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: 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.

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?