Tuesday, 26 July 2011

In a brown study: vintage granny home style

A little while ago, following a nudge from Ted and Bunny, I tripped over to the Vintage Bothy (aren't blog names wonderful? I feel that I could construct a complete narrative purely using the names of blogs, a whole parallel universe of imagination.) and the wheel of fortune was turning my way, because before long a most wonderful parcel of goodness came wheeling up to my door from the said Bothy. (In fact, I would like a Vintage Bothy at the bottom of my garden, inhabited by Ted and Bunny, who could sleep in the wonderful sleeping bags created by Flossie Teacakes, and we could have carpet picnics courtesy of Aunty Alice.)

A granny garden seat
Before I become completely parenthetical (can you tell that I have been reading To the Lighthouse?), I will tell you more about my big parcel, which put me into a total brown study for an afternoon. It contained a hexagon patchwork quilt in the making, a patchwork quilt fit for a vintage granny, and is the most wonderful example of how to make good, old-fashioned English hexagon patchwork, by hand and with card templates.


I am not sure how vintage or granny this patchwork is - and of course, how old is vintage? (Hen has been discussing the elasticity of the term 'vintage' on her blog.) It seems to me that 'vintage' is beginning to mean anything that is not brand new, but I have also come to the conclusion that I am decidedly vintage as I can remember a not inconsiderable part of the last century.


These hexagons speak 1970s to me - the '70s were definitely a very brown era. I had a brown carpet in my bedroom, cream and brown curtains, stripy duvet cover in shades of brown (except that they were called continental quilts when they arrived on these shores all those years ago); there was also a lot of that sludgy green colour, and the small floral prints have that Laura Ashley look which seems so familiar to me.


First, we have stacks of cut out fabric hexagon pieces, which will have been cut out using a cardboard template.



The next stage is to fold the fabric round a backing paper, and use tacking stitches to fasten it.



In this case the backing pieces are made from old Christmas cards in the best thrifty granny quilting tradition. My sister and I used to use the thick paper from glossy magazines such as Tatler, Vogue, and Harper's and Queen - the covers were particularly good, but even the pages were stiffer than your common or garden women's weeklies. There was one cardboard template for the fabric pieces, and another a quarter inch smaller all round (ie the finished size) for the backing papers.


The hexagons are then stitched together by oversewing - the oversewing is impossibly small in these rosettes, so the maker must either have been quite young, or started sewing at an early age. When I was doing my researches into nineteenth-century, I discovered that if girls had not learned to sew by the age of seven or eight, they could never achieve the really fine stitching required of a professional. (The same applied to knitting - if you didn't start young enough, you could never knit fast enough to make enough money.)


Here the hexagons have then been stitched into rosettes, some of which have been stitched together to make the quilt.


So this quilt has some stitched hexagons, some rosettes, and some of the rosettes have been stitched together to make part of a quilt - some hexagons have also had the backing papers removed. In the past, old letters were used as backing papers, and where they have not been removed they provide a tantalizingly fragmented window through which can be glimpsed a bygone world.



And this quilt in the making has a mystery all of its own. There are also half a dozen oval shapes using some of the same fabrics, although they are more uniform in design, and feature the more muted colours - but the ovals don't fit in with the way that the quilt has been pieced already, and I can't quite work out what the original plan was. Does anyone have any ideas on this one?


Tracey kindly included one or two other little goodies in her package to me - there was some very nice gardeners' soap which is now gracing my scullery sink, and the brown gingham made me feel positively sentimental.


All my children wore brown gingham 'blouses' (pronounced with a French accent) at their very first nursery school, and the sight of it took me right back down memory lane, past the bothy, over the hills and far away.

So if you want a home fit for a vintage granny, you need to dig out your old love letters, cut out a gross of hexie templates, pick some rustic coloured tiny floral prints fit for a milkmaid's frock, and sit on the sofa stitching as you ponder on the past.

And if the thought of all that labour with the scissors is all too much for you, drop by again, as I have a most enticing giveaway coming up, of which you will hear more very shortly.

28 comments:

Annie said...

Gosh that takes me back ... I did a fair bit of patching with papers cut from old magazines back in the 80s, when I was but a lass. Does that make me vintage?

susan said...

Are you going to find enough appropriately brown fabric to finish that hexie quilt? Or will there be a sudden flare of retro colour?

harmony and rosie said...

I was of the understanding that 'vintage' means anything over 20 years old which means I most definitely am! For heavens sake, what generosity you have been bestowed with in the quilting department and I think it's about high time I got myself stuck into some quilting too. The only trouble is I can only recall one love letter ever being delivered so perhaps I should aim small and make a quilt for one of the Model's dolls. Or better still, be a bit nicer to the husband!

greenrabbitdesigns said...

I quite like all those brown shades and they do remind me of Laura Ashley too!
I think I may be 'vintage' too!
Vivienne x

andamento said...

