Saturday, December 31, 2016

Collecting Quilts: My 2016 Top Ten

Collecting was pretty good in 2016, so I thought it would be fun to share my Top Ten favorite new acquisitions of the year. Everyone loves a Top Ten Countdown, right? Quilts came from all across the United States, and they were made over a period of more than 150 years. The year was a real whirlwind, as the selection of quilts would suggest. 

Bars, cottons, unknown maker, Tennessee, c. 1950, 63" x 76"
When I was thinking about the 1950s earlier in the year, I found this minimalist gem on eBay. It came from a seller in Birchwood, Tennessee, and there's just something about it. The quilt has an intriguing combination of colors arranged symmetrically. I dig it.

Foundation Pieced String Quilt, velvets, unknown maker,
New Mexico, c. 1920, 70" x 71"
I do not have a lot of velvet quilts, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover this one. It came from an Etsy seller in New Mexico, and is one of those quilts that displays well and photographs beautifully. The sumptuous, multicolor velvets shimmer, and the clever composition of stripes creates a graphic optical illusion.

1970s polyester quilt, an amazing work of domestic folk art
When I first posted pictures of this quilt, people went nuts, and I can understand why. The quilt came from an eBay seller in Kentucky. Its colors are bright and the improvisational design is very appealing. The colorful ties and the print binding add an extra touch of whimsy to this amazing work of domestic folk art.

Fans, wools, unknown maker, Maine, c. 1900, 3" x 73"
Most of my quilts come from online auctions and sales, but I still love to leave the house every now and then. This quilt was hanging over a rail inside Cabot Mill Antiques, a large antiques co-op in Brunswick, Maine, near Mom's house. The price was reasonable, and it was in very good condition, so I took it home without a lot of thought. Later, when I photographed it, I was blown away by its incredible graphic appeal. A winner!

"Americana Quilt", cotton/polyester blend and embroidered patches,
Plum Grove Junior High School Quilt Club, Rolling Meadows, Illinois, 1976, 74" x 91"
I know a good thing when I see it, and this quilt is a good thing! It is a spectacular time capsule, a collection of embroidered patches and ink signatures, made in 1976 by the Plum Grove Junior High School Quilt Club in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. I honestly do not understand how anyone could ever sell something like this quilt, but if they're selling, I'm buying.

we can learn things from old quilts like this one
This quilt was not getting much respect folded up on a table in an antiques shop with other items piled on top of it. I had to ask for help to pull it out, otherwise the whole display could have toppled over. The quilt, a stunning mid-19th century four-block with urns and fanciful flowers, was in poor condition but it was a diamond in the rough. The designs were very unusual, and the quilting was especially well mapped. We can learn things from quilts like this, and it will be sooner than we think.

Love in a Tangle, polyester, Peggy Davis Harmon,
Marshall, North Carolina, c. 1970, 62" x 81"
When it comes to polyester double knit quilts from the 1970s, I'm getting picky. Right now, I have so many of these quilts it has to be really good or a terrific bargain to hold my attention. This kaleidoscopic masterpiece was both. It came from a seller in North Carolina, and I soon learned it was made by Peggy Davis Harmon, of Marshall, North Carolina. She was an interesting lady!

turn of the century modernism, a gift from Mom
I was chatting with Kaye England on Facebook one day, and she said she was selling quilts. She had a lot of really great ones, but this Streak of Lightning quilt really caught my eye. For a quilt that's 100 years old or older, it sure is modern looking! It was also an unusual example among Kaye's quilts, making it jump out even more when I saw it. Mom didn't know what to give me for Christmas, so I told her about the quilt. She loved the idea, especially because she and I spent a lot of time with Kaye in Nantes. Thank you Kaye and thank you Mom!

The Giant Dahlia Quilt, a Hubert ver Mehren design
Most of the time, I go for one-of-a-kind original quilts, but there are always exceptions to the rule. This impeccable Giant Dahlia Quilt came from Mark French, an Ohio quilt dealer who has a large, tantalizing eBay shop. The Giant Dahlia is a design by Hubert ver Mehren of Des Moines, and this example is as perfect as it could be. The maker followed the instructions to a "T", and the quilt is in superb condition. I see 1930s Giant Dahlias from time to time, but rarely are they this good.

Kalakoa, da kine I LOVE!
"Local style bodda you? Aznuts! Kalakoa, aloha nui loa!" If you have followed my blog in the last year, you know how much I love Hawaiian scrap quilts. In 2016, I introduced these quilts to the world. It is rare to stumble across such an indigenous, undocumented regional tradition. The scrap quilts found in Hawaii are nothing short of spectacular, and this example is monumental in scale. It is 91" x 107" and fabulous in every way. It was also an insane bargain. "Broke da eyes!"

So, that's my Top Ten for the year. Which ones are your favorites?


  1. #9 is definitely my favorite :) The giant dahlia is a close second....such a varied, wonderful 2016 top 10 list. Happy New Year!

  2. Great post to end the year!Such a lovely quilt collection!
    Wishing you a healthy, wonderful and creative 2017!

  3. 💙#5 , but they all have class and a presence. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Gotta go with #7, the way those wools sparkle!

  5. The artwork displayed in just your top ten acquisitions this year is just out of this world. So much talent, effort, and time here. My favorite is number 9- it is so bright and whimsical. Happy 2017!

  6. Each quilt is special. You are a courageous collector to acquire poly doubleknits -- is the Drunkard's Path in this post pieced or appliqued? (I'm trying to think how manipulatable that fabric would be.)

  7. love #8 the colorful poly improv quilt.

  8. As I went thru the list, they got better and better. I believe I like them just about how you like them. I think I need to make some quilts kinda like some of them...thanks for the inspiration.