Wednesday, September 15, 2010

1896 Quilt revisited

1896 Quilt revisited:

So, why make a reproduction of an old quilt?  (The photo here is of one of the base blocks in the hand-pieced reproduction quilt.  The fabrics are batiks from Quilt Expressions in Boise.  Karen has a fabulous array of batiks.)

The 1896 quilt looks so great in the photo (below in 1896 Quilt post), it is hard to believe it is 114 years old.  Of course there is wear, and a lot of it.    Hanging on a wall somewhere just isn't an option, and neither is lying on a bed in a house with a cat, so the quilt usually lives rolled into a well-washed cotton sheet and tucked into a cotton pillowcase.  Washing it isn't an option, either.  The indigo dyed cotton still has so much pigment in it that a damp Q-tip brushed across it picks up blue.  So, the quilt gets admired occasionally, but is usually in a cool, dark closet, wrapped like a cotton clad mummy.

Here's what Ruth M had to say about her baby quilt:

Ruth’s description of the quilt:

“When I was born, Aunt Sally Buck gave me a quilt she had made.  She made one for each of us from Pat down to me, five quilts.  I still have the one she gave me, a dear keepsake.  It is blue, red, and yellow with unbleached cotton cloth for a lining.  Mother told me that when I was born Aunt Sally wanted me named Sally, but Mother said "No.  There are enough Sally's in the family already."  So Sally Buck flounced out of the room saying, "Well, I am about done giving anyway."  But that may be why one of Dad's nicknames for me was "Little Sal."  Another one was "Duck."  Aunt Sally died the following year, October 1897, leaving Dad a horse and buggy.  He was her executor.”
Ruth’s description of the batting for similar quilts:

“In those days quilts were made of calico and pieces of dress material left over from sewing, and they were filled with cotton.  We picked cotton from our field to make the filling. After we washed it, we carded it into little bats about three inches wide and ten inches long.  We children picked the seed out of the cotton before it was washed.  I remember having my shoe filled with cotton, and my job was to pick out the seed before I could go to bed.  The quilting was done on very closely marked lines.  Most people were able to make fine stitches as the quilts were not very thick.  You may wonder how we were able to keep warm with such light weight cover.  Well, we all slept on feather beds.  When I lay on the feather bed, I just sank in and the bed pushed up around me.  So it did not take much cover to keep warm.”

Excerpts from Histories of Arnold Lewis Sorensen and Ruth M Sorensen  edited by Marion S. Ellingford and Jerelyn S. Decker  © 2000

If you look back at the photo of the complete quilt (1896 Quilt post) you'll see that the single block above has large blue triangles with smaller red ones rather than the large red with small blue of the original.  This block is also slightly larger, using 4" finished blocks rather than the 3 !/2" blocks of the original.  Our choice of measurement was partly made to accommodate using 5" charm squares with the pattern.  Our "Ruth M Rides Again: the 1896 Quilt" has instructions for both 4" and 3 1/2" finished basic blocks.  (We're calling the half-triangle squares the "basic blocks" for this quilt.) 


Colleen said...

I love older quilts and collect blocks and yops like this. Follow me at

Rachael said...

Aunt Ann, this was so fascinating to read! I really wish I lived closer so I could benefit from your wisdom; I made my first pieced quilt last year (I finished hand-quilting it about five days before my third baby was born) and absolutely loved the experience. Thanks for sending the link!