Reunion with the Past: Vintage Quilts from Darra’s Collection

Stack of Vintage Quilts

This past weekend, I had occasion to pull out a dozen or so of my antique and vintage quilts for photography and thought it might be fun to share them with you. Keep in mind: this is strictly amateur stuff. No studio setting, primo lighting, or professional photographer. Just my husband and me with my point-and-shoot on a Sunday afternoon.

It was definitely the palette that attracted to me to this first one. They say that cheddar is an acquired taste. I guess I acquired it!

Checkerboard, 66" x 77", maker unknown, possibly Tennessee or Kentucky, circa 1875 - 1890
Checkerboard, 66″ x 77″, maker unknown, possibly Tennessee or Kentucky, circa 1875 – 1890

Next up is a classic pattern worked in the signature colors of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Can you spot where the pattern goes astray?

Drunkard's Path, 66" x 79", maker unknown, possibly Missouri, circa 1880 - 1900
Drunkard’s Path, 66″ x 79″, maker unknown, possibly Missouri, circa 1880 – 1900
Here's a detail so you can see the fabric.
Here’s a detail so you can see the fabric.

I’m a great fan of strippie-style quilts, and this one’s a charmer, with its combination the striped sashing, chintz-style fabric on the border, and bubble-gum (or double pink) fabric in the setting squares. I don’t have any specific info on where or when it was made, although I’m guessing mid- to late-19th century. I purchased it about 20 years ago at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival.

Four-Patch Strippie, 78" x 90", maker unknown.
Four-Patch Strippie, 78″ x 90″, maker unknown.

Clever quiltmaker here. Notice the consistent pinkish prints she (or he!) used in the double row of half-square triangles around the edges, creating the illusion of a border.

Broken Dishes, 74" x 72", maker unknown, Delaware, circa 1870 - 1890
Broken Dishes, 74″ x 72″, maker unknown, Delaware, circa 1870 – 1890

Orange and white are quite “on trend” these days, showing up often in Modern Quilts.  This vintage piece, in an eye-popping pattern, is summer weight; that is, no batting or other filler.

Spider Web, 68" x 82", maker unknown, circa 1925 - 1960
Spider Web, 68″ x 82″, maker unknown, circa 1925 – 1960

Nineteenth-century scrap quilts have been an unending source of inspiration for me throughout my quiltmaking journey. This one features a bright yellow-print border; bold use of yellow is a recurring characteristic of quilts originating with the German settlers of central Pennsylvania.

Thousand Pyramids, 72" x 76", maker unknown, Pennsylvania, circa 1880 - 1890
Thousand Pyramids, 72″ x 76″, maker unknown, Pennsylvania, circa 1880 – 1890
Don't you just love this mix of vintage prints?
Don’t you just love this mix of vintage prints?

The brick red and olive-y green of this next quilt make it a natural in our holiday decor. It’s the one quilt in my collection that is signed and dated, bearing witness to the fact that machine applique was already evident in the 19th-century. In contrast, the quilting is done entirely by hand.

Irish Chain with Applique, 86" x 84", made by EZC, 1884
Irish Chain with Applique, 86″ x 84″, made by EZC, 1884
Here's a closer look at that signature block in the lower corner.
Here’s a closer look at that signature block in the lower corner.

If I were forced to choose a favorite among the quilts in my collection, this next one would be high on the list. It features 720 half-square triangles, each cut from a different fabric. Yes, it’s a charm quilt! Some of the fabrics may look very similar, but on closer inspection, subtle differences appear. Notice how the quiltmaker used that wonderful border print on just three sides; no need to waste it where it wouldn’t be visible at the top of the bed.

Half-Square Triangle Charm, 80" x 78", maker unknown, Pennsylvania, circa 1876 - 1880
Half-Square Triangle Charm, 80″ x 78″, maker unknown, Pennsylvania, circa 1876 – 1880
This quilt is a virtual catalogue of print fabrics from the mid- to late-19th century.
This quilt is a virtual catalogue of print fabrics from the mid- to late-19th century.
The border is made from a type of fabric called a robe print, available from sources such as Montgomery Ward and Sears.
The border is made from a type of fabric called a robe print, available from sources such as Montgomery Ward and Sears.

As I examined this quilt more closely, I came across a print that appeared very similar to the commemorative fabrics I spotted while researching my President’s Day post this past February. Curious, I went back to the source, quilt historian Barbara Brackman, and she shared two wonderful posts (here and here) about this very same fabric. The version in my quilt is a reproduction produced for the US Centennial celebration in 1876, honoring President Andrew Jackson. Thank you, Barbara!

Detail of my late 19th-century charm quilt; this commemorative print featuring Andrew Jackson was reproduced for the US Centennial in 1876.
Detail of my late 19th-century charm quilt; this commemorative print featuring Andrew Jackson was reproduced for the US Centennial in 1876.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this spontaneous sampling of my antique and vintage quilt collection. ‘Til next time, happy stitching.Darra-signature

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9 thoughts on “Reunion with the Past: Vintage Quilts from Darra’s Collection

  1. Love viewing your collection. My favorite would be the drunken path quilt. Hmmmm, maybe I’ve been working the scrappy look too long and find the simple blue and white designs restful.

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  2. I loved your collection and never get tired of seeing the “Old Dears” ( what I call my vintage collection). Upon restoring them you can’t but not think of the time, thought and creativity of the woman who obviously invested herself in the work of art- an expression of herself.

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  3. They are wonderful quilts. I have been around quilts all my life. I never think of them as antiques. They were to be used to keep you warm, You say the Drunkards path looses its way- I was taught it was the fabric you had and the time that made it true as a Quilt. Beautiful collections.

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  4. Thank you! I love the 1000 Pyramids and the Half-Square Triangle quilts, with all their different fabrics, the best — though I would hate to have to choose a favorite! Isn’t it interesting how what we prize has changed? When these quilts were made, the scrappy and make-do were not their “special” quilts — now, having a quilt that’s “catalog” of fabrics of the era is just priceless!

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