Sunday, October 23, 2011

Four 70s Crib Quilts

Alphabet quilt made with cotton print fabrics
Yes, they made crib quilts in the 1970s! And just like the full-sized quilts, many are tied comforts made of double-knit polyester. Here are some pictures of the quilts I've found recently.

"Baby Girl" quilt made of double-knit polyester
"Baby Boy" quilt made of double-knit polyester
"Silly Goose" quilt, a log cabin variation made of cottons

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More 70s Quilts!

Bicentennial quilt made of knit fabrics, from Texas
More 70s quilts arrived on my doorstep during the last couple days, and I've been trying to get pictures, etc. I've got about 20 of them right now, and need about 40 for an exhibit, so I'd say things are coming along nicely. A storyline is beginning to surface, just as it did when I started putting together New York Beauties earlier this year.

Suburban 70s spin on the traditional Schoolhouse pattern
When considering all the things that happened during the 70s, the quilts of that decade make a lot more sense. It was a transitional time for quilters and for Americans - and you can see it in the quilts. Colors were bold, traditional patterns were streamlined and simplified, and the level of needlework was very basic.

A 70s "Trip Around the World" quilt
The 70s quilts are often dismissed by serious collectors and historians because of their humble nature and somewhat less-than-desirable choice of materials - such as double-knit polyester - but based on the responses I'm seeing on Facebook, it seems the world is ready to embrace these quilts. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Two 70s Pinwheel Quilts

A second 70's Pinwheel quilt arrived yesterday (pictured above). The other one (pictured below) came a week or two ago, and it's interesting to see the two together. One is very colorful, bright, and is dominated by solid fabrics. Its blocks are smaller, which created more pinwheels and a greater sense of motion. The other one is much darker with larger blocks, and comes to life with some wonderful print fabrics.

In a way, the one with the smaller blocks and bright colors is easier to understand. It's happy, and the combination of colors suggests a birthday party. The other quilt has a much more unexpected combination of colors and fabrics, mixing turquoise, brown, black, plaid and floral print. The row of smaller blocks at the top is also unexpected and adds an element of quirkiness.

So, I can't pick a favorite. I like both, for different reasons. Same basic quilt, two entirely different visions. The quilts compliment and enhance each other, and I can picture them hanging together.

Do you have a favorite?

Which one?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When was this quilt made?

Solid fabrics are usually more difficult to date than print fabrics, so dating a quilt with all solids is not as straightforward as it may seem. The seller of this quilt said it was made in the 1940s or 1950s, but I'm not so sure. To my eye, it just doesn't have that vibe.

Maybe it's just my idea of the era that doesn't fit - World War II, then Happy Days, poodle skirts, cars with huge tail fins, drive-ins - but based on the quilts and other objects I've seen, I'm not sure people used color this way in the 40s and 50s. Several of the colors seem like 30s, but certain colors seem like anything but that.

"When was this quilt made?" I think I'll need to ask some other questions to arrive at a reasonable answer.

When were these solid color fabrics all available at the same time? There's a wide variety of solids including pastels and bold colors, and the way the colors are juxtaposed suggests Esprit de Corps, Benetton, and even Miami Vice. Could it be a 70s or 80s quilt?

When did the quilt world adopt bias grain binding? The binding on this quilt is straight grain, which suggests the quilt wasn't exactly finished yesterday. At the same time, the binding is about 1/2" wide, which doesn't seem too 70s. So, is the quilt younger or older than that?

Does the quilt have any tell-tale signs of age? Patina? No. Yellowing? No. Stains, fabric deterioration, or fading? No. Mint condition? Yes, pretty much!

More questions: Is it Amish? It came from Ohio, but most Amish quilts were made with solid fabrics in deeper, richer colors. What kind of quilts were the Amish making in the 50s through the 80s? Did they use pastel-colored fabrics? If so, did they use pastels during a certain period?

Facebook friend and noted author Roderick Kiracofe replied to my query about the quilt in the "Quilts- Vintage and Antique" group and said, "As you know, solid colors are more difficult to date. I believe in a wide age range, 25 to 50 year ranges on many of these mid to end of the 20th century examples. This is a good one."

I agree, but still wonder. The binding may be a clue, but the biggest clue still seems to be the way color was used. Can a color scheme betray the date of a quilt made entirely of solids? My gut feeling says it's a 70s or 80s quilt...but I may just call it a mid-to-late 20th century quilt to be safe.

