, February 28, 2014

By Hand

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I’ve always wanted to do this, to make a quilt the way my old great-great granny in her chair at the hearth made them; by hand, piece by piece, using the scraps from her other projects.  Those are the quilts I really love best anyway, the scrappy, jumbly ones that grew out of necessity and economy.  The less it all matches, the better.  A couple things originating in my basic lazy nature have until now stopped me:  won’t it take forEVer?  [It might.  What’s wrong with that?  I have come to love the idea of a Big Project.] I don’t want to iron all those little pieces before I can cut them out, ugh! [Then don’t.  It’s my quilt, and I can do whatever I want.]  I took charge last week and went shoulder-deep in the scraps bin, which was packed so full that with the first thing I pulled out, it all kind of sprang out onto the floor.  I stuck my arm in there, grabbed out a handful of scraps, and put them in a basket, and decided to make as many two-color nine patch blocks as I felt like making.  I made a 2” square template out of a piece of cardboard, picked up my shears, and started cutting.  There’s no angst in this--I pick out two fabrics that look reasonable together—or not, who cares?—and just cut out the squares, four of one, five of the other, holding the template against the fabric and cutting around it.  No tracing.  No ironing.  Quick and dirty.  Done.  (Of course, I doubt this would work with a bigger template, but 2” is small enough to manage, which is why I’m making 2” squares.)  I sew the pieces together, three strips of three squares, then sew the strips together, pinning at the two seams.  Snip.  Done.  Again.  When there’s a decent pile and I’m done for the day, I iron them, and they are square and true, and my lap is completely coated in little threads.  I’ve made sixty squares like that so far, and it is not taking forever at all, and it is a surprisingly wonderful process.  Cut, stitch, snip, repeat.  There is a lulling beauty in the rhythm of it, and in the cotton, and in the use of two pins only, and in my beat-up, winter-worn hands at work. 

44 comments:

  1. I started making a quilt for myself like this last summer, and everyone looked at me like I was crazy. "It'll take FOREVER!" "It'd be SO much faster to use the machine!" I think they missed the point a little. There's just something about actually making a thing from start to finish using just your hands. It's quieter, it's soothing, and it's not about speed.
    When I'm snuggling with my husband on our 60th wedding anniversary under the quilt that I made with my hands, it's going to be lovely. And I'm *pretty* sure I'll have it done by then. ;)

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    1. I thought I was crazy when I decided to start a quilt by hand. Mine started out of necessity as my sewing machine has pooped out on me and we can't afford another at the moment. However, I find it so soothing that I can't imagine going back to machine quilting unless it's for a time-sensitive project. I'm glad to see that there is a whole bunch of crazies just like me.

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  2. Bravo Kristin! I admire your attitude about "owning" your quilt. The only rules you need are the ones you impose on yourself. I notice that when I make a quilt out of a fabric "range" and use a pattern, these are the quilts I like least of all. Scrappy, inspired, fly by the seat of your pants quilts are the best.

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  3. Lovely, lovely, lovely. You have a wonderful creative spirit. Looking forward to seeing the progress of your quilt. Sam xx

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  4. Scrappy quilts are by far the best, I remember picking out my favourite patches in them as a child.

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  5. Lovely! I'm a huge fan of hand piecing - the way its supposed to be. Quilters crank out a quilt in a weekend; rotary cut with magic rulers, machine pieced, machine quilted, machine bound, back to work on Monday morning. Where is the sentiment in that?!? I support you in your endeavor, even if it takes forever!

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  6. Isn't that pure blissss, indeed ?
    That's the way I'm making all my quilts. Of course I certainly have made much less than other speedy machine quilters (and I don't blame them, assuming they're having fun), but what I love is that my quilts are full of my musings, hopes, memories, meditations, joys and even sorrows. They're my secret gardens, they're me. ...
    Keep going, dear, you won't regret it !

    Heartful thoughts,
    in stitches,
    Nadine

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  7. Oh well done Kristen - go girl - those squares are looking great! Down the line I'm planning to have a go with handsewn but meantime have just finished my second little quilt by machine and have loved every minute of the making too! And of course there is plenty of sentiment in them also, I remember every bit, including the fear and trepidation, and all the family (and other) activities that were going on at the time, as well as the gathering of the fabrics and emotions involved. To each his/her own - different strokes for different folks - and I'm so glad you are a lovely open-minded person who appreciates that point. I'll be so looking forward to watching your hand sewn quilt grow and know it will be beautiful, just like all your other projects that I've admired over the months! Joy x

