Last Sunday, 10 women attended the “Quilt Care and Share” class I offered as part of my duties as artist in residence at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. I highlighted the key points from my book, “Quilt Care, Construction and Use Advice,” for the first hour. All the participants received a copy of the book. More are available at the CBG gift shop until the end of January.
The second hour, we looked at the quilts everyone brought. One was a wholecloth quilt of some kind of fancy, shiny fabric with wool batting and a wonderful giant feathered circle and other feather motifs quilted on it. Close examination showed that the “whole cloth” top and back were actually pieced from long 3 or 4-inch-wide strips. I wondered if they were factory scraps.
Another quilt was made from an embroidered quilt kit. Each block was based on a red and green floral applique pattern. The quilt was finished with very nice machine quilting done in eastern Nebraska, back in the early 1980s–before machine quilting became so popular.
A crazy-quilt-era silk and velvet coverlet in excellent shape had no crazy shapes. It was all small nine-patch blocks. But it did have some of that “crazy” embroidery wandering across it.
One woman brought a red, yellow and green floral applique quilt top. It was obvious that it had seen a lot of wear, but had never been quilted. The applique style can date back to the 1840s. There were four square applique block motifs and several border motifs making us wonder if part of the quilt top was missing. It’s a mystery. And not a candidate for finishing due to the age of the fabric.
Another quilt top was decidedly newer–somewhere between the 1930s and 1950s. A hand quilter might attempt finishing it, but maybe not a machine quilter because the top does not lay completely flat. Finishing it would also hide all the tidy hand piecing that was done.
A Double Irish Chain baby quilt was finished with prairie points all around the edges. The blue and white shirting fabrics, dating back to 1880s to 1920s, were mostly in good shape. There were several unfaded squares of blue that made us wonder if those squares had been replaced at a later date.
We had two examples of state bird and flower quilts. Each embroidered block represents a state. Both of our examples, a finished quilt and a collection embroidered blocks, were from the era with only 48 states, after 1912 when Arizona and New Mexico were admitted, and before 1959 when Hawaii and Alaska were admitted. The owner of the quilt finished with pink sashing inherited it and admitted the Texas and Wyoming blocks, her favorites, may be getting too much light exposure and she will have to think about folding it differently for display.
A well-loved Grandmother’s Flower Garden that was shared was hand quilted and finished by a church group back in the 1960s. The story is that a grandmother (or was it a great-grandmother) pieced the top in 1906. There were a couple of solid-colored fabrics that might date that far back, but the prints were much newer–more likely the 1930s.
It’s important to write down what you know about a quilt–especially if you made it–and write it in permanent ink on a cloth label sewn to the quilt. Otherwise, information transmitted orally gets results like the “Telephone” game. Did grandma say the quilt was brought over on the Mayflower, or did she sarcastically say, “That quilt is so old, it could have come over on the Mayflower!”
Thanks to everyone who participated.
Reminder: “The Garden of Quilts” exhibit is up through January 27 at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. Admission is free. Find location and hours information at www.botanic.org.