Saturday, September 4, 2021

Sewing Saturday odds and ends


I started sewing about age 5. I remember visiting my grandmother and standing by her lap as she hand pieced fabric scraps onto thin telephone book paper. I remember thinking how beautiful all the colors were as they joined each other. 

She gifted me with little scrappy squares of fabrics, from used clothing, all different fiber contents colors and patterns. She showed me how to use her mother's treadle machine, how to carefully put edges together and keep them straight as the machine pulled them backwards while stitching. 

The little drawers were full of items and I loved looking through them. Sorting it. Snaps on flimsy  cardboard, threads on wooden spools, old thick straight pins, buttons of every size, usually white. The long bobbins so weird looking to a little girl in the 60's used to watching the Jetsons Saturday mornings, and bewitched after school. 

I felt grown up, being allowed to run this machine and make decisions about which ugly square to sew to another. I automatically matched corner seams as I sewed. After giving minimal instructions, Granny returned to her chair and her work. We worked side by side in the same room. 

It lives with me now... and I still love it so

She was never one to waste words of praise like people do today. It didn't matter to me, I was being inducted into the world of sewing, and that was what mattered. That machine was my territory after that day. Granny never used it since she once sewed over her own finger, but let little me jump right in!

I went on to learn embroidery, crocheting, hand piecing, clothing construction making all my clothes through college. I didn't go back to quilting until I took a winter class while living in Canada. I learned how to draft my pattern, cut with scissors the shapes needed to fit back together into a lovely pattern, and hand quilt. I thought about Granny, long gone from our lives, and how my love of sewing started. 

I made my first quilt in the 1980's, a sampler of two colors, three fabrics. My next quilt was an art quilt for the little girls I watched as a nanny. I traced each little hand, drew balloons of solid fabric and put their names in them, strings from the balloons to their hands done in calico. 

The quilt I worked on next was a double wedding ring top hand pieced by Granny for my sister when she married. I hand quilted the full sized quilt and gave it back to my sister, who promptly put it in a plastic bag in the top of her closet. 

This was about the time rotary cutters were invented, speed became the catchword "quilt in a day" and I took a workshop in how to speed my way through quilting. 

While everyone was making a quilt in a day that took years to finish, I banked back and forth from traditional blocks to applique, from rotary cut blocks to clothing to doll making to knitting, to macrame to beading, to painting, to stained glass, to pottery and any artform I could put my hands on. 

However, I never stopped sewing.

 I moved up to the hand me down 1940's singer machine, and eventually my indulgent husband bought me a Bernina that I still use. I continue to do a variety of styles, love the rotary cutter but now often use it to cut free form art quilts. I still hand piece and think of Granny. I mostly machine quilt but because of a back issue, must break down bed quilts into sections. I wonder what Granny would say about my artistic work that combines love of painting, 3-d embellishing, saturated colors and modern fabrics purchased for so much money. 

Now that I am retired I sew pretty much daily. My studio space is small but mighty and works for me. It is my happy place, and I admit I sometimes go in to putter around when in between projects. Just sorting, folding and re-stacking fabrics in the drawers can stimulate me to make something. 

I have never lost my love of scraps. Tiny pieces that should likely be thrown away, I see magic in as they touch. Ooo look at the red violet next to the lime green and purple! Crocus! Where is a golden scrap? 

So this week, as I looked through the halloween collection drawer for a backing to go with my nearly finished bats and boos quilt, I spied an apron fabric my friend gave me. I always take any fabrics offered because even an apron fabric printed on muslin is fabric that can be cut up for the print. 

how fortuitous!  The tile kitchen counter is tearing my shirts, so I was planning to find an apron pattern anyway... of course I didn't follow the instructions, I lined it in a gray upholstery fabric my sister gave me in the 80's. It's sturdy and not pretty so who cares if it gets stained? I can wear the halloween side out for two months and then flip it over to wear the gray out. 

My sister didn't see the value in that old fabric, she was finished upholstering her easy chair. There was about 4 yards left of old time fabric that is about 55" wide... a LOT for me. Things some people see as trash I see as useful. I believe we need to have some fabric that isn't so pretty, because in life there are times when you just need fabric you don't mind using. 

the goddess piece ready to quilt, the fall runner binding in progress
 When I pieced the Ricky Tims Kaleidoscope quilt last month, I had Waaaaayyyy too much wasted fabric and of course kept it. I started with the tiny scraps of color and enjoyed sewing them together to see lines of stitching, and colors. A true Kaleidoscope to me! Like the tiny glass pieces that clinked in my childish hands as a little girl. 

I quilted it this week along with several others, treating it as if it was a bed quilt or a piece of art. I like the fan shapes that happened and the use of pretty fall colors. It makes me think of sunlight through colorful leaves, pumpkins, sunflowers, acorns. I found this more expensive fabric that would look terrific as an edge treatment... I'll just use it instead of saving it! 

