II. QUILT MATERIALS
TO BEGIN WITH, I want to say something as trite as it is important and
that is, "Use the very best materials that you can afford for any and
all handwork." Extravagance is never smart, but good quilt materials
are not expensive. It's the slazy ones, unreliable dyes and starched
cloth that prove expensive in the end.
Wash goods is guaged by the number of threads per square inch, "68-72"
is a fair grade of percale, "80 square" is excellent, the weight we
usually use and some of the very fine imported ginghams run to "120
A firm weave is imperative where one is cutting small triangles and
diamonds where part of each block must be bias. Imagine trying to fit
bias sides of rayon crepe or voile onto squares and you can see how
totally unfitted such scraps are for quilt making. Coarse linens, crash
weight cretonne, and pongee unless deeply seamed ravel out too easily
to be suitable. Romper cloth and any others that border onto ticking
texture are too close weave and heavy to quilt well. Cheap ginghams
will shrink enough to pucker in a quilt top. So to the firm weave must
be added soft texture. "Buty chine" is a permanent luster satine of
finest quality which we recommend and sell for our very best quilts.
The finest materials certainly do make the loveliest quilts.
The dye problem is mastered with a reasonable amount of care as "vat
dyes" are usual in even very inexpensive goods. "Commercially fast" the
dealer will say, which means with any reasonable care they will not
run. Very few manufacturers will absolutely guarantee color, and where
they do replace, they have told us it was often a case of sub-standard
black thread which had spotted with washing. Quilts are naturally
difficult things to launder. A wisp of silk undies may be in, out, and
dry in next to not time, but a quilt with cotton filler, top and lining
all stitched plumply together goes in for no such speedy procedure.
When it gets wet is stays that way long enough to try colors to their
limits. We have had quilt colors, yellows and reds "bleed" into the
white and in subsequent tubbings clear again to white. For the
"priceless" quilts we suggest the French dry-cleaning establishments.
The rather violent coloring of many heirloom quilts is due to their
makers' belief that only oil red, oil green and oil yellow were
considered reliable enough to use. Sometimes indigo blue was admitted
to this favored fast group.
The history of quilt materials is almost as varied and fascinating as
the history of quilt names. For instance, our chintz may be traced back
through various family connections and changes of name to the "India
Chinces" brought over from India by the East India Trading Company.
This very fine cotton material was charmingly designed in much the same
motifs of paisly fame. The Persian influence particularly the "Persian
Pear" which women called the "pickle pattern" or "gourds," peacock
feather designs, with pineapple, pomegranates and certain exquisitely
unreal but lavish flowers all bespeak the Oriental influence. Chintz
came both glazed and unglazed.
Imported "unglazed chince" became English made "Flowered Callicoe," and
then there came a day when the British sheep and flax farmers framed
legislation making it unlawful to produce or wear this cotton stuff so
beloved of the feminine heart! This stringent law raised such a storm
from the ladies that in due time the ban was modified to a tax, but
still unpopular. A few of these taxes on tea, stamps, etc., you will
recall bore the fruit of real history on both sides of the Atlantic.
There is a long list of woven cloths advertised from 1715 on,
"Demities," "Fustians," "Muslings," "Cambricks," different sorts of
"Duck," "Lawn," "Searsucker," "Pealong" the ancestor of longcloth and
Nankeen who begat "Blue Denim"! All of these and many more found their
way into patchwork but the dearest and most suitable of all was calico.
An author who treats this history in full, writes that "the mainstay of
the patchworker was from 1700 to 1775 callicoe, from 1775 to 1825
calicoe, and from 1825 to 1875 calico!"
The line of old-fashioned calicoes that we carry comes 36 inches wide,
are vat dyes which are sold as commercially fast and are authentic
reproductions of the real old "oil" designs. It is manufactured as
"Little Jane Chintz," a charming and reliable line, which is perfect
for any quaint old-time pattern.
The great majority of quilts are usually made of wash cotton materials,
although silks are sometimes used in such patterns as Log Cabin,
Grandmother's Fan, or the Friendship Ring, where one's friends are
called upon to help furnish beautiful bits to make the patterns as
variegated as possible. Woolens, even good parts of worn garments are
excellent for the heavy type of coverlet, and such designs as Steps to
the Altar, or Grandmother's Cross are suitable. Woolens are so apt to
be dull, "practical " colors, that it is imperative to have some
certain unit of red, bright green, orange or such in each block.
While cotton broadcloth, percales, or fine gingham, the calico prints
and such, are used with muslin for wash quilts, many women maintain
that soft satine really makes the most gorgeous quilt of all. When the
time comes to quilt you will know why we stress soft materials and why
lustrous satine which catches light on every little silk-like puff
between quilting designs is so beloved.
The warmth of the quilt will depend upon the thickness and kind of
interlining you use. If warmth is desired, have a thick interlining
which means that the quilting lines must be farther apart. If the
quilting is to be close and elaborate the interlining must be thin.
When a bed cover of exceptional warmth is needed, use a comfort bat of
cotton or wool. This will be too thick to push the needle through
easily, making even stitches impossible. Instead of quilting, this
coverlet must be tacked or tufted.
Cotton batting is most commonly used as interlining for quilts. One bat
is enough for a quilt, unless it is over size. Four bats will make
three extra sized quilts by using the length for width and piecing out
the length. Sometimes a lightweight cotton blanket or flannelette is
used, but the quilt will not have that soft puffiness that cotton
gives. The best bat costs a trifle more but the finished quilt is a
thing of beauty. If flannelette is used for padding, the breadths of
cloth should be whipped together, as a seam will cause an ugly lump in
the quilt. We never use sheet wadding as a filler for a cover that is
to be quilted; it is much too stiff for easy work.
LINING AND THREAD
As to the lining or backing, colors are quite popular, lemon yellow, or
baby blue, or whatever tint harmonizes with the quilt top. White or
unbleached were always used on the old-time quilts. But white or
tinted, the lining must be soft, unstarched either wide sheeting or
strips of 36-inch width inconspicuously seamed, to use with wash
material tops. Satine is best with satine, while a silk quilt may be
lined with wool challis, with a silk that will not cut out, or even
with dark cotton chintz where a blanket interlining is used.
Thread is the only other "material"; this is usually No. 50 white for
piecing, finer or in matching mercerized tints for applique. For
machine piecing use finer thread, perhaps 70. Numbers 50 and 60 are the
standard quilting threads, white in almost all cases, although quilting
on fine satine is lovely in No. 70. A No. 50 crochet twist in colors is
effective for quilting on silk or rayon comforts.
Workmanship should be, like materials, the "best you can afford." This
may mean machine stitching for busy women, or the finest of handwork
which we prize so highly in heirloom quilts. Close stitches are
imperative in quilt making. We certainly want no ripped corners where
cotton will pop out, or pulled seams in our quilt top.
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