Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sew! I Have a PROBLEM!

I wrote last night about using these vintage bow tie pieces to cut the corner triangles for my APQ Quilt Along blocks.


These fabrics are approximately 100 years old.

And I wasn’t thinking clearly.

I wasn’t thinking what would happen with very old starched fabrics that have been sitting for a century untouched.

Cutting them and sewing them and pressing them seemed okay until:


Well crap!

After this brittle block bit the dust – I started checking the other bowties to see if they were as fragile.

If a fabric can’t take the tug and pull test, I’m not going to use it:



At this point I was mortified because I had already made a handful of blocks using the vintage fabrics.  And I stopped right there.

These vintage fabrics are for studying, petting, drooling over -- but not for sewing with.

Irene felt my pain and immediately pulled out her box of pre-cut squares for me to use instead:


Fabric Salvation!


I need squares in pairs to get the 4 triangles I need per block!


I did bring a ton of these!


And the block construction goes on!

If you are not settled on a quilt yet for for APQ Quilt-Along – it just has to be something with 4 patches!  This is the same unit that is in my quilt 4 Patch Revisited from my book Adventures with Leaders & Enders:


See them on point  in the center?

This quilt also uses 4 paches in the inner border, and for the strip across the top. There are so many things you can do with 4 patches!

4 Patch X from More Adventures with Leaders & Enders Qualifies!

As does Narragansett Blues, also from MORE Adventures with Leaders & Enders!

No, a quilter can never have too many 4 patches!

It’s just getting light outside.  The house is quiet and I’m taking care of some email and computer stuff before Irene wakes up and we get this day going.  There will be loads of time for sewing more 4 patches, but also for exploring San Antonio, hitting some quilt shops, and maybe an antique mall or two!

This day is ours to play – tomorrow is a Texas Tumbeweed workshop with the Greater San Antonio Quilters!

Have a fun Thursday, Y’all!

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  1. I use antique blocks that I don't "trust" to make wall hangings or small quilts to be used as decoration only like for hanging over an antique cupboard door etc. They need to be seen but may not be strong enough to go into a regular quilt. Please don't toss them.

  2. I started noticing shredded pieces in a 1968 double wedding ring quilt my Mom gave me. It was made in the Amish/Mennonite community and has mixed fabrics. Most of the fabric is still solid but the black prints are slowly disintegrating. I woul attempt to "repair" it but it's all hand quilted and hand stitched which scares me. Anyway, your quilt options for four patches are great.

  3. OUCH! that does hurt! TG for spare parts and that it is scrappy to begin with.

  4. Can you put the remaining bow tie blocks in something like page protectors and put them in a binder so you can still enjoy them but not damage them any further? Or maybe put them underneath glass on a mounting board of some kind and frame it with an antique Windows or frame. So no oil from hands are damaging any farther but they are being viewed and enjoyed.

  5. Bonnie--I recently assembled two Dresden plate (100+ year old fabrics) quilts for dear friend--I told her about the brittleness and what I was going to do--I fused them to the background. then I stitched them, then--if that didnt help the brittleness, I used a teensy bit of fabric glue and wah-lah!!! she was delighted! I do see that you had a bit more fabric that cant be used and that is just too bad...these fabrics do make wonderful quilts. *~*CAROLE*~*

  6. Bonnie, I sure am glad you didn't do MORE of those before finding out the problem!

    Aren't we glad that our Machines are better at standing the test of time than the fabrics seem to be?

    I am going to pick up a 127 singer treadle today.....same decals as yours, the sphinx, but someone SPRAY PAINTED the cabinet and irons GOLD. It's not very thick....I plan to refinish and probably spray the irons black, they may be too difficult to strip. Will wait and see.

    The case was left SHUT when they painted, so the inside and machine are in perfect condition.

    Photos on the facebook page to come!