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  8. Oh this is going to be beautiful...I just know it!!!
    xx Shari

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  9. I made a double bed sized quilt 20 years ago for my mom's 50th birthday .... she still has it on her bed!!!! Enjoy - cos it's a journey not a process! xxx

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  10. What a beautiful quilt you have in the making - one full of soul and spirit! Can I ask how you are sewing the little squares together? I've made a handsewn paper-pieced quilt but not tackled a handsewn one without the guide of the paper pieces to keep things square. Any tips on how to do this? E x

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    1. I'm just holding the little squares right-sides-facing and eyeballing a 1/4" seam. I do admire those who have the patience for measuring and whatnot, but I am a close-enough-for-jazz kind of girl. :)

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  11. Well, you and Alicia P. may have just liberated me from my cutting quilt squares angst, Kristen. I hand stitched a little nine patch pillow several years ago, but have been saving material for years for a patchwork quilt I want to do all by hand but have been afraid of cutting the squares. Your verve [or panache if you prefer :) ]
    inspire me! Thanks! xx

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  12. I learned to enjoy hand stitching too and I must say I love doing it. Your blocks (and photos) are looking great. Weird looking fabrics;)
    Groetjes
    Annemieke

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  13. I'm slowly making a hexi flower quilt for my daughter out of scraps and old worn dresses of hers. I have been doing it for just over a year and I am enjoying it immensely. I have a little purse with the basics in which I carry every where. You never know when you might get a few moments to sew! My daughter is only 5 and The only deadline I have set myself is that she gets it when she flies the nest. I hope you enjoy your hand pieced project as much as I am enjoying mine and I look forward to keeping up with your progress, however long it takes.

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  14. Gosh you make it sound easy!! I bought my first fat quarter last week as I intend making a quilt for my double bed. I'm intending to do simple squares and sew them together by machine (I'm not a sewer - machine or hand). I thought I'd make them quite large - can you recommend a square size for a complete beginner? I'm not planning to buy all the fabric in advance, just picking up pieces as I find them - will this work or do I need some kind of model/plan? Your advice would be so helpful and very welcome!
    Thanks
    Kindest regards from the French Alps.

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    1. Your plan sounds like just the way I do things--buy as needed, and all will be wonderful. And, as you know, I am also a fan of doing things without a plan, though I know some find comfort in having one, so I'd say that's up to you. The thing to consider when planning (or not) your top design is to keep in mind how you want to quilt or tie the layers together. Let's say you're thinking you'll tie at each corner of each square: eight-inch squares, for example, would probably be too big, then, right? If you're going to do an all-over machine quilting design, then the size of the squares matters less. The largest squares I'd personally use either way would be 5" or so, but that's my own preference. Good luck! :)

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  15. Love everything you do, Kristen. The first quilt I made was hexagons, all handstitched!

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  16. I'm a watercolor quilter, and therefore have about a billion (no exaggeration) 2" squares. If you would like some, I would be glad to send them to you!

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  17. Once again I must say it... I love your blog, I love your thought processes, I love your narration, I love your projects and your reasons for doing them! Thank you for sharing! You are awesome... a uniquely wonderful individual, a blog land acquaintance unlike any other! You go girl!!

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    1. Blush! Jules, thank you so much. :)

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  18. I am really impressed at the way you are doing your quilt - in this day and age of everything being instant it is refreshing to see something being made by taking time - I too love the quilts that are not all matchy and samey. I look forward to seeing the finished quilt.

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  19. I have just found your blog and I spent most of last night blowing my nose and reading your archives! I love your writing and the crafts that you do so beautifully. I just emailed my friend to tell her to go read your blog too because you remind me of her (both in the style of crafts and that you both hate the mall) and, guess what, she lives in Rochester! (I live a couple hours south). We like to go thrifting together like you and your thrifting friend. I would like to know where or at least the name of the crafting thrift store, I'm sure we will make a beeline for it. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your blog.
    Beth F

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    1. Hi, neighbor, thanks very much! Drop me an email and I'll gladly share the name of my crafty thrifty store. :)

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  21. I have to say you are my crafty hero! I knit painfully slow, and really don't sew much quicker :) I wish I had the stamina and determination you have for these types of projects! Just curious, what type of stitch are you using to sew the squares together? Not that I plan on ever doing this, hahaha! I love to read your blog and look to you for crafty inspiration, thanks for being there for me! lol

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  22. Thanks for your reply! I cannot seem to find your email, when I click on the email under the contact me in your profile page they want me to set up an account, which I would prefer not to do. I am going to sign up for your blog by email so maybe you can find me from that, the email address sort of matches my first and last name at yahoo. Plus I realized how goofy that "blowing my nose" phrase sounds in my comment, I was simply referring to my seemingly constant cold this long, long winter. Thank you again for such a lovely blog.
    Beth F

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  23. Well, I wasn't able to sign up for emails without setting up a google account either so I will have to try and think of a different way to contact you. Sorry for the trouble, you can see I don't make comments too often!
    Beth F.

