Friday, June 27, 2008

The bags

I didn't take photos of them, but boy oh boy, did I sew them. I made 66 (I think 66?) bags for a project at Child Development Resources. They were given out this week to parents and in the bags, they put activity notebooks, books, and supplies to make a lot of the activities. It was the comments surrounding the bags that were interesting. But first, how they were made.
I cut pieces of about 18" square, leftover cotton and cotton blends, decorated one side of some of them, and put them right side together, taking seams on three sides, serging the side and bottom seams for strength. Some of them were 18 x 36, so I needed only to fold them and sew the side seams. I then hemmed the top. I made handles out of the same or coordinating fabrics by cutting a 2" strip, folding it and then folding it on itself, cutting them into 10" lengths, and placing them 4" apart in the center of the top of the bag, one on each side. I reinforced the seams and voila, a bag. Simple, right?
I can't tell you how many people were impressed with them. It never dawned on me that people who don't sew would be dazzled by a simple bag. It truly was not hard to make! Those of us who sew don't see the magic that those who do not sew see. The people receiving these bags saw them as something I could sell. I know better; they're simple bags without even a boxed bottom. They saw them as something creative. I know better; they're simple bags without any special design work. I could make them in my sleep. They saw them as something special. I know better; they're just bags.
Or do I know better? Maybe they are something impressive, special, creative and I don't think about that anymore? I do know one thing - I saw them, all the bags - as something more than they were when I was making them. When I was making them, they were just one more thing to make my machine hum and give me a feeling of almost Zen-like proportions.
Maybe there is magic in that needle and thread.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's not really trash, you know - The Patsy Quilt, Part 1

My oldest sister died a couple years ago. It was a surprise to all of us in the family. She was a very talented seamstress. She did the most beautiful hand embroidery, made quilts, created many things in her lifetime, including Christmas ornaments that were hand embroidered and which leave her memory for all of us - we were all given ornaments at one time or another. They're all beautiful.
Shortly after her death, her husband sent me her sewing machine from Texas to Virginia. He wrapped the machine in what I suspect he thought was a piece of soon-to-be trash - an old quilt she had made. It was looking bad. There were worn spots, torn spots, and to the uninitiated eye, it was indeed worth tossing in the trash. I couldn't do that. I put it in a corner and waited till the right idea came along.
Fast forward to last Christmas, actually December 22, 2007. Her son, Brian, who married after his mom died, announced that he and his wife were expecting. Ah ha! A use for the old quilt.
First, though, I needed to finish the denim Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt for my other nephew, Adam! (I delivered that quilt to his mother, another sister of mine, last Sunday.)
It felt good to get this one done. It was done almost 100% by hand. I did do some machine accenting around the flowers themselves to make them stand out. The back is fleece with strawberries embroidered on it. It's very soft and very sweet. I'm proud of it.
That done, I started the cutting and piecing of the "Patsy Quilt." It was a large quilt made of some very fragile fabrics and I found enough that I could cut into squares and piece together with gingham. First, though, I zigzagged over all the seams. She had embroidered a feather stitch along all seams with black floss. Some of that had come out over time; I left even the not-so-complete embroidery in place and zigzagged over that too. The goal was to reinforce the seaming that was already there.
I have all the rows done and sewn together now. I sashed the rows with the same gingham and purchased a nice baby print of fleece for the back. I have it all pinned and ready to tie. It has been a super satisfying project because I get to give my nephew something from his mother and get to give the baby something from his grandmother. The block on the bottom row, all the way to the right (not pictured yet) has her name embroidered and the date she made the original quilt. 1977.
It wasn't trash after all. It did serve several purposes over the years - a quilt that she made in 1977 and most likely used for the father of the baby when he was a tot, a wrapper for her sewing machine as it winged its way to me, and now as a baby blanket for her grandson.
Fabric tells a story. In this particular quilt, there are many stories told. There is fabric from which she had made me a caftan 30 years ago, placemats who knows how long ago, and I'm sure Brian will recognize some of the fabrics.
Nah, it wasn't trash. It's a third life piece that will be making its way to a new owner soon.
What have you rescued today?