Quilting a vintage embroidered quilt top

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Many moons ago, I purchased a colorful piece of fabric that had all this embroidery on it for a whopping $2. It was one of many common pre-printed pieces available way back when, and sometimes you can even find these today.

I bought it partly to practise quilting on and partly because it reminded me of my Great Aunt Nene, who, despite her love of pants, cigarettes, swearing, and her masculine voice embroidered up a storm. Even after I was married, I still have pillowcases embroidered by her with colorful cartoon characters traced right out of my own coloring books when she ran out of patterns.

Besides – it was 2 whole dollars.

Anyway, I finally felt the time was right for my actual skill level to match the ideas in my head and inspiration finally hit.

After prewashing and trying to get out the two major stains (didn’t work) I used a blue washable marker to trace the major feather spines. I already knew I would outline the embroidery itself and fill in any areas with McTavishing. I used some white chalk to mark about an inch from the cut edges to help me contain the feathers and not get too close to the edges and covered up by binding.

Once I got the top loaded and the first bit of feathers done, I had to decide what to put in the space between the edge of the feathers and the edge of the quilt, knowing some would get covered by binding or trimmed off. In the end I went with micro stippling. I’m still having issues getting it small enough, but it worked well enough for this.

The reason for both the micro stippling and the McTavishing is both designs are dense and flatten the quilt. This means next to big feathers, it will help those pop out more. Had I chosen less dense designs, the feathers wouldn’t look near so nice.

Also note that since on a longarm, I work from the top down, I had to be careful to stop the feather spray at points where I could break the thread and start again later, after rolling the quilt forward.

Once I got down so far, I realized there was another large space between the two embroidered motifs that needed something more than the dense background fill. A quick consult with a couple books, and I decided a heart feather wreath would work. No tracing here – I just sketched it out as evenly as I could, lining it up with the middle of the feather spray above it.

Then I continued on around with the background fill, moving back and forth across the quilt, going downwards and around elements as I came to them.

I knew I had planned another feather spray starting at the bottom, so I left plenty of room for work that would be done later. I made sure to still baste the sides of the top as I went.

Eventually I got down far enough to baste the bottom of the quilt, so I could do the feather spray at the bottom and work my way back up to the middle. I have a large throat space, but I still had to roll the top back to go back up far enough.

If I had to do it again, I would plan where the two sprays met again. I’d left too much space and winged it, adding a quick spray on each end to fill the space. I definitely wanted separation from the interior McTavishing and the outside micro stippling, so the best way to cordon those off was more feathers. (and who doesn’t love more feathers, right?)

And a final mention of the perfect backing fabric I found at Connecting Threads. I knew I wanted something with little bluebirds and a 30’s feel. Then they sent an email that all their wide backs were on sale so that was a sign! (I went to add a link here but the fabric is no longer on their site. Sad face. 🙁 )

I still need to bind the quilt, but I’ve decided on a bright pink, matching the embroidered flowers and the birds on the back is a perfect 1930’s finish. I’m also adding a hanging sleeve and will put it in my local quilt guild’s show this fall.