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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vintage Love in the Mail!

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I’ve always said when people know you are a Scrap Quilter they will fill a box and ship it UPS with NO return address on it!

Case in point ---I arrived home from Texas to find a stack of mail, including this mysterious box.

MAIN, California?  But no name?

I saved this box for last – you know, just to enjoy the suspense!

But after all the bills and SURVEYS and book orders and other things had been sorted and opened and “round filed” and put in their places,

I very carefully slit the tape, cautious of anything that might be underneath  ---

One at a time I lifted the box flaps to reveal….

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Ooohhh!!!  Lovely!

The note simply says “Hi Bonnie – Thought you could use these more than me – I have enjoyed your blog for  many years –“  NO SIGNATURE!!!

Thank you so much for thinking of me, Mystery Mailer!  Let’s see what we’ve got here, shall we?

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OH MY!

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Don’t you love the fabrics?  These are 1930s-1940s prints and solids!

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She chose her fabrics carefully – do you think these could be scraps from the maker’s summer dresses?

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Any guesses why these never became a quilt?

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My guess is ---volcano-itis!

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Check out the back side ---

Oh, I’m trying not to be critical of a quilter’s work – but at the same time I think we can learn a LOT here.

This kind of issue usually happens when the seam allowance is too narrow.  Can you see the hand piecing on the back side?  If the seams were just a “BIT” wider ---there would be enough of a “cross over” of pieces on the front of the block that the star points would float more and we wouldn't lose them in the next seam, which is what I’m afraid is going to happen with these…the points go right to the edge of the block and will be lost in the seam allowance.  And if seams are too narrow in the star center, it won’t lay flat ---

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And she put so much work into these!  All that cutting and hand sewing!

There is also some machine work, with even less of a seam allowance.

I love them, and I want to do something with them!  If these were yours, what would you do?  I really don’t want to take them all apart ---

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Also in the box – some string blocks!  Great fabric!

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And some star blocks!  Oh, I wish I had this gal’s scrap bag from back in the day!

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Seams on these blocks are very narrow too, and that means points are right to the edge of the block so….what to do?  My thought is to leave them “as is” and just add a sashing of something around each, and then square them up to “something” similar.

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Such fun variety!

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Only one block is all solids --

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Who’s dresses and aprons were these fabrics?

Most of the flying geese triangles have bias on the outside, so things have stretched over time.  What would you do with these blocks?

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skinny seams….points to the edge of the block.

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Someone painstakingly cut out these pieces, by hand.  With scissors.  Threaded a needle and took hours and hours to sew these together.  Was it an evening activity at the end of the day to relax?  Was it something she did while babies napped in the afternoon?  Don’t you wish you knew more?

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The rest of the box is chock-a-block full of vintage scraps!

Dear Mystery Mailer,

Thank you for your gift of these vintage blocks and pieces parts!  I’ll do what I can  to turn these into the quilts they were meant to be ---

Thank you for the Quilty Love!

And there will be More Quilty Love tonight ---QUILT-CAM at 9pm Eastern!  Be here!  Bring a project!  I’m ready for some more machine time!


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83 comments:

Jessica said...

What a lovely gift! And a wonderful addition to your crumb creations! Looking forward to seeing what you do..... I definitely wouldn't take them apart......leave them as is and do the best you can with them.... Love them!

Melva said...

I love the challenge of trying to "complete" a project that someone else started. Good luck!

Broken Gooding said...

As a beginning quilter, I am always asking ignorant questions, so here goes another. Can these bias-stretched pieces be set by adding a stabilizer to the backs or is that not a good idea due to their longevity (or lack thereof)? Thanks

Dee said...

Oh my - I'm in love with that first set of blocks - must find pattern! It would have been nice to avoid the "volcano effect" - but they will make a lovely quilt regardless. It's not like the blocks aren't consistent and that may matter more anyway.
Stay away, Quilt Police! Can't wait to see how they turn out!

Machelle said...

What a lovely surprise

Donna said...

