Tag Archives: history of quilting

Quilting for the Tropics

by jenny

My grandmother used to say “We lived in ‘the tropics’…” which included Guam  and Hawaii, during the time period leading up to World War II. When they retired, they moved to Florida, which she considered to also have a tropical climate.  And she wasn’t always happy about the heat and humidity in Florida. Being a practical quilter, she wanted to make quilts that would be useful to the prospective owners. One of my favorite quilts she made for us had a pieced top made of scraps leftover from when she made us flannel pajamas, and the backing was cotton sheeting. There was no batting in between. It was just the right weight, and kept us toasty warm but not suffocated like a heavy blanket would. The cotton backing was cool and almost slippery.

I kept those attributes in mind when I set out to make some quilts for our favorite non-profit organization, Plenitud PR.  They do workshops in sustainable living practices, organic gardening, rainwater management, and much more. Although the temperature is always around 70 to 85 degrees F, some of the workshop participants would appreciate sleeping with a light blanket.

I used cotton flannel remnants for the quilt tops. Remnants are usually what is left over on the bolt of fabric after most of the yardage has been sold. They are typically less than a yard in length, and packaged as remnants and sold at less than the usual price. At JoAnn Fabric, they are normally 1/2 the regular price, and sometimes go on sale for even less. Some cheaply made cotton flannel is wound onto the bolt so that the fabric grain is skewed. I always wash lengths of cotton flannel before cutting, then make sure the cut edges are straight, by cutting a little notch near the cut edge and ripping the fabric along the straight grain until I reach the end of the cut edge. Sometimes I have to cut and rip more than once to be able to rip straight to the other edge.

For these blankets, I embroidered plenitud.pr on the lower front. Now that I have looked up the web site, I see that it is Plenitud PR (without the ., but technically it is now PlenitudPR.org. Placement of the dot can be crucially important in our high-tech world). But since it is just a blanket now, and currently has no power to connect to the Internet (now, but how about in the future?) I will leave as is.

machine embroidery hoop jennyskip
hooping the fabric for machine embroidery

The backing is extra-wide cotton, made for the special purpose of backing quilts, so that it doesn’t have to be pieced. I spotted these bolts of extra-wide material at JoAnn’s, and was able to find several that only had a small amount left on the bolt. Another $core: I was given the “end of bolt” discount price for the yardage. The backings were cut just a few inches larger than the quilt tops, so that the larger edges could be folded over and stitched down for binding the edges. I used several of the machine’s designated quilting stitches for channel-quilting the tops to the backings, and for top-stitching the bound edges. Some of the stitches I wasn’t so happy with. For all the stitching, I used the walking foot, AKA Interchangeable dual-feed foot with the zig-zag attachment. I used the automatic stitching setting so I wouldn’t be cramming my foot on the pedal for a long time, but the tension and stitching looks very uneven on some of them. It’s not the prettiest stitching I’ve ever seen but ripping it out at this point seems unsustainable….

For historical information about quilting in the tropics from older generations, Hart Cottage Quilts site is fascinating to read.