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Friday, September 4, 2015


[This post, originally published in the author's personal blog, is reprinted here with minor alterations to enhance the novel, The Fourteenth Quilt. It is featured in Chapter 10.]

My friend Annie keeps busy taking care of her household as well as being involved in helping others. Although she is just barely on the south side of eighty years old, she goes to the rest home in Turlock once a week to sing for the old people. She had been doing this for forty odd years.

Annie also makes lap quilts for the rest home residents. She uses fabric scraps of all kinds and stretches her quilting budget by buying cotton sheets to use as backing. She and another friend, Celia, who considers Annie to be a second mom, get together once a week to pool resources and sew either baby quilts for the new mothers in the First Ward or lap quilts for the rest home. I do not meet with them as often, but I occasionally offer fabric and batting. Now that I have the Brother on the quilt frame, using that to quilt the layers on some of the quilts is starting to be part of my contribution.
My makeshift quilt ironing board

Annie asked me to machine-stitch two quilts she has put together. We pinned them together two weeks ago and I brought them home. Friday I set up my two six foot tables, putting one table on risers to  turn it into a pressing table by covering it with an old mattress pad and a heavy beach towel. I pressed the quilt I have named Sweet Summer (blues & pinks, etc.) with the pins in, using the second table to hold the weight and keep it from sliding off the pressing surface.

Sweet Summer being pressed
The second quilt had a lot of uneven seams and puckers when Annie and I pinned it together. I took it apart and pressed and trimmed the backing and top separately. It still is a little uneven, but was much easier to quilt with a minimum of puckers once I pressed the quilt top on the big table.

Annie claims she deliberately does not make her quilts really pretty because the pretty ones often get stolen by the staff or family members. However, I think these two are beautiful scrap quilts. Annie has an excellent eye for color and balances her light and dark blocks to be visually pleasing.

Annie says she likes to use cheerful colors for the lap quilts intended for the rest home. The one quilt with a lot of yellows and pinks is definitely uplifting, which is why I named it Cheerful.

These two quilts are larger than lap quilts and are to go on twin beds. Annie is making them ahead for Christmas. She knows there are always a few rest home residents who do not get a gift or a visit at Christmastime. She plans to present these quilts to some of those residents.

Cheerful clamped to the tables
After pressing Cheerful, I removed the risers so the tabletops were even. I clamped the backing fabric to the two tables pushed together to keep the fabric from puckering and bunching up when I added the batting and the top. I used safety pins to baste the pieces together and to hold the edges in place. Then I used the flat butterfly pins to attach the top to the leader for the quilt frame.

Cheerful on the quilt frame
The first day I did three rows of Sweet Summer before calling it quits last Saturday. This morning, starting at about 7:00a.m., I worked to finish Sweet Summer. Annie gave me her pink thread -- cheap stuff -- and never again. What a mess! I had at least one break each row, broke two needles and fought to remove at least two major rat's nests (and countless minor ones). Fortunately, I used light blue Gutermann's for the bobbin thread, so I was okay there.

Because Annie used a 100% polyester batting, I used a loose freehand meandering pattern to help bring out the loft.
Sweet Summer with meandering quilt stitch

After a break, I put Cheerful on the quilt frame and  completed that. I used some of the Coats & Clark polyester wrapped polyester thread that I had left from an earlier project for both the top and bottom. I had a couple of breaks and one rat's nest, but much better. I used a combination of freehand meandering plus a lot of loop-de-loop on Cheerful.

When I use cotton batting, I do not usually need to secure the bottom edge until the very end. However, the polyester batting is not as heavy. In order to keep these quilts as straight and smooth as possible to avoid puckering, I used claw clamps (lined with strips of batting) to secure the fourth side.

I finished both quilts by 5:00p.m. Keep in mind the temperature rose to about 108 degrees today. Although I ran the air conditioning unit, it still was in the eighties inside most of the day. By 5:00 o'clock, I was hot and tired, but finished.
Cheerful finished with meandering loop-de-loop stitch

Okay, not quite. Later in the evening I tied off loose ends and clipped threads. But, now Sweet Summer and Cheerful can go back to Annie so she can trim the edges and add the binding.

Christmas in August is always fun.

To learn more about the author, visit her writing blog, Robyn Echols Books by clicking HERE.

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