A 60 Year UFO!

My granny made quilts entirely by hand.  I watched her piecing, sitting by the window where the light was best.  I played under the quilt frame in the “front room” when a top was finished.  I never knew her to have friends over to help with the quilting; she did it all herself.  She tried to teach me to piece; the main thing I recall is the idea of loading multiple tiny stitches on the needle before drawing the thread through.  I remember a lot of her fabrics and was surprised to find these identical-appearing reproduction fabrics some years ago:

The darkest blue is an Aunt Grace print; I don’t know about the others

Based on the way her life went, I suspect Granny started quilting in the 1930s.  She would have stopped around 1960.  When Mother closed her house in the 1990s, I inherited Granny’s unfinished final quilt, which would mean Mother had it in storage for about 30 years, and I’ve had it about 30 years now.  In a closet.  In 5 different houses in which we’ve lived during that time.  Yikes.

vintage quilt

Some of the pieces I inherited

I’ve caught up with a LOT of UFOs during quarantine, and decided it was finally time to do something with Granny’s project. By my calculation this is about a 60 year UFO.

My guess from the sections already assembled is that Granny was working on Boston Commons.  I have a Boston Commons quilt she made, and didn’t want to mix reproduction fabrics with her fabrics to complete this one.  Therefore, I checked the size of her pieces and started picking them apart.  Then came the fun.

Granny used a seam allowance of LESS THAN a quarter inch, and finger pressed her seams open

Her stitches were so tiny that they are quite difficult to see and pick out, AND she backstitched at the beginning and end of each seam!  I pressed one seam closed, and when I blew the picture up to show the stitches I discovered holes from a different needle in the yellow fabric–the fabric was from a feed sack!  (Grandpa was a farmer.)

Her stitches were so tiny that they are very difficult to pick out! And she backstitched at the beginning and end of each seam!!!

Granny’s squares measure about 2-3/4 inches unfinished, and, as you may be able to see below, she trimmed off a little corner from each piece after she stitched the seam.  I guess she was determined to decrease bulk when she quilted it by hand!

Once I got a few pieces taken apart, I treated them with Terial Magic in the hope of avoiding further fraying.  I cut the squares down to 2-1/2″ to square them up and get rid of ragged edges, and I’m ready to put some of them together.  The plan is to make them into Arkansas Crossroads:

I tried out two yellows for background and decided on the lighter one, which is on order.

The first block of my Arkansas Crossroads

This may take a while to complete, but that will give me time to look for a “longest UFO” contest in which to enter it 😀

A Puzzling Legacy

My Grandmother’s quilts are among my treasured possessions.  I remember her sitting by the window and piecing them by hand.  I remember the quilt frame hanging from the ceiling in the “front room”.  My sister and I played under it while she quilted.

sunbonnet sue

Sunbonnet Sue quilt by my Grandmother, Mary Lee Ownbey Kimsey

And then there are the unfinished bits and pieces I inherited.  Granny had a series of little strokes and gradually lost the ability to sit still and concentrate on her quilts.  I have some pieced sections that I’ve been carrying around for years. My Mother wasn’t a quilter, so she carried them around for years before leaving them to me. 

They’re old.  And they’re lonely, because somewhere along the way somebody threw out the uncut fabric that must have gone with them.

vintage quilt

Some of the pieces I inherited

What should I do with these?  I’ve come up with a variety of ideas for making them into a finished quilt, but I haven’t quite found one I like.  Because there are several pieced strips that appear to be done for diagonal set, I wonder if she was doing something similar to this:

Another of Granny's quilts

Another of Granny’s quilts

This piece may have been intended as one side of a square set on point?

This piece may have been intended as one side of a square set on point?

And then there’s the question of the seams!  She pieced all this by hand with seams that are barely 1/16″!!!  Will that hold up?  Or should I re-work it all???Granny6

I’ve about decided the solution to the seams is to press as best I can (Granny finger-pressed!) and the back the pieces I have with batiste.  From there I can add strips of muslin, which she always used for “background”, and see what I can come up with.

Any other ideas?  Anybody dealt with a similar situation?  All suggestions welcome!