Wednesday, August 15, 2012


So today, before Lauren arrived, I was tasked with writing up catalog sheets for some quilts. When writing up a catalog sheet, we document the name of the item, it's location (like shelf or box number), a description of the item, an evaluation of its condition and any additional information we can provide about the item based on its appearance.

The first quit I unfolded game me a serious case of the warm fuzzies:

Baby quilt!!!!! It was so adorable!!!! I drooled over it for a long time. Here are some close ups of the adorableness:

Cow, chickens and a chicken coop
Sheepies and a barn
This quilt was amazing because it was completely hand sewn and I have a lot of respect for whoever made it.  The stitches are tiny and incredibly neat:

Applique stitches
Quilting, as a verb, is when you sew the top layer of the quilt to the back. Usually, this is done in a uniform pattern all over the quilt. This quilt had small square quilting that made the quilt look very beautiful because the quilter was able to keep the lines extremely straight and the stitches very very small:

Amazing quilting

The second quilt I came across was definitely my favorite. Upon first look, I was completely mesmerized by the beautiful 1930s prints and simple design. 

1930s hand sewn quilt:

Pretty micro floral prints

While I was working on my write up describing the 30s floral micro prints, I noticed that the squares looked a bit different than they usually would. It seemed that the squares were overlapping a bit and that the edges seemed a bit more prominent than usual.

Love the bright colors
Unusual edge
I looked closer at one of the squares that had come apart at the edge:

Very common damage

And realized that this quilt wasn't pieced (or sewed together), in the usual fashion where the edges of the fabric are held together, sewn and then ironed flat at the seam, like this:

But that the quilter had used a much more difficult method to sew the pieces together. They had done it the way you sew the binding to the quilt so that you don't have any raw edges. It's very difficult and takes a lot of focus. You have one edge folded over and ironed, so that you don't see the raw edge and sew the square on at the fold. The stitch is usually visible, but if it's small enough, you usually don't notice it:

The folded edge
So the folded piece is laid on top of a flat square overlapping it, and then sewn on to it from the outside edge. 

The bottom piece is flat underneath
This technique would involve so much dedication and work that it is staggering to imagine. I considered for a while why they would have taken the trouble, and I believe it's because when the quilt seams start to come apart, as they will do months into being used, these loose seams are far less noticeable than the traditional seam.

This was one of the most damaged seams, and you can hardly tell!

This quilter was a genius. I was extremely excited to come by another quilt that I suspect was done by them. This quilt however, is mostly likely from the 1940s because the prints are more typical of the fashionable 40s color scheme and the prints were more abstract shapes rather than floral.

Dresden Plate design
I believe this quilt was done by the same quilter because the quilting was very similar and the fabric choice/quality was identical.

This quilt however, was a bit strange because the top and bottom edges looked very odd.

What the heck?
By the time I started this quilt, Lauren had arrived and was helping me with the description of the quilt. We were both baffled that the white fabric was much heavier than the rest of the quilt and was sewn on so irregularly. 

After considering the quilt for a while, throwing around ideas as to why it looked to strange, we finally stumbled on the answer. This quilt had been used and loved so much that the top of it had started to fall apart and the next generation of the family had reinforced it with a stronger fabric. Even patching it a second time in one place:

Based on the colors and the textures of the new fabric, we guess that these repairs were done sometime in the 1960s, when fabrics took on a much more synthetic feel, rather than the lightweight cotton of the 30s and 40s.

Lauren looking up what the quilt design was called

The quilts were a really fun way to start the day. I love being able to sit down with a quilt and attempt to glean as much as I can from the craftsmanship, fabric and wear. From what I observed, my guess is that the woman making these quilts lived in an urban setting and very much loved making the quilts and spent a tremendous amount of time on them making sure that her stitches were all even and that the blocks lined up perfectly. From the amount and type of wear the quilt displays, her family, or her friend very much valued the quilt and worked very hard to preserve it, even though they were not the most skilled quilter. This guess is based on the new binding of the quilt.

The white on the right is the new work

Their stitches show that the person was an experienced seamstress, but not necessarily a seasoned quilter. It was incredibly touching to see the love put into the quilt and how much it was used. This piece is definitely something that needs to be saved and preserved.

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