What a treasure you were sent! I would just put into a quilt and not worry about the points and seams not being perfect. Like you said someone spent hours of precious time making them and enjoying the process. Spare time was probably rare. Just the fabric is awesome. I'm sure whatever you do will be with love and will make the original maker proud.

Carla said...

How lucky you are. I could probably send you 5 pieces LOL I don't have any scraps big enough to do anything with.

Quilt Whisperer said...

Put them together as best you can - it will be beautiful

WillowDudley said...

Either not worry about it and say you are honoring all the time she or he spent on them or would there be anyway to do some sort of applique process to put them onto a block and not lose the points by turning them under just a tiny bit and stitching them down? Not sure what I am going for here other than trying to keep the integrity of the blocks as best you could....

Sandy said...

Hi Bonnie. I just found you this morning!!! I feel as though I've just crawled out from under a rock but I'm so happy I found your site. If I had those block with "volcanoitis" I would add the connecting squares and then machine quilt them like crazy maybe with a spider web quilt pattern. They are beauties and like you said, someone really worked hard on them. I will be spending my day watching your quiltcam videos on youtube. Happy Sewing!!! (Oh, btw, I live in Rock Hill so I'm just down the road from you.

chele said...

I think it's so neat that someone took the time to send them knowing you love scrappy quilts. I can see you turning these blocks into something beautiful. The neatest thing is as you go you can make up storiies..women sharing their lives over blocks, someone's grandmother painstakingly making a quilt for a grandchild sharing her stories of the "good old days".

Elaine Sims said...

I have a stack of carpenter's star blocks that my grandmother (or possibly great grandmother, I never did find out for sure) put together YEARS ago. The piecing isn't great, and I'm not a fan of the fabrics, but I am definitely going to get these made into a quilt for my mom, that will eventually come back to me, and then go to one of my kids someday. :)

Genee' Davis said...

What a generous and treasure! I'm wondering if you single pieced and appliqué those blocks onto another fabric if it would lie down and show off the beauty without detracting from it? Just a thought. Have fun with that precious gift!♡

Elaine Sims said...

I meant to add, leave them as is! Frame them to give them support, but don't take them apart!

Fran Russell said...

I inherited two lovely double wedding ring quilt tops from my MIL. They aren't perfect either and I know why.....My Father in Law's grandmother hand pieced them together in appreciation for living with them for a year back in the 1920's. She was in her nineties and her eyesight was failing. My MIL and FIL were newly weds, but stepped up to the plate to take in his grandmother for that year. The tops are pieced from parts of house dresses and clothing and scraps from sewing. The white is from the unworn areas of sheets. So the seams aren't perfect and the fabrics are not top of the line, but the love and the history in this quilt are worth more than all the perfection in the world. I plan to stabilize and hand quilt the tops and pass them on to my granddaughters with a written copy of how they came to be.

Lilac Joan said...

I have collected boxes of quilt blocks. I thought that I could do something with them. Then I read somewhere that there was a reason that these blocks were never made into a quilt, and I think you found the answer. They just are not accurate. I have been tempted to send them to you, but I have resisted!

Sandy Keefe said...

Make a quilt called All Points are Off!

Barbara said...

Lovely gift. Someone cared enough to trust you with her treasures. Look at the projects for a while and the idea will come together. A finished project will be perfect no matter how it turns out. Things done thur love and with respect always is good.

Ruth Tisdale said...

On the items you identified as the seams too narrow just reset with a deeper seam. It might not correct all but once it is all pieced together lat project out and lightly must with water to soften the volcanos then press, sandwich, and quilt. Once quilted and the washed and dried the volcanism will not show.

shadypinesqltr said...

Especially love the octagon ones ! Maybe you could rescue the worst sufferers of volcano-it is , put each in it's own baggie and take one of two with you on each of your trips as a change of pace from your checked.
I love speculating on the story behind these blocks. What a shame the quilter didn't have a Bonnie in her life to help her with her seam allowances.

