Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Diamond Hodgepodge

Mom gave me an old quilt top to finish. She couldn't remember when or where she bought it, but we both think it probably dates to the 1930s or 1940s based on the fabrics in it. The quilter painstakingly sewed numerous triangles into rows of diamonds by hand. I've been amazed at how evenly the pieces were cut and how precisely the points match up. Some of the individual triangles are made from two pieces of material stitched together, evidently to use as much fabric as was available, and some of the rows contain a mix of different fabrics. At first I didn't care for this top with its jumble of flannel, homespun, stripes, and prints, but after working with it for several days I began to appreciate what the original quilter had done.


There's a subtle arrangement of dark fabrics against light colors within rows. Some of my favorite fabrics are these indigo cottons with a tiny geometric print in a natural color. The pattern reminds me of something Asian on a tiny scale.


This blue triangle has my favorite piece of fabric, but it's the only triangle like it in the quilt. You can see in the lilac and white checked triangle above it how the original quilter pieced fabric together to have enough to cut a triangle from it. The skinny dark brown calico strip is the binding, and the yellow-brown calico to the left is part of the backing.


At first I wasn't sure how to finish the quilt given the mix of colors, prints, and even materials. Then I realized, as I was poking through my fabric stash, that a mix of small print calicos and graphic patterns would be perfect for the backing and binding. (Yep, I said binding. I finally taught myself how to bind a quilt.)

I used a flannel sheet as batting, pieced several large rectangles of fabric together for the back, and then quilted it together using parallel lines across the bases of each horizontal row of triangles. I was tempted to quilt parallel lines along the slanted angles made by the diamond pattern, but I didn't want anything too distracting and I felt simple horizontal lines "fit" the original quilter's intentions a little better. Afterwards I used a brown and gray flowered calico to bind the quilt. I did machine stitch the binding to attach and close the binding, instead of hand stitching the binding closed. It's a big quilt and I was happy enough to conquer my fear of binding, but not so much that I wanted to hand stitch all that binding to finish it. Overall I'm very pleased with the final results.





I've decided to name this one, "Diamond Hodgepodge." I know the word "hodgepodge" might have a negative connotation, but that's what this quilt top is, a jumbled mix of colors, textures, and materials. The original quilter took this mix and made something more refined out of it, these rows of precise diamonds.

Originally the quilt top was hand-tied to the backing. I found several pieces of dark blue yarn still in the fabric, even though there was no backing or batting with the top when Mom acquired it. I would love to see what the original backing looked like to compare it to the one I made. Of course I'll never know who made the quilt top and what meaning these fabrics held for the quilter, but I'd like to think she'd be pleased with what I made from her original work.


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