Thursday, November 15, 2012

Vintage Quilt Analysis: Scrappy 1960s

This quilt came home with me from the thrift shop.  I paid all of $8 for it.  It was only after I got it home and took a close look at it that I realized why it attracted me.  It is not an especially lovely or aesthetically pleasing quilt.

The flying geese on the left are another quilt layered beneath this one.
I "know" this quilt on a very deep level, although it's maker and history are completely unknown to me.

I can place it in time to "The Sixties", using Tom Wolfe's definition that the decade that we think of as the Sixties took place from 1965 to 1975.  I know.  I was there.

In the Sixties, the only people who were still quilting were old ladies who had taken it up in the Twenties or Thirties.  My great aunt Bessie, for instance, who made lovely traditional applique quilts.

This quilt has all the hallmarks of a quilt made BEFORE the great quilting revival that began after the American Bicentennial.  Made by someone who was not trained in any quilting tradition.  Someone who could sew, and who had seen quilts, possibly crazy quilts, but who had no idea how to go about it.

Is it pieced?  Is it appliqued?  Yes.  It does have a basic block structure, and piecing happened, but when the quilter ran into a problem she simply sewed patches down on top of other patches.  

There is no attempt at a color scheme.  She used whatever she had of the leftovers from garment and home dec sewing.

It is competently quilted in a thick black thread and in the pattern known as "Baptist Fan". 

So, why do I feel that I know this quilt and understand the quiltmaker?  Because I made a very similar quilt in 1971, before I knew anything at all about quilting.

The inspiration was this quilt, made by Shelley Cook in 1970 and given to me when my son was born.  It's receiving-blanket-size.  She pieced it and then machine quilted it down on top of pre-quilted fabric.

It doesn't have the crazy-quilt piecing/appliqueing of the quilt above, but it does use the same type of mix of garment and home dec fabrics.

I liked it very much and copied the idea to make this quilt, which is about half a crib-sized quilt.   Similar fabric mix to Shelley's quilt, and even today 40 years later I could tell you what dresses, shirts, curtains, and tapestry handbags were the the origins of the scraps that made this quilt.

These two quilts were treasured for years and later became our "sit-upons" for visits to the lake at Hueston Woods, OH.

This was mostly pieced, but if you look very closely you can find at least one spot where it ventured into appliqued patches.

The problem-solving-through-applique approach can be seen much better in the first quilt I made, but before I really learned anything about quilting.  Georgia Bonesteel was on public TV by this time, and I used a quilt-as-you-go technique, building each block on a base of batting and muslin.  I could not stand the thought of all that hand-sewing of the seam allowances on the back of the quilt, so the seam allowances are on the front and covered with ribbon.  I had scored a large spool of ribbon at a thrift shop.

The circles are from a decades-later repair.  I really like them and now wish I had put even more on there.

Here's the story that goes with this quilt.
This was the very first bed sized quilt that I ever made.  I had the idea for it for a long time and hoarded thrift shop garments in velvets and sparkly fabrics and cut them up.  Many of these fabrics were not good choices for a quilt, but I didn't know any better then.  I did know that "real" crazy quilts had lots of embroidery on them but I had no patience for that. 

My daughters were very young at the time--I  think Emily was 3 or 4 years old.   When the quilt was finished she looked at it with very big eyes and said "Is that for ME?"  I was absolutely delighted that she reacted that way and so it WAS for her.  We called it her princess quilt.

This story always embarrasses her because she thinks it means that she was greedy and acquisitive at that young age.  At least I think that is why it embarrasses her.  The funny part of that is that she is not, and never has been, the least bit greedy or acquisitive.

For my part, absolutely nothing could have thrilled me more than the fact that my daughter instantaneously fell in love with the very first quilt I ever made.  And that's why I keep telling this story.


  1. I love your quilts! I would have bought that quilt too! I bought a couple of "ugly" quilts at a yard sale that I absolutely love!

    1. I try NOT to buy them.but sometimes I just can't help myself!

  2. I started cutting fabrics for a quilt when I was in college. I wish I knew what happened to those fabric pieces. I didn't have a clue what I was doing, but, I didn't care. I love to bring home 'stray' quilts like that. I even have one made from old suits in the basement. It weighs a TON.

    1. Save it for the zombie apocalypse. We will need warm things then.


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