  7. perhaps?
    back up with fusible web and plain calico?
    and then for a wall hanging?
    sew many questions to ponder about....
    from a misty Witmarsum, love

  8. Oh how I feel your pain. I was asked to finish a quilt for my cousin. Her hubby's grandmother had started years ago. I did but in the process of doing so I discovered the black fabric tore very easily much like yours. I had no idea how old it was. I replaced what I could with new fabric but the old black was already in some of the completed quilt. I told my cousin this and she is using the quilt as a decoration only and keepsake! Better you found out now and not maybe while you were quilting the quilt!

  9. So Glad to hear that you didn't get too far before you found the problem. A decorative project sounds like the best use.

    If I'm using old, secondhand fabric, or something that seems a little iffy, I always give it the pull test.

    I recall a lovely dress my grandma made me, I wore it a few times and it ripped as the fabric was weak in one direction. I think we were both sad.

  10. Too bad about the vintage fabrics. It got me thinking about how long our fabric will last. I guess the older dyes were not as stable. Thanks for all of the four patch inspiration. I'm making a bunch as leader/Enders while I finish my mystery quilt.

  11. PLEASE say hello to my old guild, GSAQG, for me!!! I don't know that any of them would remember my mom & I, but I have a lot of fond memories of them! Have fun, eat a lot of breakfast tacos & enchiladas, and stop by Los Colchas! <3 from Ohio

  12. I like that you shared other 4 patch options! Bummer about that old fabric, better you find out before making it into a quilt.

  13. Anonymous10:51 AM EST

    I would love to win a Feathermate to use with my 221 . I bought her from AnneMarie Tucker at the Somers, NY quilt show many years ago, and have named her Second-hand Rose.
    Denyse Eisenhardt

  14. Bummer about the fabric-they are nice bowties(which is one of my fav blocks). Glad I have the book- I didn't realize till I looked it up just now how small those 4 patches are. Yikes!
    Do so enjoy you and all you do for the quilting world. Thanks. rjc2cam@gmail.com

  15. It is hard to look at all the vintage fabric and not want to use it! Luckily there are some great repros out now!

  16. Anonymous12:50 PM EST

    I use featherweight fusible on the back of fabrics I don't trust, fabrics that stretch, fabrics that have loose weave, etc. I've been able to patchwork with just about anything that way.

  17. Anonymous12:52 PM EST

    Featherweight fusible INTERFACING, I meant to type...

  18. I had the same issue with antique fabrics used in a quilt for my daughter that was a copy of an antique quilt I had that she loved. Unfortunately, the two or three blocks that have the antique fabric are not withstanding the use of the quilt. I should have checked in advance like you did, but it's too late now. She also has the antique quilt, but those fabrics are wearing out even with the quilt not in use!

  19. Old quilter2:32 PM EST

    You mentioned that the fabrics had been starched - I wonder if that had a negative effect on the brittleness. Many directions say wash, starch and press before cutting, but my Mom (1904-2006 ) said to never starch a fabric other than something you'll be using, and washing again soon. I think she worried about silverfish and about fabric "breaking" on the fold lines. Usually referring to tablecloths but I think the same would apply.

  20. Keep on it. It's sad to see the fabric tear like that. Things like that usually make me cry or five up in frustration. Keep on keeping on. I can't wait to see more progress.

  21. I wondered about you using that old fabric. I did that when my grandson was small for a Fish quilt and it wasn't more than 10 years and there were spots that were going to pieces. Particularly the dark pieces. Must be what they used for the dying. Good luck with it, Eileen

  22. I do not use these too old fabrics, but still I argue with DH every time I use second hand fabrics ( his shirts for example) he'd say don't spend many hours using fragile fabrics or cheep kind of fabrics
    I always answer it's Bonnie who taught me and if Bonnie can, I can too

    Last time I doubled a layer which was very light cotton each time.

  23. Anonymous1:23 AM EST

    I have read that the old black fabrics get really brittle with age -- has to do with the specific dyes used as well as the basic greige goods.
    I'd attempt to salvege the fabrics and sew into a small project of some kind, just for the bit of history those historical fabrics hold ..

  24. It may not be spray starch that made those fabrics so stiff. Fabric from the 1890-1910 9s notoriously brittle and stiff because the fabric manufactured at the time was such poor quality.


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