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Retire or Repair an Old Friend?

My mother taught me to sew when I was seven and we made many of our clothes during the subsequent years. Mom especially liked to make pajamas for us kids, while I enjoyed making the outfits I would be seen in. A few years ago I put together a lecture comparing some of my quilts with garments from my youth (yes! I still have many of them¬† ūüėÄ ). The lecture is called “Gone to the Dark Side”¬† and you can find information about it at¬†

When I graduated from high school my parents gave me a brand new Sears Kenmore sewing machine.

I was thrilled! I decided my first project should be a quilt for my “hope chest”. I cut a 6″ square from cardboard and dug out all of the scraps from our sewing projects. There were cottons, denims, flannels, crepe d’chine, seersucker and even some wool! I traced around the cardboard on the wrong side of each scrap and cut out all the squares with a scissors. Once the squares were cut I laid them out in 9-patches (I didn’t know that’s what they were called then) and sewed them together.

I assembled these blocks into a top and it ended up being king sized. I couldn’t wait to use some of the fancy stitches on my machine (my mom’s old Singer didn’t have any of those), so I did a line of decorative stitching over the seams of all the blocks.

Once the top was finished I layered it with a sheet, and a sheet blanket for the filling, and sewed all the way around the outside – leaving an opening for turning; only to find out I’d layered it incorrectly (the sheet was on the inside). So I ripped it apart, sewed around, and turned once again. To finish I tied it with knots of 4 ply polyester yarn at the block corners. What a delight for the eyes!

Even though it’s pretty ugly (don’t you love oxymorons?), it’s kept Mike and me warm for 42 years!

But lately it’s showing it’s age. Many of the fabrics are just plain disintegrating.

The green wool from a vest I made shrunk up years ago, but that didn’t keep me from tossing it into the washing machine many, many times.

Yet the fabrics are filled with memories. The pink denim with doves above was used in my favorite pair of hip hugger, bell bottom jeans (just picture that – it was the 70’s). In the following photo the brown floral was a sundress, the light blue flannel was a nightgown of mine, and the purple with flowers was from an apron I made for my German “mother” when I did a class trip to Germany my junior year.

So… do I retire it to the actual cedar chest Mike bought me as an engagement gift (at the foot of the bed)? or ???

While taking these pictures I realized the worn blocks are all around the outer edge. Perhaps I need to remove the last row of squares all the way around, add a binding and use it for another 42 years. What do you think?

April 29, 2018, Vintage Quilts
Friendship Quilts

As I said last week, I’m very excited about the new guild lecture I’m putting together. The idea began to form a few weeks ago when I was looking at the quilted tote my grandchildren use to transport library books.


France autograph tote – front and back

It’s made from friendship blocks exchanged while on our Sew We Go riverboat cruise through¬†France in 2008. It got me to thinking about all the wonderful friendship/autograph/signature quilts I’ve made or been given over the years. Like this one that was given to me by Common Threads quilt guild in thanks for my years as president (thanks Valeria!)

autograph quilt Common Threads

And then… what about that old top I made after collecting signature blocks at a family reunion in 1993? It was at the bottom of a¬†UFO bin, along with a group picture from the party, already printed on¬†muslin. It¬†only needed a border to complete the top. I added one with Seminole piecing and it’s ready for quilting!

Lohse reunion 1993 quilt top-border 2016

Everyone who attended the reunion (including the kids) signed their block and many also drew or wrote something important to them on it.

This led to pondering about “that” vintage autograph quilt top I purchased a few years back. I pulled it out and enjoyed looking over all the signatures and wondering about it’s history. Who was Grandma Chapman? What’s the name of this lovely pattern?


I looked more closely to find other interesting signatures. Than I did some research to discover the pattern is called “star bouquet”. What fun!

Well, from there it was a short hop to checking out Buckboard Quilt’s website for signature quilts. I wasn’t disappointed! Judy makes every effort to get the story when she acquires a quilt, and¬†she had some great stories!

Like one¬†that has a block signed: mother 82, and the pattern is¬†called Little Britches,¬†or this one in which Judy¬†included a copy of the obituary of the man in who’s estate the quilt was found.


I’m having such a good time gathering the quilts and their stories. It’s requiring some detective work – which I’m enjoying immensely.

In the talk I’ll share old and new¬†quilts, their stories, plus handouts with patterns for great autograph blocks to use in your next friendship quilt.

If you’d like to see more quilts and hear the stories, I’d love to visit your guild and share them all! Please direct the program people in your guild to this blog, and have them contact me! Thanks!!!

September 4, 2016, Classes Vintage Quilts
Buckboard Quilts – and a Deal Almost Too Good to be True!

