Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Applique and antique quilt pieces

I have just caught up on applique with Benjamin Biggs. 
Block 15

Block 16
Block 17

I feel a little more relaxed with my hand quilting November deadline on my Auntie Green gift quilt (well over half way there now) so have sneaked in the other applique work too. It has been very tempting at times to work on other projects but I wanted to make sure the quilting was the focus, as I am easily distracted quilt-wise! Here is a little bit of the centre grid. Apologies again that I still can't show the whole.

Auntie Green 'secret sewing' - quilting the centre grid

I've always thought it would be wonderful to see antique quilts up close to examine the stitching, construction, applique etc - basically to take them apart! but I don't get the chance to do much more than look at pictures in historical quilting books or on the internet. Bloggers are a great source when they post pics too of course - always gratefully accepted! I don't feel inclined to purchase antique quilts - quite apart from the expense - I am much more interested in making my own reproductions. 

So it seemed the perfect compromise to purchase a small collection of "antique quilt cutter pieces" from the US - ridiculously cheap but perfect for close inspection. Aren't they lovely and can't you imagine how special each whole once was? 
The five pieces on the dining table
 Love the colours and tiny prints in this one - red and yellow hand pieced block , pink sashing and green border.

Here is the back. The hand quilting looks like it was done 'freehand' without marking - inaccurate but so charming. The binding is just folded over from the front to the back and hand hemmed on the back. But some binding 'repairs' have been made crudely by machine in parts - much more recent it appears.

Great to peek in at the wadding too - uneven in density and looks like thick cotton with little flecks of seed  and plant matter in there too - fascinating to me!

This must have been a stunning border  - a faded leafy print hand appliqued onto a fine homespun. Love the triple rows of tiny quilting stitches. A thin cotton wadding - again with mysterious little bits of plant matter in there. 

the hera marker is there for scale

The binding has been added more recently I suspect - by machine, and a hanging sleeve on the back too:
The back showing hanging sleeve

The next fragment is part of a hand pieced star quilt and the green fabric is a tiny star print in poison green. It is so interesting to peek at the piecing stitches - very neat white running stitches. The wadding is in a bad way - all clumped, thin and seperated.

How odd to have one little diamond of a different fabric? My first thought was it must be a repair but it does not look it - has been quilted over with the same thread as across the rest. 

The binding is just self-binding of the cream backing folded over to the front and hemmed by hand on the front.

Here is an old peony block made in two solid colours - much used and laundered as the cotton is so thin and the wadding very thick and clumped inside. But it is all hand work - applique, piecing, sashing, border seams and binding, and holding together beautifully. The hand quilting has partly disintegrated but the whole is so beautiful!

Lastly - a simple applique flower in lovely faded poison green and chrome orange solids. The applique is fine hand stitched and the quilting is by hand, but the block seams are machine stitched and so is the binding. The 'wadding' is just a piece of fabric - a brushed cotton - making it more of a coverlet perhaps - or a very light quilt . Maybe more 'vintage' than 'antique' here but must have been a pretty quilt once. 

I have very limited knowledge of antique quilts (wish I knew more) but found it fascinating to examine these fragments and imagine the creators and the 'lives' of the quilt, and when they were made.  They will be carefully treasured snippets - and a great source of inspiration. 

...sigh...back to making replicas with a renewed energy! 


  1. What a wonderful study of antique pieces. Big or small it's a connection to the past just as you make new heirloom pieces. Your quilted grid is beautiful, tiny stitches and so close together. Lovely.

  2. Love the touch of cheddar in the last piece. The connection to our quilting sisters (and sometimes brothers!) who lived and quilted long ago has always held a special place for me - and wanting to know more.
    The triple row of quilting stitches would be fun to duplicate. No doubt what you are seeing in the old batting (wadding) are cotton seeds and residue from the plant - batting was sometimes carded in the home. Enjoy your glimpse into the past - if only those pieces could talk.

  3. Wow Hilda! What beautiful pictures!! Can you imagine cutting into beautiful quilts like these!?! And yet, these gorgeous fragments of what once must have been spectacular quilts are so very lovely. I am certain that your Auntie Green will be just as spectacular by the time you are done. Thanks for another peek - your stitches look beautiful!
    The green border piece is wonderful - wouldn't you just love to know what the rest of that quilt looked like? The triple stitching is amazing - I somehow don't think I would have the patience for that but I sure love it! I love the green star piece too - interesting to see the one substitution. I love the soft, faded look of the green star print. Thanks for sharing your treasures old and new!! :0)

  4. Hello Hilda ! Your appliqués are perfect !! Bravo ...you're very talented and if I could, I would want to have a class with you !! LOL !
    About the antique pièces of quilts you've bought, what beauties.....I think it's the best present for a quilter...!
    Thank you for sharing these lovely pictures !
    I wish you a nice day !

