Friday, 29 January 2010

The story of the White Wholecloth (and I have a plan)

The little white Xs mark round where the stain is.

Let me start by saying if I could own any one quilt in the world it would be Margaret Docherty's Little Brown Bird.

Stage 1,
Now onto the sorry saga of my white wholecloth. I spent about six months tossing ideas around in my head for the layout of the feathers.

Stage 2,
Translated my ideas into a quarter sized master paper pattern

Stage 3, Marked up the fabric, an 80" wide fabulous fine cotton sateen from Heide Stoll Webber. The downside of this fabric is it has a lot of give in it.

Stage 4, Washed out first attempt and starched it within an inch of it's life to stop the stretching so it would meet when I got to marking the fourth quarter.

Stage 5, Marked the grid in between the central circle and the outer border. I used a metal yardstick. It wasn't long enough to go over to bout sides of the central circle but as I was using the width of it as the guide for the diamond grid, no problem.

Stage 6, Pinned Quilters Dream polyester de luxe weight to the quilt top.

Stage 7, Stitched round all the motifs, the narrow borders separating each area and the grid with water soluble thread.

Stage 8, Anyone who has cut away the batting for machine trapunto will know how hard it is on the fingers. I cut round the feathers, the border and then went on to cutting out alternate diamonds on the grid. Those who have followed this quilt since the beginning will know I made a nearly quarter sized sample up first to judge the effect of this. I saved the grid until last as it's straight edges are marginally less hard on the hands.
Then I found the alternate grid diamond met back the beginning of the circle not remaining alternate. Grrr I put the work away for a couple of months.

Stage 9, Ferret came over for the day and we sat out in warm weather very gently damping down the water soluble thread on the grid. I gently removed all the diamonds.

Stage 10, Another friend came over and I remarked one corner. We thought it was right.

Stage 11, A lesser woman than I would have thrown it in the bin when I found it still didn't meet up correctly!! On removing the water soluble thread for a second time I found that as it hadn't been removed just disolved it was drying into hard lumps which could not be stitched through.

Stage 12, The whole thing needs to be soaked and the trapunto feather motifs removed. I then gently washed it hoping the quilting marks would still be visible enough to use. They weren't.

Stage 13, I grab more sateen from my stash and measure out a length against the selvedge of the first quilt top. I cut the length. This is when I discovered the rest of my sateen stash is only 60" wide. Grrr

Stage 14, Gave the original sateen a good machine wash, starch it again within an inch of it's life and start the marking all over again. This time I get the grid right!! I use a long piece of cable trunking as my straight edge. And use the width of it for the size of the diamonds.

Stage 15, I cannot face cutting away all those motifs over again so have a plan to use the original ones soaked off the first top. I will use a glue stick to hold them in place and flip it over when they, the motifs and the diamonds are in place. This seems to be going well until I cover all the areas on the table and slide it over to stick on more. The very act of sliding it over the edge of the table means half of it falls off. Grr.

Stage 16, Talk to Ferret , she suggests trying 505 spray. This is better than the glue stick but still not good enough. I growl and put it away again.

Stage 17, We're now into autumn 2009 and my husband Colin has nearly lost his life and worry becomes my middle name. I start a couple of other projects but can't get going. I decide to just quilt it with no trapunto. Ferret says longarmers get away with using two layers of batting to get a similar effect. So I re pin it with lightweight Quilters Dream polyester on the bottom and Hobbs wool on top.

Stage 18, I start to quilt it and am very pleased I didn't use a heavier weight of the Quilters Dream. It would not have fitted under the throat if I had.

Stage 19, I quilt it using YLI Silk 100# thread. The motifs are done with white thread and the background with cream. In the bobbin I have used Superior Masterpiece for no other reason than I have loads of it in a colour half way between the white and the cream.

Stage 20, Whilst I working my way out from the middle of the quilt, doing different backgrounds in each area, I decide the grid is too large and out of proportion the rest of the design!!!! So quilt it in a larger scale swirly background design.

Stage 21, I finish quilting the final border and do a spiral design round the outside to stabilize the edges.

Stage 22, I pop it in the bath and soak it in some very gentle wash I have designed to wash cashmere, then I run it through the washing machine on a quick rinse and spin.

Stage 23, Meanwhile I've vacuumed the carpet in the bedroom several times to prepare it for the quilt. I bring the quilt up, lay it flat and go round it several times stretching it out so the diagonals are even. It looks great. I don't even look at it very closely until the next morning. In the morning light it looks wonderful. I turn on the lights and to my horror I can see marks. At this point they look sort of greasy. If I had marks like this on a T-shirt I wouldn't have thrown it out but I would only have worn it for gardening or decorating.

