Vintage View: Applique Beauties


There were just a few applique quilts amongst those on display at Living History Farms the weekend before last.  But they were all full-size, detailed hand applique, and worth taking the time to show you… even if you never make a hand applique quilt yourself!

This one was a simple, two-color quilt, roughly Queen size, in ivory and a dull brown (they probably would have called the color “drab” at the time it was made–which is very close to what many of us would describe it as today):


I think the label called it a “Rose of Sharon” variation, but if it is, it’s a very simplified variation.  I think it resembles more closely a poinsettia applique pattern I have seen before.  Any thoughts on that?

This is close to the applique butterfly quilt my Mom made just a few years ago, but this is made with 30s solids and feedsacks.  Each butterfly is blanket-stitched by hand in a darker shade of embroidery floss, that coordinates with the fabric of that butterfly:

It looks like it is just a top (or a flimsy), but it was quilted, without batting and therefore referred to as a summer coverlet/quilt.

This one is an older example of applique using chintz fabrics (c. 1850).  The brown spots are from moisture staining over the years, and the fact that they believe this quilt has never been washed.  A quilt collects dry soil (dust, etc.) over time and when exposed to small amounts of moisture (humidity, etc) the dust/soil leaves a rust-like mark.  There were at least nine of these large applique “bouquet” motifs, and this was the least stained example I could find to photograph.

As you can see, some of the fabric petals have disintegrated or been worn away, but it is still a gorgeous example of chintz quilting!

I hope you enjoyed seeing these vintage examples, and that they inspire your modern quilting!  If you have a museum or library, etc., in your “neck of the woods” that displays vintage quilts from time to time, I’d highly recommend making the effort to go see them.  Just admiring the hand work from a century ago is worthwhile, and it always pays to support our cultural institutions by utilizing them.

Do you do applique projects at all?

If so, do you hand-applique, or only by machine?



Vintage View: Pretty Patchwork


I’m not sure when the Trip Around the World quilt pattern first came into being, but back in the day, the squares were pieced individually, often times hand-pieced.

I remember, when I was small, my mom had one laid out on our basement floor (the pieces were all clothing scraps, of 1960s-1970s double-knits–it lives with my sister today).  She had it laid out and carefully pinned, and as she tells the story, on more than one occasion, my little brother and I went down to the basement to play and would shuffle our feet across/through her quilt top, so she had to start again laying it all out.  Hearsay?  Could be, I only remember the pieces and the pins, I don’t recall the mischief making I allegedly partook in.

This one (from the quilt show we went to the first weekend in October) is amazing, the prints make a flawless watercolor blend of color and pattern…

Today, we would make this using a rotary cutter and a strip piecing technique, not individually cut squares (cut with a template and  a scissors!) and aside from making sure you were piecing rows together without flipping them the wrong direction, it would go together rather quickly.  Not these vintage beauties… just imagine the time and attention to detail these quilt makers employed!  Here is another one, very similar coloration; check out the edge and the binding:


And one that incorporates a rectangular piece rather than a square:

And I’ve always admired this variation, very much like Katy’s QAL in 2010:

The fabrics in this quilt are to die for, I could have gawked at it for an hour or two:


Have you ever made a Trip Around the World (or a variation)?

Is this a quilt pattern that is on your Bucket List?





Vintage View: The Ties That Bind


Last Sunday, my sweetie and I visited Living History Farms, a living history site that includes a recreated, fictional 1875 town, Walnut Hill, Iowa, a 1700 Iowa Indian Farm, an 1850 Pioneer Farm, and a 1900 Farm, built on the original Flynn estate (the Flynn Mansion and Barn are the two structures original to the site).

My favorite building is the Tangen House, a more modest home than the mansion:

There is a wonderful ladies parlor, with an old Howe treadle sewing machine and other handwork tools and samples:

Our reason for visiting was to see the annual display of quilts from the museum collection. (I’ve written about this quilt show in previous years, here and here.) This year’s show was entitled The Ties That Bind.

This quilt is a reproduction, made by museum volunteers, displayed on the bed in the Tangen House:

Does anyone know the name of that block pattern? Linda identified the block from Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia, Tonganoxie Nine Patch, and here is a link to a tutorial on how to make it.

The bulk of the quilt show takes place in the Church of the Land, which was built to commemorate the spot Pope John Paul II said Mass from on October 4, 1979, during his visit to Iowa:

The museum has 360 vintage quilts in the collection; every October they bring approximately 30 of the quilts out to display in the church… on wooden framework, amidst the rearranged pews:

The lighting inside the church makes it difficult to take good photos at times, but I still have some nice shots of vintage beauties to share with you.  I’ll spread this out into more than one post, but today I’ll share three crazy quilts with you that were on display last weekend.

This first one was made entirely of wool scraps (from well-worn clothing, I presume):

(The white rectangle is a label pinned to the quilt for the exhibit).  The seams of this quilt are covered in a wide variety of embroidered crazy quilt stitches, using several different colors of thread/floss.  A true crazy quilt.