In 2012 I did a post about a wonderfully generous woman named Judy Howard, and her efforts to feed hungry children via quilts. You can read that post at:

Since that time I’ve purchased a number of quilts from Judy, and donated a few too! Well, I’m in the process of putting together a new lecture (stay tuned for it’s unveiling¬† ūüôā ), and I needed a few vintage quilts to make the talk more interesting. I went to Judy’s website:¬†¬†, and found just what I was looking for. When I contacted Judy to order them she told me to write my check to the charity of my choice to feed needy children! I was amazed! The entire cost of the quilts went to the charity of my choice – and I got the deduction! This was something I needed to share. So I emailed Judy and asked her to share her story on my blog. Here it is:


“Since 1976, Judy Howard has owned and operated Buckboard Antique Quilts in Oklahoma City. Her love of quilts de¬≠veloped while taking a class from nationally renowned fiber artist Terrie Mangat and antique quilts became her specialty. Julia Roberts, America‚Äôs sweetheart, likes to give Wedding Ring quilts when her family and friends marry. Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman are also celebrity clients, Dustin purchasing seventeen quilts while he was in town filming Rainman. Four of her quilts can be seen in the six week mini-series Alias Grace available on Netflix this fall.

Judy recently moved her shop home, open by appointment.¬† To celebrate her fortieth anniversary, she is giving away 200 antique quilts, tops, squares, vintage textiles and 400 small art quilts and her six books in exchange for tax deductible donations written to your charity of choice to feed needy children.”

And here’s a little about her books:

¬† ¬† ¬†“Heavenly Patchwork I and II and Centennial Stitches were awarded the Golden Seals as official Oklahoma Centennial Book Projects. Both Heavenly Patchwork I and II received Best Non Fiction Book awards. Thanking Our Troops‚ÄĒGod Bless America Touring Quilts received 2nd Place in the Heartland New Day Book Fest.


And best seller 1905 Cookbook‚ÄĒFood for Body and Soul records our pioneer lifestyle through food, fun and fellowship.


Hot off the press is Judy‚Äôs Quirky to Modern Art Quilts‚ÄĒHippie at Heart which is an inspiration for all quilters.


Judy now presents Quirky to Modern Art Quilts, Civil War and Madonnas Quilting on the Prairie Bed Turning Programs, which include fifty quilts dating back to 1837.


Judy‚Äôs latest projects include her Patriotic, Food for Body and Soul, Children‚ÄĒHope for Tomorrow, Recycled/Repurposed, Quirky and Words to Live by Touring 22‚ÄĚ Quilt Exhibits available for $100 rental.

To schedule a program, book signing, exhibit, see/purchase her quilts and books call 405-751-3885 or email . Write your check to the local food charity of your choice and take the tax deduction on 200 antique quilts on and 400 small art quilts and her books on .”


WOW! If you’re in the market for antique or small art quilts – this is the time to visit Buckboard Quilts. I also own her books and highly recommend them.

Next week I’ll be posting about my brand new¬†lecture. It will have old quilts, contemporary quilts, fascinating stories and block patterns to share. I’m excited – I hope you are too! Stay tuned¬† ūüėÄ !


August 28, 2016, Vintage Quilts
Crazy Quilts and Stevengraphs

In keeping with my recent crazy quilt post, I’d like to relate a¬†story about a crazy quilt of my own:

In 2002 I had the privilege of purchasing a wonderful Crazy Quilt, circa 1885, from a dear lady in Illinois.

1885 Crazy Quilt

The owner was a woman named Vee and she related this history of the quilt to me: “It was found in an attic in the bungalow of Julius and Harriet (Lyons) Reed in Three Bridges, NJ after Etta (Harriet) had passed away in the 1970‚Äôs. Etta was Vees husband‚Äôs Aunt. They were originally from Davenport, IA. Julius was a soldier during the Spanish American war and he fought in Cuba. When he returned he went to New York and met Etta at church. They fell in love and lived in NY until Julius was drawn to a piece of property in New Jersey. Julius was a floor worker at Wanamaker‚Äôs Department Store in NY and they were quite poor, but he wanted this piece of property so badly that, as the family story goes, he met some Italians and did something for them – no one knows what – and they gave him enough money to buy the land. Julius then built the bungalow completely by hand. Etta was very good at decorating on a shoestring. Julius preceded Etta in death and after she passed away Vee and her husband went through the home and found little of value except for this crazy quilt which was in a box in the attic. They knew nothing else about the quilt, but Vee did mention that Julius did have very wealthy relatives in New York named Wentworth.”

