quilted mats

Do you remember some patchwork quilted placemats I was making? I used the projects to experiment with patchwork and stitching various quilted patterns. Four of them were just right to fit round our table.

patchwork quilted placemat © elisa rathje 2012

I’m quite pleased with how they turned out. I quilted a diamond shape, a simple angle, overlapping circles, and squares. The patchwork on these quilted mats is quite vivid, often I prefer to turn them linen-side up. I made my own linen bias tape to finish them, amazing how that brings it all together.

patchwork quilted placemat © elisa rathje 2012

Oh, I do miss that bright little room in the old English cottage.

patchwork preview

All through my studies of traditional skills, the most unexpected pleasure has been connecting to a long history of people with the knowledge to make things themselves. A pleasure of the handmade is also the tremendous centeredness, rootedness that comes with self-reliance. I love that moment when you really see how something, maybe a kind of food, an object in your home, a thing you’ve encountered your whole life, is made, and find that you can make it yourself. Making a useful thing, the way you’d like it, with great quality of materials and imbued with your personality, gives an object provenance, a story, and connects it to you. Which things in our homes have those histories? The best ones.

I’m so excited to be making movies to teach you this traditional skill in a simple, casual way, by watching me work, like looking over your grandmother’s shoulder. I’m creating an everyday sort of mentorship, learning at home the way the old methods were so often passed on. A patchwork preview:

The first homemade pictures my sweetheart and I made are The Quilting Series. Quilting Squares and Quilting Triangles are guides to patchwork quilting, a small-scale project, one beginner, and one intermediate. They were shot in the studio at Knaves Acre, our old Sussex cottage. You’ve already met the starlet of this series, a beauty at one hundred years old. You can mail-order your own pattern from the appleturnovershop; then check back here to work along with the movies! Watch them in the schoolhouse, in the column to your left.

quilting squares liberty floral project kit

quilting squares liberty floral project kit

original quilting triangles project kit

original quilting triangles project kit

handcrank sewing machine

The culture that produced our extraordinarily strong, elegant, exquisitely engineered handcrank sewing machine must have envisioned a very different future than one of planned obsolescence. All its parts are built to last, and they have done, so exceptionally well that using it is like looking deep into history without the translation of a word or photograph. If I had the skills to build a machine, I would study this antique. Watching the bobbin winder alone is a delight. Working the crank is surprising, nothing catches, only smooth, magnificent turning movement. Absent of the electrical, the digital, it’s an object that I find at once enigmatic and much more accessible than any contemporary machine. Such a design! The children stitched their hand puppets on it with ease.

handcrank sewing machine © elisa rathje 2012

It’s no surprise then, that this gorgeous little singer from the early 1900’s, with its curved wooden case and elegant paintwork, is the star of a couple of movies I’ve been making with my sweetheart. This is a sneak peek of the singer on set. Our little moving pictures will have homemade projects to go with them, I’m bundling the kits up now. Do sign up for the appleturnover quarterly to get an early invitation to the appleturnovershop opening, I’m aiming for later next week.

Oh! If you’re in England and you’d like your own vintage sewing machine, my dear friend Sarah has a shop full of them.

tailor’s chalk

Like a set of wooden drawing pencils, or an ink-filled fountain pen, I adore tailor’s chalk for its simplicity of form.

tailor's chalk © elisa rathje 2012

Just a flat shape to grip, a sharp edge to mark fabric with, a pure substance that harms neither the cloth nor the tailor. I have great respect for the ecology of a product that leaves nothing to throw away when it’s done. Even a broken piece remains useful. I love to use this chalk for measuring and marking in quilting and dressmaking. And isn’t it a pretty object?

quilted quilt

Oh, I’m thrilled to finally have finished a nine-patch quilt. All patchwork, all piecing, all quilting, all binding finished today. It only took me three and a half years.

patchwork quilt © elisa rathje 2012

With a few interruptions. (Alright, interruptions like going to Canada for months, or working on seventeen other projects in between – don’t worry, it really needn’t take three years!) A second one is nearly done, so my children will each have a quilt.

patchwork quilt © elisa rathje 2012

I’m always delighted to complete a project. It looks just right with the bunting in their little room up in the cottage gable. I’m so pleased.

tufted pillow

Next in my series of linen pillows, those little textural studies in sewing. I find tufted furniture quite entrancing, much like kissing pleats and smocking. Something about the sculptural qualities of tufting is so appealing, and I made a cushion to try it.

how to cover buttons with fabric

I love the tradition of accentuating tufting with buttons, from early vintage pieces to the Barcelona chair. Time to learn to cover my own buttons. My button jar had odd ones that I wasn’t sure how to use, so I bought a set of four with reassuringly simple directions printed on the back. Cut out the template and use it to cut your fabric. Sew a running stitch round the edge, pop the button in on the wrong side and pull to gather tightly. Smooth out the fabric and press the washer into place. Magic! Suddenly I was transported to my youth, wearing my mother’s 1960’s blue skirt & jacket, with cloth-covered buttons to match, just the same size as these. Very Jacqueline Kennedy.

handmade tufted linen pillow

I marked out four spots on each side of fabric before I began the piece. After covering the pillow in two shades of linen, I used some sturdy thread to sew through a pearly button back and out through the front, fabric-covered button, pulling as tightly as possible. Back and forth between the buttons til securely fastened, much wrestling and squashing of the cushion involved. I think the tufted pillow makes a fine addition to the daybed, quite cosy. Now I have rosettes in mind for the next cushion, though as winter steadily approaches, it must wait its turn til I’ve finished the nine-patch quilts.

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handmade tufted linen pillow