I just unpacked a box containing a quilt that will be in Best Scrap Quilts, one of our 2014 special issues that we’re about to start working on. I’m pretty excited about the idea of this issue — as much as I love coordinated fabric collections, there’s just nothing like a good scrappy quilt. Sort of like the one I found about a month or two ago.
I had gone to our local thrift store looking for a couple of items in particular and timed it so my kids were napping and I could go by myself. Thrift shops are great for deals, but you have to be willing to do some work to find the good stuff, which can be hard to do with small children in tow.
I was heading toward the cash registers when I passed by the racks of bedding and scrappiness caught my eye.
[Click on the photos to view full-size.]
My first thought was, “Quilt!” followed immediately by, “That looks like the real thing” (as in, not cheater fabric or a mass-produced quilt sold in trendy mall shops), followed again by, “It’s hand quilted and those fabrics look old.”
It was folded over a hanger with muslin borders and binding facing up. When I got close to the quilt, I had a moment of doubt when I saw the state of the muslin on the binding in particular. It looked fairly unworn, not on par with the vibe I was getting from the pieced blocks, and the technique looked more contemporary than on other antique quilts I’ve seen. Hmmm, maybe this was a cheater or mass-produced quilt after all.
As I started to pull it off the hanger to look for a retailer’s tag, I doubted my doubts. Aside from the fact that it had clearly been washed a number of times, it just felt homemade. Even so, my fingers kept expecting to hit a tag sewn into the binding (who would donate a homemade quilt like this to a thrift shop?) but there was none. I unfolded it further to eyeball the back, et voilà — there was a hand-inked label right on the muslin backing with the quilt’s full provenance. The blocks were hand pieced in the 1940s by a Midwest grandmother who intended it for her grandson, and were joined (by machine) and hand quilted in the late 1990s by a woman with a different last name here in the Denver area.
It’s a large quilt, not as big as some like for a queen-sized bed but big enough. Some of the fabrics have bled through to the muslin backing, and one red print is shredding, as you can see in the blurry photo below.
Kudos to Ellie Brown, art director for McCall’s Quilting, who figured out that the fabric was shredded in parallel lines as if there had been printing. Sure enough, a few rows away we found the same print in better shape and just starting to weaken. Whatever was used to print the stripe was not friendly to cotton. I plan to applique patches over the problem areas to keep the batting where it belongs.
This quilt is not a showstopper. Some of the fabric choices make the bowtie blocks really stand out, while others are too low contrast or too scrappy and just sort of mush together. I don’t care. I had so much fun poring over each and every block, enjoying the enormous variety of prints no younger than 65 or 70 years old. It is, quite simply, a perfect scrap quilt. As you can see, my younger daughter agrees.