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Buttons, birds & butterflies

  • @$:It was suggested that the Birds of a Feather quilt would complement the wall hanging which also has a bird.
    @$:It was suggested that the Birds of a Feather quilt would complement the wall hanging which also has a bird.
Published October 07. 2011 05:02PM

Brenda McCandless of Moore Township presented a quilt program at a September meeting of the Palmerton Area Historical Society - a timely topic as colder weather looms just around the corner.

McCandless said she has been quilting since 1987 - a hobby she began when she was looking for an outside interest. She took classes at The Quiltery in Nazareth and is now a teacher at Northampton Area Community College and several other sites.

The quilts are everything from handmade to machine made, from wall hangings to queen size. When the family bought the house where they live there were four bedrooms, but she said it actually turned out to be three bedrooms and a sewing room.

The first quilt she displayed was an Irish chain but it had birds embroidered in each square and is named Birds of a Feather. McCandless said a wall hanging shown later in the program would be a good match for a room with the quilt on the bed. The wall hanging also has a bird in the center and complementary colors. A circular doily was cut in quarters and used on each corner.

McCandless was asked about the pattern used for quilting - actually putting the layers together. She said it is called stippling or meandering and is made by moving the cloth on the machine to fill in the spaces. It took a long time to learn, she said.

On the back is a label telling who made it (herself), where she lived at the time, when it was made and the name of the quilt, if any. Some of the quilts have a history to them and that may be extensive on the label, which is written with a pigma marker because it will not fade with washing.

Occasionally some lucky person will receive one of the quilts as a gift.

All scraps are cut into two-inch strips and saved. She does not keep a scrap basket. When enough strips have accumulated they will be made into a log cabin quilt. They are one of the few that are based on standard designs and are frequently given to charities to raise money.

Cotton batting is used to line a machine-made quilt and polyester batting for a handmade one because the cotton can be hard to push a needle through.

Sometimes she will make several quilts with the same theme but different materials around the squares. The tulip quilts had a band across the top that was not quilted. She slid her fingers in and showed that it was a sleeve for hanging the small quilts.

A crazy quilt has an old-fashioned look. The odd shapes form a pattern of squares but it takes a second look to realize it. She learned silk-ribbon embroidery and used it all over the crazy quilt.

A doily from her mother was one of the found items she enjoys incorporating into her quilts. Gloves and jewelry may turn up on a quilt. Embroidered blocks were found in an antique shop. "They were filthy but I washed and ironed them and they are pristine," McCandless said.

Often there will be extra material such as when she made an extra butterfly and used it on the back for the label. Her labels are not tiny squares in the corner but are an integral part of the quilt.

Jane Borbe said the backs are as beautiful as the fronts.

She was asked if she thought hand quilting would die out with the advent of machine work, but she does not think it will because it is a peaceful hobby.

She bought a blue pattern in Oregon - the Mexican star - but since she bought it in Oregon she named the resulting quilt an Oregon Star.

Mary Beth Beers said her mother was cutting pieces for a quilt when her husband Curt suggested she stack the pieces so she could cut more at a time. He was told, "We're not cutting lumber."

A quilt with gravestones in the center memorializes the Nickel Mine disaster when Amish girls were shot. The names of the girls are included. The city of Lancaster runs across the top followed by the suburbs and on the bottom is a fence for the open farmland. On the sides are weeping willow branches - 212 teardrops form the leaves.

"This quilt is for their courage," McCandless said. "They weep for the innocent lives lost."

The twin towers with a large peace sign running around and through them, were made with 1,300 buttons, each hand sewn. She wanted yellow lights in the tower but it did not seem right. Her son asked, "Why are you making a quilt with two sticks of butter?"

She had seen the towers from a distance before 9/11 and they seemed to twinkle. The buttons became the twinkling lights.

A border does not have to be the same all around. Her autumn quilt has the bright orange and yellow colors but the border is made of a variety of oranges from the strip basket.

McCandless does all her quilting with an 18-inch hoop. She said a person has to start in the middle and work to the sides.

Her "Garden at Midnight" had a light blue moon, but she did not like it since everything was in dark colors. After putting a dark moon on the front the pale blue became the label.

"It is something I just have to do," McCandless said. "This is part of my life and what I do. I really, really like what I do."

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