  5. Lovely snippets from the past. At least some part of the quilts has been salvaged so you can share them with us. Your applique is beautiful as always, and I think we are all excited to see your finished wedding quilt when the time comes.

  6. Thank you for sharing those snippets. How sad that the original quilt has been chopped up like that into pieces. But I guess perhaps the original quilts were disintegrating, so a bit is better than nothing.

  7. How interesting, I did enjoy these pieces, I would have liked to own them too and have the chance to admire and examine them more closely.
    I was intrigued by the "odd" leaf, I imagine it may have been placed as a conversation piece or to make the quilt less perfect and more humble.
    The condition of the batting reminds me how lucky we are to have modern products which, hopefully, will stand the test of time.
    I have enjoyed seeing your beautiful work again today, you keep me quietly inspired to plod along with my Mimis bloomers.

  8. I enjoyed seeing the old quilt pieces. If they came from cutters that means that during their lives they must have been well used at at the end of the day that is why they were made - to be used! I liked the odd diamond in the star quilt. Many years ago I made a star quilt and threw in one very odd patch and I did it intentionally to catch people's attention and make them wonder if it was a mistake or intentional. Maybe your quilt maker did the same!

    Auntie Green is looking fabulous! Keep up the great work!

  9. I love looking at antique quilts too! Like you I prefer to make myown, but love looking and finding them in antique stores. My first thoughts are often about the maker too! Just seeing all those stitches and seeing some of the make do pieces really makes one wonder. Glad to hear your on track! I always seem to slow down towards the end of the quilt, not sure why.

  10. Both your new B.B.-blocks and the quilting on Auntie Green are beautiful! And most of all I enjoyed the photos and interesting things you tell about the antique quilt cutter-blocks. They are amazing and so inspiring as well, when you imagine how the whole quilt would have looked like, and who made these lovely pieces of work. Thank you for telling us all about it!

  11. Your blocks are really coming along. Such beautiful greens and reds. Your hand quilting is lovely and I am really looking forward to seeing the whole quilt! How clever of you to buy small cutter pieces to examine and learn from. I am fortunate to live in an area where we see many antique quilts. My friend Cyndi (Busy Thimble blogspot) and I are coordinators of the Maine Quilt Heritage project and have documented over 3,000 quilts over the years. Just when you think you have seen "everything", someone brings in something so unique. It has been great fun and a wonderful learning experience. But, although the analyzing is fun, I still prefer "making" quilts to researching. Thank goodness we have lots of competent researches that we can learn from. My book shelves are full of them!

  12. You're Benjamin Biggs blocks are so lovely. I wish I had started this quilt when it first began. Seeing the clumps of batting make me appreciate the quilters (like you) who took so much time and effort to put in 1000's of quilting stitches close together to make sure no clumping would happen in their quits. I enjoyed examining your treasured pieces with you. Thanks for the details.

  13. I love seeing the vintage quilts. It's so fun to imagine the story behind that wayward green piece in the star quilt--so many questions!

  14. Beautiful antique quilts. Aren't they fun to study?
    Your BB blocks are just beautiful

  15. Beautiful blocks Hilda. It was very interesting seeing the snippets of the antique quilts. I wonder who was brave or maybe crazy enough to cut these beauties up.

  16. I know what you mean about trying to keep your focus.:) Love seeing your beautiful applique!

  17. Your BB blocks are lovely, you will have a beautiful quilt and heirloom once it's finished. I too have some catching up to do as my computer had been refusing to print anything.It's finally fixed. I am inspired by your blocks to get on with the project. I have never thought to buy cutter pieces but seeing yours I can see they have so much to offer , seeing how they are stitched, the fabrics, the batting as well as the designs.A couple of posts ago you have a photo of a wonderful vase full of Japanese Anemones, one of my favourite perennials.Cheers Hilda!

  18. Pretty applique, love classic red and green. I have to say those old quilt pieces make me flinch a bit seeing them all cut up. Happy stitching, Dawn

  19. Love your BBiggs blocks and the sneak peak on Auntie Green is lovely!
    I never thought of purchasing pieces for study. What a great idea.

  20. Your applique is perfection! Love your BBiggs blocks!

  21. Your Ben Biggs blocks are all beautiful!
    Auntie Green is going to be such an amazing quilt!
    Wonderful old quilt pieces too, so interesting to see these old patterns and quilting stitches.

  22. Oh I really enjoyed seeing these quilt pieces. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  23. Oh I really enjoyed seeing these quilt pieces. Thank you so much for sharing. :)