Pine Burr Class: Folded Fabric Fun
It’s not hard to find Pine Burr inspiration online. The quilt above is listed for sale at lstDibs with a price tag of $7500. It’s described as “exceptional African American pine burr quilt. All hand quilted and pieced. Found in Selma, Alabama. Fantastic color placement and design. These quilts were made with leftover fabric and clothing.”
The date is given as 1920s and the style is designated as folk art. It’s 60″ x 75″ which makes each block around 12″ square.
Two things piqued my interest in Pine Burr. One was the Bellevue Arts Museum’s exhibition “Bold Expressions: African American Quilts” of more than 50 pieces from the Corrine Riley Collection in the fall of 2012. The quilt above was part of the exhibit.
Around that same time a friend of mine in Lawrence, Kansas taught a hand-sewing class on how to make Pine Burr in the old-fashioned way she’d learned from the Gee’s Bend quilters. I adored the result but knew that if I didn’t turn Jean Ayres’s method into a machine technique I probably wouldn’t pursue it. The State of Alabama has similar instructions online—Pine Burr is their official state quilt.
After the class in Kansas, I went to work converting what I’d learned into a machine project. I made the block above as an example. A few years went by and after some practice, I decided it might be fun to teach Pine Burr to others. My students in Lincoln brought a wide variety of fabrics and even better, embraced the spirit of improvisation with gusto.
We learned two different ways to prepare the triangles and then we got to work. Judy, above, used an African fabric as her base.
Lori made one of my favorites that day. Her mom had been cleaning out fabric scraps from years of garment sewing, and called her quilter-daughter over to retrieve them. As Lori progressed on her Pine Burr, she kept remembering clothing that she’d worn in years (decades?) past. What fun.
Pine Burr can be slow going at first but as you become more comfortable with it, things speed up nicely. Aren’t the bright, clear colors above just lovely?
My friend Mary brought hundreds of prepared triangles ready to sew! We were all envious.
This is the first few rounds of Mary’s block.
Juanita brought a more scrappy mix of triangles and I love the result! This is another favorite of mine.
Gloria is used to sewing on an industrial-strength machine so she was the speed demon of the day. We all marveled at her efficiency.
Sara’s block was more three-dimensional than most. Her machine was performing beautifully so I think it was just a difference in how closely she spaced her triangles with maybe a bit of pressing variation. We all got the idea of filling up a round with a similar color (or a new one!) when there weren’t enough triangles to complete the circle. That’s what makes improvisation so interesting.
Chris pulled her colors from the Laurel Burch fabric she used as a base. Such strong contrast makes a bold statement.
Mary’s block, a little further along.
And this is the progress on Gloria’s piece. Gloria used fabrics she wasn’t especially fond of from her own stash and that of several friends who had downsized and shared their stashes with her.
Chris’s block, further along.
Lori’s block from vintage garment fabrics, moving right along. The base fabric was meant to be curtains once upon a time! I’d guess 60s or 70s. Dynamite.
Judy’s African-themed block takes shape—do you see how she didn’t have enough gold print to finish the outside round, so she chose something similar? It works beautifully.
You can cover the entire square base and bind it, sew it to others like it, or finish it as a circle and then applique it to a base block. Blocks can be joined with or without sashing. The variations are endless.
There’s a new book out called Whizz Bang! by Rachaeldaisy from Quilt Mania. It’s chock-full of ideas and inspiration for Pine Burr quilts and I highly recommend it. Ask for it at your local quilt shop or book store.
I’d love to teach Pine Burr techniques at your guild or store. Give me a call and Let’s Talk Quilts!