Don’t you just love family stories and the unique details which are remembered?

Well, the quilt¬†was stored well for all of it’s life, obviously never seeing the light of day for any length of time, so I wanted to get it appraised right away. While doing the appraisal, my friend Carol Butzke, commented that my quilt included a Stevengraph.

Crazy Quilt Stevengraph

I’d never heard of a Stevengraph and set out to learn more. In searching the internet I ran across a collector in England. I sent him the picture, and here is a portion of his response:

Thank you for sending the image of your silk. It has come across very well, and I can confirm it is indeed a Stevengraph. When originally mounted, the title printed on the card mount was “The First Point”.
This is of course a scene of two hounds chasing a hare. The rider on horseback is the judge, and the person in red at the edge of the crowd is the person who has just released the hounds, called a ‘slipper’.
It is impossible to date your actual silk, as they were made continuously right up to the destruction of the factory in 1940.
Thomas Stevens, of Coventry, Great Britain created the word Stevengraph to describe his silk pictures. It has now been extended to include all such woven silk pictures, and even the bookmarks as well.
All silks fade very badly in day light, and deteriorate with light and dust. From the image you have sent me, if your actual silk is as bright coloured as the image, yours is in remarkably good condition. There is no fading, and no apparant damage. As an item of beauty, it now needs always to be part of the quilt of which it has become an intregal part.
I hope this gives you a flavour of your Stevengraph. Do take care of it and the rest of the quilt. Keep the silk out of as much light as you can and away from dust, and who knows, maybe it will last another 100 years.

Peter Daws‚ÄĚ

I was thrilled to have this information!

Currently the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg is hosting an exhibit of Stevengraphs!

WMQFA stevengraph

This is a portion of some additional information the Museum emailed concerning the exhibit:

Museum Stevengraph

“In 1862, Thomas Stevens, working in Coventry, England, had produced nine fascinating silk pictures of different designs and patented the word “Stevengraph” to refer to the pictures. They were an instant success. By the late 1880s, Stevens had produced 900 different designs on aspects of Victorian life.
Using another Stevens invention at the York Exhibition in 1879 – the portable loom, people attending saw their picture being woven before their eyes. The pictures sold in the thousands and over the years Stevens was awarded over 30 medals and diplomas for the pictures.
Stevengraphs vary in size from 1 1/4 by 4 inches for bookmarks to 7 1/2 by 13 inches for mounted pictures. Once sold for as little as 50 cents, they are prized today by collectors.
The heavy German bombings on Coventry in 1940 leveled his buildings and business. But appreciation of Stevengraphs lives on through collectors and exhibits like ours at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts.”


I haven’t seen the exhibit¬†yet, but I’m looking forward to visiting the museum soon!


Do you own any Stevengraphs, or have you any stories to tell?


And one more thing! While in Paducah, Wendy mentioned that there was a large display wall¬†at Frank’s Sewing Center in Waukesha, WI (the shop where she’s the assistant manager), and they were considering featuring quilts by a “Customer of the Month” there. I told her I thought it was a great idea, and she responded “Good, you can be first!”

fiber art at Franks Sewing Center in Waukesha, WIsconsin

So I’ve put up a display of my Parallelism and Concentricity quilts for the month of May. My book “Where Do I Start With Fiber Art” is available there also. It includes the techniques I’ve used in the quilts displayed.

I hope you have a chance to stop by!

May 8, 2016, Vintage Quilts
She Made it Herself – Twice!

A few semesters ago, Sue came to my Open Lab class. This was her story:

“My first quilting project was a queen sized quilt. I saw the Amish quilt pattern in a Good Housekeeping magazine in 1977 and fell in love with it‚Ķprobably for two reasons. The photo showed the quilt in reds and blues and those are my favorite colors so it caught my eye immediately. Also, the name of the pattern is ‚ÄúLancaster Country Rose‚ÄĚ and since I grew up in Lancaster, WI, it seemed like it was meant for me to make. As I mentioned, I had never quilted before, so I pieced the quilt by following the directions of the pattern and then quilted the entire quilt by hand on a large oval hoop quilting frame. My journey into quilting had begun. You can imagine my disappointment when, after only a few years, the quilt faded.

Lancaster Rose Quilt

Unable to part with it after so much work, I stored it away.