WIPPYSPLACE said...

wow--I would not take any of the blocks apart--just do the best you can...I hope you post what you do and how, etc...I have some vintage hand-stitched blocks---what you do might inspire me as to what I would do---I am watching--ps-=-most of mine are Dresden plates :-) from back in the day

Jo said...

I would take the "Volcano" blocks and make them into a quilt top. I'd try to make a slightly wider seam without taking them apart then quilt as is. I think with custom quilting the volcanoes might not be looking like they are erupting. Amazing blocks. LUCKY YOU!! and lucky her...more room on her selves for new projects!!

QuiddityRox said...

Maybe the weakest blocks can be framed in one of those windowbox frames and used for gift giving or church bazaar fund raising. They are beautiful and treasure worthy.

Becky Davis said...

What a wonderful surprise. I love the blocks and the thought that someone spent many hours sewing them together. I have made a few quilts with scraps from dresses that I made for my girls when they younger and didn't mind moms homemade clothes. They bring back memories.

bluenines said...

what a wonderful gift. I would use them as they are and if the quilts have tucks and lumps that is part of the charm of them . happy sewing to all

ZZ said...

What a wonderful gift! I can't wait to see what you do with them!

Nann said...

Here's another WONDERFUL to add to the previous comments.
Could you subdue those volcano points with a lot of starch and heavy quilting?

Quilter Kathy said...

What a fun box of treats!
What about making the stars into a square in a square by adding extra large scrappy dark corners and then trim them to be the same size?
For the volcanoes, what about cutting out the centre hump and appliqueing a circle over the centre?
So many fun ideas... really gets the creative juices flowing!

Marion Bennie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rockester said...

I am a scrap quilter! Somebody send me a cool box full like this! LOL (Just kidding) How kind and sweet of that person in Main, CA.. I say sew up the blocks as is with points even if they disappear and quilt down the volcano centers in quilting. Don't take it apart to redo it all. Make them as is and call it great for a blessing quilt for some charity gifting. A lot of work went into making it as it is and it will still be a warm quilt for someone in need.
Kathy Aho in MN

mary e said...

bet she wasn't sitting in line to pick up her kids, or flying across country with her 'project to go'..

mary e said...

what? i had to prove i wasn't a robot to post....

Anonymous said...

Wish your Mystery Mailer had my address! Great blocks and I have had worse piecing that quilted out just fine!

Carole D

tinker said...

Here is the starch method for shrinking stretched or unsquare quilt blocks. I've done this and it works wonderfully.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6aplw_tVZc&list=PL46AFC8A60B31577A

jean said...

I think I would finish piecing the blocks together continuing with the narrow seam. then I'd quilt the heck out of it, especially across seam lines so reinforce them. If the seams are too narrow for this, then try backing each block with the lightest weight fusible interfacing you have before sewing them. I tried this once and it worked.

good luck! Though to get this box, you already have good luck.

jean said...

You can always send them to me if you want them gone!!

Ogopogirl said...

What an amazing gift! Bonnie, what about using an applique technique to attach corner triangles (or squares) to these octagonal blocks? And you could use the same technique to sew them to each other. Then you don't have to worry about a quarter inch seam and can make your seam follow whatever line you wish. It means hand stitching but it would go fast with long straight lines, and most of the work already done. Then just quilt it into submission! Wow, they are so beautiful I'm feeling inspired to make my own blocks like this!

Leah said...

Ooooh, those are lovely. Such beautiful, happy fabrics and colors. I agree with most of the others - just assemble them as best you can, missing points and volcanoism and all, and then quilt the daylights out of it to make sure those narrow seam allowances are secured really well. Let the imperfections be part of their story. (It's too bad that the star blocks look too big to fit in the square gaps between the octagon blocks. How fun would those stars look in those spaces?)

Enjoy your time at home this week!

Louise said...

Lovely...and you are SOOOO lucky! I lost all my quilts and quilt stuff when my old house was vandalized...they flooded the basement and everything was store down there...my 2 Singer Treadle machines, my White Treadle machine, a dozen half finished quilts plus 3 big Rubbermaid tubs of fabrics and 2 of supplies...the cleaners tossed it all without even asking if it could be salvaged :(

Laura said...

