Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rare Example of a Popular Pattern

My collection doesn't contain a lot of Depression era quilts. In general, I've had a tendency to think of these quilts as rather common. Most examples are not old enough to be considered bona fide antiques, and the colors are usually a little soft for my taste. Over the years I've seen thousands of Double Wedding Rings, Grandmother's Flower Gardens, Dresden Plates and Sunbonnet Sues, all very popular Depression era patterns, for sale on eBay. But since I look for unusual quilts with bold colors, I usually scroll past all the Depression quilts. "Seen one, seen 'em all," I thought.

I'm happy to admit I was wrong about that. To rely on the old idiom, no matter how big the barrel of milk, the cream always rises to the top. There may be a gazillion Depression era quilts in America, but the massive popularity also produced rare, elevated, masterpiece examples. Among Depression era quilts, the pattern I've always enjoyed most is the Double Wedding Ring. The popularity of the pattern intrigues me, considering the difficulty involved with piecing curved seams.

Most of the time, Double Wedding Rings are made with scrappy, pastel colored print fabrics on white. Every so often, though, I'll see one with made with a solid color background. Usually, I see butter yellow, Nile green, or lavender. Very rarely, I've seen a few with a blue background.

This wonderful Double Wedding Ring quilt was offered to me by a lovely lady named Ann Krueger, who had been present for my December talk at the Northwest Quilters meeting. Ann e-mailed me because she had two quilts a friend had asked her to sell, and she wanted to know if I was interested. I asked her to bring them to the next meeting, and when I arrived late, she'd already found someone who was interested in one of the quilts. The quilt that was still available was this Double Wedding Ring with a light cornflower or periwinkle blue background. It had immediate and great appeal to me.

So there it was, staring me in the face, the cream of the crop. I mentioned to Ann that I don't often buy Depression era quilts, but the quilt was a nice one and I'd consider buying it. She said she'd sell it for $100, and I agreed to buy it. We both felt it was worth more than $100, but her friend really just wanted it to have a new home. Last night, at the Northwest Quilters meeting I gave her the money, she gave me the quilt, and I returned home with a superb addition to my very small selection of Depression era quilts.

Late last night, I was curious about the rarity of the blue background, so I took a spin through the Quilt Index. There were dozens of Double Wedding Rings, mostly on white backgrounds. I saw a few of the yellow, green, and lavender background quilts, and just a handful with blue backgrounds. Of that group, it was interesting to note that most had the same type of scalloped edges, and a couple had the same Nile green and lavender four-patch on point cornerstones. One was an unfinished top. The one I'd just bought seemed to stand out among that group, too.

During a recent visit with Mary Bywater Cross, I asked Mary if she had any idea why such great quilts always seem to find me. We chuckled about it and called ourselves quilt magnets.

Speaking of magnetic forces, Mary Mashuta spoke at last night's Northwest Quilters meeting. Her presentation was wonderful! Later, during show and tell, I showed the MacMillan family quilt from the Kentucky Quilts book and plugged the Oregon Quilt Project documentation day at the upcoming Northwest Quilters show in March. I offered to stick around at the end of the meeting if anyone wanted to see the quilt up close. As soon as the meeting adjourned, Mary Mashuta jumped out of her seat and made a beeline to me. She seemed intrigued, having mentioned that she draws inspiration from old quilts. We talked briefly, and she asked if I would be interested in doing a presentation to her guild in the Bay Area. I said, "Sign me up!"


  1. That is a very nice example of a double wedding ring. I like the darker backgrounds as well. At a recent talk two members of the audience brought crib-size double wedding rings - one with a lavender background and the other with a pink background. The quilts were made by two different quilters but in the same town...makes you wonder doesn't it!

  2. After another fairly quick spin through the Quilt Index, I found roughly 10% out of over 1000 results with solid color backgrounds other than white. About 11 of those were some type of blue. Not at all a scientific or precise analysis, and it's sometimes very difficult to tell the true color from the pictures. Some of those pictures from the state documentation projects, in my opinion, should really be redone. White quilts often look blue, pink, yellow, green, etc. I think they'll be fairly happy when they get our pictures from Oregon.

  3. BTW, if the theory in my comment above holds water, approximately 1% of all Double Wedding Ring quilts would have a solid blue background - possibly even less than that. Roughly 1 in 100, that's pretty cool!