A Tree In the House

I like a little sparkle to celebrate the return of light at the winter solstice, and the traditional Christmas holiday. A tree seems a good way to bring some of that into the house. Many years ago I discovered the Goose Feather Tree, which probably originated in Germany in the 19th century and maybe even earlier. I found pictures of these trees in Early American Life Magazine in historic settings, as antiques. mag-feeather-tree1c_1Supposedly made of real feathers, I wondered how the tree was put together. I liked the idea that once a tree was constructed, it could be used over and over again.mag-feather-tree2c_1 I finally discovered that these were imported from Germany and eventually sold through department stores like Sears in the early 20th century. And then one day I saw a demonstration on television and I launched into my own construction. German Feather TreeHere is a small tree, maybe 15 inches high. The needles on the branches are created using goose feathers that were split down the center before I acquired them. They were dyed in yellow and blue plant dyes to get a nice nature-like green. Then each piece is carefully wrapped around the wire “stems.”

The tree that I set up last night was this white one, the natural color of the goose feathers.

2016_1When it’s time to put things away, the branches are folded upward and the whole thing fits down into a cloth bag made for it. The holiday celebrations were brief here in my home so there was no need to bring in a live tree. This little feather tree served quite well.

Blessings to all of you this holiday season!

 

New Quilt With Antique Pieced Star

This is the finished quilt made from the owner’s old quilt top that her mother-in-law pieced. My previous post here describes what had to be be done to create this beautiful king-sized quilt. I call this the Bethlehem Star, though some call it the Texas Star.

Diamonds pieced in Alabama in the 20th century, of 19th century fabrics.

The machine quilting work was done by Franklin resident Jill Zollinger. Beautiful work.

Feather pattern.
Feather pattern.
Simple curved lines to quilt the diamond pieces.
Simple curved lines to quilt the diamond pieces.

Quilt Top is Not Destined for the Scrap Bag!

Star without sunburstI wanted to see what this quilt top would look like if the sunbursts were removed. (see my previous post for Oct 13 ) While it is a unique arrangement, they make the quilt visually very busy and a bit overwhelming. And if I removed the sunbursts, there would be fabric that I could use to replace some of the damaged diamonds in the star.

My client agreed with my proposal and gave me the go ahead to make the quilt without the sunbursts. A very good decision.new-starAll of the surrounding white fabric was removed from the quilt top, and after repairs to the star, it was machine-appliqued to a new piece of white cotton. It could have been hand-appliqued, but that would have added significantly to the cost. It now measures about 109 inches X 109 inches. img_3015_1The tiny holes in the red fabric are now less at risk because there is fabric behind the star. The very old sewing thread is a bit brittle, so this white background will prevent any undue tension on the original pieced star.

With a white backing fabric and a package of batting, I delivered the project to Jill Zollinger, a long-arm quilting specialist who especially likes doing feathers.feathers

Preserve the Quilt’s Integrity or Make it Useful?

Leila's StarThis is my current project. It is a quilt top, waiting to be made into a quilt. However the fabric seems very old and there are condition issues. It is an unusual pattern which makes it a little special.

Sally, the owner of this quilt top wants it made into a quilt that she can use. The top was made in Alabama by her mother-in-law, Leila. This is one of those items that comes with some history, but carries much more information in the construction and fabric.

The story: Sally says that she remembers purchasing the cloth for Leila to make the quilt for her. Sally was married in March of 1948, so it may have been around that time.  My observations, consultations, and research lead me to believe that it is older than 68 years. Perhaps because it has some condition issues, it would be better to preserve it as a donation to some historic setting in Alabama.

The design:  I cannot find any reference to to the name of this arrangement of diamonds. It may be one-of-a-kind. Without the sunbursts in the corners, it resembles a Bethlehem Star.img_2915_1

The construction: The sewing was done by machine and by hand. The diamond pieces were assembled, then the body of the star was sewn to the background with a sewing machine, and the sunbursts were hand appliqued with tiny, beautiful stitches. Lastly, the white cloth behind the design was cut away.

The fabrics: The white background was randomly pieced white fabrics, in varying shades. There are many stains and brown spots. The spots are random and are on the prints too. If made into a quilt, it should be washed, especially because Sally says that Leila did not pre-wash the fabrics to set the colors.img_2909_1

The prints are typical of the late 19th century (1875 forward), but the fabrics could have been saved for years and years. Notice the orangy-red fabric. The black that was used to print the design probably had iron in it and it has eaten through the cloth. These tiny holes make washing kind of risky. All the rest of the prints are in good condition. img_2908_1

Washing: Sally decided that she wanted the quilt badly enough that she was willing to risk having me wash it. She was not interested in donating it to a historical society or house museum. Her comment was: “Either it goes in the scrap bag or we will make a quilt.”

Simmering quilt top

In a 20 gallon pot on a propane burner outdoors, the quilt top was simmered in soap and washing soda. The water turned brown right away. After a number of rinses, the white was not clean enough to suit me, but the orangy-red bled as much as it was going to. Almost all the little black dots were gone, and the holes have not gotten much larger.

I worked up a proposal and sent the quilt top back to Sally in Alabama so that she could decide if she still wanted her quilt to be made. Her decision will be in my next post.

Gathering Seeds for the Future

As the new season is upon us and the heat is retreating, I celebrate by collecting seeds.

Fall seed collectionThese seeds represent hopes for next year. It is amazing that each seeds holds the code for making a beautiful flowering plant. The larkspur gets scattered now, to winter in the soil. The other two will be planted toward the end of the spring when the earth is adequately warmed by the sun.

zinnia
Zinnia
larkspur
Larkspur
Morning Glory
Morning Glory