I would not take the blocks apart. Cut off the points if you must. It would be a shame to redo all that quilter's work. Think of all the hours she put into her hand piecing. She didn't have rotary cutters and fancy rulers. A quilt doesn't have to have perfect piecing to be a beautiful quilt.

Jan said...

really love the top ones, but they are all lovely. just put them together with whatever sashing or add-ins they need. If the quilting is closer together, they will be stable no matter the size of the seams. I would add scrappy solid squares to complete the top blocks. 6 blocks by 4 blocks, add a border...a nice size!!

Lee said...

How cool and what a wonderful surprise in your mail box!

Bev @ kwiltpharm said...

I just love this pattern for the volcano blocks. I would take the centers out (like I had to do on the last star block I made!) and fix them and finish a beautiful quilt. I used this pattern as the center for a round robin quilt many years ago that still needs so re-do-may put on UFO list for next year! What an amazingly wonderful package to receive!

WhoMom said...

Fabulous surprise! What a wonderful, thoughtful gift. I can think of so many things to do with these...skinny sash around each block and make a quilt or better a table topper so the beautiful fabrics are out to enjoy.
They make me think of a story we were required to read once, I think it was called "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses".
Enjoy Bonnie.

Allison in Plano said...

Wow, what a delightful package!! Could you put the string blocks, depending on size, in the open squares of the star hexie block lay out? Perhaps make more string blocks from the scraps? Ohio stars in the border, if you are trying to get it all into one top. Just thinking--but don't know the sizes and it could end up being HUGE! Hugs, Allison

Therese Ruff said...

On the first set, I would cut them down so the diamonds become triangles. I would spritz the volcanos with water and see if they settle some. Full batting, maybe button centers can help, too. Thinking about the stars.

Kathryn said...

How about cutting out the volcanoes and appliqueing a circle in their place?

Diann Smith said...

Something so old and vintage, and GORGEOUS....such a gift! I would take a deeper seam where needed, spray starch w/ heat, and hand quilt. Such a gift and their era deserves hand quilting. You are so lucky on your gifted blocks.

Audrey said...

I agree! I love the fabrics, designs and even the irregularities of it all. A few years ago I went to an exhibit by Gerald Roy and Paul Pilgrim at the quilt museum in Paducah, KY. They took very similar blocks to these and made beautiful quilts with them. Now people can appreciate them for what they are instead of having them in a box somewhere.

dorothy said...

WOW what a gift! In the first set of blocks there is a couple of light blue solid and floral prints, that match some blocks that my grandmother had started and I inherited and have been trying to make into a top as well. But not enough to anything with yet. In the fabrics that came along can you make 1 more of those blocks, to make a small throw? Have fun!!

Anonymous said...

I like the idea mentioned earlier about applique. Maybe you could straighten the edges as much as possible without cutting off points. Then machine applique onto a larger plain square using a zig zag machine stitch with monofilament thread. As for the volcanoes, spray heavily with starch and then stand on your iron while pressing. Maybe they will lay flat enough until you can quilt the heck out of them.

Anonymous said...

Donna, Abilene,TX

conny's quilts said...

This wonderfull and secret gift is in the right hands with you, I trust you to make something great out of it Bonnie. Such a pitty those narrow seams, maybe you could make a quilt with chopped of points of it, those fabrics are so charming!

pamela gray said...

what a treasure! I would leave everything as is and as I set them together, I would make necessary adjustments. I would want to remember how hard this person or relative worked to hand piece them. As a hand piecer, I know the hours it takes. God bless her for sending them and not tossing them.

quilts a lot said...

Hi Bonnie,
If it were me, I would take a plain white sheet and lay the blocks out on top in the layout you
like and I would zig zag around the edges, with matching thread, nothing turned under.
Kind of like a foundation for the blocks. Then, "quilt as desired"

Anonymous said...

Can a narrow strip be sewn on the blocks. what a fabulous thing to find in your mailbox!I have some from auctions that I would like to save.

Julie Vee said...

