Old Quilts Are Perennials

I help photograph old clothing and quilts/coverlets for my county historical society, which is a joy to do as I love old textiles. Because of that volunteer work I’m starting to appreciate what can happen to textiles over the years. Dyes fade, silk shatters, stitches come apart, body oils leave marks, and old stains seem to get more pronounced.

So it was a treat to see old quilts in not so bad condition and some even in excellent condition at a local town’s senior center sponsored quilt show. A highlight was a trunk show talk on dating and preserving quilts by Carole Wooten, who is a collector of antique and vintage quilts.

I learned not to use bleach (any kind) on old quilts or wash them (vacuum them using a piece of fiberglass screen), to refold them once a month and store them flat if possible, to wrap them in clean cotton sheets, and to sew netting over fragile quilts to hold the pieces in place.

Here are some quilts in Carole’s collection. She seems to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time – at least for buying old quilts.

Wedding quilt never used This quilt which may have been a wedding gift was never used. It has beautiful fern quilting.

Rose of SharonThis rose of sharon quilt has quirky flowers at lower right and upper left. Was this a design decision or lack of time or fabric?

mourning quiltCarole said this quilt was a mourning quilt, which explains the subdued colors.

Ocean WavesYou can see the wear in some red triangles on this Ocean Waves quilt. It’s a lovely pattern that’s a bugger to make. I did learn that a bias edge binding will wear longer because the edge has all different threads rather than one thread across that can fray or break more easily. A bias binding also has more give.

Here are other quilts on display at the show. Most were vintage.

silk tie crazy quilt 7This is a detail from a silk tie crazy quilt that gave me oodles of ideas for big stitch embroidery. The silk was in great shape. You can see the fabric contents tag on one of the ties.

P1040820I love the colors in this exuberant appliqued quilt.

1950s and 1960s fabricThis quilt dated 1960 (and isn’t it great that the maker and date are so prominent) is a grab bag of fifties and earlier fabric.

dresden plateThis Dresden Plate was tagged as 1930s-40s era. It’s certainly pre rotary cutter as you can see from the variations in the spokes’ widths. I like the casual color placement.

To cap off the show, I won two raffle items – a framed photo of boats and a handwoven rug. That’s my good luck for the decade. My other bit of luck for the day was having a friend take photos of the talk and show. Thanks.


Filed under Quilt Shows

2 responses to “Old Quilts Are Perennials

  1. It’s such fun to see so many beautiful old quilts! Don’t you wish they could talk and tell us where they’ve been and why they were made?

    • A few of the quilts, like the one made of ties, had a history written up. But yes, it is important to write down, preferably on the quilt itself, at least something about who made the quilt, and where and when it was made. Personally, I want a quilt that gives information about why certain design decisions were made. Ran out of fabric? Got tired of sewing that shape? Ran out of time?

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