Wednesday, March 2, 2011

star quilt: using an old iron

C's baby quilt has had a few incarnations in its 17-year life. It started as a handsewn applique quilt on a bright pink background (I know: ewww).

When C was old enough to voice his opinion, he let me know that as long as I hadn't finished, he would rather have a quilt with "sparkly stars" on it. I began anew with some standard star blocks, and the project evolved from The Baby Quilt to The Star Quilt.

A couple years after that, I saw a star pattern that truly looked like it was sparkling, so ditched the old blocks to start over once again. With great optimism, I even purchased some fabric that was printed with "2000" because, I told C, that was the year by which he'd certainly have the finished quilt. We began calling it The Millennium Quilt.
Fast forward 11 years. Where does the time go? Well, I had another baby; we joined our local homeschooling community in earnest; and my quilting friends with whom I had been meeting monthly either moved away or had life changes that made it harder to get together. Or maybe the life changes were mine. I don't think there was any one reason in particular, but the Baby-Star-Millennium Quilt somehow took a backseat to other things for a long, long while.

However, I've been working on these blocks many afternoons in a row now, and this morning I woke feeling sure I would finish.

Except that the iron would no longer heat up.

From my fabric shelf, I pulled down a vintage Singer electric iron I'd found at a thrift store a few years ago. It's a tiny little thing, but heavy. A whopping 250 watts. Notice it not only has no fabric settings, it doesn't even have an on/off switch. Plug it in, and it starts to heat up.
Singer iron "Model T"
I figured it should work just fine. It did—maybe a little more than fine, in fact, because the fabric instantly scorched.
But sense memory came through again: as soon as I smelled that burnt-marshmallow scent, I remembered that Mom had always kept a folded, dampened cloth by her ironing. It both cooled the iron down and protected the piece from direct heat.
In this way, I was able to piece the last few stars. There are 48 total in this quilt, but I ended up with 15 extra blocks. As I went along, I could see that some of them just weren't going to make the cut. I love the celestial pattern in this background, but finally had to acknowledge that the fabric was too thin and flimsy:
And this background looks distractingly pale next to the other blocks:
These just came out ugly and misshapen:
And in some cases, I simply pieced too many of one shade:
I'll use the rejected blocks for other projects but meanwhile, here are the blocks that made it into the quilt. Arranging them was a little like doing a sudoku puzzle. No adjacent background fabrics could be the same.
After getting the fabrics lined up, I turned some of them around to give the quilt more twinkle. I hope these are the sparkly stars C had in his head when he was a little guy.
Next stage: putting the blocks together.

I'll be using the new iron I got as soon as I had time today. The little Singer can go back to its place on the shelf.


  1. Wasn't there paraffin in a heavy muslin piece? For cleaning and sort of "teflon-ing" the iron. And spraying and rolling clothes pre-steam irons.

    The old days ...

  2. I don't remember the paraffin, but I barely remembered the muslin!

    How about the rose bottle with holes in the top for sprinkling? :)


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