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Making Lemonade

Dear Kay,
I’ve been thinking about a fambly projeck. [WARNING: Utter lack of knitting content follows. Frolic and Detour into Completely Different Fiber Arts Category. If you're looking for dishcloths, keep a-moving.]
As you know, I have spent the past few months helping sort things out at my late father-in-law’s house. In between intermittent bouts of sorrow at the emptying out of that most friendly of houses (“Omigod they saved every postcard we sent them from our honeymoon–BOOhooooo” and “I met your mom in this very kitchen–booHOOOOO”), I have had lots of time to remember Herb and the things that made him special to us. Anybody who knew Herb would tell you he was a dapper dresser. Few could tell you that he had about 200 shirts in his closet.
And about four other closets of clothes, too. The decision was made to give it all to Goodwill, but I could not let those shirts go. Oxford cloth, windowpane checks, stripes, plaids, every shade of blue–fantastic. And the madras shirts: fifty of them, a lifetime of holiday trips in there. I think men’s shirts were to Herb what shoes are to women: collectible! Here’s what’s in the back of the Mom Bomb these days:
herbshirts.jpg
You know where I’m heading with this: Quiltville. I want to have quilts made for Hubbo, his brother, and sister. My question to you and everybody out there: who could make these quilts for me?
If I had girls, I’d sit them down with a rotary cutter and teach them (and me) the age-old art of quilting. But I don’t, and the fellas would probably end up rotary-cutting each other. A new project like this would cut mightily into my knitting time, too. Can’t have that. So. I’m hoping you have a dear quilty friend who’s run out of ideas. Or, if any of our Amish/pioneer/overeducated East Coast readers are looking for a project, I have a very fine one. Just give a holler.
And it’s supposed to be a surprise, so whatever you do, don’t tell my brother-in-law.
Love,
Ann
PS When the movers came the other day to take out the furniture, their packing blankets looked for all the world like Gee’s Bend quilts. Pieces of different fabrics stitched together willynilly, big colorblocks with that wavy quilting all over them. Didn’t have the Anncam with me, alas–too busy BooHOOOing about the lumpy head-shaped ashtray Hubbo made when he was six. And I’m sure the movers would have been thrilled to hold up a packing blanket so I could get the proper light on it.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. What a great idea, using the shirts. Can’t help with quilting, I’m afraid – what about patchwork cushions, though, that would be a smaller project to do, and quicker?
    It’s a sad business, going through someone else’s possessions of a lifetime. I still have quite a few of my mother’s things in this house that I can’t quite bear to throw away – she died in l997 – most of which are quite useless! A very fragile probably l8th century chair which can’t be sat on, a leather suitcase that I can hardly shift when it is empty, etc.etc.

  2. Ann, those shirts will make fabulous quilts. A little while ago I went to a Kaffe Fasset quilt exhibition at the American museum in Bath. One of my favourite ones was made of different sized squares, each of which was made of 4 trianges of shirting material. It was really beautiful and also somehow appropriate (can’t explain that quite but it just seemed right!).
    Sadly I don’t know anyone who could do the quilting for you but I think your husband and his brother & sister will end up with lovely reminders of their dad. Great idea.

  3. Ann, baby. Of COURSE I know somebody who will quilt for the quiltless. I have the info, I even have a beautiful example of her work (I became known as ‘The Evil One’ at my son’s preschool for my, er, determination to get this quilt at a silent auction benefit), which of course I will snap with the KayCam for you.
    Not to rain on your parade, but my impression is that quilting-for-hire is an even more expensive proposition than knitting-for-hire, or even skim-coating ancient, neglected plaster walls, on a per-square foot basis. But get out there and employ a quilter, I say. Keep the craft alive, and a paying proposition.
    As for the shirts you so rightfully claimed, let me just say that I liked Herb so much already from other details you have shared about him. But to think that he had the sense of style to wear a pink-checked shirt — and this was before Queer Eye, mind you — he musta been Something. Hope your boys get some of THAT in the mix. I once fell in love (temporarily) with a guy who wore a pink pinpoint oxford shirt, very wrinkly, with the sleeves rolled up. Just knocked me over. Totally Shut Up And Kiss Me, you pink-shirt man, you.
    But I digress. Must go KayCam something.
    xox Kay
    P.S. Boo-HOOOOOOOOOO.

  4. ann –
    as you might already know, this was a difficult post for me to read, since i am faced with the same task in my own life. starting tommorrow. interesting concept for me to consider in the midst of it all, quilting up shirts and perhaps other fondly remembered fabrics. that said, i remember an episode on …i hate to say it…oprah, about two or three years ago that could be just the ticket you need. it was a show about organizations that finish virtually ANY craft project a person might have started. one woman had bought all of the fixings for a quilt for her daughter when her daughter was a small child and NEVER got around to making the quilt. at the time of the show, the daughter was now college age and all sassy. well, thanks to oprah, the woman who encourages the masses to read and be the best they can be, that sassy college aged daughter finally got her quilt, because the fact checkers on oprah found a company that would do what her mother could not. so, if you are so inclined, you can go over to oprah.com and search its database, or better yet, send them an email and ask them to give you the name of those quilters. unless of course, one of your mdk readers gives you the easy answer, phone number and email address included.
    hope this helps.
    xo

  5. Ann,
    Cutting and pieceing the top if you have a sewing machine really is not such a huge undertaking. Cutting the shirts in to square shapes would be the easiest. The hardest part would be colour/texture placement but once that was decided 3 or 4 evenings max on the sewing machine would get it all together nicely. From there there are several places out west here that would quilt it for you (machine of course) handing quilting is done by no one now except in exchange for many, many bucks – and yes Kay is right hand quilting will make hand knitted garments seem cheap in comparison. I had a quote of $150 recently for machine quilting a queen sized top – I also found someone to do it for $120 although this did not include batting. I will look up the telephone #’s and/or web sites if you are interested.
    Wished we lived closer – I love cutting fabrics and sewing them together. I would happily help you out. It would be fun.
    carol.
    PS If there are lots of light and darks in the mix a log cabin effect would be stunning too!