I believe the sender's name might be SANTA? What a terrfic box of goodies.

She might not have pieced these herself? A relative, and they are left to her? 1930-40s is a whlie back ... thinking she didn't make them. BUT wanted all to have a good home with you.

This is so special. Thanks for sharing your wonder-box with us.
Smiles, JulieinTN

Judy MacLeod said...

WOW! I'd go ahead and turn them into a quilt. Yes, points will be lost but the thoughtfulness of the gift won't be.

Billy'sgirl said...

What a gorgeous surprise! I echo the person above who said they are in the right hands! All that work deserves to be appreciated and handled with care.

Pamela Livingston said...

How special and wonderful gift. Thanks for sharing.

Carolyn Buzzard said...

What a wonderful story and how lucky your Granddaughers are to have these passed down to them!

Judy said...

I like "quilts a lot's" idea about attaching the stars to a foundation. I wonder if you couldn't fuse the Stars to a foundation first and do a machine blanket stitch around the edge - backwards so most of the stitch is on the block or another decorative stitch. The raw edges would give a folk art look to the quilt, and the star points would still show.

And looking at the diamond stars in the first photos, I wonder if you couldn't put a little extra batting under just the centers to fill those volcanos and do a trapunto type of treatment with those diamonds. The volcano's don't look very big in the photos, and that might be just enough to take up the fullness and show the stars off without too much puckering in your quilting. Well, this has been fun to contemplate ways to make it work. Have fun.

HelenMarie said...

What an awesome treasure chest! Those volcanoes don't look too bad... I bet with a higher loft batting they would flatten out nicely! As for loosing points when stitching blocks together.... I do that all the time without even trying! LOL! Besides... you know that saying about a galloping horse! Whomever received the completed quilt would LOVE it!
HelenMarie in TN

Debra Crumbaker said...

What a wonderful gift; someone knows that you will really treasure the blocks and scraps. Whatever you do with them will be charming!

Janet said...

Totally awesome. Wish someone would send something like to me, lol. Do you think there is a pattern somewhere for that block? I would love to make that block.
Janet, aka
ribbonshirtlady1@yahoo.com

Helen said...

Wow! Love those blocks! Esp. the first one!!!! I would be soooooooooooo tempted to do nothing the rest of the day other than to sit there and turn those into a quilt! Lovely lovely blocks!

S L Hulsizer said...

Send em to me! I would put these together with a quilt-as-you-go technique (like fun and done). This will allow me to top stitch closer to the edge of the block. For the volcano blocks, I would try a trapuntoesque technique around the middle - add some contemporary dimension to a traditional quilt.

Becky said...

I would try the spray starch trick with the volcanoes. Stand them up on your ironing board, spray heavily with starch, and usually it will take down the volcano. Press dry as they sit without stretching them back out. Once they are arranged in a quilt and heavily quilted, you can't tell there ever was a problem.

I've also ripped out just the centers of the star points and corrected them, without disturbing the rest of the block.

I love old blocks, but am very slow at finishing them up.

Anonymous said...

I agree! Sometimes you can start in the middle of the seam and work your way to the center of the block taking a wider seam as you go. If you do that every other seam, it usually lays them down flat and you do not have such a large amount of excess fabrics to do the "volcano" dance lol.

Colleen said...

I love vintage blocks like these! BTW the large stars are the same as the current popular pattern by Camille Roskelly Swoon. I have made many of these as the 24" blocks except with the center star as a square and 1/2 square triangles.

Judymc said...

Bonnie, the hand- piecers of the 20's and 30's used about 1/8th inch seams. I have a double wedding ring and a grandmother's flower garden that were pieced with those tiny seams. They didn't even use a line to sew on either! Those blocks are beautiful!

Sherri said...

I love those hexagon star blocks! I have never seen anything like those before.....set into a hexagon like that. LOVELY! Can't wait to see what you do with it, but I know it will be beautiful. Everything you make is!

Lucas Moore said...

Wow!!! Very nice idea!!! I like your gifts. These are unique and awesome.

