Square dance

I haven't talked much about the ideas for Sailor's Warning because I'd not sewed even a test square together. It was little but an ephemeral, wacky idea, and there was no point doing much about it until I had my materials under control.

Stacks and stacks of upholstery and drapery fabric.Yes, an upholstery factory exploded here

['Yes, an upholstery factory exploded here']

Some time ago, Danielle pinged me to ask if I wanted some of the upholstery and drapery sample books she'd gotten her hands on. I thought about my grandmother and said yes without hesitation; my grandmother, many many years ago, worked for an upholstery fabric company, and many of the quilts she made for her kids and grandkids came from the mill ends and scraps from her workplace.

(I asked her about it at Christmas, and she shrugged. "They would've thrown it away, otherwise.")

I spent a lot of the World Cup disassembling the fabric books, yanking out industrial staples, cutting off glued ends

Once you pry out the staples, well, you still can't salvage everything; the fabrics are glued together roughly and unevenly with industrial-strength glue.You've got glue on your butt.

['You've got glue on your butt']

and slowly, painstakingly, using my iron to heat the back of each fabric sample, one at a time, to make it possible to yank off the strips of paper glued to each one. By the time I was done, I realized I had a LOT of fabric in sunset colors, more than enough for a single quilt:

It turns out you can remove the labels from most upholstery and drapery samples by heating them with a dry iron for a few seconds. Hello large pile of usable fabric.Unsure if pile is big enough

['Unsure if pile is big enough']

I washed the entire pile in one big mass, on my washer's hottest and longest setting, hoping that nothing bled. (Hooray luck!) The wash/dry cycle helped get rid of a bit of the glue residue on some of the recalcitrant fabrics, and after sorting by fabric type, I realized I definitely had enough to follow through on my sunset idea.

This afternoon, after Jeff headed out for tonight's contra dance, I made a few test squares of color blends, and decided to sew until I was ready to stop:

These fabrics are all lightweight drapery or upholstery samples. I had very little of each fabric, and I wanted to get the most of it, so I settled on a combination of pieces that would work well together:  3.5' squares and 4.5' squares.  The 3.5' squares could be sewn into a 4x4 grid, and the 4.5' squares into a 3x3 grid, and they'd all fit together

Blog entry: domesticat.net/2010/08/square-danceSquare dance

['Square dance']

I tested squares from all sections of the color spectrum, and was pretty pleased to see that it would work essentially the way I imagined. Unsurprisingly, there's my 13-pound kitty guardian on the far side of the table, sleeping his way through yet another quilt; I know from these photos you'd assume Tenzing does nothing but sleep, but he really does open his eyes and run around the house. Just not when I'm sewing:

Tenzing, my ever-faithful snoozer, keeps the far side of the table from floating away while I sew square sets. All fabric in this quilt top hails from lightweight drapery and upholstery sample books, which I disassembled, removed the glued-on paper backings, and washed to ready for sewing.

Blog entry: domesticat.net/2010/08/square-danceWorkspace, situation normal.

['Workspace, situation normal']

I don't have all the square sets yet, but so far they look pretty much as advertised: simple, scrappy, squares. The fun will be in arranging them to get an interesting and smooth color gradation. I expect the off-white fabrics will be at the top (or top corner), fading through gold and tan and orange and red and brown to the deeper blues, purples, and blacks at the bottom.

I thought it would look something like this, but it was neat to see some of the squares laid out together to confirm it. Lots left to sew, though.

Blog entry: domesticat.net/2010/08/square-danceCuriosity says yes!

['Curiosity says yes!']

The part of me that inherited stubbornness, if not appearance, from her grandmother -- is very pleased. I think there are probably two more quilt tops in the fabrics rescued from the sample books. There's something aesthetically satisfying about making The Perfectly Matched Quilt, but there's something emotionally and intellectually satisfying in using ingenuity to take 'waste' fabric and turn it into something comfortable, lovely, and functional.

Before there were quilting fabric companies selling you new colors for spring, fall, and winter, I think this was the entire point of quilting...


Nothing I buy is "mine" until there is cat hair in or on it - or both. I think Tenzing is just getting this requirement out of the way for your quilt recipients.

I fear you are right. Giving him the batting scraps has certainly helped - that pile of scraps seems to be a Tenzing magnet. This is why I'm making machine washable quilts. :)

Let me know if you want more... I know a couple of people I could ask & it would save them from going in the trash...

That looks VERY cool!

Very possibly! I can give you a benchmark of what I can use: the heavier, suede-feel fabrics just aren't going to work well. Wovens and lighter-weight fabrics work really well, though I'll make an exception for unusual chunky wovens. (There were some of those in the books you got me.)

For now, I'd say grab them. What I can't use, I can freecycle to other crafters. I am inclined to keep the piecing and quilting pretty simple on these quilts. They're really and truly scrap quilts.

I'm especially looking forward to working with those gorgeous lightweight embroidered fabrics you sent in the first round. They were by far my favorite of the lot, and I'm not putting any of them in Sailor's Warning. I'm hoping I've got enough to put them all together into a big scrappy quilt of their own.