  6. Ann,
    Get yourself over to http://www.gloriouspatchwork.com to look at Kaffe Fassett’s quilts (in the Books section or Fabric Packs), quite a few of which are made from dress shirt fabrics, as someone else comented. Gorgeous! My mom quilts and knows of folks in Tennessee who machine quilt at reasonable rates. So all you would have to do is assemble the quilt top and back, and buy batting. If I had any more time for projects, quilts are what I would be doing.

  7. Dear Ann,
    I am primarily a knitter (though do more dreaming about it than actually knitting since birth of offspring no.4!) However, I started quilting about a year ago. It grows faster than the knitting as i only machine quilt.
    The projects in class at night school are sometimes too ambitious for me. Recently bought a book “Quick Quilts to make in a weekend” publisher New Holland (U.K.) Edited by Rosemary Wilson. It features 25 projects. All reasonably simple. I have been saving the better quality finished with shirts of my husband for some time now (mainly blues) because quiltlng fabric seems to cost a fortune. I am planning to make the feedsack scrap quilt from this book which is just random strips sewn together. (They used to use discarded feed sacks obviously) It looks simple and really homey.
    It would be a real labour of love if you managed to make something yourself and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Go on, have a go girl, you might just enjoy it!
    Regards
    Claire Birtles xxx

  8. Ann, you have inspired me to start knitting again…have yarn on order from the “soy shop” in N.O….love your blog and was interested to read today your plans for your late father-in-laws shirts—what treasures the quilts will be…the wonderful lady who worked for my family for years still lives in Greenville. She is 84 years old, no longer mobile because of severe arthritis; however, she sits happily and quilts away. When I went up for my annual Christmas visit with her, she had just sold her last quilt to her “insurance man” for a paltry sum ($30, I think)…I asked her if she had any idea what the Gee’s Bend Quilts (not too many miles from her)were bringing…Poor soul, of course, was shocked!! Would you like for me to talk to my Elmira about your project? Betty Ruth

  9. Such helpful comments, y’all. THANK you for helping me puzzle this out.
    Jill–You cannot imagine how many times in the course of this housecleaning we had to face stuff we didn’t know what to do with. There’s still a lot left to go, especially the category of Family Memorabilia, which fills a closet and six big bins. We’re at a loss about what to do with it all, which is how attics and closets end up filled with . . . family memorabilia.
    Sarah and Julie–I have never sat down and entered Kaffe’s world of quilts. The one you describe sounds exactly like what I had in mind. Must go dig around in His Kaffeness’s world. Thanks for the link, Julie!
    Kay–Re Herb’s dapper fashion sense: Let’s just say that revisiting family photo albums from the seventies is a fantastic journey into the world of plaid pants.
    Lis–Good luck with your father’s things. It is not an easy process, but there is sweetness to be found in it all. I’ll be thinking about you.
    Oprah is a goddess as far as I’m concerned. However warmfuzzy she is, she singlehandedly reinvigorated the book industry in a way nobody else has done. Her infectious good nature makes the world a better place.
    Carol–See? This is the downside of a virtual knitting circle. It would be great fun if you’d pull up a chair and talk me through doing these quilts. I’ll see what kind of price quotes I come up with; if it gets beyond a certain level, I’ll just hop a plane, dump all the shirts on your doorstep, stay for lunch, and fly home.
    Claire–I know, I know I should be making them myself. It’s just that I’d like them done before 2014. I do love the puzzle of quiltmaking; maybe someday?
    And finally (world’s longest comment other than Kay’s when she went on for a day or two)–
    Betty Ruth–I am very intrigued by the idea of having Elmira do these quilts. To have an Alabama quilter make these would please my Gee’s Bend-loving heart to no end. Could she really do three of them? I’ll be in touch with you. Thanks so much for telling me about her.
    And great to hear that you’re knitting again–are you soy silking? Wacky stuff, that. A soy silk suit would go nicely with your alpaca one.
    xoxoxo

  10. LATE BREAKING NEWS–
    Julie M. just sent me my very own copy of Kaffe’s Passionate Patchwork, and I am totally blown away. Number One (as Rene Zellweger says in ‘Cold Mountain’): That Julie would send me this book. It was the greatest surprise, especially considering that David’s birthday is in three days and HE’S the one watching for presents. Thank you SO much, Julie–this book is a revelation. Number Two: This book IS a revelation. I see the shirt-stripe box quilt that Sarah W. talked about above. It makes me CRAZY. It’s what we’ll do for these quilts. There are three different sizes of squares, with mitered triangles making up each square, so that the whole is this beautifully rhythmic series of shapes. Fantastic. I’ll post a photo of the quilt.

  11. I’m just catching up with this quilting project conversation. I think Oprah’s people used my local quilt shop here in Berkeley – they’re web site says, “as seen on Oprah” http://www.newpieces.com/ – it’s a great shop, very artsy, and of course, Kaffe visited on his last tour, they carry all his books and some fabrics.