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Friday, August 12, 2016

The Storyteller's Quilt, Part #1

This was a joke I believe. I don't believe 
great grandpa lived to be 101!

My father is one of those rare people that can walk up to total strangers and within minutes, you'd swear you knew him forever. He has a great sense of humor and loves to laugh and make people laugh. It's genetic I think, or maybe an occupational hazard of farmers. There is always a good story to be told by someone! Growing up, I remember we used to go up to "The Green Nook" restaurant in Davison where all the old farmers would sit around and tell whoppers.


Great Grandpa Hill keeping everyone
enthralled with another story.

My great grandparents had a permanent seat at the table. They'd find out all the news of the day, who was doing what and generally have a great time.This area of the restaurant was a permanent fixture for this band of farmers and they'd all sit for hours. They called it the "Truth Table!" My great grandfather, whom my father gets much of his sense of humor, held court there with the rest of the old timers. There would be jokes, jabs and lots of fun.

A year ago, I had made all the women in my family individual quilts with a promise that the guys would have their turn. Well here is my father's quilt in production. I choose to do a "Hobo Quilt"  because I think it best represents the story teller my dad is. 

What's a hobo quilt? Well, when individuals lost everything, i.e. they were homeless, they would often ride the rails to a new town where they may be able to work for food or beg food if needs be. The age of hobos seems to  be from the 1880's through to the 1940's. The great depression saw many families traveling the rails due to financial troubles that had left them destitute so our common idea of a hobo is not quite accurate.

As it would be for anyone, when these people came into a new area, they were more than a
Google Images
little anxious of what they may find. Would the people be kind? Hateful? Would they sic the dogs on them? Would they be jailed? They could never be sure. So a picture "language" of sorts was developed. When a hobo was leaving a town, he or she would draw a small picture on a telephone or electric pole, maybe a mail box or some marking that another hobo would see. In that way, the next individual coming though may discover that this farmer would feed you if you worked for it or that that individual is an officer and may thrown you in jail. 

This quilt is built from all this picture language. The blocks are made in two different ways; applique and piecing. I have to say, I love the applique but I have a hard time calling it "patchwork" as there really isn't much to it with this method. But it is fast!

Applique with paper based fusible webbing.

I have so fallen in love with this method. It's so quick and easy! I got 17 blocks done in a two day period this way.

1. Using a hot iron without steam, cut a piece of paper based fusible webbing the same size as your applique. 

2. Iron the non paper side to the WRONG side of your fabric.

3. On the paper side, draw the applique image.

4. Cut out.

Symbol for "bread".

5. Peel back the paper and position on the background piece of fabric.


My grandmother was a sewer/sewist so this block for "woman"
is in her honor.

6. Iron down

7. Now all that is left is to sew it down. Its fused to the background fabric.

                                                         See, simple! 

Of course, this is not going to hold down the pieces once it goes through the wash so the next step is to actually do some stitching. This plus the actual quilting will make sure all the appliqued blocks stay in place. As this quilt has a definite time period, namely around the 1930's, I choose to mimic the style of the time and do a blanket stitch.

A blanket stitch can be done very quickly and provides a certain hand stitched feel that is unique to quilts of this time period. For reasons I've yet to find anywhere, the women of the time typically used black thread around their applique and you see this on quite a few depression era quilts. Maybe the black thread was salvaged from the feedsacks that they often used. My mother has several of my great grandmother's quilts she made during the depression and you can see that many of the fabrics were obviously feedsack material. It may surprise you to know that feedsack material was actually available right up to the 1970's!   

To Create the Blanket Stitch

1. To create the blanket stitch, come up from the underside of your piece (I do knot it) just outside of your applique. With a backstitch type motion, grab a part of your applique and come up right on the outside edge of the piece.

2. Holding down the thread as you pull to keep it from knotting, draw the thread until almost tightened and as your loop gets smaller, insert your needle through the loop and draw the thread. It's very easy to create a knot doing it this way so you will want to really control your thread.


3. Tighten it down and continue to work around your piece.


 This is essentially how I made most of the blocks although a few of them were pieced. 
As I often suggest, when you look at a pattern see if you can create it differently. Many of these block patterns had you individually piece each section when it was easier to strip piece them. Some of them directed you to piece them when it was far easier to applique them.   

Come back next week for part #2. My goal is to finish this up this weekend and we'll reveal the finished quilt (sans quilting) next week if we keep our fingers crossed!  


  1. What an interesting idea for a quilt, Stacey! I remember reading about the hobo signs long ago, but had forgotten about them until now. I can't wait to see how it ends up! Whoop whoop!!

  2. Those are amazing instructions. This is a nice idea. Thanks for sharing at What'd You Do This Weekend.


  3. Love the stories about your granddad and the quilt idea!! Very clever! Thank you for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth! :) I hope you have had a nice summer!

  4. I think someone got the storyteller gene! Great story about your great grandparents. I can just see that table of old timers in a corner of a restaurant.

    1. Thanks Bonnie! Great Grandpa was quite a character and there were many times we'd stop at the "Green Nook" and hear all the old timers tell their whoppers! And Archie comics... always remembered the Archie comics by the register! Great memories!

  5. ok what a great idea! Cannot wait to see more! Thanks for joining the linky party!

  6. Such an interesting story behind your quilt. Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home.