I retired several years ago and began quilting in earnest. I decided that I had learned a few tips and tricks over the years and maybe I could find an easier way to make this pattern again. I like trying new techniques and wondered if I could make this pattern using the ‚Äúquilt-as-you-go‚ÄĚ technique. (This technique is often called the ‚Äúreversible‚ÄĚ quilt technique.) I signed up for Chris Kirsch‚Äôs open lab class at WCTC and took my pattern, fabric and questions to the class. Chris assured me that I could make the quilt using the ‚Äúquilt-as-you-go‚ÄĚ technique. So I forged ahead ‚Äď this time making a king-sized quilt. I used some new applique techniques that I had learned over the years and I did all of the quilting on my sewing machine. Thirty-seven years after making the first quilt, I still love this pattern and I am very happy with the results.

Susan Maresh”

And here are the pictures of Sue’s new “old” quilt!

Sues new app quilt2 Lancaster County Rose quiltI was very impressed! Making this quilt once would have been a respectable fete, but to do it again 37 years later – what a great story! Sue’s workmanship is wonderful,¬†and she is a quick study when it comes to learning new quilting techniques. I’m so pleased to have had a small part in this beautiful quilt. Thank you so much for sharing your quilt and it’s story with us Sue!

Have you ever remade a quilt? What was your reason? We’d love to hear your story!

A blessed Easter Sunday to you all!

April 5, 2015, Appliqué Vintage Quilts
Eureka! A Mariner’s Victory!

Two years ago I put together a lecture called Tradition With a Twist. In it I share antique quilts in traditional patterns, and the modern variations I’ve created. Collecting the antique quilts for the talk was a big part of the fun. By the time I presented thCompass-Capers-to-Die lecture for the first time I had found antique versions for all but one pattern – Mariner’s Compass. This was particularly frustrating¬†because I’ve made so many unique Mariners variations – and even written a book about it!


Fast forward to this past January. Our life has taken a new direction¬†because Mike retired on December 31st. This change has presented¬†many new things to deal with, and one was to adjust our cell phone/internet plan. As many of you may know, there are tons of options out there, and it’s all so confusing!¬†As a part of this adventure, we spent one night “trying out” a new WiFi possibility. In the midst of this Mike told me to just “surf the web” and see how the speed of the connection was (silly man ūüôā ). I don’t surf often, but when I do, it’s usually to try to find an antique Mariner’s Compass quilt in my price range (a seemingly hopeless plan). Well … a lovely quilt in white, orange and yellow popped up, and 12 hours later it was mine!!!

Vintage Mariner's Compass quilt

I’m thrilled! I had really wanted a medallion style Mariner’s quilt, and I love yellow and orange. But this one really tickled me – and here’s why!

Mariner’s Compass quilts tend to be rare because of the degree of difficulty involved in the traditional template method for piecing them. Those long skinny points require a lot of patience and skill. I didn’t get¬†into making this pattern until¬†I discovered that compasses could be made with paper¬†piecing. This made accurate blocks¬†attainable for average quilters.

MC vintage center

Now, look closely at the above picture of the central medallion from the quilt, and prepare to be impressed. Those points were not foundation pieced, they were not even template pieced… they were hand appliqu√©d!!! It’s a bit easier to see on this picture of one of the small corner compasses.

MC vintage detail

The quilt is hand quilted also. The stitches are not the finest I’ve ever seen, but they have kept the quilt together through much wear and numerous washings. Oh how I wish it could talk and tell me who made it and when. That’s why I’m always telling students to label their quilts!

So, would you like to see this quilt “in the cloth”?

TWT pub webI’ve been blessed with the wonderful opportunity to be one of the keynote speakers for University Days 2015, at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Art in Cedarburg, WI. This event takes place May 1st and 2nd. I’ll be presenting Tradition With a Twist on Saturday morning at 9am. University Days is¬†an exciting event with a lot of great activities.¬†For all the information go to: ¬†


Then, on a personal note – Sommer has a new baby brother!!!

Trey Michael Kirsch was born this past Friday night, February 20th.

Trey and gma2-21 blog

Brad and Betsy (our son and daughter-in-law),Sommer Trey for blog¬†are doing well. We’re all thrilled and Sommer loves her “bay brudder”.

February 22, 2015, Vintage Quilts
Yo – Yo’s

Mike and I were out antiquing recently and I found an absolute treasure! We do a lot more looking than buying (our home is getting full), but occasionally I just can’t say “no”. Here’s the story:

Fabric Yo Yo’s have always been popular with quilters. In my collection I have 2 antique coverlets (they’re not called quilts because they do not have the traditional “3 layers, held together with stitches”). This first one is put together with “squares” framed with a purple “sashing”.

Antique Yo Yo coverlet

I love this piece. The placement of the yo yo’s is rather unique and the “grape” clusters look wonderful hanging down the sides of a bed.

