Thursday, February 23, 2012

Folky 70s Cheater Fabric

70s cheater fabric, found on eBay
Here's something different- 1970s cheater fabric. I found this piece recently on eBay, roughly four yards of it, and I love the patriotic combination of denim and bandana print. There are tulips, apples, butterflies, and LeMoyne stars.

The fabric also has patches of striped, polka-dotted, and small scale print including several squares of red bandana print. I thought it would be an interesting piece of ephemera to accompany the 70s quilts I've been collecting, but I haven't yet found a quilt made with this fabric.

The fabric reminds me of how young people in the 70s would patch worn out denim jeans with bandana fabric. Those were the good ol' days!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Honor and a Gift

1970s polyester top, finished in 2012
It had been several months since I'd been able to attend a board meeting at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, but I made it over to yesterday's 9am meeting. It was great to see everyone, and the new library is looking great. During the meeting, I was presented with a Life Membership to Latimer as thanks for a donation from my family last year. It was very humbling to receive such a great honor. Thank you, Latimer!

The quilt has a nice variety of textured double-knit polyester fabrics
After the meeting, I was speaking with one of the newer board members, Rhoda DeGiovanni, about a polyester quilt top someone in the guild had found. The top was recently finished by members of the guild, and Rhode brought it in so we could look at it. I shared observations about the similarities between the quilt and the ones I'd found, and commented about how nice a job the Tillamook County Quilters had done finishing it.

The finish was very much in keeping with what I'd expect to see on a quilt from the 70s. It had simple, chunky binding rolled from back to front, soft fabric on the back, and was tied very simply with one tie in the center of each square.

Love the label on the back!
There was also a label on the back with two cows eating grass and the message, "Made with love by the Tillamook County Quilter's Guild." I thanked Rhoda for sharing the quilt with me, and that's when she said I could have it. Of course, I was blown away and very grateful. This quilt is really a "time-span" quilt, started at one time and finished many years later. As such, it's a great example of how to finish a quilt using a perfectly chosen period style. Well done, Tillamook County Quilters, and thank you!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pressed Penny Collection

I started my first Penny Passport over ten years ago and completed it today
Collectors tend to specialize, but we don't always limit ourselves to collecting one thing. I collect quilts, but I have several other little collections. One of those is my Penny Passport full of pressed pennies from all across the U.S.

From Honolulu, 2002
I started collecting flattened pennies over ten years ago, when I stumbled across my first penny machine. A few years later, I'd acquired a few others and learned there was a Penny Passport sleeve available for storing the pressed pennies. Each penny is embossed with a design commemorating the place where the penny machine is located.

Today, I completed my first Penny Passport when I got eight pennies from the Tillamook Creamery. My little collection now includes pressed pennies from Hawaii, Detroit, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Diego, Seattle and Oregon.

From Las Vegas, 2006
Time to get a new Penny Passport. I've discovered a web site with a list of all the penny machines. It's called Penny Collector. Check it out at

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Flea Market Find

1970s Hexagons made of double-knit polyester
My friend Mary Kanski from the Northwest Quilters called to tell me about a quilt she'd seen at the Tigard Flea Market. It was a double-knit polyester quilt made with many small hexagons, and it was on sale for half price! So I went to the flea market today, and here's what I found.

Detail photo taken with a flash
It's a wonderful double-knit polyester hexagon quilt with an overall concentric diamond pattern. Wow! The man who was selling it looked a little like Santa Claus. I asked if he knew anything about it, and he'd gotten it at a garage sale here in Oregon. He thought it was from the 1970s because the material was the same as that from the clothing of the time.

Binding is rolled from back to front
I don't think there's a single quilt maker today who would dare make a quilt like this out of double-knit. It's such a stretchy material, and working with it must've been difficult. There is a single line of quilting along the inside edge of each row, giving the quilt a three-dimensional effect. Again, wow! What a great find! Thank you, Mary!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Eight Very Old Quilts

Applique Crib Quilt, c. 1820, Pennsylvania
The recent arrival of the whole cloth quilt from New England got me thinking about the other very old quilts in my collection. There are less than ten quilts in my collection that I think of as very old, and they all represent specific points in American quilt history. So, I thought I'd put them together in a blog and let others see them all in one place. When I say "very old" I'm thinking before 1840 or 1850. Domestic fabric production grew dramatically in the 1840s, which led to a larger number of quilts being made. Surviving examples made before that are most rare.

My first very old quilt is an applique crib quilt, made in Pennsylvania around 1820. It was a gift from my parents more than ten years ago when I moved into my first house. They gave it to me for Christmas. Of course, when I opened the box, I was speechless. This wonderful little quilt includes walnut-dyed fabric with remnants of glaze on the surface. When my parents purchased it, the quilt was said to be Amish, but I haven't been able to verify that theory. It's not at all what we think of when we hear the term Amish quilt, but it is solid fabric and geometric, so who knows!

Economy Block, c. 1810, New England
Some time around 2006, I acquired a wonderful, wool Economy Block quilt, made around 1810 in New England. One of the interesting things about it is the top fabric. The term "linsey-woolsey" is often used to describe early American wool fabrics, but a lot of those fabrics are all wool, rather than linen warp and woolen weft. This quilt hasn't gone to the lab for examination yet, but I have a feeling the top fabric may have a linen component. If so, we could truly call it linsey-woolsey. This quilt also has a home-loomed twill tape binding, green on one side and red on the other three sides, and a woven backing. A tiny cross-stitch inscription appears on one block. 

