Sunday, February 26, 2012

New Handwork in February

Don't get me wrong--I love printed fabric--but recently I've been experimenting with solid fabrics and even a totally different color scheme. I've been exposed to new things and to new places.

Two weeks ago I flew to Santa Fe and got to film a segment of The Quilt Show with friends Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson. The all-morning session was set within the exhibitions halls of the Museum of Indian Art & Culture. How could you not get inspired surrounded by beautiful art, baskets, weaving, and pottery? The Museum is a magical place but you can even see some of the Museum's exhibitions on the web-here's a link  .

In the filming we talked about, and I demonstrated, two different hand techniques: sashiko (Japanese quilting) and the  folded patchwork block called Roof Tile on the Isle of Man but better-known as Log Cabin here in America.

In preparation for the filming, I made a whole wall hanging by hand. The centers of the blocks were squares of bleached vintage linen and the strips various cottons and linen-cotton blends.

Using the center large needle from the Big Stitch pack and ivory #12 perle Presencia cotton, I knew the hand stitching would show well on the dark backing fabric. After completing sixteen blocks, they were sewn in rows and all back seams appliqued together with #60 (thin but very strong) indigo thread.

On the back of the wall hanging, you can clearly see the spiral of white stitches against the indigo fabric and don't even notice that the block backings are seamed together. In researching the pattern, I've learned that the continuous spiral of stitches was considered good luck and that this trail of stitches, and quilt-as-you-go technique, is one of the primary difference between Roof Tile and Log Cabin. Other differences: the strips are folded back 1/3 at a time and there's no batting needed in this quilt.

Some quilt historians theorize that Roof Tile is actually the English ancestor of Log Cabin and the fact that we can't accurately document any American Log Cabin quilts older than the late 1850's does indeed suggest Roof Tile might have migrated with settlers to the United States. Many people from Ireland, the Isle of Man, and northern England arrived here between 1820 and 1860 and brought their skills and culture with them.

What Americans added to this quilt pattern is typical--we turned it into a one-layer patchwork pattern like the other quilts we were used to making and gave it a familiar name. The log cabin was already an American icon by 1850 and several presidential candidates, from Harrison to Lincoln, would use the log cabin as a symbol in their campaigns to illustrate their humble roots. "Born in a log cabin on the frontier-" offered proof of a candidate's humble beginnings and even suggested that he would bring a fresh non-politician's view to the office. Sometimes I wonder if times have really changed that much!


  1. Hi Pepper! I'm watching the Quilt Show right now and am so fascinated with the technique. So looking forward to setting up a hand stitching project to take along. Thanks so much!
    Barb Jansz

  2. Thank you so much I am inspired I have watched and watched again your visit to TQS I have started a tiled quilt and it is now 32x40 I plan to make it larger. I was hoping to send you a photo however I couldn't see any way of attaching to this email.

  3. From UK: I have just watched your TQS episode-i now know what to do with all the non-cotton clothing that I can't find a patchworky use for, thanks for sharing with us! I feel ANOTHER WIP project coming on! I had never come across this before.

  4. Hi Pepper, can I get your Big Stitch needles anywhere in the UK or online as I think they would be great to use.

  5. Hi Mary-Sorry my blog did not report your comment so i am months late. Have you called Quilters Haven in Wickham Market? Karin Hellaby (the owner) if she does not have the Big Stitch needles presently in stock can surely get them for you. Good luck!