October 25, 2016

American Patchwork Quilts

For years, I’ve had a minor interest in American Patchwork Quilts, since finding one bundled up in the back of an old barn sale. It was about $20, so I felt like I didn’t have much to lose if I bought it. When I got home, I consulted some of my old Martha Stewart Magazines (this was in the pre-Google days!) who had consulted specialist, Laura Fisher, to see how to wash it.

image(Totally irrelevant, but you can see the detail of a quilt that Figgy’s on!)

The basic recommendation was to soak it in the bathtub to remove the surface dirt and continually change to water until it ran clean. I was then able to lay it in the back yard to begin the drying process, and after it was almost dry, I hung it on the clothes line. The quilt was white with huge green, orange and pink tulips on it. I loved it.

That was about 20+ years ago, and I find that I am still buying American quilts and use them in my everyday life, not, unfortunately, giving any thought to their value. The white star quilt that shaggy Figgy is sitting on is now her bed and she loves it. The stars were rather worn out, so I didn’t feel too bad about using it for her. image

One of the first things I made when I taught myself to sew about six years ago, was a patchwork quilt in no discernable pattern. I figured it would help me learn to sew in straight lines. I backed the patchwork with a cozy fleece and still use it today, as evidenced by this image from a year ago, while I had Halas the Brown Dog, staying at my house.image

I am pretty casual about chucking the quilts into the washing machine and then hanging them out to dry in the sun and the breeze. This weekend was a perfect time to do that, so out they went!


One of the things I love about these old quilts is how they change as you move closer to them, and then step back to get another perspective. image

The perspective above looks totally different than the one below.image

The workmanship is amazing, and since I got this one at an auction in Southern Pennsylvania, I have a suspicion that it was made by an Amish woman or girl. image

I know that they’re not the rage like they were 25 years ago, when Ralph Lauren cornered the market on them, but they’re such an American icon.

I am in major de-accessioning mode and these and others (except my beginning sewing project) will be on my Etsy shop within the next week or so. imageRegardless of that, I have my eye on one at a local auction that just has me swooning! Killer shade of yellow!


  1. Just in case no one has mentioned it to you today, you're awesome.

  2. They really are works of art and those dogs are too! x

  3. at the great estate sale I went to this weekend there was a beautiful old quilt and no one was buying it! didn't have a price tag but I was tempted but doesn't really fit our house. I feel rather guilty for selling 3 antique quilts my great-grandmother made 80 years ago on ebay..but no one wanted them in my family and I made around $900 per quilt (amazing!) that went towards my first condo. I do still have a quilt my mom made for me when I was around 10 years old that was always on my bed as a child -all red, white, and blue!

  4. I am fascinated by the stories behind each handmade quilt. I have many quilts made by my Mother, both Grandmothers, and Aunts. My Mother's quilting was always 12 stitches to the inch and her stories of quilting circles brought me cherished memories of fellowship around each painstakingly created masterpiece. She left us this year at age 102 and I treasure these reminders of a life well lived. I showcase them in my home on a rotating basis and remember funny and poignant times from their time spent together creating works from the heart.

  5. Please explain the statement ...25 years ago when Ralph Lauren cornered the market on them.... such an American Icon... Do you mean he has a vast collection of Early American handmade quilts or ...? As I type this 25 years ago seems like yesterday. Perhaps I am slow to follow trends because I stick with what I like. Yes, I have made a few quilts myself, the tops look like quilts but the small hand stitched quilted patterns not so much. I tied my blocks with embroidery thread, a short cut yes, but it got the piece on the bed! Incidentally the hexagon quilt, the lone star quilt= o my goodness - each labor intensive -- unless one had a rotary cutter, had researched time saving piecing techniques and followed an assembly line, daily goal setting I am getting a head ache thinking about it. but it can be fun. I have a quilt that failed the test of time and is currently safety pinned together awaiting me to learn where to start quilting. the center , the edge , work from the middle out, I am stuck and it is there --I see it each day bahahahaha Back to Ralph, the linens he sold were made Overseas were they not????

  6. Dear Meg. I know you are busy so I looked into this dead quilt upcycle Ralph Lauren controversy. Found an MFA thesis by McCormick, grad student, and have learned a great deal of background on the quilt TOPic.
    And yes they were Handmade in the USA. It even included some images from the National Archives of quilt use during the depression Fascinating material to read. You have a piece of Americana there sweetie!


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