Sunday, March 17, 2013

Put on your detective hats...I've got a quilt mystery for you

If you are interested in antique quilts and have read Barbara Brackman's book "Clues in the Calico" you will know that you sometimes have to be a detective and look for clues to help you date a quilt.  I recently purchased this colorful antique quilt from an on-line source.  It had all the characteristics of a late 19th century Pennsylvania quilt.
 First of all the colors scream PA.  Bars on the back.  It is huge (that's a king size bed).

It is super thin and nicely quilted.


I was ready to confidently date this quilt to ca. 1880 and congratulate myself for a good deal...except for one little thing that was bothering me.  The border.  It was not apparent in the on-line photos, but when I saw the quilt in person I knew something fishy was going on with the border.  

The border is made up of strips of two fabrics, a double pink that matches the double pink in the center of the quilt and another red/pink calico.  How strange?  That calico certainly does not look like 1880's fabrics.  It doesn't look like 1930's fabrics.  Could it be 1950 or even 1980?  And how did it get incorporated into the border of this quilt?
Here
is
the
answer
.
.
.
On closer examination I noticed that the funky calico had red slip stitching all along the edge.  With a little careful tugging at the seams, it appeared there might be something underneath.
 
I carefully removed some of the stitches and look what I found
 

Still more stitches removed...


What I found was a very pale blue fabric underneath, sort of off white with really tiny blue flowers or dots.  Someone had taken a lot of time and trouble to stitch the red calico on top of the light fabric all the way around this giant quilt, two or three strips in each side of the border.  Is this not fascinating?  The blue fabric is not damaged from what I have uncovered so far.  It is possible that it faded at some point (the quilt is a little puckery so does appear to have been washed at least once).  Some friends on facebook remembered this red fabric from the 1980s.  I plan to remove it all and restore the quilt to it's original state.

Why do you think someone did this?  Just didn't like the look?
 
 

18 comments:

  1. Wow - you are a great detective! Isn't that just interesting? If only these quilts could talk!

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  2. That is a beautiful quilt and this is interesting to me as I am just now beginning to take more notice in older quilts and their fabrics. What great detective work you have done.

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  3. Wow! A real mystery. I would love for you to post a picture to compare once you remove the red calico. It's a beautiful quilt a lucky find!

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  4. Isn't that one of the wonderful things about quilts, and quilting?! Always something to learn, and new to see. What a beautiful quilt.

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  5. I think that the pale blue fabric didn't set well with whoever covered it over. Perhaps it was originally more like the blue in the Lone Star but faded/changed when laundered?

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  6. It is a beautiful quilt. I am glad that you are able to remove the newer fabric and restore the quilt.

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  7. I bethcha they just didn't like that blue and deliberately purchased fabric that matched so it could be covered. Whoever did it at least had the sense not to destroy what they were covering up!

    Liri

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  8. It's a beautiful quilt Ann! My first thought was it was covered because they didn't like the light blue. I look forward to seeing it restored!

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  9. Wow ... that's why dating quilts scares me to death. I would be so worried about not catching some little detail. You have a lot of courage to tackle this!

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  10. Fascinating! Thankfully the original fabric was left intact and you have the option of restoring it to the original fabric. Please post another picture following your restoration.

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  11. Such a large quilt. And beautiful colors. Interesting find with the borders. I once purchased an antique quilt that had been used for the inside of another quilt. I don't have it any longer. It was in fairly good shape so I don't know why it had been inside another quilt and then removed again.

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  12. I'm wondering if maybe when you get further into the red removal, you will discover more damage to the original quilt. Maybe they just couldn't afford to get a big batting, and decided to use the old quilt???? Who knows? Maybe you will know more as you continue with the mystery. ---"Love"

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  13. What an interesting find! I would remove the newer fabric too. Please post another picture when you are finished!

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  14. Your quilt is wonderful - what a great find! And what a great story you'll have to share about it, too! Thanks for sharing!
    Terry Nixon

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  15. I have seen it done before but only when the fabric underneath was worn and or had started to rip. Usually just in a few specific places. I thought that replacement fabric was late 1970s. but I could be wrong. I just took apart a baby quilt made of large tumbler blocks (like 6 inches) When I took a better look I noticed a few tumblers had been appliquéd individually over the worn ones. Unless you were pulling at the seams of the tumblers you could not even tell. Have fun with the quilt.

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  16. Wow! Someone must have really disliked the light blue to go to all of that trouble!

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  17. ohhh. I love this kind of thing. I would be ripping, too...you may find one area that has damage and the owner thought it would be too obvious if she only covered the damaged areas...but....if that was the case she might have just found a close match for the blue and fixed the damaged area...she must not have liked the blue but I can't wait to see it in the original form because that blue will perfectly pull in the blue from the star...I'll be watching for the update!

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  18. I suspect the replacement was done by a "balanced" person, someone, whose eye was trained to expect that Lancaster blue in the center repeated in the border. The replacement fabric, definitely mid-late seventies and probably not all-cotton, is as jarring to me. But I too would have yearned for the brighter blue, though I would have respected the original too much to change it. Still....

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