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?


  1. Good questions about the Amish. Yes, they did make quilts using pastel colors. During the last half of the 20th century they were making more quilts to sell in the tourist shops in PA, OH, IN.Janneken Smucker and Rebecca Haarer would be good resources to consult for more details.
    The binding is probably another good place to be exploring. I don't come from hands-on making of quilts or have as much interest in the "technical" side of a quilts construction. It is fascinating and fun to listen to the makers speak from that side of the equation.
    My real interest these days, particularly these mid to the end of the 20th century quilts is their place and relationship to the art movements during the time in which they were made.
    Roderick Kiracofe

  2. There seems to be a relationship between these quilts and the art of time. I think it has something to do with mass media and pop culture, too. The television generation certainly seems to have its own sense of color...or is it technicolor?

  3. Just another observation on the binding...the corners seem rounded rather that mitered. Generally I've only seen that on quilts made prior to the 1950's.

  4. When did mitred corners first start to become widely used? The 60s? 80s?

  5. My own gut feeling says 80s, it just has a feel for that colour combination. That's when cottons were more available again. (could it even be poly cotton?)
    How wide are the logs? They seem fairly wide for an earlier quilt... (again only a gut feeling)
    I forgot to say how much I like it.

  6. Have you put it under black light yet? If it's newer it will glow. (but modern detergents will also make it glow, though with splotches)

  7. Sally- the strips are 1 & 1/4-inch wide, and something tells me 80s, too. I think it's the number of different colors, all solid. Wasn't the selection much more limited in the 40s or 50s?

    Nancy- haven't tried a black light. Will have to get one and give it a try.

  8. Complicating the question of when were fabrics available is that fabrics can be held over from one decade to another before they're used in a quilt. The pink isn't one I recall seeing in the 70s - that was a more vibrant, hot pink than pastel. That purple, though, is almost exactly what my grandmother was using in the early 70s.

    It looks nicely done. What a pretty quilt to have to ponder over! =)

  9. The lavender color is the predominant one which may prove its availability as yard goods at the time. My wild guess is 1980s. Just a first impression.