Stage 24, I leave it for 24 hours and contemplate its' fate. Strangely I'm not screaming, though I do realise I should be in floods of tears. On the basis that it cannot be shown in this state, I risk rubbing in some enzyme/biological stain remover. I leave it to soak in for 1/2 hour then wash it in the machine on a 30°C wool wash. I bring it upstairs, blcok it with the pins, turn on the lights. Yay! It's looking good. However once it's dry and the artificial lights are on the marks are back. Only now they sort of look like a faded version of the marks left by shoes on an indoor sports hall, or some of them do anyway.

Stage 25, As stage 24 but with an Oxygel stain remover.

Stage 26, As stage 24 but with an Oxygel carpet stain remover (i have heard of others using this in extreme circumstances with success, but not for me.

Stage 27, Well what have I got to loose? Nothing, works. I'm tempted just to bind it and let Fliss have it at Uni even if the boys in her house eat food whilst playing on the games machine in her room. So just before I give up totally, I try neat bleach. Do NOT dear reader do what I do. I painted it on lightly with a paint brush and took it straight downstairs and into the washing machine. The marks are still there, they still only look really bad in electric light (you can see them in daylight but only if you are up close and personal, like a judge would be at a show for example) But.... but what the bleach has done is dissolve the silk thread. This is fixable, it's only where I painted the bleach but it will be a pain in the backside to restitch and bury all those ends.

Stage 28, Remember at the beginning I said how much I love Little Brown Bird.I love it for it's workmanship, it's colours, it's design, it's just wonderful and I know it has a quality unobtainable by mere mortals such as me.
But this quilt did send me on a quest to find background fabric like Margaret Docherty used. It has the look of old fabric which has 'aged'. Whenever I see fabric with this quality I buy it by the bolt.
In the shower this morning I jad a Eureka moment. I shall 'age' the quilt, perhaps with tea, perhaps with coffee, perhaps both.!! I shall have to redo the stitching, burying of threads, blocking and binding before I do it. I might give my soul a rest for a week or two but it is such a relief to 'have a plan'.

(I can't proof read this post so if there are glaring mistakes, forgive me)


  1. Now that is truly brilliant. Tea/Coffee, antique staining. I'm so glad you found a solution after all that amazing effort. I'm sure it will be worth while in the end. I shall also bear in mind what you said about bleach...nightmare!!

  2. Brilliant solution! No-one made a rule it had to be a "White" wholecloth! Can't wait to see the ens result! Clever girl!


  3. I want to cry for the work you have put in, only to find it potentially spoiled for a stain!

    Antique staining is one idea, but how about choosing a colour - you would have one unique and very beautiful quilt!

  4. Speechless with empathy and sympathy over the whole journey of this quilt - just supposing "the plan" doesn't work 100%, wonder if spray dyeing it with an "ageing" colour would cover those marks?

  5. What an epic journey this has been for you. As I was reading I was thinking that you might have to overdye in the end. Hope it all turns out good as it is beautiful.

  6. So glad you had a flash of inspiration. Will keep fingers crossed for your success!

  7. You are a very strong woman because I would have taken it outside and burned it by now. Really, I would.

  8. Brilliant idea, Sally.......crossing everything I can cross that this will work......I am sure it will!
    I agree with Vicki W..............I think I would have done that!

  9. I told ya on your facebook page you should dye it!
    I wasn't sure at that time how dark the stains were, but the first thing that popped into my head was to tea dye it.
    Depending on how dark they were, the tea might not cover it. Coffee might be enough, or even a black dye would look magnificent!

    Either way, stain or none. It is absolutely gorgeous!!!!!

  10. Your plan sounds perfect, Sally! Best of luck!

  11. You poor thing! Do you know what made the marks? If you said this, forgive me.

  12. Try to picture this; my mouth is hanging open in sheer awe and amazement on how much work you have done on that quilt. I'm aghast, maybe in complete admiration - I would be bald and nail-less by now - perhaps in a straight-jacket in a padded cell rocking back and forth, medicated up to my eye-balls. Relly, I do admire you.

  13. It's been an epic journey, I hope the tea dying works out.

  14. Sounds like a good plan Sally. You're a saint for hanging in there. It is a beautiful quilt...all the best.

  15. Wow Sally you have the patience of a SAINT. Your quilts are always outstanding hope it all works out.

  16. What a heartbreaking story. I hope your plan works.