Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Hanky Quilt

My dear friend, Kathryn, hired me to make a quilt for her mother's 60th birthday. It was a unique challenge because A) I don't quilt and B) she asked me to make it from her grandmother's handkerchiefs. I was happy to take it on, however, because the hankies were just gorgeous. Sadly, I did not take many pictures of this project, and I wish I had photographed some of the individual handkerchiefs. She had a stack of 24 that were beautiful and made from  vintage linen and cotton batiste, and it was up to me to figure out how to put it together. I took them to my local fabric store, and the kind ladies there helped me figure out how to make it work. It was decided that I would lay them out in 3 rows of 8 and separate the rows and hankies with lace. So, I bought a ton of lace (I used a couple of different kinds in order to get a wide enough row), which added up in price pretty fast.

I laid the hankies out on a large piece of cotton batiste (actually assembled to make it wide enough), arranged and then rearranged them. The challenge was that they were all different sizes, so I had to find a way to make it so that they wound up in a sort of rectangle. Also, I needed to make sure they were placed in a manner that made sense, color and pattern wise. Then I sewed the lace to each handkerchief.

And that is when my trouble began. As it happens with all new projects, there is a learning curve, and this one was kind of steep for me. It took a while for me to figure out how to sew lace without it getting all funky in the machine. Then, trying to keep it flat while going around the corners was another challenge. But, eventually, I got it sorted out and I got all these handkerchiefs bordered by lace. I attached them to the batiste, pinned batting to it, and I machine quilted it. Another obstacle was that once they were on the batiste, the hankies tended to puff out a little. I really didn't want to sew through them, as that would mar their beauty. So, I pressed and starched the hell out of them, and that helped a little. In retrospect, it would have made much more sense to attach the hankies to the batiste first and then sew the lace to the batiste also. I have no idea why I didn't think of that. 

After the stitching, I put on a backing of royal blue silk satin. I planned on tying the back on with small individual stitches, but that idea deflated pretty quickly. I was supposed to ship the quilt to her the next day, and I started the tying on at around 7 that night. Me, being the time challenged person I am, thought that it would only take an hour or so to do that (did I mention that I had never made a quilt before?).  After about 30 minutes and about 3 stitches later, I decided to just use the tying on mechanism on my sewing machine (you know, the little start/stop button), and things sped up considerably.

Finally, I finished it at around 2 a.m., and I was able to ship it off.  Kathryn's mother absolutely loved it! She didn't know that Kathryn had all these hankies, and she was very touched that she had thought to make something with it. It turns out that K's mom remembered some of the hankies as being HER grandmother's also from when she was a child. I am sure it brought back many fond memories.

For me, I have not as many fond memories of quilting, and I consider myself retired from the profession.


Threads of Inspiration said...

Ah, Susan, if only you had known me then!

Anonymous said...

I think your story and the way you tell it is so funny. I am attempting the same thing with 28 hankies that I collected from my childhood and also my mom's hankies. I have laid them all out on a lovely piece of white batiste and that is as far as I've gone! I bought some quilt pins (the bent ones) some quilting needles and the batting. I printed your story and the photographs. Thanks.

Dandelion Factory said...

Thanks so much for your comment! Good luck with your project. I hope my story will help you to not make the same mistakes I did! Susan