The other one is quite different. I was looking for a vintage quilt with a dog on it for one of my lectures and this one barked right out at me:


What makes it unique is that the yo yo’s are attached to a muslin back with tufts of wool yarn. The doggie is stuffed and has 3-D ears. They just don’t make em like this any more¬† ūüėÄ !

Clover came out with wonderful yo yo makers a few years ago and there was a big surge in popularity at that time. On our Sew We Go project, when we cruised through France, we used the yo yo maker to create a cluster of grapes on a quilter’s arm chair caddy.

yo yo armchair caddy grapes

It was Wendy’s idea … and very clever!

About ten years ago I adopted this clown from an antique store in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. His body is all yo yo’s and I just couldn’t resist him. He’s been sitting on a shelf ever since.

yo yo boy

This brings me up to my latest find. A yo yo girl!

yo yo girl

Isn’t she delightful? I think all of her yo yo’s are made from men’s silk neckties, and where the clown has pom pom hands and feet – she has bells. I just knew they were perfect for each other!

yo yo couple

They now share a shelf in “Sommer’s room”, and they’re a sweet couple of yo-yo’s!

Do you have any unusual yo yo items? Please send me pictures – I’d love to share them.

And just a quick reminder – the Floss Frenzy challenge is due February 28th. Here in Wisconsin, we are enjoying the perfect weather for sitting and stitching under a cozy lap sized quilt! So you have over a month to do just that and send me a picture. Remember – there will be a blog quilt show of these pictures – with prizes!!!



January 11, 2015, Vintage Quilts
A Pony Quilt – 18 Years in the Making!

This week I have exciting news to share – well, at least it’s exciting to me! A quilt I began over 17 years ago, and chose to hand quilt, is finished!

Let me tell you the story and then unveil the quilt :-).

Quite a few years ago my husband gave me a pattern for a civil war era hoop dress and the hoop skirt to go with it. ¬†He had been at a Civil War reenactment, found these items, and thought I could make a costume to wear when I lecture. This was the inspiration for my first lecture about antique quilts entitled “But I Still Love You”.

Vintage Quilt Lecture by Chris Lynn Kirsch

In planning an introduction for this lecture I came up with an idea that required me to have a vintage dog quilt and a vintage pony quilt. I acquired the dog quilt shortly after coming up with the intro idea, but there were no pony quilts to be found. I had planned to give the lecture for my own guild, Patched Lives, first. So I did my intro and asked the ladies in my guild to imagine that they were looking at a pony quilt (ha!ha!).

A few days later I received an envelope in the mail from a guild friend (thanks, Johanna). She sent me a pattern for a carousel pony block and a note saying that perhaps I should make a pony quilt. What a great idea! I grabbed my small pile of vintage feed sacks and took them along to Paducah with me. That year Wendy, Jill, my Mom and I were all spending quilt week in Paducah together and I conned them into making pony blocks. They each chose the fabric they liked and hand buttonhole appliquéd a pony onto a piece of muslin.

pony blue pony green pony pink pony yellow

Upon arrival home I stitched the top together, bordering it with orphan bow tie blocks which were given to me by my friend Barb.

At that point I decided the quilt needed to be hand-quilted, but couldn’t talk my Paducah buddies into doing the quilting on their blocks. I enjoy hand-quilting in small increments, and typically worked on this crib sized piece while traveling to Paducah each year (Wendy never did give in and offer to help). This past April I actually did do quite a bit of the quilting during our AQS adventure, so I decided to take it along when Mike and I drove to Philadelphia last month. I really worked in earnest on that trip, because I could see a light at the end of the tunnel. It only took me one evening of quilting after our return to actually finish the quilting. Putting the binding on was a joy!

carousel pony quilt

I love it!

I used the corners of a vintage hanky for the saddles, the same black trim from my dress became the poles, and embroidery floss (go figure), was used for the tails. They’re adorned with a few old beads and buttons.

Do you have a quilt that has taken you over 18 years to go from start to finish? Would you like to share your story?


This week I’ll be heading to Madison, WI for Quilt Expo! I’ve been blessed to teach there every year since the beginning. This year I’m doing “Sit and Sew’s” on free motion quilting, and lectures on many different ways to add¬†circles to your quilts. It’s always a wonderful show. I hope to see some of you there!

Tradition With a Twist

I recently received an email from Ellen at the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison. She asked me to pass along information about a program coming up this week (see below). My connection with Ellen led me to a brand new lecture. Here’s the story:

Last winter I had¬†an exhibit of my work at the Museum ¬†(click on the purple writing to read about it :-)). I worked with Ellen and the Museum on hanging a group of my contemporary quilts (some made in collaboration with Sharon Rotz and Wendy Rieves) which were made as innovations of traditional patterns. I was also able to present a lecture to go along with the quilts. The talk was a hit, and it led to a treasure hunt. Mike and I like to go antiquing and I decided I wanted to collect vintage versions of my modern quilts. After an enjoyable search I have a new collection of old quilts and a new lecture tying them all together. The lecture is called “Tradition With a Twist” and in it I share the old quilts, the stories of their acquisition and patterns and my modern versions.

