Vintage Quilt

I’m writing this post hoping someone may be able to help or advise me, or even just suggest where I can go for help…

Last year my daughter was helping to clear her grandmothers house and found, at the bottom of an old trunk, an unfinished patchwork quilt. We’re not sure who made it, Helen seems to think it could have been one of her sisters. Helen quite fancied finishing it. We had a quick look when the trunk came to our house but I must admit, it smelled pretty bad! I couldn’t even say what it smelled of, almost petrolly, but not nice! The trunk and the quilt got stashed at the back of the box room.

Yesterday I suddenly decided to get it out and see just what we had. I was amazed how big the main piece is, it’s about 60 x 85″ at the moment, but there are enough strips of hexagons to make another two rows, which would probably get it pretty much square.

It’s all hand paper pieced, what I love is the paper that she used. It looks like old school books, many of the papers are covered in beautiful copperplate handwriting, as if she was practising her writing. The papers have been removed from most of the main quilt, but they are all still in place in the ones waiting to be attached.

I’ve hung everything on the washing line, hoping to get rid of the smell. There are some bad stains on it, but clearly I can’t do anything about those until it’s finished.

I think the pattern is called tumbling blocks. I’m going to need some extra light coloured diamonds for the final strip of hexagons. I’m wondering about using an old pillowcase as I think new fabric would just look wrong but any suggestions are welcome.

If anyone thinks it’s an antique, don’t touch it, please say so, I don’t know anything about antique quilts. My gut feeling is just that it would be nice to finish and enjoy it, after all, that’s why she started it.

About craftycreeky

I live in a busy market town in Yorkshire with my husband, kids, dogs and chickens. I love trying new crafts, rediscovering old ones, gardening, walking...anything creative really I started this blog after my New Year resolution worked so well. My resolution (the first one I've ever kept!) was to post a photograph of my garden on Facebook every day. My hope was that I would then see what was good in the garden and not just weeds and work, which was my tendency. The unexpected side-effect was that I have enjoyed many more hours in the garden. I am hoping that 'The Crafty Creek' will have the same effect. Happy creating!
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22 Responses to Vintage Quilt

  1. katechiconi says:

    There is a well-established tradition of finishing incomplete vintage quilts, and unless this was an historically important antique piece, I can’t see why its previous maker wouldn’t be delighted if you complete it. If you can bear the smell, I’d recommend completing the stitching before you wash it, but if it’s horrendous, put it folded in a lingerie bag, and wash it in the bath with some wool wash or other gentle washing liquid, in cool water, just gently squeezing and swooshing it in the water. If you have a colour catcher or two in there that will help to protect it from dye runs. Tumble dry it on cold rather than line dry it.
    The block is indeed called Tumbling Blocks. I’d recommend not using any old bedding fabrics, as they are a much tighter and finer weave, and may over time distort the quilt. For more technical advice on restoration, you may find that Tim Latimer in the US is a helpful person to contact as he has restored and completed many old quilts. His blog can be found here: I think I have read somewhere on his blog that he has used tea to dye fabrics to achieve a vintage effect on new fabrics, but I may be wrong, it could have been elsewhere!
    It’s a wonderful piece, full of subtle colours and beautifully executed. I think it would be a shame to leave it unfinished.

    Liked by 2 people

    • craftycreeky says:

      Thanks Kate, I’m going to try and stitch it before I wash it, maybe it’s one to stitch outside in the garden over the summer!! I’ve sent Time a message though he isn’t blogging at the moment. I’ll look out some new fabrics that might blend in ok, it will just be one strip of light diamonds I think


  2. tialys says:

    What a lovely find and the papers make it even better. I can’t really offer you any advice but I know a lady who probably can. I follow a blog called ‘A Passion for Vintage Textiles’ and it is written by Jan who is very knowledgeable about vintage quilts. If you go to her blog and press her contact details you could send her an email – you can tell her I recommended her I don’t think she would mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful find. I really hope that you manage to complete it so that it can finally be used.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. claire93 says:

    that’s a lovely find ! colours and fabrics are very pretty, and it looks more vintage to me than antique. Would be a great project to finish off.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. By all means finish it. I have used tea to “age” fabric for a vintage look and it works well. Wonderful find!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I admire your courage in taking on the project!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kathyreeves says:

    I don’t believe it is too much older than the 50’s just because of those aqua colored blocks. That could be 30’s but it seems quite new compared to some of the other colors. I almost think she took old fabrics for the quilt and added some contemporary fabrics…but it is a very uneducated guess!


  8. It’s beautiful, however old it is, and represents a labour of love. I hope you finish it one day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. sewtonya says:

    I still have fabric that was my great grandmas and I don’t want to use it for anything. This is awesome that this is already for you to finish and enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. magpiesue says:

    If you still need further resources you might check out and/or contact Barbara Brackman. She’s an expert on vintage/antique textiles here in the US. She has a blog but I don’t know the name off the top of my head. I’m sure you’ll be able to find her easily enough with a simple search of the internet. I’m glad you’re planning to finish this off and use it – unless any of those fabrics are silk, in which case they may not hold up well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. sewchet says:

    I am green with envy that you unearthed such a treasure! Of course you should finish it – I’m in no doubt that it’s the right thing to do. Then use it as was originally intended.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. How romantic! To find an old quilt top, and to want it in it’s finished state! I am excited, for this quilt will take you on a new journey. Enjoy it and embrace it, because an opportunity like this may not present itself again!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Deb says:

    I know I’m a little late in joining in the comments,but I just stumbled across your blog. I’m not an expert on old fabric but I do have some experience. You have a wonderful old treasure there. It has a good many years to its age dating from the middle 1800’s ,some of the fabric is pre civil war era. Be so care with sewing and depending on how fragile your fabric ,I wouldn’t wash ,unless absolutely necessary then only by hand and no dryer . To remove the old smell ,store the quilt with a little fabric pillow that’s stuffed with cotton batting that has a few drops of lavender oil added to it.


    • craftycreeky says:

      Thanks Deb, I took the quilt to my Embroiderers Guild where one of the ladies works in the textile department of a National Trust house. She said most of the fabrics are mid 1800’s’s but some are from 1700’s, so it needs keeping as it is for it’s social history as much as anything else. I’m just waiting to hear if the house would be interested in adding it to their collection.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deb says:

        So happy to hear this! I hope it is added to the collection! Do you mind if I save your photo to my collection of antique quilt photos,it is for my own research on dating fabric?


        • craftycreeky says:

          Of course you can, I’m planning to do another post updating things once I know if they will take it, she felt most of the fabrics were actually scraps from a dressmaker, rather than cut up clothes etc as they still have that crisp feel to them. The papers still in the back refer to events in the 1870’s, but there was a couple of fabrics which she reckoned were from the late 1700’s. I don’t feel I have the facilities to keep it safe without deteriorating, so I am hoping they will take it on a long term loan basis.

          Liked by 1 person

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