Postage Stamp Quilt Saga: Chapter 1

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Forward: I’m making a postage stamp quilt in the style and spirit of the ones popular during the 1930s. I’ll be chronicling the process here on my blog and on Instagram!

Once upon a time, I fell madly, deeply in love with a vintage quilt I saw in a magazine. The year was 2002 and Martha Stewart Living’s August issue was given to my mom by a relative who stopped by to visit, and being a voracious reader at eight years old I read it cover to cover. I came to an article on how to repair a vintage postage stamp quilt, and the photos, paired with a story, stopped me in my tracks.

Being a massive history fan, the story accompanying the photos was every bit as good as the quilt. The article talked about how postage stamp quilts became popular during the Great Depression, using up even the tiniest scraps to make the impossibly sweet one inch squares. The fabrics usually were calicoes left over from clothing, sheets, feed sacks, and “rag bags” bought for pennies at department stores. The article walked the reader through picking new fabrics at the store (turkey red and sky blue and pale yellow were popular colors the author noted, so choose those) so new squares could be made and painstakingly appliqued over threadbare patches. I was absolutely smitten, and swore one day I’d make my own postage stamp quilt.

I’ve had a few false starts in the past seventeen years, finding the tiny squares frustrating to get lined up properly and tedious to cut. I started reading every tutorial I could find on making postage stamp quilts and giving them all a try, fiddling with the size of the squares, buying 1930s reproduction fabric only to cut it up and give up, and moved on to other projects, letting the postage stamp quilt idea keep marinating in the back of my mind.

Fast forward to earlier this year, when I found the magazine again on ebay (the original copy long gone) and coincidentally came across Amanda Jean’s post on her Lost in the Crowd Quilt and had my ah-ha moment.

In the 1930s, the postage stamp quilt was about ingenuity, a product of the “waste not, want not” attitude of a culture where every last bit counted. It wasn’t made by strip piecing, ironing a chessboard of squares to a piece of interfacing, or english paper piecing. It was made by simply cutting squares, accurately and cleanly, then stitching them together next to the radio when time allowed.

So I aim for my postage stamp quilt to exemplify a modern version of the resourceful spirit of our grandmothers, with my personality where it counts.

I’m cutting 1.5″ squares from my modern, colorful scraps, not buying any fabric specifically for this project and using a 1.5″ wide ruler that makes it fast and easy. I’m cutting the squares as often as I feel like it and chain piecing a handful of 4-patch blocks after a stressful day, usually before bed in front of an episode of Friends. It might not be exactly what our ancestors would have done in their time, but I’m pretty sure it’s what they would have done if faced with a low hobby budget, a drafty house, and a Netflix subscription today.

If you’d like more details on how I’m sewing these blocks together and getting nicely matched seams, be sure to check out Amanda Jean’s awesome¬†tutorial that convinced me this project could be simple and fun.

Lagoon Pineapple Quilt

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Note: this post contains affiliate links and is not sponsored by Creative Grids or Amazon.com. I purchased the products linked here for my personal use and thought you might like them too.

Summer’s almost over here in Michigan (yay! fall is the best) but I’m finally getting around to sharing a make I finished last summer– a pineapple block quilt made from Rashida Coleman-Hale’s Lagoon fabric! I had just seen Moana, and wanted to make something tropical and cheerful.

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I used Creative Grids’ Pineapple Trim Tool ruler (affiliate link) to make the blocks,and it’s now one of my favorite tools! The blocks are a bit time consuming, but the ruler makes them simple and turn out perfectly every single time. I absolutely love that it can work with my #1 favorite ruler, a Creative Grids Quilting Ruler 2 1/2″ Square (affiliate link) for the centers! I made the biggest size blocks the pineapple ruler makes, 10″x 10″.

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To get the “pineapple” look, I alternated rounds of colorful Lagoon prints with the Nanners lawn from the collection in pink and yellow. I absolutely love mixing lawn and quilting cotton– the quilt has such a lovely texture with the lawn being just a touch thinner. I used wool batting, my favorite, because it’s so light and soft, but warm and has a nice cushy loft when quilted. It’s a little quilt, about 30″ square, so I’ve just been draping it at the bottom of my bed for a pop of color, but this will definitely get hung on the wall at some point.

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The map print from the collection is so perfect on the back!

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I’ve definitely added a scrappy pineapple quilt to my “to make” list, maybe something nice and big for wintertime!

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Stretch Velvet Moneta Dress

dressphoto2I started this post with a rant about 2018 resolutions, talking about success and failure and goals for this blog going forward and blah blah blah, but then decided nobody actually wants to read that. So here it is– I’m planning on posting here more frequently, mostly about sewing/making things, sometimes about books or movies or TV or whatever I feel like talking about. So today, let’s talk about my Christmas dress and a few other random holiday things.

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I’ve been wanting to try Colette Patterns’ Moneta Dress for a while now, since it’s one of my favorite styles to wear and the no darts/closures aspect is appealing. I ordered 3.5 yards of wine colored stretch velvet from fabric.com, which is soft and silky, though maybe not quite as stretchy as I would have preferred.

My measurements were between two sizes, so I decided to size up since I didn’t want the dress to be too snug. I made quite a few alterations to the pattern, shortening the waist by 1″ and self-drafting a half circle skirt since gathering velvet sounded nightmarish. Cutting the velvet was awful, I’m not going to lie– it’s so slick and heavy, it kept falling off the table, and keeping the layers folded together was a task that took longer than the sewing itself.

Now I’ve sewn with velvet before and was well aware of the nap. While cutting the pieces, I was very careful to make sure the nap was going in the same direction on all the pieces…sadly, that direction was upside down. So instead of being a rich wine color, it’s a dark, nubby burgundy, and while I spent a lot of time being pretty upset about it with myself, I got over it. Sorta.

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Anyways, I’m mostly satisfied with how it turned out. I’d use the pattern and fabric again, and while I did use a serger for the inside seams (a total must– I would never attempt stretch velvet without a serger) I wish I’d used a coverstitch machine for the hems. And I’ll be extra careful about the nap!

Dress Stats

Pattern: Moneta Dress by Colette Patterns

Modifications to pattern? Shortened waist by 1″, used different skirt pattern piece

Fabric: no brand stretch velvet from fabric.com

Would make pattern again? Yes

Would use this fabric again? Yes, with extra care