Thursday, April 15, 2010


When I come across an unsual antique quilt or textile fragment, I often wonder what the maker was thinking when she did what she did.  We often see a "pieced piece" where a frugul seamstress sewed together smaller pieces of the same fabric to make a piece large enough for the deisgn.  In that case we know why she did it.  In some cases we can only speculate what the maker was thinking.  But it is fun to speculate, isn't it?   So here is my new (occasional) feature on my blog.  The first edition of....
I want to hear your speculation about the maker's motivation to do what she did.  Your speculation does not need to be historically accurate but should be G-rated.

Case 1:  Beautiful crisp crib quilt from ca. 1880.  It measures 31" x 35.5".  The blocks are rusty-red and green.  The setting squares are a lovely double pink.  This is first time I have seen this particular print.  It's so pretty it should be reproduced!  The back is done in a bars pattern with two beautiful calicos.  The border on three sides is about 3"; on the fourth side it is 7" wide. There are a couple places where the red fabric has a white line across it.  These are printing errors in the fabric.  Here are my questions?  Why did she use the fabric with the printing error (when otherwise she used perfect, matching fabrics)?  Why did she make the border wider on one side?

Case 2:  From symmetry to none, check out this is a wild fragment.  It was advertised as a crib quilt top, but it could be a fragment from a larger top; two of the sides appear to have been stitched to something else at some point in its life.  There are several places where fabric was added to "make it fit".  Who might have made this?  What was she thinking when she stitched this piece?


  1. OK, here are my thoughts. In case 1 maybe the wider border on the one end was so it could be tucked in at the foot of the crib and the quilt would look symetrical while it was tucked in. The printing errors, not sure. Maybe that was all the fabric she had and couldn't cut around the errors. It is a beautiful quilt, I love the colors in the fabrics.

    Case 2, I'm thinking it is part of a larger quilt that was damaged in some way and this is the best part that was salvaged. There are some intersting fabrics in it, too. And the way it is put together is fascinating.

    I'm anxious to see what other comments you get. It is fun to speculate!

  2. Oh, also, I wonder case 2 quilt was the first attempt by an inexperience young quilter just learning and figuring out on her own how to make everything fit. Things are all just a little off but it makes for a very interesting piece.

  3. Ooh, this is fun!

    Case #1 - Maybe the wider border was meant to tuck around a pillow at the head of the bed/crib? Maybe it was long enough that the design of the quilt wasn't disturbed by the pillow bump. As for using the flawed fabric, I'd guess that the quiltmaker was going for matchy-matchy and opted for flaws instead of close enough. Or maybe there just wasn't the money for more. Either way, I love the quilt!

    Cse #2 - Wow! Maybe this was a quiltmaker learning as she went. No instruction, just a desire to make something. Maybe at one point it was something else, maybe it was just made of scraps from a friend, mom, aunt, etc. (I have a friend who made a "quilt" without instruction and some of her seams are 10-inch triangles!) Or maybe this was what today we would call an "art quilt"?

    Makes me think maybe my name, date and city/state aren't enough for quilt labels. Maybe I should be writing things like "I had too much blue" too?

  4. Interesting!! Maybe the odd sizing was to cover something. Perhaps it was hung to cover a hole in the wall? My only guess about the fabrics is that it was all she had. No clue about the other one! Guess we'll never know :) Christine

  5. Case 1: Maybe the extra green was a foot tuck, or maybe reversed it was to cover the pillow.
    Case 2: I'm guessing it was a corner of a larger quilt. Or maybe it was "clean out all the left-over blocks and stash drawer"!
    Don't we wish we knew? I wonder if 50-100 years from now, people looking at our quilts will be asking the same question: What was she thinking?!! *grin* ---"Love"

  6. case a
    great quilt, love the fabrics. Two things came to mind first she used the red fabric cause its what she had, she was not going to waste it! The extra wide border on one side was for the pillow tuck...cradle quilt maybe?
    or how about its a copy of the larger quilt on their bed?
    case B think its a piece of a larger quilt , a true scrap quilt using up blocks, and making them bigger but adding fabrics around the hst, etc look at the rows in this quilt, you can see she had some sort of plan...just make the row do whatever it takes to make the blocks fit in each row.

    I love playing this what if game with antique quilts....or what was she thinking!!!!
    looking forward to more quilts and the comments too!

  7. Both quilts are so charming!!
    The first one had to have been made longer to get the size she wanted for whatever reason. As far as using the defective fabric...well, she had it, so why not use it?
    The second one really looks as if it was cut from a larger quilt. She was proably a new quilter and had to keep adding patches. So quirky and fun!!

  8. Case #1.....maybe she got the fabs on discount and figured it would be "worn out" way before someone thought to save it. And, the odd border...there was a period in quilt making time that women put on "beard guards"..the end of the quilt that spent the most time near the face and all the oils that came from it (would detiorate the fabric faster). Maybe she did the same for baby quilt;)

    Case #2.....Possibly piece of bigger quilt. Making due with what she had. Great work on the creative contstruction though;)
    Happy Quilting!!

  9. I'm guessing in both cases the old pratice of *waste not, want not* was in play. Let's face it, you couldn't just pop down to the quilt shop for another piece. I agree with the others, the thicker border is for a tuck-in or similar. The second quilt is a salvage job. I wonder what tragedy befell the original. Terrific post, Ann!

  10. Great post.
    I agree that Case #1 the wider border was probably a tuck in. The red just whar she had.
    Case #2 likely a part of a quilt.

  11. The back of the baby quilt is really neat, I like the bars. I love the pink print, it should be reproduced. I'd love some of that in a reproduction quilt!

  12. Well, I'm coming in late, but I think quilt 2 is a "learning" quilt--may be part of a larger quilt, but fabric was just too hard to come by to give a beginner "good" fabric. Quilt 1 is harder, I think. My first impression was to agree that the wider border was a piece to be tucked under, but...when I enlarge the picture do I see a decorative quilting on that end? Hmmm...

    Great job on the website, Ann. It really does look good. Mary