The second one was more organized, in what we might call a “wonky log cabin” today:

Made almost entirely from scraps of velvet clothing and upholstery fabric, it is “crazy” in the sense that the “logs” are often made up of scraps pieced together randomly, the lack of true uniformity in the log cabin (the maker intentionally made her log cabin blocks uneven), and of course the decorative, colored, embroidery stitches that cover nearly every seam.  This is one I would have liked to take more photos of, but the lighting simply wasn’t adequate.

The real Crazy Quilt gem is this silk, satin, and velvet crazy quilt with very detailed hand embroidered motifs, dated 1886 in the bottom left quilt block:

The central block is a wildflower motif on tan/brown velvet fabric:

The block you can see just to the left of that center block is an ornately stitched spider web block, using metallic threads on satin and silk fabrics, complete with a sequin spider:

The embroidery on this quilt is a beautiful example of the maker’s handwork skills:

I’ll be back soon to share the pieced and appliqué quilts with you!

What do you think of crazy quilts?  Are you a fan, or not so much?

Vintage View: Lone Star

This is the quilt I slept under Saturday night, at my future MIL’s home. It’s a beautiful 1930s Lone Star Quilt, made by her Auntie Bea and a group of quilting friends in River Falls, Wisconsin. It is in shades of yellow, goldenrod, tangerine and mocha solids, with floral prints alternating every other row.
It’s in amazing condition, I suspect it has been stored more than it has been used over the last 80 years. At my coaxing, when she first showed it to me over a year ago, she took it out of the box and has it proudly displayed on her guest room bed now. It’s beauty cannot be enjoyed when it’s wrapped in tissue in a box, and since this bedroom doesn’t get any direct sunlight, it’s a safe place to display the quilt.The Lone Star quilt is one of the most recognizable, and oldest American quilt patterns. It’s also one of the hardest to master, especially at the time when this one was made, before rotary cutters, plexiglas templates and rulers, or Accu-cut machines. This would have been made with a hand-drawn and hand cut paper or cardboard template, each diamond-shaped piece individually traced onto fabric and cut out with a scissors. Getting precise points, intersections, and seams like this one has, would have been difficult, if not nearly impossible. The makers of this quilt, Auntie Bea and her friends, were obviously skilled and experienced quilters. It appears to have been machine pieced, but hand quilted. Maybe someday I can take it outdoors and get some better pics of it.
I’m not sure what it measures, but that is a full-size (double) bed in the photo. It is a very large star, and the star is the entire design, as the quilt has no borders on it. Just guessing, it is probably 90″ square. You can read more about the history of this quilt pattern here.

Vintage View: Scrappy Stars

I like to show the vintage pieces in my collection on occasion. Today it is a bright, cheerful, and well-used quilt that came my way last year…isn’t it fun, in a sort of “summertime fresh”, unsymmetrical, fun sort of way? I love that it’s very much a “make do with what you have” type of design, some of the blocks match on all eight outer quadrants, but some don’t.

It’s like she just thought, “well I don’t have enough of the red floral to finish this block…oh well, I’ll just use this brown calico square instead.” Utility reigned over beauty in this creation.

But the scrappy-ness of it is beautiful in it’s own right, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, the utilitarian work of this quilt nearly took it’s life completely… Who knows how many times it was washed in lye soap and hung in the sun to dry? Only the quilt knows, and it shows, right down to the batting…

I also acquired a fun little collection of vintage wooden spools over the last few weeks:

The two items at the far left were in the box as well, an almost three-inch diameter Bakelite button, and a wooden darning gourd. My sweetie has gotten really good at spotting vintage sewing supplies, machines and notions when perusing antique shops and flea markets.

I love this one with the kitty-cat motif on it:

And don’t you wish you could buy 3 yards of SILK embroidery thread for a nickel?

I’ve added them to my canning jar of wood spools, wood needle cases and clothespins.

I have many more vintage buttons than this, they just aren’t shown here! The Ball jar on the right holds wool beads I purchased from Handbehg Felts. They make a bright, fun quilt studio decoration, until I get around to using them…

Do you have vintage sewing or domestic goodies in your home?

Vintage View–WWYD?

…..what would you do?  Let’s assume this unfinished quilt (top only) was made by one of your now deceased aunts.  She made many quilt tops over the years, even quilted a few, and this log cabin is the one your mother gifted to you, the others went to your siblings and cousins.  

It’s big, King size, about 92 x 110 inches, beautifully laid out, made up of cotton, cotton blends, seersucker, and various other clothing scraps from the first half of the 20th Century.

It would be nice to have it quilted, but there’s a problem.  Auntie worked with fabrics of various weight and stretch, and occasionally she had to “ease” fabric in to get her logs to the correct length.  As a result, there is a pleat or a pucker or two here and there…some tiny, some significant…

The edges of the quilt top aren’t very straight as a result…

Quilting it on a home machine would be a major headache just for the sheer size of the quilt, not to mention the fact that is isn’t flat and straight…

So, what would you do?
a)  Leave it as is, and store it in a drawer or closet?
b)  Tie quilt it with floss, like many were originally finished like in that era?
c)  Attempt to hand quilt a very ripply top?
d) any other ideas….?
It’s not mine, but I agreed to look it over for a friend and give them advice and possibly a quote for finishing it off for her.  I’m really somewhat stumped, so any thoughts you can give me are very much welcome and appreciated!