Category Archives: vintage quilts

Charmed, I’m Sure

Third time’s the charm, they say. It took trips to three local quilt shops before I found the perfect print for the outer border on the reproduction ’30s quilt top I bought at my quilt guild’s recent silent auction:

The delicate floral print is from the “Aunt Grace Basket of Scraps” line designed by Judie Rothermel for Marcus Fabrics. It’s shown with one of two blocks in the quilt (out of 30) that have a similar colorway. This is the other one:

I brought the quilt top with me so I could audition border fabrics with it in hand. One thing I noticed right away is that reproduction prints in quilt shops now have whiter backgrounds. When this top was pieced 20 years ago or so, the prints were creamier. I’m confident the border fabric will work well, though.

After choosing the border fabric, I strolled around the shop looking for a vintage-y print that would work on the back. I found some lovely ones but none that had that ’30s vibe. Guess what I came back to. Yep — I bought enough of the border fabric to make a backing. I actually bought the rest of the bolt — almost 10 yards — thinking I might want to make a pair of pillowcases to go with the quilt.

As a reminder, here’s a look at the entire top (I’ll add lavender strips to the sides to complete the narrow first border):

Each of the 30 blocks was made with a different print. Most of the prints are floral but several represent characters and scenes from children’s storybooks (think Humpty Dumpty and Little Bo Peep) and a couple prints are of kittens chasing balls of yarn. You know I like to name my quilts. I’m thinking of calling this one Vintage Vignettes.

 

 

 

Posted in cats, roll-it-up pillowcases, update, vintage quilts | 8 Comments

A Perfect Match

In my post the other day about this quilt top (by an unknown maker) that I bought recently at my guild’s annual auction, I lamented that I would never be able to match the solid lavender sashing fabric that was missing from the sides of the quilt top. I was wrong but you’ll never guess the reason why.

The same day that I posted the photo of the quilt top and explained how I acquired it, I heard from the quiltmaker herself — and it turned out to be Vivienne Moore, who also happens to be a good friend of mine! Vivienne follows my blog and immediately recognized the quilt top. It turns out that she is also good friends with two of my Metropolitan Patchwork Society guildmates who organized the auction. Viv was cleaning out her sewing room earlier this year so she donated a few bags of fabric and tops for the auction. She lives 50 miles away so I would never have predicted she would be the maker.

But wait, there’s more. Vivienne was pretty sure she had a piece of that lavender sashing fabric in her stash. And she did! Yesterday’s mail brought a remnant of the fabric large enough to cut sashing strips for the sides. A perfect match, of course. I’ll have to work around a few fade lines to piece the sashing strips but that’s easily done.

Vivienne told me she made the quilt top over 20 years ago. She remembers that the lavender fabric was from a line of solids produced about 30 years ago by one of the manufacturers of 1930s reproduction fabrics.  The solids were pink, green, yellow, blue and lavender, and were supposed to be authentic to the time period.

Viv isn’t sure why she didn’t finish the quilt but thinks it may be that her interest in pastels and ’30s reproduction fabrics had waned by the time she neared the end of piecing it. In addition, she was doing all of her quilting by hand at that point and probably didn’t want to invest the time to finish the quilt in that manner.

“I still can’t quite believe that this quilt ended up in your hands,” she told me, “but I’m so happy it did!”

There’s yet another coincidence. The photo I posted the other day was taken in my living room and in the background you can see a small quilt draped over the chair:

That too was made by Vivienne Moore! It’s a miniature Feathered Star measuring 33″ square. Vivienne gave it to me as a gift in 2011. At the time we were both in the same small quilt group, the Quisters (short for Quilt Sisters). It was our group’s custom to give each other birthday gifts, usually something quilty or crafty that we had made. I had no idea I was taking a photo last week of two quilts made by the same person.

Here’s a close-up of the Feathered Star quilt, showcasing more of Vivienne’s exquisite work:

Each star block is only 6½” square. And those little green feathers? A mere one-half inch each.

As far as the auction quilt goes, the search is on to find a suitable ‘30s reproduction print for an outer border so I can finish the top and get it quilted. With a wide border added to the quilt, it will easily fit a double or queen-size bed.

It tickles me to know that when this quilt is complete, my friend’s name will be on the label along with mine.

