Quilt Care Seminar — A Visit With the Hancock County Piecemakers Quilt Guild

I gave quilt care presentation last week to a local guild. Unlike a similar presentation I gave last month, this time I had a camera. All photos were taken by permission of their owners for posting on this weblog.

At each presentation, I invite participants to bring a quilt that they have questions about. Usually, I can help them with naming block patterns, dating fabric (though I don’t pretend to be an expert), and pointing out interesting things about their quilts.

The owner of this quilt wanted to know the name for this dizzying pattern. The photograph doesn’t do justice to the three-dimensional effect of this pattern. The only clue she has about provenance is the set of initials in one corner.

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After paging through Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, I’ve identified this as Cube Lattice, which was first published by the Ladies Art Company in 1901. I’ve poked about a bit on the web, hoping to find another example. Modern versions of this block have been adapted for rotary cutting which seems to have elongated the diamonds. That may be an illusion caused by the radically different approach to colors and value. Here’s the pattern, and here’s an example of a finished top.

Another quilter brought in a top that had been pieced by her Grandmother, which would place it in the early part of the 20th century. As we looked it over and chatted about possible options for it, my eye caught an interesting detail:

Swastikas have a long history in many cultures, most notably as a symbol of good luck in Western countries. It was incorporated into many designs, including quilt patterns and, as you see here, fabric motifs. The symbol disappeared from polite society after the rise of the Nazi party.

Another quilt shyly brought forward this tied quilt:

which had this back:

“I don’t suppose this is worth anything….” she said.
As an antique or as a work of fine art, the answer is not much. But, my goodness, what a vibrant expression of the quiltmaker’s personality! In addition, it’s a nifty little fabric library of the time, leading to many happy moments daydreaming about the shirts, dresses, and aprons and other projects that yielded these scraps.

A common theme that develops in my discussions with quilt owners is that they have several quilts and tops made by several generations of quilters in their family but no documentation as to who made which quilt. Sometimes I can help, based upon clues in the quilt — other times, it’s anybody’s guess. It’s a source of disappointment for these women, that such tangible evidence of a mother’s or grandmother’s creative spirit can’t be directly attributed. Please, document your quilts — even the silly, ugly, imperfect ones. Maybe especially the silly, ugly, imperfect ones — those are the ones that get loved to pieces.
You can view all of the photos I took here.

6 comments

  1. Trying again to post! I loved, loved seeing the old antiques and hearing about them. What fun for you! Being half Finnish, I am very interested in swastikas. The Finnish army used them for good luck as did the Swedes in the early 1900’s on army and air force uniforms. The Greeks use of the four ‘gamma’ letters was only for good and for propagation of good. Hitler’s desecration of the symbol changed everything. I find that quilters are drawn to them, then realize what they are looking at and become afraid to use them, even in old, treasured patterns, when they really shouldn’t be. What I am fascinated by with the tetra-gammadions…or swastikas…is how old they truly are. The little spinning wheels are used by Buddhists, as good, holy and sacred symbols…only the wheel direction is the original direction, not Hitler’s. The Nazis not only reversed the direction of the blades, they reversed the blessings power of the intent of the symbolic nature. Once reversed, it was like flipping the side of good to evil. We forget that it is truly a sacred symbol…we just have to pay attention to how we direct the blades and not use the Nazi version!

  2. Thank you for the quilt show. I treasure the older quilts when women used what they had. The cube lattice pattern is a new one for me–that red and white is dizzying!

  3. Wooh, that red adn white quilt is fabulous. And I love the close-up of the initials where I can see teh freehand fans. Excellent. And the nine-patch quilt with the orphan back – I love it too. Think I’d have to switch that quilt back and forth so that I could enjoy both the front and back. Thanks for the wonderful photos and info.

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