Here’s a picture of my pair of Bow Tie quilts, just to pique your interest:

Bow Tie quiltsIf your guild is looking for a program that offers something old and something new, please contact me!

And now for the Museum information:

History Sandwiched In: Civil War Quilts and Stories
Feb 19, 2013¬†¬† 12:15‚Äď1 pm
Quilts have changed in purpose and style over the generations. Some quilters make quilts for the main purpose of making art. These artists choose to use fabric as their medium instead of using paint, wood, metal or paper. Another purpose for quilts is to honor and remember. Whether big or small, quilts can make an impact in the lives of people. Join quilter Pat Ehrenberg as she shares her knowledge of the stories of quilts during the Civil War.

The museum will present this program in conjunction with the Dane County Regional Airport exhibition, “Wisconsin Folks: Masters of Tradition,” organized by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Tandem Press and the Wisconsin Arts Board. The exhibit, which runs through March 2013, highlights the Arts Board’s Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program.

Click  for more info on the Wisconsin Folks: Masters of Tradition series at the Museum:


February 17, 2013, Classes Vintage Quilts
Have You Ever Made a Double Wedding Ring Quilt?

The past few days I’ve been getting back into some creative stitching by starting on a “small challenge” quilt through the Milwaukee Art Quilters.¬†The challenge is called Objet D’arc and each participant was given a vintage double wedding ring (DWR) arc from a rummage sale find and asked to do something with it.

Double Wedding Ring arcs

I’m not ready to unveil the plan for my quilt yet, but part of it involves making a traditional DWR block with modern fabrics. The problem is I don’t enjoy curved piecing. I have a garment background and am capable of doing it, but it’s just not my favorite technique. I do however enjoy coming up with ways to avoid curved piecing! First I needed a pattern, so I did an image search, cropped a block out of a quilt photo, printed 4 copies, and outlined the arcs with a black marker.

I then cut out the curved strips and paper pieced them from my fishbowl of bright scraps!

At this point I decided to appliqué the curved edges, so I wet the seam allowances with liquid starch and a q-tip and pressed over the edge of the paper (be careful not to get the paper wet).

The next step involves clear thread. Be sure to use a good quality polyester invisible thread (not nylon – I prefer Superior or Sulky).¬†At this point I’d like to insert a few tips on machine stitching with this thread.

1. If your machine warns you when the bobbin in nearing empty, it may not read low levels of the clear thread and thus stop you from sewing long before you reach empty. To avoid this, wind a bit of a cotton thread on the bobbin first and then wind the clear thread over the cotton thread.

bobbin filling

2. This is a very thin, strong thread and it winds very tightly on the bobbin. I’ve seen bobbins actually break from the pressure, so it’s a good idea to only fill them 1/2 to 3/4’s full.

working with invisible thread

Now back to appliqué. I pinned the arcs in place on the background fabric and stitched them down with the invisible thread and a very narrow zig zag (set stitch width and length at 1).

machine mock hand applique

This looks best when the needle pierces the appliqu√©¬†piece as it swings left (in the picture above) and goes into the background only when it swings right, thus capturing the folded edge. I appliqu√©d all of the arcs in place this way and here’s the block:

double wedding ring

Then the paper needed to be removed by cutting away the background fabric:

It worked quite well. I don’t think I’ll ever do a bedsized DWR quilt this way, but it was fun in one block.

Have you ever made a DWR quilt the traditional way? I’d love to know how many of you enjoy curved piecing. Please comment and let me know.

December 31, 2012, Challenges Piecing Vintage Quilts
Labeling Vintage Quilts

JoLynn recently wrote me with an antique quilt story:

“I found this old quilt this last month in the middle of the hwy in Texas. It is a grandmothers fan quilt pattern. It needed a lot of repairs so I washed it and I am taking it apart and restoring all of the damaged fan blades. I love how you would not think to add such non matching colors together. I went to the store and bought some of the same colors to replace the ones that were damaged. I have no clue how old this quilt is but it was all hand done. I myself make quilts but I use the sewing machine.¬†:)¬†I am wanting to come up with some type of lable for the quilt but dont have any ideas. If you have any ideas please let me know. Thanks‚Ķ‚Ķ. Oklahoma Self”

I did a blog post last October with instructions for creating simple labels for vintage quilts. You can¬†click here¬†to read all about it (be sure to read Lucy’s excellent instructions for making labels with the computer). JoLynn’s request made me realize that often we don’t know the quilt’s previous history – so does it really need a label? And if so, what should be on it? My answer would be yes because every quilt has a story we do know: who currently owns it and how they acquired it. JoLynn’s quilt has a wonderful story of adoption and caring and it should be on the label, along with her name, place and date.