Regards,
Mangosteen Juice

Cindy said...

Bonnie, I have had the good fortune to have some vintage blocks fall into my life as well. One set were Dresden blocks which also suffered volcan-ism. No two blocks measured the same size and some even had an extra blade in them. I left the original hand piecing intact and then added a little more seam where needed. I used a small spritz of sizing then ironed them before appliquing them to a background, which was a cream with swirls in it. That helped hide some of the lumpies. After it was sashed, layered and quilted one would not have known they were so uneven to start with. And the others are right too in that washing will also help when finished. Also some of the "quirks " in the blocks only adds to the charm and attractiveness of these old quilts. After seeing your surprise box, it makes me anxious to get some more of my vintage bkocks set into tops and finished.

Farm Quilter said...

Love the first set of unique blocks - no clue what the pattern name is, but they are fab!! I would not worry about the points being lost, but I would get some higher loft poly, cut it to the finished size of each block and trapunto each block - that would help out on the volcano issues - and then quilt it like crazy to suck up some more of the "extra" fluffiness. I would use white/cream squares in the empty spaces. When you are quilting this, just lay the extra batting under each block just before you quilt it - I've done that with a customer's quilt that was a "D" cup in the 17" square center and a border was a bit well-endowed, so as I went along the border I added extra batting and 2 extra pieces to tame that center block. Worked great and I can't wait to see what you do with all the loveliness that came your way :)

Anna said...

I see this as a hand piecing fix, so a slow armchair project not a hurried zip it under the machine fix.
Appreciate the beauty of the fabrics, have time to "correct" seams that are just too narrow, and would pull apart when quilted (by hand or machine).
Espouse the "wonky" quilt philosophy and respect the blocks sewn so far and to be created by corrections, create something fabulous, which it will be because of the fabrics. This will not be a job done in one week but several months if not more.
"Talk" to the blocks what do they want? ( yeah I talk to fabric and plants especially tomatoes and beans).
I think a qentle hand quilting is needed.
Post pictures of progress often to thank the donor, I feel that's why the box was sent to you.
Quilting as meditation.

Anonymous said...

I guess I am the oddball here, but I would pass the whole bunch of blocks along to someone who wants them. When someone gives something like this to me, it feels like I am being saddled with their cast-offs. Life is too short and there are too many projects I want to do to spend trying to fix something wonky that someone else discarded.

Julia Phillips said...

What a fantastic gift - to be able to carry on a piece of history, not from replication fabrics - I hope that you will post some progress pictures so the mystery gifter can see the blocks getting the love they deserve!

Jan Duffy said...

what a box of goodies !!!! have fun :)

Kathy said...

You know, with a return address like that, it's a good thing the sender got YOUR address accurate. I shudder to think what might have happened to the contents of that box if it never made it to your hands.

Elaine M said...

Wow, what a bunch of lovelies you got. How sweet to send them to you. I think with the octagon star, you could slice into 4 pieces, square them up, getting rid of the volcanoes and add thin sashing and a cornerstone. Maybe add hour glass blocks. I find when working with orphan blocks, in the end, when the quilt is finished all these "problems" disappear and everyone sees a great finished quilt. Have fun with your blocks. It is kinda fitting that they came from CA since it has a lot of volcanoes, just not many active.

Elaine M said...

The octagon star looks very much like the Swoon quilt block; pieced different.

Jessie Birch said...

Bonnie, I have collected quite a few orphan blocks and quilt tops and am slowly working through them. It started with a large sack of pieces (badly cut) for Clay's Choice blocks. I made templates, marked seam lines and hand sewed them. Other projects have required resetting blocks. I'd like to recommend two books by Patricia Morris and Jeannette Tousley, Worth Doing Twice: New Quilts from Old Tops and Heirloom Quilts from Old Tops. The first star blocks are beautiful and worth the effort to resew the center seams. If you do not have the time, arrange for someone to do this. The sawtooth star blocks just need sashing or set together with alternate squares. I think it is important to finish beautiful, well made older quilt tops and blocks in a form that can be appreciated and preserved.