Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Devil's Claw

A Collaboration With a Stranger from an Earlier Generation

In September 2007, I wrote about a "salvage mission" to make something out of a set of 20 hand-pieced blocks, almost certainly from the 1930s, that I had discovered in a box of scrap fabric. They were, as I said at the time, nothing objectively special:
the craftsmanship is moderate at best, the fabric quality was poor to begin with and has not improved with age.... They are neither uniform in size nor especially square. Any given side can vary between 12 and 14 inches.... Nor do I have any idea who made them; certainly no one with any connection to me or my family.
And it was love at first sight.


Two months later, I had worked out a quilt face using sixteen of the blocks. And then things slowed down dramatically. With fabric as poor as all that -- you can see my green desktop right through that muslin, did you notice -- I knew the quilting was going to have to be pretty dense and pretty structural to keep the thing from disintegrating within a few years. For a year, I was too hesitant to even begin quilting. Then, at some point, I quilted in the basic grid, but still balked at working within the individual blocks.

Last spring, I finally bit the bullet. It was a lot of work, and lasted me through a couple of classic novels on tape. By June, though, the quilting was finished, and I was able to take the piece on a vacation with my wife's family to bury threads and finish the binding. Sometime in the summer, I made a sleeve for it. And last Friday, I was finally able to hang it.

So here we are:


Here's a little more detail:


An individual block:


And here's a look at what I came up for a quilting pattern. Eight-pointed stars and pentagons!


I am, I'm afraid, quite pleased with myself. I'm going to be a bit quilt-insufferable for a while. I just wish my collaborator, whoever she (presumably) was (almost certainly), could share the moment.

Dimensions: 86" x 86"
Batting: Commercial low-loft cotton
Backing: A subtle white-on-white calico, which is the same fabric used in the latticework on the quilt face.

10 comments:

The Calico Cat said...

Wow, I am impressed even though somone else put a lot of work into that before you even got the blocks.

Diana said...

It's a lovely quilt. Only quilters can really appreciate how much work that really is. Wonderful labor of love. You did a great job on it.

Rebel said...

It looks AMAZING! Good job. I don't usually like block-based quilts, but I like how you set them off with the dark blue borders, then gave it a white background. You really did the original quilter justice. Bravo!

Jennifer said...

It looks so crisp and clean and beautiful!

I'm just not sure whether I should be inspired not to throw out my own reject blocks or whether I should take the hint and put 'em out on the curb so somebody can make them look this good!

Libby said...

Hey good times! Congrats on the finish; it looks great. Your work squaring/optical illusion squaring the blocks paid off.

Yankee in England said...

Wow as a non Quilthead all I can say is this quilt is really amazing. All the pentaganal star thingies amaze me! The quilt makes me want to eat apple pie while saluting the flag and singing the national anthem!

Elaine said...

I can recommend Sharyn Craig's books--Setting Solutions and ??Great Sets?
(both of which I have used to salvage poorly-matched blocks of varying sizes. Am quilting such a piece right now, a queensized quilt made with blocks given to me by my Ohio church guild (The Holey Fingers, get it?) when I moved. All those experienced quilters, but no two the same size! The results are looking pretty good, actually!

You deserve to be very pleased and indulge in a bit of smuggery.

Bridget B. said...

Ok - this is AWESOME. How exciting to have a collaboration through time like that - not to mention that it really is a lovely quilt!!

Anonymous said...

Do you have a pattern for the "Devils Claw" quilt?
Thanking in advance.

dkcandjrc@aol.com

Michael5000 said...

dkcadnjrc: Nope!