Taking the time to label vintage quilts,¬†especially if you have a collection, may be the difficult part. I was guilty of this for years and than a dear friend, Maggi Gordon, wrote a book entitled Vintage Quilts. She was interested in including a number of my quilts. Before I could give them to her for photography they needed to be labeled and now I’m so grateful to have them in the book and the labels done!

This is a wonderful guide for identifying and pricing old quilts and can be obtained through Maggi at:

And now for a plea. I’m currently putting together a new lecture called “Tradition with a Twist”. It will include vintage quilts and modern interpretations. I’ve been collecting the older quilts for a while and find there are still 2 patterns I don’t have. I’m looking for an old (30 years or older) Pineapple Log Cabin and a Burgoyne Surrounded. It you have either of these you would be willing to part with, please let me know and we can talk about it :-). Thanks!

PS I had a wonderful visit with my daughter and grandkids in Washington. I can’t resist sharing a few pictures. Here is Rainee Lynn at 2 weeks old:

and her sister and brother, Hanna and Willy:

Label the Old

After enjoying Eileen’s story about her antique quilts last week and having the opportunity¬†to present my antique quilt lecture in Manitowoc, I decided it was a good time to recommend putting labels on our family heirlooms. I’m always encouraging students to label their quilts – and this goes for the vintage ones you own, even if you didn’t make them yourself.

I have some wonderful antique quilts. Some are from my family and others I have collected. No matter how I got them, I always appreciate knowing their story. I truly wish some of them could talk, so I’d know the who, when & where. But alas, very few older quilts are labeled. It’s a shame because it can increase their value immensely. So label them! If you have their entire history – great! If not, put down what you do know, even if it’s just that you own it and¬†how you acquired it.

The easiest way to create the label is to:

1. Cut a piece of freezer paper the size you desire the label to be and draw parallel lines with a Sharpie‚ĄĘ marker,¬† 1/2″ apart,on the dull (paper) side.¬†

2.Iron the shiny side of the freezer paper onto a piece of muslin (this view is of the lines showing through to the muslin side).

3. Write the¬†label information on the muslin with a fine line fabric marker (I prefer the Micron Pigma‚ĄĘ marker, size 01), using the freezer paper lines as guides to keep your writing straight.

4. Remove the freezer paper, turn under the edges and appliqué the label to the back of the quilt.

Creating labels on a computer and printing them onto colorfast printer fabric is another good option.

What information should you include? Who made it. When. Where. For whom. Who owns it. When. Where. Anything else you’d like someone to know when you’re no longer around to tell them.

Remember to label your current quilts too. They may not be around 100 years from now, but if they are, someone may want to know about you :-)!

October 30, 2011, Labels Vintage Quilts
Hand Quilting

I enjoy hand quilting, but¬†this may not be apparent from the content of my blogs… until now :-)!

Even though I’ve been very passionate about¬†machine quilting for quite a few years, I usualy have some type of hand work nearby. My current project is a wall quilt made up of¬†carousel horses which were appliqu√©d from feed sacks (yes, real vintage¬†feed sacks!)

The blocks were stitched¬†many years ago¬†during quilt week in¬†Paducah. My roommates that year were Ginny Walters (my Mom),¬†Wendy Rieves and Jill Koeppel. Each of us¬†hand buttonhole appliqu√®d¬†a pony block and now¬†I’m slowly enjoying the process of quilting them. I’m currently cross-hatching by using masking tape as my guide.

I thought it would be fun to hear from¬†the hand quilters out there in blogland. Do you¬†like to handquilt? Do you machine quilt too? Hoop or no hoop?¬†I’m looking forward to the response!

August 14, 2011, Hand Quilting Vintage Quilts
Howe Many Machines Do You Own?

If you want to feel better about your sewing machine collection, read on. Up until recently I owned 6 (but one’s a treadle that’s being used as an end table, so I’m not sure it counts). I recently acquired #7…with my husband’s blessing, and I can’t wait to share. We were wandering through an antique store in Fort Atkinson, WI when this machine caught my eye:

For many years I’ve been presenting a quilt lecture about my collection of antique quilts entitled “But I Still Love You”. In it¬†I share some sewing machine history, including information on Elias Howe, the “inventor of the sewing machine” (there were other machines invented in other countries, but his was the most user friendly and marketable, so he’s credited with it). There is actually a plaque on the machine with a bust of Elias Howe and the words “Elias Howe Jr; Inventor and Maker; New York, USA”.

