Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Buying Old Quilts and Tops: Part I



Little by little I have come to understand I am not a Modern Quilter--neither by definition nor by taste. I won't list all the discussions in Quilting Blogland on what defines modern quilting, but it's a well explored subject. I am not the first to come to the realization, but these pictures have driven it home for me. 


Someone was having a sale, and offered these pieces to me first. While they weren't exactly what I went looking for, I felt they were worth saving. I have no intention of reselling them. I bought them to finish and keep. Are you surprised? I was a little bit. For the amount I paid, I could have made the same thing for less. The piecing isn't what I would call precise, but there's great visual impact here despite the flaws. My biggest disappointment is the polyester blend fabric you see in the solid navy, but that can be changed. These are just old, scrappy quilt tops, but the improvisational factor is strong. People made due with what they had.


Here is another I bought. Both are simple, traditional 9 patches, and I have never thought of myself as a traditional quilter in any way, yet I am so drawn to it. Why?



By now you must be seeing the same 
trends I am. 



Despite the fact that this one was also pieced with a polyester blend (everything in white), I added it to the stack to take home. I also know myself well enough to admit I won't be able to quilt it like this, and intend to replace the poly blend with all cotton. Can you envision a grey Schott Cotton perhaps, or maybe something more vibrant? I can.

There are such a wide range of fabrics in this one. Everything under the sun from feed sack up to the 1970's.



I understand that these type of quilts wouldn't get a second glance from a lot of quilters, but they fill me with nostalgia. Maybe I'm connecting with another quilter with a vision she couldn't see through to the end, or for a time in my life when I was surrounded by these kind of prints. I loved patterns and prints even as a child. These are bright, loud, and very graphic!

I guess it's no different than liking multicolored lights on your Christmas tree. You might choose all white because they're more cultured, fashionable, and so on, but when you look at the tree it just doesn't do it for you. I know because I really tried to like them.



Down deep, we like what we like. A quilt done in all solids may get polite ooh's and ahh's here, but these make me weak in the knees. I just wish I knew what kind of a quilter that made me.

Come on, Doxie girls.

20 comments:

  1. I too love these! There's something very appealing about a scrappy quilt! Great finds Julie, I especially like #2 with lots of blues and all those ginghams! I'm all for getting new people into quilting, and the 'modern' quilting style has certainly done that! However, I'm finding my tastes have changed over time, and I just make what appeals to me now.

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    1. I find my 'taste' changes with the season even, Linda. Spring and summer are always more modern and light, but fall and winter sewing has me in the mood for those more traditional fabrics and patterns. I completely agree with what you're saying that we should go where we're pulled.

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  2. Oh I am not a "modern" quilter either--I love all those old fabrics and prints--mine from the 1950's to 1990's. Nostalgia, memories, they all play a huge roll in my quilting. I do use some so-called modern fabrics, but the "decorator" look is not for me...I want a quilt to look like a good old fashioned quilt....love nine patches and scrappy stuff...I have really tried hard to "like" those modern fabrics--even bought them to try out...but in the end--no go!! hugs, Julierose

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    1. It's fun to stretch ourselves to try things, but I think you're right with the nostalgia factor. We are drawn to certain things without realizing why, but I think the visual imprint translates to an emotional impact. Fabrics and patterns from happy or formative times in our lives are desirable.

      My mother sewed for me often when I was growing up, and when I was about 4 she made us matching dresses. Think 1969-1970. White backgrounds with big, stylized orange, pink and yellow flowers, and black centers. She doesn't remember it now, but I do. I was so proud when we wore our dresses together, and I would tell people that she made them for us. I still love large patterns, and often those colors. It's not what you'd call 'in style' today by any means, but it sure makes me happy. It's just a little hard to explain to people. We like what we like!

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  3. I love fabric scraps- the more the merrier. I love when they are married into a complimenting backgrounds. The more variations in the value in the scraps, the more visually interesting it is to me. I love old quilts- they also make me weak in the knees and my heart melt.
    I did not grow up with any quilts. Everything was plastic 50s. You would shudder at the stamped metal printed dollhouse I had. The yearning I found for beautiful things I found in quilts, which were antique then, I saw at a friend's grandma's apartment. Colors and textures and value changes are my strong pulls in quilts. Matchey-matchey all exactly the same fabrics make me step away quickly.

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  4. These are lovely - I'm not surprised you decided to give them a home (though I'm with you on the polyester). I like that scrappy, not matched look best - all my quilts seem to end up like that even if I start with proper fabric not scraps! Ann and I have coined a new phrase "Modern Utility", sort of an up-to-date take on this sort of thing. I'm hoping to write more about it soon.

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  5. What wonderful finds! Is this something you have done before? Buying older quilt tops, switching out fabrics? There is a quilter in my town who repairs older quilts - find her at bornagainquilts.com As for my style, I seem to love it all!

