Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sampler Quilts are learning tools that turn into heirlooms!

I am in a sampler kind of mood!

If you are like me the word 'sampler' conjurs up images of 12-inch blocks, each one a different star or pattern. They march across the quilt in straight rows and down the quilt in straight columns with a simple strips dividing them and a plain border boxing them in.

They were all the rage when women (and men) found quilting again in the 1960s-70s. Everyone made a sampler quilt and owned a copy of Diane Leone's "The Sampler Quilt" that featured traditional patterns that used pieced, appliqued and curved piece patterns that we all recognized -- Ohio Star, Flower Garden, Card Trick, Orange Peel, etc. Since this original publication, Leone has put together a new and improved version of Sampler Quilts. The NEW Sampler Quilt and it offers alternatives to the traditional rows and columns.

These Sampler Quilts were the threshold, the entryway for many into the world of quilting. Lorchen Nunn explained the story behind her golden sampler quilt displayed here.

"I went to a few workshops in order to learn the basics of sewing and quilting (at age 50 I had never used a sewing machine). Every lesson was based around a block that practised something new. When the quilt was finished I proudly put it on the bed in my spare bedroom. When a visiting friend from the US said she would like to move in with me in order to keep sleeping under that quilt, I told her to take it with her. It travelled from North-east of Nottingham in the UK to the airport in London, the on my friend's knee on the plane to Toronto, then by car for another 4 hours and has lived happily in Canada since 2002. I keep saying that I'll save up enough money so that I can afford to visit my quilt after I retire in 2014."

Well, the 'sampler quilt' has changed through the years and can reflect whatever technique the quilter is trying to refine.  Check out Maria Elkins exquisite 'sampler quilt' "In Answer to Prayer" first photo above. If you aren't familiar with her work, check out every major quilt show and you'll see her work prominently displayed or read her guest blog that she wrote for Subversive Stitchers.

Maria explains: "I think of this quilt as my "sampler quilt" because I tried several different techinques for the first time: watercolor wash in the border, machine trapunto for the wings which were then only stitched down on the upper portions, hand applique using Charlotte Warr Andersen’s techniques, free motion machine embroidered lettering (these are not computerized letters), use of metallic and sheer fabrics, and hand quilting with sliver metallic threads."

Samplers also make excellent guild or group projects to give as gifts or use as raffle quilts. Margaret McCarthy received a lovely birthday quilt (see photo) made by a group of friends for her after they watched the movie "How to Make an American Quilt" (based on the book by Whitney Otto). For more information and photos of Margaret's gift, visit her blogsite.

For the past couple of weeks I have been surfing the net looking at a variety of quilts that fall under the heading of 'sampler.' A Google search of sampler quilt images will bring many inspiring images to view.

A sampler is not only a thing of beauty, it is a learning tool. Women/quilters have used this technique, this project to grow their craft throught he centuries. Each square is a separate project where I learn something new. And since I'm the product of parents who came of age during The Great Depression, everything I make must have a use. Whether I hang it on the wall to decorate my home or use it as a baby quilt or a full sized bed quilt, even my 'practice' squares become useful.

Most recently I've been making quilts for my cats. A one square wonder with borders. They help me practice a new technique, use up scraps and also are the perfect size for practicing my machine quilting. My cats are forgiving souls, so even if my work is terrible they love to stretch out on their own little quilts and shed, shed, shed!

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that these one-square wonders make perfect 'hugs' for the Snuggles Project. And they are even less expensive because one uses flannel or used clothing or pieces of worn blankets as the batting. For more information about the Snuggles Project, please visit their home page where they welcome quilted/sewn, crocheted and knitted 'hugs.'

Some of the delightful finds from my Internet search include Brady Sparrow's Summer Sampler Quilt. A great project to make using a fabric collection that will mix and match and bring cohesion to the various star squares that Brady includes in her quilt. She offers well written tutorials with photos to help those undertaking this project. And she also offers a beginners version.

One of the most engaging samplers I ran across is designed by Jane Tenorio-Coscarelli. I don't have permission, yet to post a photo. But I encourage you to check it out at her facebook photo page.

This is of course only a tiny glimpse at the number of samplers available online. Many of the BOM (block of the month) quilts might fall under this heading as do calendar quilts. I'm not very good at making two dozen identical squares, so a 'sampler' is perfect for my short attention span. And the cat quilts are even better!


Sheeprustler said...

I love samplers, though the ones I am more familiar with are cross stitch or other kinds of embroidery. I think samplers in all sorts of media are worthwhile and fun, as you say, both as learning tools and things of beauty. I love looking at old ones in museums and thinking about the little girls who made them!

Dawn said...

I didn't get into the embroider/cross-stitch or other stitching medium in this article, but I am in total agreement that 'sampler' makes me think of embroidery and cross stitch and the heirloom pieces every little girl had to make! Thanks for the reminder!