“The color palette [of polyester double knit fabric in the late 1960s and early 1970s] was eye-popping, gaudy, sometimes bizarre, and unfailingly cheerful,” notes blogger Suzanne Labry. I’m guessing this was the motivation of the quilter who set these vintage Bear’s Paw blocks together with pink and orange double knit fabrics. “Eye-popping, gaudy and cheerful” all describe the color palette of this creation! My guess is that this top was sewn together in the early 1970’s, the same time I was wearing a polyester TWA flight attendant uniform in a plum color polyester. The easy care, long lasting characteristics of polyester made it seem ideal.
I discovered this scramble of a quilt top at a local thrift for twelve dollars. I almost left it behind. As I opened it and considered the possibilities, I was charmed by the energy emanating from those cattywampus blocks! Some of the Bear’s Paws were askew. The jumble of colors and patterns kept me searching for a rythymn. The workpersonship was poor–one of the setting strips even displayed the raw edges of a seam placed on the front! Who would choose a stretchy polyester double knit fabric as setting strips??
Yet, I wanted it! I wanted to take it home and explore the possibilities! The celebrated quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have helped educate my eye and my mind to an avenue of the quilting world I’d been unaware of until the late 1990s. Even if you are familiar with the Gee’s Bend Quilts, please explore this visual journey through many of their quilts: http://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/gees-bend-quiltmakers Wow, what an amazing collection of vibrant quilts!
I’ve not been quilting on large projects recently. This quilt top is 64″ x 88″. To do the pin basting step, which prepares the top for my machine quilting, requires the use of three large tables at the local community center room. The ironing of top and back, then layering of all three layers took five hours of steady work.
For the last week, when time allowed, I have been doing the “free motion” quilting I call my “scribble motif” of swirls and curves and a few flowers all over the top. As I’m scribbling with my fast-moving machine needle, I encounter the duller blocks and then the vivid setting strips. I am amazed by the variety of fabrics gathered into this one top. I am also aware of the turquoise or blue centers of each Bear’s Paw block. She used different fabrics at times, but the repetition of this appealing color is part of what draws me to this unusual quilt.
I’m expecting to finish the machine quilting today or tomorrow. Then another adventure begins as I apply the binding. This quilt has extremely wavy edges, so I’ve cut the binding on the bias and will keep those wavy edges as I bind it.
Because the original quiltmaker seemed to use any fabric she happened to have on hand, I’ve done the same. The expanse of fabric needed for the back was pieced from cloth I had on hand. I’ve cut the dark bias binding from a vintage Ginny Beyer striped border fabric. That long strip of folded bias is carefully folded to prevent any stretching, and is now ready for that almost final step.
By next week I hope to have completed photos and a comprehensive list of all of the types of fabric I’ve encountered in this bold quilt top–from plaids, stripes and ticking, to gingham and organdy. Stay tuned.
Note: The opening quote came from an article “The Return of Double Knits” from this blog, https://www.quilts.com/sfancy/suzy-s-fancy-the-return-of-double-knits!.html