Sunburst Diamonds, c. 1830s or 1840s, New England
A couple years later, I picked up a Sunburst Diamonds quilt, made in New England, and a Russian Sunflower or Star Medallion crib quilt from Tennessee. The Sunburst Diamonds quilt was made in the 1830s or early 1840s, and the crib quilt was made in the 1840s or 50s. Both are all cotton. The Sunburst includes some great early fabrics with small-scale prints that are slightly out of register when printed in multiple colors. The crib quilt is a rescue quilt, in poor condition, but in my opinion it's design makes it an enduring masterpiece. 

Crib Quilt, c. 1840s or 1850s, Tennessee
UPDATE 3/12: My friend Siobhan Fergurson from Georgia is recreating this crib quilt, and is posting progress reports on her blog, Scraps and Threadtales. She's doing an amazing job with the quilt, so check it out!
Star Medallion, c. 1800, Rhode Island
Just last March, I acquired a Star Medallion four-poster quilt made around 1800 in Rhode Island. It is a very early example of a pieced quilt, and includes glazed "Calamanco" wools and lush, decorative quilting. Research has been a little challenging because so few of these early pieced wool quilts still exist, and a majority of those are in museums and private collections. Later in the year, I added a cotton Robbing Peter to Pay Paul or Orange Peel, made around 1830 in New England, and a whole cloth chintz quilt with beautiful, decorative quilting and a loomed twill tape binding.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul, c. 1830, New England
Whole Cloth Chintz, c. 1820, Eastern United States
Whole Cloth Quilt, c. 1800 (or earlier), New England
That brings us up to the present, and if you've been following my blog you may have read about the whole cloth quilt from New England I won at auction from Pook & Pook in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Similar to the Economy Block, the whole cloth quilt is made of a course, scratchy wool with natural dyes. But unlike the Economy Block, I think this one may be all wool. The fibers look consistent throughout, and you can see it in close-up photos. Some of the characteristics of this quilt, such as elements in the quilting design, materials, and finishing, make me think it could have been made a little earlier than 1800.

It is very rare to see anything like any of these quilts here in Oregon, which was still a territory when all these quilts were made. Here in Portland, anything made before 1900 is very old - and I rarely see quilts made before 1930. The antique shops have a lot of vintage, but not many things what I'd consider bona fide antique, 100 years old or older. It's fun to have a growing group of these quilts, demonstrating a variety of techniques and materials, which were all important traditions in early American quilt making.

Do you have any quilts made before the 1840s or 1850s? What makes them unique? Please comment!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Details of New (Very Old) Quilt

This detail, taken from reverse side, shows the quilting in the center
Here are some more photos of the New England wool quilt. It's just fascinating. Make sure to click the pictures to enlarge - you won't see this type of thing every day. The quilting was done with a sturdy red wool thread, and it really jumps out on the light colored backing. The row of heart clusters that runs down the center of the quilt from top to bottom, is wrapped in wavy feather vines and filled with fine parallel line quilting.

Whole Cloth Quilt, front view
Outside the center row, each heart has two paisley shapes quilted within
The parallel line fill is something I've seen in calamanco and other whole cloth wool quilts throughout the period from 1760 to 1800, but it seems most evident in the quilts dating from the 1780s. Several of those examples are the deep blue glazed calamanco whole cloth quilts.

There are streaks in this panel, possibly from the original dyeing
The color is unusual, and likely to be one of the natural vegetable dyes used throughout New England. Originally, it was probably closer to a brick red, as seen on the rolled binding on the reverse.

Detail view of the corner binding, rolled from front to back

Depending on the light, the quilt can look rich and coppery, reddish brown, or lighter, like tanned rawhide. Other details include some old repairs, a couple spots that could be bleach, and a few small holes exposing wool batting on the inside.

Wool batting (left) peeks out from the inside
There are signs of age, some fading, a few nips in the binding, small holes here and there - but I wouldn't say this quilt has condition issues. It's in very good condition. It just happens to be more than 200 years old. It's not easy to study the genre because there are so few of these quilts out there, mostly in museums. I'm glad to have the quilt. We just don't see things like it in Oregon very often. 

Hope you enjoyed the detail photos. Don't forget to click to enlarge!!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New (Very Old) Quilt

Whole Cloth Quilt, unknown maker, c. 1790, New England
Look what just arrived! Recently I discovered Live Auctioneers, a web site that facilitates live internet bidding on auctions taking place across the country. This quilt was part of a decorative arts auction held at Pook & Pook in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was made in New England over 220 years ago, and is all wool.

The early American whole cloth quilting tradition has its roots in the western European traditions, particularly the whole cloth quilts made in Great Britain and France. Many of these quilts are made with a glazed "calamanco" wool, most often seen in deep blue. This quilt is an earthy reddish brown color and is made of a worsted wool material that is sometimes called linsey-woolsey. I was pleasantly surprised by the color. The picture accompanying the auction didn't show how rich the color is in person.

Lush, decorative quilting is what makes this quilt sing. The four-pointed star shapes running down the center are made of hearts - click the picture to enlarge it - and the quilt is covered with wavy feather vines, paisley shapes that resemble hearts and butterflies, and elegant parallel line fill.

You can't imagine how pleased I was when I opened the box and saw how great it is. It's always a little risky bidding on things you can't see first in person, but I had a good feeling about this one. To see another interesting early example of a whole cloth quilt, check out my February Quilt of the Month.