Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Park Your Needle Safely

If you sew by hand, you know how vexing it can be to lose your needle. Maybe you were interrupted from your hand quilting, and upon return, you cannot find where you left your needle.

What if the needle is on the floor? That is a real hazard! It happens, but it can be easily prevented with this little trick of mine, whether you piece, applique, or quilt by hand, even embroidery, cross stitch, etc.:

Stop when the thread is not pulled through, and leave the needle hanging with the thread tail still "caught" in the work. 

Upon your return, pick up your quilt (or sewing project) and shake it - the needle can be easily found. The needle will not fall out, or be lost inside a quilt, and is less likely to stick you (or others) accidentally as you search for it. Then you will pull those stitches through and hear "that lovely sound of thread being drawn through fabric" (as my friend, Gina Prosch enjoys in This Day's Joy).

Whenever I teach hand quilting, hand piecing, or hand applique, I always leave my students with this motto: “Park Your Needle Safely!”

Keep Stitching!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c)2019 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy

Do you make quilts, or collect antique quilts? What do you do with them? How do you care for them? What should you be doing to preserve these treasures?

My friend Laura G. inherited her mother’s unquilted top; hand pieced baskets every color in the rainbow with embroidered flowers and signatures of family and friends – truly a keepsake. But hmmm, there is a slight odor. Should she launder it? Take it to a dry cleaner? Maybe she will quilt it, but will that lessen the value?

Laura will find good advice in Ann Wasserman’s book, “Preserving Our Quilt Legacy, Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve” (available at Ann has been studying and repairing quilts for over 30 years, and has received recognition for her repair work from museum and conservation professionals, collectors, and high-end antique dealers.

Another dear friend, Polly M. is an avid collector of antique quilts – at least one she reportedly “rescued” from under a sleeping dog! But most of her collection is quite valuable, like this Mariner's Compass. How should she store them to prevent damage? Flat, rolled, folded? What about environmental conditions in the home? Is it necessary to store quilts in acid free boxes?  Ann’s book offers advice on storing your collection.

Carla T. just finished binding her Baltimore Garden Quilt (hand appliqued and beautifully hand quilted). She wants to display the quilt in her home. What is the best way to display it? On the wall, over a quilt rack, or in an antique cabinet? Maybe not as tea party tablecloth! How do you hang a quilt, or should you really? Several display methods, with pros and cons, are described in Ann’s book, including how to make and attach a sleeve.

Sue C. recently lost her father-in-law, and called me to describe a beautiful quilt made of silks lovingly embroidered with fanciful animals and flowers. Found in an old trunk, it was obviously a keepsake from long ago never used on a bed. Sue believes it must be very valuable! Should this treasure be donated to a museum? Oh, but wait … a few fabrics are torn. Can she repair them, replace them, or cover them with some kind of netting, as shown here from Ann's book?

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy offers a collection of guidelines to help us decide what approach to take to preserve our quilts and textile items. Ann explains the difference between Restoration (often referred to as “repair) and Conservation to stabilize and maintain the current condition into the centuries ahead. Excellent graphics and step-by-steps show how to fix missing stitches or even repair a mouse hole (shown at left), and conservation techniques to minimize further wear, with pros and cons of crepeline, nylon net (bridal veil), and other products.

I will highly recommend Ann’s book to everyone with a quilt! Give our quilts the special care they deserve, and help preserve them for the years (and generations) to come.

Keep Quilting!
Barbara M. Burnham

(c)2019 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Encyclopedia of Designs for Quilting

Choosing an appropriate quilting design really depends on the design of the top, of course, and the possibilities are nearly endless. 

Once again by popular demand, I will teach another session of Hand Quilting 101 at Patches Quilting in Mt. Airy, Maryland this month. Students sometimes bring a quilt top, wondering what patterns to quilt. 

I might suggest a feather vine, or a pumpkin seed design on the sashing.

Wait! What is a Pumpkin Seed? How do I make a feather vine fit my border? What is meant by ‘in the ditch,’ or ‘by the piece’? How do I mark an overall grid? 

That’s when I suggest one of my favorite books on this topic – Encyclopedia of Designs for Quilting, by Phyllis D Miller, published by AQS in 1996 – still available Used and inexpensive on; check out the "Look Inside" for a preview.

Diagrams and thorough descriptions explain how to create your own unique quilting designs. From straight lines, squares, diagonals and diamonds, to curved cables, ropes, and feathers, this book shows how to draw them AND fit them on your quilt using simple tools. Then you can create variations of common designs such as the aptly named Pumpkin Seed. Several color photos of quilts also feature examples of such designs.

To inspire designs of your own, one chapter offers simple representational motifs, such as birds and hearts, and ideas to give your quilt a personal touch. 

Why not quilt a small pair of hands drawn by a child who might be the recipient of your quilt?
Keep Quilting!
Barbara M. Burnham
(c)2019 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.