 

 

 

Posted in Metropolitan Patchwork Society, quilt labels, Quisters (Quilt Sisters), update, vintage quilts | 13 Comments

I Couldn’t Resist

My quilt guild held its annual auction last week, selling over 200 items. My goodness, I’ve never seen such an array of generously bundled fabrics along with books, patterns, sewing notions, vintage linens, and even a Singer Featherweight machine. And what did I come home with? This beautifully pieced quilt top:

We all know the last thing I need is another quilt top when I have so many of my own begging to be finished, but friends, I could not resist. The final bid was $20 — an absolute steal. Truth be told, I would have paid more but the top didn’t seem to be drawing a lot of interest. Was it because I was hovering in the background willing my guildmates to keep passing it by? I also lingered nearby (inconspicuously, I hope) as the auction drew to a close, making sure no one could squeeze in at the last minute to outbid me.

I have no idea how old this top is or who made it. Judging by the looks of it, the fabrics are 1930s reproductions rather than vintage pieces. What struck me as I unfolded it to get a better look was how beautifully it was pieced. The quiltmaker sewed consistent quarter-inch seams . . .

. . . and every single point on the front is perfect as a result:

 

That makes my little wannabe perfectionist heart go pitty-pat. It also argues for the top being more recent. My guess is that the quiltmaker used a rotary cutter and made very accurate cuts before piecing the top so accurately.

I hadn’t seen that block design before but it seemed to be a variation on the Shoofly block. I did a little research from the best source of all: Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. Looking in the index under Shoofly, it didn’t take long to find the block, which has several names. It’s known as Richmond, Aunt Vina’s Favorite, Pin Wheel, Butterfly, and Lucy’s Four and Nine:

Brackman notes that the earliest publication she has seen for the pattern is Hearth & Home magazine about 1915 under the name Richmond.

The quiltmaker used a 5 x 6 setting, separating the blocks with 2″-wide sashing. The blocks finish at 10½” square, which seems a bit unusual to me. Right now the top measures 61″ wide by 77½” long. But here’s something a bit odd:  there’s a border strip of the lavender lattice fabric on the top and bottom of the quilt top but not on the sides. Look back at the first photo to see what I mean. Could the quilt have been abandoned because the maker didn’t have enough of the lavender fabric to complete the border?

I’ll never be able to find the exact shade of lavender to add side borders. What are my options? Well, I could add side borders with a reasonably close match to the original lavender but in my heart of hearts I know that’s not going to happen. I could remove the top and bottom borders and find a different fabric — perhaps a reproduction print containing many of the colors in the quilt top — to border the blocks. Or I could cut down the lavender fabric on the top and bottom borders and make borders for the sides with what is cut off. Then I could add a larger border of print fabric. Just an idea — but I’m leaning in that direction.

What would you do?

 

 

 

Posted in Metropolitan Patchwork Society, update, vintage quilts | 19 Comments

Happy Mail #2

It started with this:

Isn’t that a pretty teapot? The pattern is called English Scenery. It was made by Enoch Wood and Sons, one of the many Staffordshire potteries in the United Kingdom. This teapot probably dates to the middle of the last century. At one point, about 25 years ago, I thought I might start a collection. Ultimately I decided not to — because I was already collecting English Scenery in the blue and white version! I have almost a full set and use it every day.

Now I’m in the process of paring down (yes, Marie Kondo had something to do with that). My pink and white teapot was among the items I was prepared to part with. I was getting ready to donate it to charity when I thought of Jera Brandvik.

Jera is a quilter, author, and fabric designer living in Seattle with her husband and two darling boys. (Her website is Quilting in the Rain.) I follow Jera on Instagram, where I occasionally catch glimpses of pink and white transferware in photos of her lovely home. It occurred to me that Jera might like to have this teapot. I asked her and she said “yes!” immediately.

As we corresponded via email, Jera asked me if I had her books. No, I replied, though I’ve been on the lookout for them. It seems that the quilt shops I’ve visited in the last couple of years don’t carry many books. Although I sent my teapot to Jera without expecting anything in return, a few days later look what arrived in the mail:

Not just one but both of her books! She even inscribed them to me — such a thoughtful touch. I have been thoroughly enjoying reading through the books and have decided that I really need to give Quilt-As-You-Go techniques a try now that I have these great resources.

Thank you, Jera! I hope you enjoy your teapot as much as I enjoy my books.

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, update, vintage quilts | 5 Comments

“It’s a Puzzlement!”

yul brynnerIf you are a lover of musical theater, you’ll recognize that line from The King and I, the stage musical and movie based on the experiences of Anna Leonowens, a young British widow who spent five years in Siam (now Thailand) in the 1860s teaching English language and culture to the wives and children of the king.

“It’s a puzzlement!” the king repeatedly exclaims, as he struggles to understand western ways.