My back is sketchy, so when I rotary cut long strips now, I have to make sure they are totally straight when reopened, so I am very careful when cutting. To make sure it's going to end up straight, I carefully fold selvages together as I was taught in school, squidging the fabric back and forth til it hangs straight. Then I fold it up again putting a paper under the second fold so as to see clearly, and adjust it til all the edges line up on a long ruler, which means the fold lines are all exactly the correct angle.

the paper doesn't need to be straight, it just visually helps to see the fold line

 Move the ruler over and make my cut. Perfect! 

I pieced the long fall quilt around the tiny abstract, and it's quilted ready for binding, then hanging in the stair well to enjoy through the season

I still divide my artistic time between painting, writing, and sewing. I know Granny would appreciate my love of fabric, and the care I take to construct all my quilts so they lay flat and look tidy. 

Granny used scraps from clothes instead of store bought fabric, because her family was quite poor in cash, she told stories of having to walk the cotton fields of Alabama scrounging junk cotton for batting. These days some people mistake wealth of cash for importance. What would Jesus say? 

I have no children to leave my quilts to, but I have taught children to sew. I sew because I must.


can I get a whoop whoop Fridays 
finished or not 

 design wall Mondays at smallquiltsanddollquilts
sew can do mondays


patchwork Sunday                    
oh Scrap Sundays 



Kathleen said...

How true - I sew because I must. I love sewing and feel so many similarities - learning to sew with my Grandmother. I treasure those memories. Funny thing, the did not really appreciate quilts, but more my garment sewing, which I don't do much of these days.

Ann said...

You are such a talented writer in addition to your quilting skills. Lovely story here, LeeAnna. Again. Congratulations.

MissPat said...

What a wonderful post. And what a treasure to have your Granny's treadle machine, even if you probably don't use it because of your back. Thanks for your positive message which I really needed this week.

Sara said...

Such a good post. And yes, it's definitely special for you to have your Granny's treadle machine. I was so thrilled to get my mom's treadle back a few years ago. And the little attachments were still in the drawer just how I remembered. I sew because I "have to" as well. Same with reading - I must read every day even if it's only for 10-15 minutes. But it's usually more like an hour every day minimum.

Tails Around the Ranch said...

Such an exquisite old sewing machine. How lucky your are to have it and can recall those first days of learning how to use it.

sonja said...

LA, such a fine post well written and enjoyed by all of us reading that sew, quilt, paint, write, create and imagine because we must!
my motto: kokokma = keep on keeping on making ART! Sonja

grammajudyb said...

I was thrilled to learn more about your background! I learned garment sewing at an early age too! And other needle craft from my mother. Both of my grandmothers lived far away, so I don’t have that precious memory. Love the hint about the paper and fold!

Mae Travels said...

I learned to sew on a treadle machine too, in fact from my father who worked his way through school as a tailor. I really wanted a modern machine, though. My parents gave in, and bought a Singer portable. I'm still using it occasionally, though I don't do much more than hemming and mending now. I loved reading your history.

best... mae at

Carolyn said...

Yes! All of this resonates with me.

The Joyful Quilter said...

Thanks for sharing your quilting journey with us, LeeAnna!

Molly the Airedale said...

Love your story and your beautiful work. You are such a SuperTalented lady! I inherited my great aunt's treadle sewing machine years ago. I decided a few years back to give it to one of her grandchildren. Cari was thrilled to get it.

Michele McLaughlin said...

Today I'm catching up with some of your posts! I keep forgetting things have to cook longer where you are! Anyway, I love all your projects. Milo's hair has stayed so nice and dark. He really is a regal looking boy!

LIttle Penguin Quilts said...

Such a lovely post about the influence of your granny and art in your life. I always love to see what you do!

Joanne said...

Thanks for sharing your personal sewing journey LeeAnna !
and thanks for the tip for cutting long piecces with the rotary cutter!
take care,

QuiltGranma said...

i love stories like this. Thank you for sharing.

Sylvia@Treadlestitches said...

What a beautiful post, full of memories and inspirations. And I had to laugh about "everyone making a quilt in a day that took years to finish"! I took the class, made the top, and it sat for 10 years before I gave it away. Sewing from the heart isn't about how fast you can go.

Pat said...

A beautiful tribute to your Grandma and your art! I'm looking forward to see what you make in the future...

Deb A said...

Love this! So many great memories and lessons. Happy creating.

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

Such a lovely read! Your granny was smart and she helped a smart girl become an awesome fabric artist! Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss.

Elaine/Muddling Through said...

What an absolutely delightful post! And I love your quilted projects. I miss my grandmother, too. She's been gone a long time. I'm glad I'll see her again.

Frédérique said...

Your quilting adventure is such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing!

Alycia~Quiltygirl said...

How fun to learn more about your *delve into Stitching* Grandmas are the best right> Love all your projects - but I really like the idea of a Durable apron