I seem to have a reputation as somebody who knows how to get rid of unwanted fabric, and I'm called on in this capacity more often than you'd think. I skim the best for myself -- of course -- but I also have a pretty good idea of which charities would be interested in which fabrics, and how to get the fabrics to them. And, I know when something is just garbage.
Early this year, a big cardboard box of scraps landed on my lap. Initially, I thought it was one of the worst hauls ever. Lots of shirting, much of it literally from old chopped-up shirts, and stretch fabrics galore in wildly unfashionable colors and patterns. I took the box home and ignored it for a while, and only a few days later set myself to the task of sorting it out. In the bottom, wadded up under all of the dross, I found this:
It is a complete quilt top. Each of the blocks has a woman's name embroidered in the center, most of them old-fashioned first names but a few "Mrs. x" and one, interestingly, "Mother." And that was that. No other clues at all.
It was a quandry. It represented far too much work, and was inherently too cool a thing, to throw out. But it was also far too much someone else's project for me to want to devote weeks to making it into a finished quilt... and what would I do with it then, after all?
Deciding it needed a good home, I put it on Ebay as an unfinished quilt top. It worked. It was bought by a woman in Salem who adores it, and who does intend to finish it. She has an interesting theory about its history. Like me, she thinks that its original construction dates to the 1930s. It seems possible that, after the person or people who made the blocks got them together, they suddenly looked way too much like a certain symbol being used by Nazi Germany. There's no way to prove this one way or the other, but it is an interesting and plausible theory.
The other treasure in the bottom of this unpromising box was the set of Indigo Stars I wrote about a few months ago.
Earlier this year, in a box of scrap fabric, I found a set of 20 hand-pieced blocks, a star pattern in indigo-on white. They are, in a sense, nothing special -- the craftsmanship is moderate at best, the fabric quality was poor to begin with and has not improved with age. Nor do I have any idea who made them; certainly no one with any connection to me or my family. And of course, I am completely smitten by them, and want to do something lovely with them.
The stars all look more or less like this:
It's a very handsome pattern, but the individual blocks vary by as much as two inches in height and width from each other, and many are in and of themselves noticably out of square. So, in order to incorporate them into a larger piece, I first needed to put a frame around each block, and then trim all of the new "block-in-frames" to a uniform size.
I am REALLY pleased with the way it is working out. The arrangement seems both to set off the uniformity of the original blocks to good effect, which is after all what you want in a traditional block quilt, but also, if you get up close and personal with them, to showcase each block's idiosyncracies.
Mrs.5000 and I have wondered a lot what my unknown collaborater, probably a woman of modest quilting skills (or someone whose most proficient quilter days were in the past or in the future) working in the 1930s, would think of what I have done here. I hope she would like it. She would probably be surprised to see me in my studio, listening to the football game and taking occasional breaks to catch up with my moves in online Scrabble games.
Having completed the face for Indigo Stars, I'll be putting it aside now for at least a few months. I've got a new set of short term goals, a little aggressive but I think doable. By the end of the next three weeks, I would like to have Two Complex Shapes and Ice and Fire ready to hang, the graduation quilt for Niece #1 basically pieced (excepting borders), and the quilting finished on Labyrinth.
Onward! I'll report back.