Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Merry & retro quilts

I spent Christmas eve cleaning up my sewing room and am making progress.  I've begun sorting out family photos, papers, and other ephemera that have been taking up floor space and the boxes are stacked relatively neatly on one end of the room.  Phew! By the time 2014 rears its head I should have cleared the decks on my cutting/ironing table.  

Cleaning up has yielded a few treasures I had forgotten about; among them, one of the first books I purchased (used) back in the 1970's. Bonnie Lehman's book was published in 1972 and I started quilting in 1974. It was a classic and I suppose it still is. It certainly influenced me.
I fell in love with this pattern and the quilt I made when  I took my first (and only) quilt- making class, was a spiderweb.

1974 - I was a young woman with 3 little kids.

Then, of course, having leftover strips, I moved on to string quilts - also first encountered in this book.

I still make string quilts - this was on my bulletin board a couple of weeks ago.  

In 1974 there were only a few books: REALLY!  Ruby McKim's 101 Patchwork Patterns, The Standard Book of Quiltmaking & Collecting, Beth Gutcheon's A Perfect Patchwork Primer, and Quick & Easy Quilting.  Bonnie Lehman also published Quilter's Newsletter and the first issue I bought was in September 1973, before I ever found a quilting class! (Oh, good grief - this is turning into a "remember when?" thing that old people do. Sorry 'bout that - LOL).
This seems to be Bonnie Lehman's son on the cover.

 The back cover was full of classified ads.  For example…

100% COTTON FABRICS, especially selected for quilts.
 Over 20 tiny prints plus 20 shades of plain colors. 
 36" widths, $1.10 per yd; 45" widths, $1.95 per yd.

OMG - where are those prices now??? OTOH - do we really still want tiny prints?  Mine are in my UFO box, waiting to be reinvented. 

BUT I have digressed. Back to Quick and Easy Quilting.  Here was something that, while I did not make anything like it then, there is a shock of recognition as I look Bonnie's variation III - "a new interpretation of the String Quilt idea. Of course, it was made of bonded woolens & knits (this was the 70's, remember??) in several shades of purple and lavender, with white for contrast. Uh huh.

The wonderful part is that it is completely random -- no pattern, no worries about matching seams or cutting anything the identical size and shape. Hmmm…sound familiar?
This also reminded me of something I own.

I have a very old quilt top that is in the same vein, which my husband fell in love with years ago at an antique show.  Me, too:-). Some years later I showed it to Raymond Dobard, an authority on African American quilts and he agreed with my instinct that it is indeed an African American top, probably late 19th century or somewhere around 1900-1910 at latest.

I never quilted it because I felt it would ruin the value and authenticity. Isn't it wonderful??  Here is a closer look at some of those fabrics.
If you were to turn it over, you would see that the strips were attached (by hand) to a foundation, unlike the way most of us strip-piece today.
And I have the distinct feeling that this may have been made by more than one pair of hands, since some blocks are hand-pieced (left) and others are machine pieced (right). 

Sigh…I keep it in the closet because the brown fabrics from those early days are so prone to fading and shredding, but it makes me sad to do so because it is such a visual treat.
What would you do??

Well, enough memory lane stuff. I have the day to myself and need to get back to culling the overwhelming load of stuff in this room so I can actually sew.  I am resisting the temptation to sit here and read through every Quilter's Newsletter I have from 1973-1984. Maybe I should think about getting rid of those, too.

Wishing you all a happy holiday and a wonderful, creative year ahead.


Carol Stearns said...

I think I would gently wash and dry it. Then have it quilted. If you are afraid of the quilting process on a long arm, have it tied. And then enjoy it.

Exuberant Color said...

I started quilting in the late 1950s but I bought every quilt book available in the early 1970s, all 5 of them, lol! I keep saying that we're repeating the 70s but a lot of people think it's all just been invented.

tiedyejudy said...

Interesting to see some of the early designs... as for that antique quilt top, I think I would try and find a quilt museum that might like to have it for an exhibit or display of work from that era.

Linda Hicks said...

I enjoyed that trip through history to the present and am inspired by your archeology and boxing. Hugs!

Bonnie Miller said...

Ooooh...would you like a trip to New Zealand? You could come to our place and have a turn in my shed...which could do with being boxed into shape! I love the antique quilt...and I think it would be a shame to put modern quilting onto it. How would you feel about hand quilting it in the style of its time...then you could use it as was originally intended. I trust the festive season is going well for you.

Julie Shackleton said...

The old quilt, how lovely. I have two old quilts, not sure if they are as old as yours. The second one I bought looked like it needed some tlc as it was and still is, torn and worn. I washed it in the machine on a cold wash. (Full spin cycle!) It came out and I dried it outside on the line. When I went to retrieve was as stiff as a board. The lining had solidified. No matter, I threw it on the bed, where it still lives keeping me warm and the cats and my husband warm. Use the quilt. They are surprisingly resilient. It needs love.

badmomgoodmom said...

I love the AAQ and share your desire to preserve it as a historical artifact.

However, I would have it professionally photographed and display prints of it in my house.

This morning, I just saw David Hockney's A Bigger Picture at the de Young Museum. I have matrix canvases, iPad drawings and digital prints on my mind today.

MulticoloredPieces said...

Cool post and YES! I remember! I started getting QNM in the late 70s. And have a happy New Year with many stitching adventures!
best, nadia

Eva said...

Before I read comment #6 on this page, I had a very similar idea. If you like this quilt to be displayed, a large reproduction -- possibly printed on framed canvas -- will do the job without causing any danger to this quilt top which might be more precious for some museum and for historical research than we may know. I would not quilt or wash it (we never know what kind of quilting the maker would have applied), but get some advice from a museum first. You know, a friend of mine is a textile restaurator, and she told me a lot about her work and let me watch. The task is to change as little as possible on historical pieces -- and with an age of 110 years or more, it is one.

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