The machine has been mounted in a case with a glass front and a light inside so that the mechanism underneath can be viewed when the crank is turned.

The case has a plaque that reads: ‚ÄúInventor: Elias Howe; Patent #4750 Granted 9-10-1846; circa 1865-67; Restored by Carmon M. Howe; 1991‚ÄĚ. I was able to contact Mr. Howe and he told me he is not related to the inventor. He found the machine on the 3rd floor of an antique store in LaCrosse, WI with about an inch of dust on it. When he saw the name – he had to have it :-). He said it won’t run because the bobbin mechanism was missing. We had a lovely conversation and he told me to enjoy the machine. I am already.

 After a bit of web surfing I found a photo of the same model machine as mine and it is indeed from 1867!  I searched for more details about the machine and found very little. I did find a wealth of information about Elias Howe and am anxious to share it in future lectures.

So, anyone own more than 7 sewing machines???

July 31, 2011, Uncategorized Vintage Quilts
But I Still Love You Too

My lecture in Amery was a delight! A fun group of quilters and a lovely visit with my cousin Kathy.

I’d like to welcome some new readers to¬†the blog. I not only shared my antique quilts up north on Monday, but Tuesday night I presented a talk about¬† my “Sew We Go” adventures with Wendy to a guild in Oak Creek (south of Milwaukee) and Wednesday morning I did the same talk¬†for a guild in Fox Point (north of Milwaukee). Many of the quilters I spoke to gave me their email addresses and I’ve added them to the list. I’d just like to mention to them or any one else who’s new to the blog¬†that by scrolling down through the blog or clicking on the archives you can read about some of our past topics. From photographing your quilts, to UFO’s (ultimately fabulous opportunities) and many topics in between, there’s been a lot of great information shared :-)!

Now to get back to antique quilts. Thanks Barb, for sharing your quilt’s story. I’d like to share a quilt and it’s story from my lecture. I don’t know the history of many of my quilts, but this Sunbonnet Sue quilt has a story I do know and it’s worth telling:


A few years ago I presented “But I Still Love You” to a historical society and one of the women present asked me if we could meet for lunch. Her name was Vivian and at the restaurant she showed me this quilt and told me it’s tale. It was made¬†by a friend of¬†Vivian’s grandparents for her when she was a baby (I have all the names and dates – hooray!). She snuggled with it while she was growing up and then packed it away. When Vivian was married and expecting her first child she unpacked it and showed it to her husband. When she told him the pattern was called Sunbonnet Sue he responded that if they had a girl they should name her Sue – and they did! Sue snuggled with it while she grew up just like her mom.

Well, since then Sue had moved to California and Vivian and her husband were struggling with some health issues. They had¬†decided to sell their home in Wisconsin and move¬†to California¬†to be near Sue.¬†Vivian came across the quilt while packing and called Sue. She told her mom she really didn’t want it :-(. Vivian couldn’t talk her into it and so she decided to offer it to me after seeing my talk. I was honored. She said she wanted it to be well cared for and appreciated. So I’m pleased to share it in my lectures and here with you.

If you have a quilt with a story to share, please send it as a comment to this post. Most quilter’s I know have a warm spot in their hearts for antique quilts and the stories that make them special.

November 18, 2010, Vintage Quilts
But I Still Love You

I just finished packing up my collection of antique quilts to take with me tomorrow as I head to Amery, Wisconsin to do a talk for a guild there (its not far from the twin cities). It was a happy coincidence that I have a cousin who also lives in Amery. What a great opportunity to share my love for quilting with a new guild and spend time with Kathy too. Once again I just feel so blessed :-).

The lecture I’ll be doing¬†shares the same name as this post. In it I¬†wear a Civil War era dress and hoop skirt that I made to go with the lecture. Most of my quilts are not museum quality, but I love them and enjoy sharing their stories. I’ve probably presented this talk more than any of my others and it is one of my favorites. The best part is even non-quilt groups (historical societies, Christian women’s groups, etc.) want to hear it and so I’m able to¬†share my passion for quilting with¬†¬†some people that aren’t yet adicted!

Do you have a quilt that’s a family treasure or just a vintage piece with a delightful story? I feel most quilters enjoy hearing about these bits of our history and I’d be so happy to hear about yours.

November 14, 2010, Vintage Quilts