Vintage View: Pieces of the Past


I’ve always had a thing for vintage quilts, even when the color or style doesn’t really appeal to me, I appreciate them for the stories they can tell about the time period they were made, and the technique used to make them.  Just like an old house or building; “if these quilts could talk…”

I’ve heard some of today’s modern quilters (self-proclaimed Modern Quilters) make the statement that they don’t care for vintage quilts, or that vintage quilts lack creativity, etc.  To me, those statements seem narrow-minded.  Our modern quilting, or contemporary quiltmaking, wouldn’t be what it is without the patchwork quilts of the past, the innovation of new block designs spread across the nation and world through newspaper features and mail-order, and the individual re-interpretation over the years of these same designs.

Two color quilts?  Very common in vintage quilts.  Solids?  Yep, especially white and off-white.  This blue and white quilt has 256 8-pointed stars.  11 of them are pieced using 8 diamonds, Lemoyne Star style.  The other 245 stars are made using v-shaped, or chevron shaped pieces with y-seam settings.  (You might be able to see the two different methods if you click on and enlarge this photo:)

These English paper-pieced diamond blocks use some of the most contemporary and fun looking fabrics!  It’s a wonderful quilt; I could see this being made in 2012 and posted to a modern quilt group on flickr, couldn’t you?

See, fun fabrics–this quilt had novelty critters, florals, geometrics, text fabric, solids…

And Grandmother’s flower garden, all the modern EPP hexies we see on blogs and flickr… well, it first appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book (a journal) in January 1935.  How cool is it that this design has lasted the test of time and is still considered creative, clever, fun, and worth making!?!

Of course, I don’t know too many Modern Quilters, myself included, that would take the time to finish the binding like this quilter did:

The fussy cut fabrics in this quilt are extremely well done:

Now, I’m not suggesting as a quilter that you have to like every quilt you see.  Lord knows, I don’t.  But acknowledging that many of our contemporary quilts are reincarnations of past designs and styles, and giving a nod to the history of our craft, doesn’t make our creations any less creative, any less “modern”, or any less.  Period.


5 thoughts on “Vintage View: Pieces of the Past

  1. Amen! I haven’t been quilting very long. I thought i was a “modern” quilter. Those were the patterns i was drawn to, but after making a few quilts, i wasn’t feeling the excitement about them. Then, last June, i made a Civil War quilt for my husband. Yes, it took a lot longer, but i loved the process and the finished quilt. i guess i am a traditional quilter after all…but heres the thing. Traditional quilts look great with modern fabrics. Its the best of both worlds. Thanks for your post!

  2. I agree. Those quilters are the ones who came before us. I don’t think either way (traditional vs modern) is superior, but history should be respected.

  3. I agree with you and Jo, too. I post traditional blocks to the Modern Quilt Guild page on Flickr all the time. They’re made with modern fabrics–that’s what makes them modern. I have seen modern quilts and traditional quilts made with modern fabrics. I prefer the latter hands down every time. There’s room for all of us.

  4. To me the very best thing is just the crazy fabrics in the old quilts. They do tell a story. It was suzy’s old dress, the feedsacks, an old pillowcase…the fabric had a whole life before it even became a quilt. Nothing usually matches and yet it all works because of GREAT PATTERN! I love patterns so that’s why I just love love old quilts. The modern fabrics are very pretty but sometimes we get dependent on the matchiness of it all and we lose our fearlessness or willingness to try to pick the fabrics ourselves. I also think people can rely on the fabric to carry a quilt and neglect pattern or details. Looking at old quilts helps me figure out what makes a quilt timeless and keeps it from becoming dated…these are things I try to keep in mind when making my own quilts. Neglected the past is ignorant on all levels. Thanks for the link, good read!

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