Monday, May 16, 2016


This awesome 1950s quilt arrived recently, and it got me thinking about the vertical movement in several of the quilts and tops found in the last year. Here are some of the others.

I've decided it is not a coincidence to find all these pieces within the same year. Things really are looking up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

1950s Tumblers

This wonderful, scrappy, 1950s Tumblers quilt came from a seller in Carlsbad, California. In the description, she said,

"My grandmother lived in Ohio. I spent the summers visiting her. She was always sewing something and keeping all the scraps she had left over. When she had a enough extra material in her basket, she would sit down and fashion a quilt with the leftovers. The result was this beautiful, colorful piece of art. I cherish it, but now it is time to share it with you."

The quilt is tied, approximately 73" x 80" with a wide variety of fabrics, and it is backed with a pretty floral print fabric. The backing is brought to the front for binding on two edges, and the other two edges are finished with a "knife edge" or "pillow edge" finish.

I am very intrigued with the quilts of the 1950s right now, partly because I don't see them for sale often, but also because I recognize the mid-century design influences in today's quilts. We haven't heard much about the 1950s in quilt history circles until recently, when Roderick Kiracofe's book "Unconventional and Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950-2000" introduced the tradition of offbeat and improvisational quilts in the period. It is a wonderful book, and it is also the tip of the iceberg.

In the 1930s and 1940s, quiltmaking reached a height of popularity. In the 50s, fewer publications printed patterns, crafts catalogues had fewer quilt projects, the textile industry was beginning a big shift toward polyester production, and there was a sharp increase in mass-produced bedding such as chenille, hobnail and matelassé woven spreads. The increased production of reasonably priced, mass-produced bedding had everything to do with a strong economy in post WWII America, and it helps explain the decline in people making quilts.

I have a friend who buys and sells hundreds of these mass-produced bedspreads, and her knowledge of them is encyclopedic, so I asked her. She also observed a sharp increase in the mass-produced items around 1950, post WWII. I keep begging her to write a book on the subject. She guided me to vintage catalogues from Sears and other companies. I am eager to see more of these materials. They will help determine when the increase in mass-produced bedding occurred, and how it unfolded.

My other reason for being interested in the handmade quilts of the 1950s relates to vintage design and how it influences what people make today. Mid-century design informs the work of 21st century quiltmakers, but the 1950s period has not been thoroughly explored by historians. We don't have a complete picture of the quilts of the period, even though we are making quilts derivative of the period style. In my mind, that makes the 1950s a period ripe for exploration right now.

I sent a note to the seller of the Tumblers quilt, asking for more information about her grandmother. She replied, letting me know her daughter, who is an archivist, is gathering more information for me. Score! Usually when I request this type of information, people are pleased to share it. As a bonus, there may be another quilt available from the same maker. Talk about the beauty of reaching out. I will be sure to post an update when I have more details.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

more block printing

Yesterday I did some more block printing on fabric. I was having so much fun I wasn't even disturbed by the Guy Fieri Triple-D marathon airing three times in a row! This time I was working with a different design, inspired by tattoo art. It took a few tries to get it close to where I wanted.

it worked with the other plate, but not with this one
playing with the tools
it's a little rough, but I like it that way

It may be time to set up that space in my garage and print a larger piece. I like the idea of doing a block printed wholecloth quilt. The oldest quilt in my collection is a block printed blue resist wholecloth quilt from the American Revolutionary War period.