Friday, February 12, 2010

The Wickersham Quilt

The Wickersham quilt is a signature quilt that was made in 1854 by Rebecca Wickersham. It is believed the quilt was made in memory of her husband, John Wickersham, who died in 1853. The quilt is comprised of 63 applique blocks....two of which are used as a border treatment. The entire quilt is set on point. There are various signatures on the blocks....believed to be those of family and members of the Quaker faith (of which the Wickershams belonged). The blocks themselves have mostly a floral theme and are a combination of various hand techniques....with hand applique being the most prominent, although there are blocks that were hand pieced....and quite a bit of hand embroidery. It is a very pretty quilt and has held my fascination for several years now.

It is one of those quilts that I knew I just had to make when I first saw it. I did attempt to make a couple of blocks by hand, but just wasn't happy with the way the finished block looked. It just looked as though something was missing. Fast forward a bit to the time when I got an opportunity to learn digitizing. Even before my first digitizing class I knew that this was the way to finally make the Wickersham quilt. I knew that this technique would embrace all that wonderful "folk art charm" of the quilt while allowing me a way of letting the "inner beauty" of the blocks shine through. Pictured above is the first Wickersham block that I have stitched out. I simply love the way it turned out! I think it retains that "folk art charm" while being a bit more of today....with the decorative stitching on the vase. The use of variegated thread on the flowers just seem to make them "glow"....and gives them life. The berries are all embroidered. 

The block pictured below is another block from the Wickersham quilt. This one was a very simple block. Just a flower surrounded by leaves. The center of the flower on the original block was left empty (that's where the maker of the block had signed it). I chose to fill it with decorative stitching to give the illusion of there actually being a flower center. While it is wonderful to see all the signatures on the original quilt, I have opted to leave those off of my interpretation of the quilt. So far I have digitized about a dozen of the blocks and have stitched out two. I really love the way the blocks are turning out.....and love the way it has a more modern feel to it while still retaining the "folk art charm" that originally drew me to the quilt.

This is defnitely a long-term project for me. It takes hours to digitize each block.....and hours to stitch them out. I'm hoping to have all the blocks digitized and stitched out by year's least that's my goal.  :>) I will be sure to update my progress on this wonderful quilt as I go along. The original quilt measures 107" x 99". My completed quilt should be around that size as well.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Digitizing...... an amazing new technique that I have been slowly learning over the past few months. How to explain digitizing? Well, it's a way of putting a design into a format that your embroidery machine can read. It is fairly easy to do once you learn the techniques (and actually remember them!!).......and can be rather time consuming. Although it is a very lovely way of passing the time if you enjoy the process.....which I do.  :>) It's a technique that allows you to combine embroidery with applique. Pictured above is one of the blocks that I have digitized and stitched out. This is for a block of the month that I am doing. I am actually doing two of these using "traditional" fusible web machine applique techniques....and one digitized. While the machine applique version has the lovely satin stitch and incorporates a few other decorative stitches as well, it does not have the lovely "thread play" that you see on the digitized version.....or the textured embroidery (as can be seen on the stem in the above picture). However, I must admit that the machine applique version is a bit quicker. You don't have to take the time to digitize anything. Just cut and sew.....basically.  :>)

As far as actual sewing time for both's probably pretty close. It took about two hours for the digitized block pictured to be stitched out. That includes thread changes, fabric placement and trimming. The quarter circles in the corners were done using machine applique techniques. These had to be added after the central design was stitched out and the block trimmed down to the appropriate size.

Is the digitized block worth all the extra time and effort? Definitely, yes! While it may take a bit more time to do, you do end up with a more precise looking block....and are able to add touches of embroidery that you wouldn't be able to do with a regular sewing machine. The digitizing allows you to put the stitches where you want them.....and repeat stitches are exactly that. Close-to-perfect repeats. I won't call them perfect, simply because with digitizing the line of stitches will follow the line it is given when digitizing....and that may not always be perfect.

Pictured below: Another digitized block from the same block-of-the-month program. The checkerboard appearance of the leaves is not from the fabric used. It is actually from the decorative stitching that was done on top of the fabric.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Harriet Sweater

Here is the Harriet sweater.....still unfinished. I ran into a small "inconvenience" with it. The armholes are a bit larger than the sleeves....which means there will be some easing involved. I have set it aside until I figure out exactly how I want to handle this. So close to finishing!!! Only the button bands on both fronts and the collar........(big sigh). It's best to be patient and see what solution will prevent itself....rather than adopt a "hurry up and finish" attitude. I would rather be happy with the completed project than do the "would have, could have, should have" dance.

So, in the meantime, I have pulled out another UFO and am working on finally getting that hand quilted. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the hand quilting. I spent some time last night playing with different hoops until I found one that felt comfortable. I settled on my 16" lap hoop. I also have a 14" lap hoop and a lovely floor hoop with a variety of different sized hoops. Yes, I definitely forgot how much I enjoy hand quilting. About 1/4 of the quilt was already done when I picked it back up. Hopefully this time....when the hoops are put will be finished.