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  24. I too love scrappy quilts the best. I fondly remember sleeping over at my grandmother's house and we'd pick out our favorite fabrics in her quilt. I hand sewed the first quilt I ever made, but now I use the machine. I can't bring myself to machine quilt though...can't wait to see this quilt!!

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  25. Hand stitching is sooooo relaxing. And hey, if it takes forever......! Happy sewing!

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  26. I think it sounds like a great project. I like your fabrics and I know it will turn out lovely. I'm a big fan of yours. I've almost got my gingham knit blanket and an afghan done; both of which were inspired by you. I love your blog ...so much that i started back from the beginning and each night read some. Thanks for sharing.

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  27. My great-granny came to visit when I was 5 or 6 and she brought her wicker rocker that had a big side basket woven into the side of the chair. That's where she kept her fabric squares and would hand sew her quilts. I have always loved wicker and sewing and have always wanted to make a quilt the way you described. I think she must have been very nice to me for me to remember that for so long, but I can't remember her face, just her hands as they sewed. Thanks for the inspiration, I have always thought that way of making quilts is just more in keeping with what the quilting experience is supposed to be. This is the first time I've been to your blog, I found it via a link from Posie Gets Cozy. I really like it, thanks for sharing.

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    1. I love that you remember your great-granny's hands as they stitched--that's so beautiful. I want my great-grands to remember that about me someday, too. Also, the idea of a chair with a built-in sewing basket is making me freak out right now, and make plans to DIY one immediately!

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  28. I had the same urge last week. Made a mini quilt. I even handquilted it. I have no idea what came over me. Working on a second one now. I find it very relaxing.

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  29. I love scrappy quilts and remember my Grandmother making them from fabric scraps left over from clothing she made for us. My mother recently gave me a scrappy pieced quilt top that my Grandmother stitched during the year before she passed away. She did all of the work after she had suffered a stroke and she was not pleased with the quality of her stitching, but I love it! My Mom has had it in a box for the past 17 years and recently gave it to me to finish, so I am thinking about how best to finish my Gram's quilt. Reading your blog always inspires me!

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  30. I am all for the true using up of scraps for a quilt, i don't have £80 to spend on fabric so it really suits me! I think it is going to be magnificent. Jo x

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  31. Are you actually sewing these together by hand? Like with little running stitches or something> I can't picture it! How? I LOVE the idea of it mind you. It's gonna have such HEART when you make all that come together ♥

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  32. I just skipped over here from Alicia's blog. I can see I'm going to get lost in your posts! I'm a quilter and far too rigid. I love your style and am going to try to adapt it somewhat! I'm also a wanna be knitter. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  33. Its so good to do something so basic and traditional sometimes, like its been done generations before. I love your attitude as usual Kristen.
    It will look so lovely as your instinctive eye for colour and design means it couldnt look anything but good.
    I'm glad you're enjoying the spontaneity of it all, and the joy of using up scraps - your ancestors would be so proud of your thriftiness!
    Can't wait to see more - enjoy it!
    Gill xx

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  34. Just gave hand-piecing a try a few months back when I fell in love with Jen Kingwell's "The Circle Game" quilt pattern. I really can't believe how much I love the process. It actually goes quicker than you think, but my sewing machine is still one of my favorite "things" :) Enjoy making your quilt!

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  35. I get so tired of all the quilty rules and the matchy quilts and I dearly want to sit with my grandma (she's dead) and see her put a quilt together with the fabric scraps at hand. I keep trying to UNMATCH my quilts. Love the method you described. Can't wait to see the results!

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  36. I just love your craftiness, especially the knitting (which I can do - barely) and the crocheting (of which I can do more of) and you quilting (of which I am pretty good at), I am one of those quilters who had to have things MATCH and COORDINATE and I bought bundles of coordinating fabrics and all my quilts looked like everyone else's on the internet. After going back and reading your posts from the beginning, your blog is a breath of fresh air for me. It came at a time when I am dispersing of my late Mother's belongings and what on earth am I going to do with these old sheets.?? Now I know! And all the wooden hangers! I can crochet covers for them and give them to her granddaughters. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your inspiration.

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