Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hand piecing and History

I love hand piecing. It hasn’t been like this always. When I start quilting in 1982 I said I will do it if it can be done by machine.

In the 1980’s quilt or rather “Patchwork” classes was very popular in South Africa. I saw the pillows some of my friends made using paper hexagons with fabric basted onto it. With a small overcast stitch these hexagons were sewn together.

When I was about 14 in 1971, I started my first Quilting project. I took home economics and was doing some Florentine embroidery. This looked very grand – it was easy to get even stitches on this even weave fabric. I took out some handwork books from the library and must have seen in these books or in a magazine something about patchwork.

My mother made our clothes (4 daughters) and had a box full of leftover fabric. I had to beg some pieces from her. If it was a dress we were still wearing, I could not use the scraps- in case she will need some fabric to patch the clothes up.

I cut squares from these fabrics- more or less 12,5 cm (5 inches). I fold this diagonally and sew the two sides- leaving a small gap on the one side.

I turned the triangles through the gap and stuff it with a polyester stuffing or old stockings I snipped in pièces. I  closed the gaps with machine stitching- not doing a very neat job. You can imagine- this did not look very well at this stage. I did not turn the corners to neatly either, so the triangles had blunt points.

Then I had to sew these small pillows together- and that on the bias stuffed edges as well. I start doing this by hand but the stitches looked so horrible that I made another plan. I butt the two edges and sew with a zig zag to join two triangles to form a square.

In South Africa we do not have a “patchwork” or quilting tradition. I had no one to show me how to sort your scraps in value or colour piles. I did not realize I could create patterns by paying attention to color and value placement. When I have completed about a meter by a meter (more or less a square yard) piece, I was so disgusted with my work that I through the half finished project away. (It looked so disgusting- and luckily I have nothing left to show you- it was a big flop!)

So in 1982 when Patchwork became popular I was very interested. (10 years ago I did not only attempt the triangle project on my own- I also made a knitted patchwork blanket) Now there was a possibility to learn to do it properly but I knew my handwork was not neat at all. Besides I have received an Elna sewing machine from my parents and was making my own clothes. I already loved machine sewing' so was only interested to do it by machine.

A friend gave me this book: Quick and Easy Patchwork on the Sewing Machine (Dover Needlework) [Paperback]

I immediately start with the 8 point star and the next thing I did was sewing hexagons on the sewing machine! I was hooked. I bought some Quilt magazines and studied them till they fell apart. The only puzzle that the magazines and books did not solve was how and with what to do the quilting. I knew I had to go to the USA to take some classes and learn how to do HANDWORK. Initially only thinking about appliqué and quilting- but in 1984 I took a class with Carla Hassle and learned handpiecing the Hassle way.

To be continued......

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