I wiped away the weeds & foam. / I fetched my sea-born treasures home... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Collecting and Using Antique Fabrics


Hello! First, for those of us who were worried about the birds on the beach, the trucks are GONE! [job unfinished?] And the protective fencing of the nesting areas went up last week, actually the day after my concerned post here. It has been too windy for the birds to be out on the beach, but I am hoping they're here and will go on with their nesting routine.

It has been a busy week for me---I have been working on custom orders for lavender hearts, plus making doll quilts for Lori of Humble Quilts doll quilt swap. [I can't decide! Which is good enough, will the swappee like it? etc etc?]. Both projects utilize my antique fabrics. which I've collected for many years. (I do NOT cut up any linens or quilt pieces unless they are damaged. I treat the stains and cut around the flaws.)

When I began the Noah and Matilda wedding quilt repro, I wrote to my longtime friend and quilt dealer asking him to send me fabrics. Wow. He sent me over 350 quilt blocks, all but a few dating between 1845 and 1895. Fabulous collection, once belonging to his mother, I believe.

He also asked me if I was interested in vintage c. 1920-30 milliners' velvets, and of course I said Yes! [some may be of later vintage]

With the velvets came yardages of vintage/ antique solid cotton: turkey reds and cheddars.

The velvets:
You may recall I like to make sewing strawberries / emeries for my etsy shop. With this large collection I can now make what I call theorem fruit. My Theorem Fruit pins on Pinterest  and  More antique velvet fruit on Pinterest

Tomatoes, Pears, Pumpkins. Carrots? ( a project scheduled for late summer/ early fall, but if anyone wants something, maybe sooner is possible. And/ or I can email you when they go into my shop in the fall.)

Pears again.
Here's a theorem painting. A common motif found in the stencilled paintings on velvet was bowls of fruit.

c. 1800s.

And here's a few pictures of fruits, a popular fad of the late Victorian era. Many were sewing whimsies, pin keeps. Or simply decorative items made by ladies with time on their hands.

I picked up a small papier mache box, too...to make a birdie on a tuffet topped sewing box.

 Maybe mine will be velvet?


 Some silk velvet patchwork squares, perhaps for Santa suits?

And here are [ some of] the cotton Civil War era through turn of the 20th century quilt blocks:
 click for full screen closeups/ details.


miniature 9-Patch  


Four Patch, very old fabrics mixed in here...

 I love working with these treasures. The fabrics are so interesting and so beautiful. I enjoy imagining the women who sewed the blocks a hundred--a hundred-fifty!---years ago. And I feel it is okay to use them as they were once intended. If sewed into a quilt and finished they are far more likely to be preserved for the future. Random loose blocks can be lost or discarded.

This is a "T" block, sometimes called the Temperance block, in reference to the ladies who were gainst the use of alcoholic beverages and drunkenness: The Women's Christian Temperance Society. [apparently this is an urban myth; no contemporary references or items have been found.]

Yes, one square is turned the wrong way. I love that. Aren't the fabrics great! The black vermicelli with blue roses! The pale aqua with coral roses, the tiny black and white sprigged calico. sigh. I wish I could buy these fabrics right now.

I like to examine how the blocks were made. Sometimes I find the tiniest even stitches, other times big and messy, almost basted. Many are so well made that it is very hard to take them apart for repair or reuse. A common practice was to do a needle's worth of running stitches, 4-6, then a backstitch. This makes very strong seams.
And also of course even the oldest blocks are sometimes machine stitched.

I put the last stitch in America Hurrah a few weeks ago. I appliqued the date then  washed and dried and fluffed it.

Label on the back , using an antique block.

 My kids are cringing about the bright cheddar color, but I am pleased to have completed this project, begun many years ago, when I first came to NYC after college, and bought my first quilt blocks in a folk art gallery on Madison Avenue. (the Tulips.) There's no rhyme or reason to this group, or not much: ships and stars, red and blue and cheddar. Makes me smile....

Perhaps my next ''collection'' quilt will feature blue and white blocks? Something to look for on eBay? These are the blue blocks from my friend HP.



gone to the beach

velvet fruits and theorem painting images are from Pinterest. All other photos are mine.