Quilts in the Privy | McCall’s Quilting Blog

Joan’s quilt

As I was thinking about this blog, Quilts in the Privy, I couldn’t help but remember the Cyndi Lauper song from the early 1980s; Girls Just Want to Have Fun. Sometimes I have to do things just because they are fun.

This started as a simple story but ended up with a remodel of the main bath in our home. I started making a project for our bathroom; a toilet paper roll cover and decided I didn’t like the color I’d have to make it to coordinate with the existing color in the bathroom … and as long as we had to paint, we might as well replace the vanity and tweak a couple of other things. All over just a little toilet paper roll cover. And toilet paper roll covers aren’t even really in style any more. How silly.

It all started when Elizabeth at Island Batik sent photos of quilts made by their ambassadors for the June challenge. They called the challenge Curvalicious. The Island Batik ambassadors are a talented bunch but one quilt in particular caught my eye. It was so unusual and just plain funny. The quiltmaker is Joan Kawano of Moose Stash Quilting.

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Pattern from Java House Quilts

Carolyn and Tricia and I laughed and laughed about this quilt. Don’t you just think it’s too fun?

And then I found the pattern at Java House Quilts. Guess who just “had” to make that quilt? I sent for the pattern. Click here if you’d like to make one too.

My family teases me saying there are quilts everywhere in my house with just two exceptions. There are no quilts in the kitchen because there is no available wall space away from the stove. And there was not a quilt in the main bathroom … yet.

Fast-forward a couple weeks and Tricia brought a book Lancaster County Privy Bags by Clarke Hess and the Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. According to the book, privy bags were made to hang in the outhouse with scrap paper in the pocket. The examples in the book are from the 1820s to the 1920s. Many of the privy bags are made with quilt blocks. Most are 20”-25” squares but a few are either smaller or larger and a few are rectangles. Some of the privy bags are big enough to put a whole Sears & Roebuck or Wards catalog in the pocket. For those of you who don’t know, before toilet paper people just used scrap paper, pages of an out-of-date catalog or an old newspaper.

Fast-forward another couple of weeks, and as I was searching for another book in our office library, I came across Toilet Roll Covers by Pat Ashforth & Steve Plummer, (Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd, 2007). The book is full of crocheted and knit toilet paper covers. By now, my brain was going full speed. I don’t crochet or knit, but I could make one or maybe several toilet paper covers that are quilted.

Just think of the fun I can have decorating my main bath with quilts. I had to give it a try.

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Pig Toilet Roll Cover

This cute pink pig was inspired by a project in the toilet roll cover book. In the book, it was a knit pig but I made a quilted pig. My only disappointment is that I couldn’t figure out a way to make a curly tail.

I measured the circumference of a giant roll of toilet paper. I quilted a rectangle and a circle and made a cylinder, attaching the pig’s nose and eyes to the top of the cylinder and stitching the ears in place when I sewed the top to the sides of the cylinder. I fashioned a drawstring closure and the pig goes on the back of the toilet on its side with the opening to the wall.

Now I know that toilet paper covers are pretty outdated. I haven’t seen one for years but I thought perhaps I could be a trendsetter and make them fashionable again. Or maybe not … but it’s still funny.

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Privy Bag

Then I finished this pretty piece of vintage embroidery for a privy bag. I inherited the contents of my mother-in-law’s sewing room and found it there. It was embroidered but that is all; the edges were unfinished and raveling.

I marked it and free-motion quilted it with feathers. The back is a giant pocket. I don’t think I can find a Sears and Roebuck catalogue but I’m prepared in case I do. The binding is blue striped fabric cut on the bias.

The final project was the toilet paper roll quilt from the Java House Quilts pattern.

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Toilet Paper Quilt

I traced the shapes on Steam-A-Seam 2, fused them to my fabrics and cut them out. I stitched the blocks, sashing and borders and then fused the toilet paper shapes in place. Then I assembled the quilt sandwich and stitched around the applique shapes with blanket stitching through all three layers so the blanket stitching is all the quilting I used on the applique shapes.

If you’d like to know more about fusible applique, check out my friend Sara Gallegos’ How to Applique video tutorial on QNNtv.com.

To quilt the background, I used my domestic machine and a 12-weight cream-colored thread so the quilting would show up nicely. The top three blocks are free-motion quilting. The bottom block and the borders are feed-dog driven quilting.

In the top block I stippled. The second block, I quilted with swirls.

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The Top Two Blocks

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The Bottom Two Blocks

In the third block, I used the circles that were printed on the background fabric as a guideline for the quilting. In the fourth block, I echo quilted.

When I echo quilt, I don’t mark. I use the edge of the foot as a guideline to stitch along the edge of the fabric or the previous row of stitching. I adjust the needle position to determine the spacing between the rows.

I’ll bet you are looking at the bottom block and saying, “That doesn’t look like echo quilting.” You’re right. When I got the quilt all done, I just didn’t like the amount of contrast in the bottom block. The background fabric was too busy and the roll of toilet paper just got lost.

So here’s a fun trick I tried. I went back, used the same 12-weight cream-colored thread and stitched a decorative stitch in between the rows of echo quilting. The decorative stitch is two rows of X’s. The extra stitches flattened the background, adding a bit of dimension to the block and the cream-colored 12-weight thread muted the colors in the background fabric so now the roll of toilet paper shows up nicely.

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It’s Almost Done

Now I have three fun pieces of quilted art in our bathroom and the walls are freshly painted. Our new vanity and the new shelves are in place. We’ve ordered shower doors and I’m really pleased.

Do you think if I propose a quilt for the master bathroom Bake (my husband) will get all uptight thinking about how much work he had to do to get the main bath ready for its new quilts?

One of the things that I’ve always worked hard at is making memories with our children and grandchildren. More often than not, a memory will be something strange I did or do. I’m thinking a quilted bathroom is a great start on a memory. Especially if I put a few scraps of paper in the privy bag.

Happy quilting!

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