Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Trio of Antique Quilts

My client, Kim, brought me these quilts a year ago, before I had my longarm quilting machine. She had no "need-by" date, so she agreed that they could wait until I got my big, new machine to handle these queen-sized pieces. In fact, these quilt tops had already been waiting a VERY long time. They were pieced BY HAND by her grandmother decades ago. Apparently this lady was very productive. Kim talked of how she and a friend would sit for hour upon hour just stitching and visiting. People from miles around paid her to make quilts for them. I can tell why - just look at these beauties!

As I look at these quilts, I see so many years of memories. It doesn't even matter that they aren't MY memories. It's still fun to imagine. The Lemoyne (aka 8-Pointed) Star Quilt has scraps of fabric that are obviously from old clothes - seersucker suit, woven work shirt, gingham dress. If only this quilt could talk!

I'm going to guess these tops were pieced in the '70s or '80s. Kim thought the brown one might even have been purchased as a kit. Such bold colors! I wish I had guts like that!

These quilt tops are not technically perfect. Many of the points were loosely stitched, where she had to hand-stitch through several layers of fabric. So I quilted extra densely over those places to tack them down and give the seams more integrity. The tops weren't perfectly square, so I tried to work in the extra fullness where I could. The fabric scraps would have been traced around templates, then cut out with scissors. Our modern methods of rotary cutting are more accurate. Some of the white fabrics have yellowed, some of the dark fabrics have faded. But I think these features make them even more endearing. It gives them character. It makes them family heirlooms.

When you look at these quilts, you can SEE the love in them - sewn with a needle and thread, talking and smiling all the while. I tried to use quilting motifs that would honor the quilting styles of the time. In truth, in-the-ditch or cross-hatching probably would have been more true-to-period, but I needed to do something more free-flowing and dense, to really tack down the quilt tops and give them more strength, so that the seams don't pull apart. And I even learned a little something along the way. Kim said that her grandmother often used old sheets for piecing. I wanted to be consistent, so I purchased sheets to use for the backing fabric. This is a practice that is often scoffed at, in quilting circles. I've never heard an explanation why - it just is. So I was nervous when I started at it. But let me tell you - those sheets were some of the most cooperative, best-behaving backings I've worked with to date! I made sure to wash and dry them ahead of time, to avoid shrinking after quilting/laundering. I won't shy away from using them for myself in the future!

I knew these quilts were going to be given to 3 siblings. Kim has 3 adult children, and her mom would be giving each kid a quilt for Christmas. So I made sure to make the quilting motifs in each quilt "related" to the others. The brown Lonestar quilt features feather wreaths in the white squares, and feathers were the allover pattern on the pink-purple Grandmother's Flower Basket quilt. The inside of the feather wreaths on the Lonestar quilt were filled with stippling, which is the allover pattern on the LeMoyne Star quilt. Both the Lonestar and the Flower Basket quilts also incorporate continuous curve quilting. So, in each piece there are nods to the others. It's like the quilts are brothers and sisters, too!

Update: Kim sent me photos of her kids on the morning they received their quilts. Her mom gifted each child a quilt for Christmas. Don't you love how happy they look? Totally made my day!!! THIS is one of the things I LOVE about my work!

John and his new wife Elyse:




  1. Carrie, I cannot tell you how excited I was to receive my quilt this Christmas! They are so beautiful. I love that each of my siblings' and my quilts are 'brothers and sisters'! I remember pulling out the quilt tops with my mom and grandma last year and hearing the stories of my great-grandma sewing them all by hand. As we admired them we briefly discussed having them finished but then nothing more came of it...or so I thought! What an amazing Christmas gift! I love having a piece of my family heritage in my home. Thank you for all of the love and beauty you put into finishing our quilts. It'll be something that I can share with my own children someday!
    -Jessica (Schulte) Hein

    1. I was so honored to be a part of your family memory. Such a lovely story!