What do you think?

Monday, October 3, 2011


1970s tied quilt, all double-knit polyester
I've been finding a lot of wonderful 1970s double-knit polyester quilts lately, and there are some trends I'm noticing. Common threads, if you will. Many of these quilts are actually tied, and some only have two layers and no batting. Quilts in the 70s were not necessarily three layers and quilted, but if there was piecework and applique involved, it was generally seen as a quilt.

1970s Butterfly quilt, tied and 100% double-knit polyester
Many of these works, including the three in this blog post, are simply finished. Two are tied, and one is quilted. These three quilts have white backgrounds with all-over designs and a highly simplified sense of craft. The colors include a limited use of primary color combined with strong use of pastels and other non-primary colors.

Technically, there is a lot of push-pull with the use of color in these three quilts. Strong colors jump to the foreground. Muted colors fade into the background. In the first quilt, a structured pattern with strong red and yellow jumps out from a less organized, more muted background.

These quilts were made during a time when Pop Art was part of American culture. The Pop Art method of creating spacial relationships with basic use of color was certainly part of the artist's vocabulary, but these wonderfully upbeat quilts show how the language of color had infiltrated the mainstream. As they would've said in the 70s, "Cool."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cultural Artifacts: The Spirit of '76

I was ten years old and living in North Caldwell, New Jersey in 1976, when the Bicentennial captured the imagination of Americans. It was a very patriotic time, and the expression of patriotism aptly reflected the moment. The 70s brand of patriotism was highly commercialized. Its aesthetic was romanticized and often over-processed looking. Today, many of the cultural artifacts of the American Bicentennial seem rather kitschy. That's what I love about the whole thing.

This 1976 art quilt came from Texas...another great find on eBay. As soon as I saw it, I bought it on the spot. It was totally unique - unlike anything I'd seen - but I soon realized it was directly connected to something I had tucked away in a cupboard. It was a memory half-forgotten, but still existed because of an object from the past.

In 1976, I was a student at the Gould Elementary School. We had a wonderful art teacher. Wish I could remember her name... One day, she got the class to make colonial figures in the spirit of the Bicentennial. I chose Benjamin Franklin. My Ben Franklin figure was made with a glass bottle body and a styrofoam ball head. It was covered with moistened plaster of Paris bandage tape, and painted and embellished when dry. I used tempera paint, felt, acrylic yarn for hair, a piece of lace for the ruffle, and white twine for the kite string. The kite was made out of construction paper, but fell off and disappeared long ago.

When I look at the "Founding Father" art quilt, I am struck by the use of lace, the same way I had used lace on my figure. I am also struck by the similarities in the simplistic rendering of the faces. These are two naive, folk art objects, one childlike, and the other playful in its clever choice of fabrics.

These cultural artifacts of the American Bicentennial show just how thoroughly the colonial and arts and crafts revivals had captured the imagination of Americans in 1976. Children, artists, quiltmakers - ordinary people - expressed patriotism - each in his or her own way. The images may seem primitive, but they are unique, authentic, and have somehow survived the test of time.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Two Fabulous 70s Quilts

Cathedral Windows with a jaw-dropping 1368 windows
In the midst of all these quilts I've been finding on eBay lately, two amazing 1970s quilts arrived. The first is a remarkable Cathedral Windows, and the other is a 100% double-knit polyester Butterfly quilt. Both quilts are wonderfully multicolored on white, and both include intriguing color combinations seen in the 70s.

Colorful, kitschy Butterfly quilt, all double-knit

The Butterfly quilt is 100% double-knit polyester tied with yarn. The yarn ties are amusing because they remind me of caterpillars. On the back is an inscription in red embroidery thread- "Holly From Grandma Orel" and the date 1979.

The Cathedral Windows quilt has a jaw-dropping 1368 windows featuring a multitude of fabrics, many selectively or "fussy" cut. There are butterflies. sea creatures, fish, novelty prints, mod designs, and even the Liberty Bell. The quilt has large prairie points around the edge, adding movement and flair to an already mind-boggling quilt. On the back is a label that says "Made Especially for You by Blanche Halsten" and the date 1970.

What other incredible treasures have I found on eBay this month? Stay tuned...