I recently got a call from Charleene Wallace who lives in Huntington, Indiana. She explains to me how she, her sister and brother had inherited a handmade quilt after their parents passed away: A quilt they didn’t even know existed until they discovered it along with a crib-size quilt top while cleaning out their home. Who made them was a mystery because their mother sewed but never quilted. So they repacked them into their mother’s cedar chest and forgot about them for 13 years.
Last month Charleene makes a trip to Arizona to visit her brother Bob and sister-in-law Jane. Bob brings out the cedar chest so they can go through it and it’s decided that she should take the textiles back with her so she and her sister Audrey, who quilts, can try to figure out their age to determine who made them. Back home in Indiana Charleene calls The Chocolate Thimble in Huntertown where she has had quilts quilted. They give her my contact information, and after scoping out the Born Again Quilts website she calls me to make an appointment.
Charleene arrives with her tattered hand appliqué tulip quilt. Barbara Brackman’s Book of Appliqué Patterns has several tulip designs many associated with a source and year of publication. Unfortunately the pattern most similar to her quilt doesn’t give a date, but considering all the other patterns have origins in the 1930s there isn’t much doubt this one does too.
Now we turn our attention to the quilt: The once long green leaves are now a dirty yellow color and the scrappy flowers made up of three identical pieces of fabric with the center one partially appliquéd on top of the other two tell a different story: The larger scale (as opposed to the 1930s) floral and geometric designs are common in the 1940s. Now a closer examination of the fabrics is needed. They all appear to be cotton, but certain ones show the grain of the fabric more distinctly than others due to thicker thread: Feed sack fabric! When Charleene hears this she tells me her father’s parents were farmers and her father was born on the farm while her mother’s family lived in town and never farmed which suggests the quilt was made by Charleene’s paternal grandmother or great-grandmother.
Now we turn our attention to the crib quilt top. It is in better condition compared to the quilt except for seams needing to be re-stitched. The tinted designs are outlined stitched along the blue printed lines. These blocks and their subjects are much more simplistic than the crib sheets of the 1930s. I estimate they are at least one if not two decades older. The top could have come from either siade of the family so Charleene will take them with her to North Carolina to talk to Audrey and their cousins to see if they can shed a light on its maker. No matter who made them, it’s clear to me they will be cherished no matter who made them as family textile treasures.
Born Again Quilts, 4005 South Wayne Avenue specializes in the restoration of quilts and sells vintage quilts and other textiles across the USA and the world. The studio is open Weds. from 5:30p-7p and Saturday 9a – 2p or by appointment. Follow on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/bornagainquilts.