Saturday, November 2, 2013

My boys and their respective antique quilts. 

The quilt on the left came from Pa May's estate, Adam's step-great-grandfather, after he passed earlier this year. Adam's mother, Dianne scooped up all the valuables from his house and hosted a family lunch, wherein she announced that we were to all pull 2 slips of paper from a bowl she was passing around. She had written each valuable on these slips, and we were to take the 2 items whether we wanted them or not! (Gotta love her manipulative organization) Lo and behold, I picked a quilt!! I was absolutely thrilled. She had taken the liberty of washing it, in the washing machine, which I wagged my finger at her for, but I'm secretly thankful for a must-free quilt. 

Novelty fabrics like this came into popularity in the 1920's and flourished through the 40's, typically designed with inanimate objects or scenes relating to leisure, and representing American daily life. Nautical motifs were particularly popular. I would guess that this particular fabric dates to the 40's. It's a very simple patchwork top, one half is patterned in red and blue, the other half in turquoise and purple in the same design, with machine-stitched, diagonal quilting lines. I was told that it was filled with horse hair but upon closer inspection, it's a cotton batting. I did a burn test on a sample of the filling and there was no presence of synthetic fibers so that potentially supports its age. It at least doesn't disprove my 1940's guess.

The second quilt is a bit older and has been with me for a longer time. My grandmother (once again) found the quilt top packed away in her house in Nashville, TN. (She grew up in west TN, which is where it probably originated) Being that it was only a top and never finished into an actual quilt, meant it was never used and in pristine condition. I took it home and finished it, hand-quilting it in the car when I moved out to Los Angeles in '08. Here it's pictured at a quilt guild meeting, where I was able to get it dated by a professional. She gave me the time frame of somewhere between 1900 to 1920. 

This is pre-novelty fabric era so you'll see a lot more plaids, stripes, florals, plains; and the scale of their pattern will be tiny. Scales in textiles designs have gotten larger and larger as we've progressed through the 20th century. The fabric here that I've placed my finger behind is probably the oldest fabric in the quilt, I would say second half of the 19th century. It shows its age beautifully and I was excited when I discovered it. Where there was once brown dye, it has now eroded the fabric due to the metals used in making the dye. It's a great example of old manufacturing techniques in textile history.

As you can see it now has obvious damage to it. When I first noticed the top starting to tear, I had the choice to retire the quilt to a protected, covered life in a closet or under a bed somewhere. I ultimately made the choice that it was something better enjoyed being used and accepted the fact that fabrics do not last forever. Because I was young and poor at the time, I chose cheap polyester batting to fill the quilt. As a result, it's a wonderful summer quilt because it retains none of your body heat, and I still don't regret the decision to keep it on my bed. I have admired its beauty and appreciated its function. And ain't that the reason we have these things in our lives anyways??

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