VII. QUILTING THE QUILT
QUILTING THE QUILT
WE HAVE carried our story of quilt information through several chapters
to help you decide on material, and patterns for piecing and quilting.
We have told you how to cut and make up the blocks, and fit them
together into a top. That is as far as most modern quilt makers care to
go. It is usually the wisest thing here to call upon a professional
quilter or your church "aid society" to complete the
you are inexperienced and the quilt top handsome. It is customary for
the owner to furnish lining, cotton bat and thread. Usually the workers
mark and quilt them, charging varying amounts in different localities
and dependent on the local demand for such work, skill of quilting and
the simplicity or elaborateness of designs used. We have known quilters
to charge as little as 75 cents for a spool or as much as $5.00. This
charge is based on the staple 100-yard spool. Number 50 white is the
standard for ordinary materials, although some prefer number 60 or even
70 thread for use on fine cloth such as light satines.
Quilters always have their own collection of quilting patterns from
which they evolve the right fill-in for every space, block patterns,
borders, and little leaves, hearts or flowers for too wide spaced
corners. However, many women of today with their artistic tendencies
are using perforated patterns to stamp their own, rather than trust
this most important part to the vagaries and whims of some dear old
lady who marks out according to the same ideas she has had on all the
quilts she has ever done. Besides, it is quite possible to get quilters
who can quilt, but will not attempt the marking out. You see that part
is apt to be a monopoly in the aid society. Sister Markham does all of
that with a high hand and flourish, while the timid Sewell sisters
quilt to perfection, but daren't trust their hands at the "art part."
Remember that the section quilted around stands up, while the stitched
part is held close. For instance in the Lone Star, we quilt on each
tiny white diamond, and each colored diamond between puffs up.
Maybe this should be "compartment" quilting, but still it was
originated for the woman who lives in tiny rooms, efficiency all over,
even to finishing her full-sized quilt therein, to its last lovely
stitch. This may be done in an apartment that can't accommodate a large
picture frame, to say nothing of quilting frames! One young thing
wrote, "We even have collapsible tooth brushes, and yet, I am quilting
mine own quilt."
The secret is this, quilt the blocks separately then set them
together—a "makeshift," says grandmother with a sniff, "about
backwards as pickin' a chicken after it's baked." But oh, the modern
methods we love, the jolly substitutions and short cuts that leave us
time and energy for recreations like quilt making. So after the blocks
are pieced, and the plain squares stamped for quilting we may cut a
back and interlining the same size. Spread them smoothly on a table and
baste around and through rather firmly. Then you may quilt them on the
table, or on your lap, taking even stitches which go through the entire
thickness. Some quilt a fourth of the quilt this way, or eighths, or
single blocks. The quilted sections are joined by sewing top parts with
a running stitch on the wrong side. Then smooth the interlinings of
cotton to overlap about 1/4 inch, and sew back sections together with a
blind stitch. The quilting is then continued along the join line.
Bias tape in white or a color may be used to cover all seams on the
back, making a pattern of squares over it all.
PUTTING INTO THE
The authentic way to quilt is to have a large frame into which the
whole coverlet is stretched. The frame itself is so simply constructed
that every household used to have its own. Four smoothed pine strips 2
inches wide by 3/4 inch or 1 inch thick are cut in two lengths. Two
long ones are possibly 9 feet long while the width pair may be 90
inches or only four feet. This half width frame means that you can put
only half of the quilt in at a time; it saves room, but may sacrifice
some in quilting smoothness. Round pieces are excellent for these side
pieces, especially when there are accompanying uprights with holes
bored to fit which makes the frame rather like a table. Clamps are
preferred to bolts for holding the corners securely.
The side bars of the quilting frames should have a fold of ticking or
heavy muslin closely tacked their entire length. Pin or baste the quilt
lining to these so it will not sag during the days of work to come, one
side to each bar. If using the narrow width frame, roll up the extra
length at one end; stretch and secure the corners firmly. A lining is
better cut several inches larger than the quilts' top as it may become
frayed during this part of its useful history. Next the cotton bat is
carefully unfolded and spread, and the top placed even more gently over
this. Its edges are basted to the edge of the lining at the sides with
perhaps a pinned on strip to wrap over the end for perfect smoothness.
This is a step which requires precision, and discouragingly shows up
any undue fullness or tightness that has occurred in your piecing.
However, puffs will quilt down considerably. We saw a "Lone Star" that
breezed up like a circus tent, quilt down to satisfaction.
Telling you how to quilt is almost as impossible to write in words as
to describe an accordion without moving your hands. One quilter says
use a short needle, another holds out for a long needle, nicely curved!
After trying it and observing experts it seems to me that the trick is
in sewing clear around and back again like your hand could roll about
the small curved units, sort of a standing on your head effect. Aye,
this is the rub that may keep the quilts of today from really rivaling
the ones of yester-year. It is difficult to take small, even stitches,
through three thicknesses, especially as one of these is rather heavy
cotton. But the running stitches must be even, must go clear through
each time, and should be small. The position is rather awkward and
tiring to one unaccustomed in the art. The left hand is held under the
work, although sometimes it is the right hand under, as many expert
quilters get ambi-dextrous. While some can quilt around and towards
themselves, decidedly right-handed folks fasten the thread oftener, and
always work from right to left.
No matter how beautifully you tat, embroider, play the mandolin or
paint china—your first quilting will not be expert; this
experience and the novice cannot hope to acquire speed or perfection on
her first quilt.
If you try quilting continuously for several hours your fingers are apt
to become very sore. A remedy for this is to dip them in hot alum water
which toughens the membrane. Thread pulled across the upper side of the
right little finger often causes a blister. One way to avoid this is to
wear a rubber stall over your finger, which protects it from blisters
and bruises. One can only reach about a foot over the side of the
frame. When you have finished some twelve inches roll up the quilt.
Another section is then unrolled. This quilting and rolling and
unrolling is continued until the quilt is finished.
It is then taken from the frame and usually the edges bound with a bias
band of material, either white or of the predominating color used in
the quilt. This binding should be cut about an inch or an inch and a
half wide. It is usually machine stitched on one side of the quilt then
turned over and whipped down with small stitches.
6 · CHAPTER 7