Very interesting. I've just started a hexie quilt, I've covered about 150 hexagons so far but have yet to start joining them. I'm thinking of going random rather than flowery. The fabric I'm using is all from the baby clothes of my two children (boy & girl). By the way, I enjoyed To The Lighthouse very much too when I first read it, must dig it out and try it again (once I've finished The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie which is also rather good)

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Such pretty, honest to goodness quilting and when finished, a possession to treasure. x

Frances said...

Pomona, like you, I just love the names of many posts, and have a little spiral notebook in which I keep notes to help me remember where I might have seen something that I'd like to revisit.

One of these notes must now be at least two years old, and centered around the how to's of creating traditional British hexagon quilts. Of course, I have yet to put any of this into practice, but somehow sense that it is a technique that I want to try at least once. I do love the idea of recycling old greeting cards and letters for the templates.

Your hexagons do look very beautiful. I've got no idea about those ovals. Cheers!

Mrs. Micawber said...

I've been pondering the word "vintage" lately too. I believe I read somewhere that it includes anything over 25 years old ... I shall have to consult the Oracle (our name for the OED) on this one.

I learned to sew at a fairly young age, but the idea of all that oversewing simply paralyzes me. My sister would probably love it.

What a lovely set of blocks and very nostalgic.

Alix said...

The perfect pastime for a sunny day in the garden, sitting in a deckchair! My Mum spent 10 years creating a massive hexie quilt from 1969 to 1979, so you can imagine there's quite a bit of brown and sludgy green in hers too! I seem to remember seeing a picture of an antique hexie quilt which had the oval shapes mixed in with the traditional flowers, with plain space fillers between.

ted and bunny said...

[Imagine this in the form of an old fashioned telegram:]

am leaving as soon as I change out of my jammies STOP

ETA just in time for tea STOP

happy to reside bottom of garden STOP

tally ho and pip pip old girl, Bunny

Gina said...

Very 1970's... I had brown floral wallpaper in my bedroom (quite revolting now I think about it. I'm pretty sure that makes me vintage.

Liz said...

What a lot of work goes into quilting - haven't tried it yet, but will start with something very simple. Yes, I remember when duvets were called "continental quilts". We got one as a wedding pressy in the 70s and yes, the cover was shades of brown!
Liz @ Shortbread & Ginger

memmens said...

That is beautiful...enjoy!

Lynne (Lily's Quilts) said...

Wow thank you so much for letting me know about this it is soooooo beautiful - are you on Flickr? If you are, I would love it if you posted these pics in the Hexalong Lilys Quilts Flickr group for everyone to see

Barbara said...

And when I think of all the half finished projects I have given away or sent to the charity shop over the years that would now be thought of as vintage treasure!

I know you are going to enjoy finishing this.

I made 2 patchwork duvet covers when my children were at home and one was BROWN.

Isisjem said...

Fabulous quilt! I think strictly speaking the rules are anything over 25 years can be classed as vintage. I wonder if there will be more clues to the age in the card templates when they are removed?

Floss said...

I'd definitely say 70s, and it's proof that the 70s were not 'the decade that taste forgot' as we sometimes think. Very Holly Hobbie. Very My Mother in Law. I like it!

Jooles said...

What a fabulous post, i did lots of this kind of patchwork when i was a child and it has brought back all those lovely memories, i think i may have another go at it in the near future, you have me all of a flutter ;o)

KC'sCourt! said...

Wow! what a wonderful quilt
The oval shape pieces are side pieces
I can help you how they are stitched together if you like....?
Julie xxxxxxxxx

Ruth @ The Butterfly Bush Diaries said...

I've never yet been brave enough to try paper piecing but I do love the look of it and I love the brown shades of your quilt - really lovely. Ruth :)

Crafty Green Poet said...

a lovely quilt! The 70s were very brown, I grew up then and wished they weren't so brown. I think vintage is often used to mean 30 years old or older

Isobel said...

Pomona, that is a gorgeous work. And I bet it is taking a lot of your time. But I bet you are also putting lot sof love in it as it is really a labour of pure love. Amazing!
xx

PinkCatJo said...

Who said brown was boring? A gorgeous post - it's going to look lovely. x

Lola Nova said...

Wow, what an intriguing bit of quilting you have there! I so admire the dedication of some quilters, even unfinished; for I would never have the patience for those hexagons, no not ever.

Celine said...

I love the vintage feel of your hexagons, it is absolutely gorgeous. Now it makes me want to start some hexies flowers in brown as well...

willow said...

I started to make a quilt like this in the 1970s when I was a school, making both me and the quilt vintage. I still have it, less than half completed in case I decide to finish it one day! I used Readers Digest magazines for the hexagons and there is one copy in the bag with the quilt - interesting reading thirty years on.

Aunt Pitty Pat's Fun said...

Beautiful Quilt.. I just love the colors.... Brilliant ;)
M

needlesandpins said...

Your EPP vintage flowers look very great. I like the fabrics you have chosen. Perhaps you can tell me how large one of your paper hexagon is? Thanks.
Brigitte/A

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