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  6. I come from a background of quilt making (my paternal grandmother was a life-long quilter, in Appalachia) - when I married, she gave me two quilts. One was a ninepatch made with scraps from play clothes she had sewn for me throughout my childhood. I wore that quilt out using it on our bed. There is something very satisfying about a scrappy quilt ... and nine patches are my favorite design. I don't know - homey in the best sense of the word. :)

    Linda

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  7. I'm not sure I've shared this story of mine that happened to me this summer or not but here it is anyway. My husband and I went to several yard sales and I found a wonderful old quilt duck taped over a workbench in the garage. I recognized these were original 1930 fabrics. The quilt was frayed at the edges and I asked the owner for info as to who made it, when it was made and extolled its virtues of being a great quilt and that there are people who collect antique quilts. My husband whispered to me "there goes your chance of offering $5.00 for it." We came back later to take a pic of it so I could research the pattern and found it lovingly folded up on a shelf. Lesson learned.

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  8. What a glorious collection of nine-patch and four-patch variations. I agree with you. We like what we like. I always wish more people would simply make what they like. We have such an opportunity to express ourselves here and it's a shame to waste it.
    I love scrappy, using up, and making do. Kaja and I have decided "Modern Utility" is the name. We don't mean the modern quilting movement; to us, modern utility means current rather than vintage. And making something to be used and loved.
    Thanks for linking up with AHIQ.

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  9. Those are gorgeous! I will always love honest scrappy quilts best. I have a similar 50s pink-and-gray geometric! I am having fun blending modern quilt techiques and designs with my stash, which spans decades from dated to vintage. I have cravings to make quilts of all styles. But give me a rule, and I will want to break it, whether it was set by a traditionalist or a modernista!

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  10. Totally agree, the oldies make me weak at the knees. These are some really good scores, thrifty and fabulous!

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  11. I refuse to be boxed in; I love it all. One day I drool over a minimalist quilt in solids, and the next in a log cabin made from scraps, mostly prints. And I enjoy making both. I think the modern movement might be the first where quilters have defined themselves--I think other eras left the categorization up to future historians. claire aka knitnkwilt.wordpress.com

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  12. I spent today sewing traditional blocks on a treadle machine. I have a box of nine patches cut out from all my scraps and sitting on the coffee table, so I can stich one up now and then while I'm watching TV. I have an old half-quilted top made by a great aunt I never knew, put away around 1939 and waiting for someone (me?) to finish quiltling it. Tomorrow I may take another stab at interpreting my sketch of an old building, or maybe I'll work on a new idea. I don't like the modern quilter definition either. If there is a name for us, we don't need it. Love your post.

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  13. I love the tops you bought. Such a lovely, colorfull fabrics! You are lucky and I am curious to see your finished quilts.
    Never mind what kind of quilter you are. Just quilt and be happy quilting. I suppose other quilters will tell you what you are!

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  14. You are a quilter. Period. You are a fabric-a-holic. Period. You are a colour-lover. Period. I know this because I am these things too. At the sewing retreat last weekend Deb, a quilter who I got to know much better, and for whom I have gained an incredible respect and admiration brought some antique quilt tops. She told us how we all often are fabric snobs, and to take a look (as we oohed and ahhed when she unfolded them) at the fabrics here: old clothing, all kinds of blends. Myself, I would not replace the poly/cotton. That was what the quilter had, so I would honour that. Just me. Look at what the Gees Bend ladies did and continue to do, with all blends of fabrics. The Amish. Great purchases here, and I know the makers would be pleased knowing they are going to a good home. I think you are recognizing and honouring their spirit of creativity, their sense of colour and pattern. I wish I could have antique quilts offered to me for first perusal!!

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  15. These are great finds! I think I'm drawn to traditional patterns with modern fabrics. I think I'm a bit of both worlds. Tula Pink calls herself "Modernitional" and I think I like that thought. A little of each. Bottom line is whatever makes you feel good and happy is what quilting is all about! Or should be, anyway....

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  16. I understand what you mean! I think I'm just a bit of everything! All the kinds of quilting that are out there! Everything! I love modern quilts and sometimes I make those. I must love traditional quilting because I surely have made a few of those. I can't help but challenge myself in so many ways using improv quilting. Feed sacks and 30's prints....well, I don't do as much of that but it's mostly because of the cost of yet another fabric investment. I've saved a few quilts and tops made with some strange (decidedly not-cotton) fabrics and some made with reproduction fabrics. I need a word for people who don't care what we call the quilts we love....because we love them all!

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  17. Great quilt top finds. I love the hunt for abandoned ones in thrift stores.

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It's always enlightening to hear your thoughts or suggestions. I try to respond in a timely manner, but admit life is very full here! I will return comments online if it's of general interest, but offline if a personal response is more appropriate. Give me a shout with anything urgent at julie@pinkdoxies.com, and I'll try to get right back with you. While I believe in free speech, spamming will not be tolerated, and as in all our interactions, speak kindly.

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Julie