I know how he feels. That phrase has been on my mind since my eagerly awaited copy of Dahlia Quilts and Projects arrived in the mail a few days ago. You’ll know from my last two posts that I ordered this book after swooning over my niece’s vintage star quilt during a visit to her home in Alabama over Thanksgiving.

As a reminder, here is a picture of one of the blocks . . .

floral star block 7

. . . and a picture of the entire quilt:

floral star quilt-001
I asked readers for help in determining the origin of the design and quickly learned that my mystery quilt is known as a Star Dahlia. One reader even provided a link to the book, published in 1995, which appears to be the only book available on star dahlia quilts.

Apparently if I lived in Pennsylvania instead of Oregon I would have been able to identify the block readily. Cheryl Benner and Rachel T. Pellman, authors of Dahlia Quilts and Projects, say the pattern has been a favorite of Lancaster County PA quilters for many years. The authors refer to the block as the Dahlia.

“The Dahlia pattern,” they write, “is based on a traditional geometric eight-point star, but it takes a distinct diversion from tradition by adding curved, puffy, gathered petals and a round center. These variations on the basic geometric design make the assembly of the patch more difficult. The compensation for that extra effort, however, is a stunning quilt in three dimensions.” The authors go on to say that their directions for making the blocks were written after consulting with several Lancaster County quilters who are competent makers of Dahlia quilts.

The book contains 10 projects, with many pages of templates and hand-drawn illustrations on how to stitch the components of the block together (by hand, please note). Here’s a look inside the book:

instrux in dahlia book
So — the source of my puzzlement? It is this: after reviewing all of the projects and measuring the templates for each project, the logic behind the authors’ “variations on a basic geometric design” continues to elude me.

At first glance the block looks like a basic 9-patch, made up of nine equally sized squares. Not so! There are two sizes of blocks used in the book. The measurements for the larger one call for the four corner squares to finish at 4⅜”. The middle section of the block appears to finish at 6⅛”, making the block’s finished size 14⅞”. Okay, that’s pretty close to 15″, although the instructions don’t state a finished size.

The measurements for the smaller block call for the four corner blocks to finish at 2½”. The middle section appears to finish at 3⅝”. That would produce a block that finishes at 8⅝”. Is your head starting to hurt, too? I’m one of those quilters who enjoys the challenge of figuring out the math involved but I’m not so sure about this one.

The only way I’m going to solve this “puzzlement” is to make a block — to cut out pieces according to the templates and actually put a sample block together. It will also help to dig out my protractor to determine the angle of the star points.

How I wish I could drop everything and attend to this right now! Alas, it will have to wait. Christmas is four short days away. I still have presents to buy and wrap, and the Dear Husband’s stocking is waiting to be filled. I should be dreaming of sugarplum fairies and dancing nutcrackers over the next few days but I have a feeling my head will be filled with dahlia petals and star points.

 

 

 

Posted in family, update, vintage quilts | 6 Comments

Mystery Solved

floral star block 2-001
This block is one of 30 12-inch blocks in a lovely 66″ x 82″ vintage quilt I had the pleasure of examining recently at the home of my niece in Alabama. I wasn’t familiar with the block and published this post a few days ago asking if any of my readers could identify it. Within hours I had my answer. More correctly, I had my answers (as in plural).

It turns out this block goes by a few different names. Thanks to Bill Volckening, who suggested Barbara Brackman’s 1993 book Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns as a source, I learned the names of two possible candidates: Star Dahlia and Kansas Sunflower. A quick search on my computer — ah, the power of the Internet! — was all it took to confirm that the block I asked about is indeed called Star Dahlia aka Amish Dahlia Star and also simply Dahlia. The Kansas Sunflower block is very similar, as is another block identified as Missouri Daisy.

Dahlia Quilts and Projects book coverA reader named Anne told me about a book called Dahlia Quilts and Projects by Cheryl Benner and Rachel T. Pellman that contains several patterns using the Star Dahlia block. Anne even provided a link on amazon.com, which I immediately checked. Needless to say, I promptly ordered the book. I can’t wait till it arrives in my mailbox!

A shout-out to readers Arden, Bill, Anne, and Kimberly for offering suggestions and helping solve the mystery of this beautiful block.

It’s on my “to do” list for 2016!

 

 

 

Posted in family, update, vintage quilts | 1 Comment

A Beautiful Mystery

Have you ever seen a block like this before?

floral star block 1-001
It’s one of 30 blocks in this vintage quilt:

floral star quilt-001
The quilt belongs to Rexalee, my niece by marriage. It came to her after her mother died over a decade ago but Rexalee doesn’t know who made it. It may have belonged to her great aunt or her grandfather’s second wife, both of whom died in the 1970s. It was probably made in Michigan. Other than that, its provenance is a mystery. A beautiful mystery.

