Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lessons to Learn from an Old Quilt

I planned to show this in December but just got these photos taken the other day.  My son, Joshua Black Wilkins, is a professional photographer.  He found a few hours to shoot a lot of my quilts and this antique.

I found this at a trade day, sort of like a flea market, September 2009 in Scottsboro, AL.  Unfortunately, the seller had no information on this quilt:  who, what, where, or when.  It is in excellent condition, very bright colors, no holes or tears, and nicely quilted.  I've had it appraised and think the date on this is most likely 1875-1900.  I hope I look this good at that age!

The lessons I think today's quilters can learn from this quilt:

1.  Create a LABEL--by hand or computer, please sign your work.  Someone in the future WILL want to know who made your quilt, when it was made, where you lived, and why you made it. 

2.  Don't be so hard on yourself it things are not perfect--notice the four corners on the four sawtooth borders--each is different.  That is part of charm of this quilt for me.  The quilting motifs change direction--three rows point in one direction, two rows in the other--probably so it would look "right" on the bed.

3.  Take care of your quilts--don't store them folded up for years.  Don't store in plastic bags or against wood in a chest or drawer.  Watch the amount of direct or indirect light your best quilts are exposed to.  This one is in such excellent shape it must have been stored out of light and I don't think it had been washed.  I'm currently storing it rolled up, around several other quilts, inside in, out of direct light.

4.  Put a "secret" hint into your quilts.  There are two interesting motifs quilted into this--a dragonfly and an initial--it might be a "W" or an "M".  Since my husband's last name is Wilkins, it's now a "W".  I am a huge fan of dragonflies, often wearing one of the many dragonfly pins I've collected, and so you can imagine my surprise and delight when I got this home and discovered those two motifs!  Here are shots from the back so you can see them--they are almost invisible from the front.

5.   Make a record of your work, with photos, and notes.  Make a journal, a photo album, some kind of record to tell the stories of your quilts.  As I often say, when non-quilters see the labels I put on my quilts and wonder why I did that:  "I'm not going to live forever" and I want generations yet unborn to know a little about who I was, what I created with my hands, and why I made the quilts I did.  With today's technology, it's easier than ever to have such a record.

6.  Finally, keep your eyes open at flea markets--you never know what kind of treasure you'll find right around the corner!

Let's quilt!



  1. FABULOUS quilt and a great post on it, too, Barbara!! I'm a dragonfly lover as well -- another commonality we share (I have a set of purple dragonfly earrings that I adore!) I would never have noticed the four different corners had you not pointed them out...and good catch on the "hidden clues"! :)

  2. What a treasure!! I embrace my *mistakes* because they simply add to the uniqueness of each quilt. Love your quilt
    Gmama Jane

  3. What a great find! Love the lessons and the secrets held in the quilt.