My husband and I just got back from a wonderful visit with Rexalee, her husband, and their extended family. The quilt was hanging on a quilt rack in the guest room of their new home on Dauphin Island, Alabama. I had an opportunity to examine the quilt in detail and photograph it in natural light.

Except for the binding, which was attached by machine, the entire quilt was pieced and quilted by hand. At first I thought the petals and center of each flower were appliquéd on top of an already pieced eight-pointed star, but no: the petals and stars were joined with seams. The inner edges of the petals (where they meet the circle in the center of the flower) were gathered and, to my surprise, so were the inner edges of the star points. Unusual, no?

Here’s a close-up:

floral star block center detail
Judging by the fabrics, I’m guessing this quilt was made in the 1930s, possibly 1940s. Each of the stars is made of a different print, with the petals and center of each flower made of solids. Although the round circles in the center of each block come in a variety of colors, the petals are either yellow or orange, unifying this very scrappy quilt.

The floral prints in the star fabric are fabulous! Some have a very modern vibe. Take a look:

floral star block 7-001

floral star block 2-001

floral star block 4-001

floral star block 5-001

floral star block 8-001

floral star block 9-001

floral star block 6-001
And here’s a bit of a rogue block: a lively check instead of a floral print:

floral star block 3-001
Actually, there’s another rogue block:

floral star quilt rogue block

Did the quiltmaker run out of fabric or did she add a star point of a different fabric to make the quilt less than perfect? Even the petals look like they were made from two fabrics.

The finished size of 66″ x 82″ is another oddity. The blocks are 12″ finished. The side borders are 3″ while the top and bottom borders are 5″. Was this a conscious decision on the part of the quiltmaker or did she simply not have enough fabric on hand to make borders of equal size? (No quick trips to the nearest local quilt shop for her.)

You can see from the next photo that the batting is very thin. When I held it up to the light I could see dark flecks in the cotton batting. They could be bits of leaf or boll (the husk around the cotton blossom).

floral star quilt draped-001

I wish now I had taken pictures of every single block. The fabrics are so interesting, and I see something new with every viewing.

floral star quilt folded-001

One thing’s for sure: I want to duplicate this block. I’ll puzzle it out on my own unless there’s a pattern out there somewhere.

Can anyone help solve this beautiful mystery?

 

 

 

Posted in family, update, vintage quilts | 31 Comments

Something Old, Something New

2015-08-11 17.35.48
A friend of a friend is downsizing, looking to sell some of the quilts she inherited years ago and no longer has room to store. She is not a quilter, but her mother, grandmother, and greatgrandmother made quilts and also picked them up at garage sales and antique stores. She is keeping the ones that are near and dear to her but has dozens of quilts and coverlets that she is willing to part with. And they are, as the saying goes, priced to sell.

Now, I am not a quilt collector but something about this situation compelled me to take a trip across town last week to look at the quilts. I fell in love with the very first one I saw. That’s the one you see above, my “something old, something new.”

Isn’t it a beauty? It measures 86″ square, making it queen size. Except for some stains, it’s in perfect condition. It’s hand pieced and appliquéd, machine pieced, and hand quilted. The blocks are 11″ square, with a feathered wreath quilted in the plain blocks and outline quilting and leaves in the basket blocks. The borders are quilted in a cable design.

Sadly, we don’t know who made this quilt. My guess is that it was made in the 1930s or 40s, possibly the 50s, perhaps from a kit. The embroidery and appliqué are expertly done, and the quilting is uniform, about eight stitches to the inch. The edges are scalloped and bound with bias binding.

This may be my favorite block:

blueberry basket

But oh, look at this one:

berry basket

And this one:

fruit basket
And this one:

2015-08-11 19.44.49
Do you suppose the fruits pictured below are pomegranates? I love the  pink and purple embroidery at the tops of the fruit:

pomegranate basket
Each of the 25 basket blocks is filled with fruit. Bananas and pears and apples. Lemons and limes and grapes. Even some fruits I don’t quite recognize. Each basket “filled” by an expert needleworker who clearly loved her craft.

I am so happy and grateful that this vintage quilt has come into my possession. I promise to love, honor, and obey — oh wait, wrong vow. I promise to love and honor this quilt for the rest of my days, as a tribute to the maker and to quiltmakers all over the world who create treasured keepsakes with needle and thread, putting love and care into every single stitch.

 

 

 

Posted in update, vintage quilts | 11 Comments