Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Quilt That Followed Me Home

I recently wandered into a couple of antique shops near me, not necessarily looking for quilts, but just for fun. Buying antique quilts is not really in my budget these days, with a son in college and a daughter college bound soon enough. Plus, there's little room to display large quilts in my tiny house, so I like to look but don't usually get too attached when I see one. Where would I display it? Doll quilts are much easier to display but I rarely see any old doll quilts I want to buy at antique shops or flea markets--they all seem to have been made in the fifties (too close to home to be called "antique" I'd say!).

I haven't been drawn to the small ones I see at quilt show vendors' booths either and those I do see at antique shops or even on ebay are usually much too costly. I'm also not lucky enough to have had grandma's quilts handed down to me--I am the first quilter in my family. Notice I didn't say ONLY--I'm hopeful that I can recruit a few in the future and pass on the tradition. So, mostly I try to reproduce the patterns I like from old quilts and use reproduction fabrics to make my own NEW quilts that have a little bit of an antique touch. Works well for me. But I still like to look around at antique malls and this particular place has a pretty good array of shops.








I was half hoping to find something else for another collection I started, but not looking for a quilt. Isn't it funny how something often turns up when you're not really looking for it? You just never know. What kind of vintage treasure would it be this time?







This quilt is cool, but several hundred dollars cool? Better keep looking . . .



One shop is in an old schoolhouse building that claims to be the oldest school house in Illinois, dating from 1835, but probably restored somewhere along the line.





I spotted this one at a different shop, beneath some old textiles piled up on a chair in a corner, and it IMMEDIATELY called out to me.



I've always been drawn to schoolhouse quilts (I made a little red and blue one for my book Prairie Children and Their Quilts a few years ago). The fact that it was so faded and worn and in need of repair made me think of an antique doll or child's quilt that had been played with extensively. It looked forlorn, almost like it had been hidden because someone decided it held no value to anyone anymore. The price turned out to be affordable and the fact that I rarely EVER see schoolhouse quilts made it even more appealing. I couldn't resist. Don't know why. I had to rescue that quilt, regardless of the shape it was in.





The blocks are hand pieced and the quilt is tied, not quilted. It is definitely well worn and loved, has significant fading, a few stains and tears and is really in need of some good care. But it has such a primitive look and is truly a great piece of folk art. I couldn't just leave it there.




So I'm working on trying to date it. I know that schoolhouse quilts were popular in the late 19th century and that trend continued into the 1920s and '30s. According to the International Quilt Study Center in Nebraska,  "For rural women of the late nineteenth century, teaching was both the most prestigious and the highest paying opportunity available to them. The Schoolhouse pattern, which became popular at the same time, may reflect the lives of the many women who helped support their families through teaching positions, prior to their marriage."
                        
My quilt contains fabrics that are reminiscent of the late 1800s--double pinks, indigo and brown. And here's one you'll love--one of the fabrics used in the border is the SAME print as one in my reproduction collection! I recognized it right off as one I bought within the past year or two, but I only have a small piece without the selvedge left so I don't know who reproduced it. Maybe some of you also have this repro pink fabric (on the bottom). If anyone recognizes it, hopefully I can find out whose fabric line it belongs to:


My instincts tell me that the quilt was not made as late as 1920, particularly since it contains fabric that appears older and the binding is made from turning the edge of the backing to the front of the quilt, a technique used in the 19th century. Is it worth restoring? I'll be able to devote more time to that question after I'm finished with the book I'm working on. But it sure seems like I have enough similar fabrics in my collection to use to restore some of the blocks. Next year, while I'm taking my time repairing the damaged patches, I'll think about the woman from long ago who made it--Where was she from? Did she live on the prairie? Was she a teacher?--and try to bring that little schoolhouse quilt back to life.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kathy,
Do you think it could be a Judie Rothermel reproduction fabric? Sue McQ

Anonymous said...

I love that quilt! Schoolhouses are among my favorites also. I'm so happy you were able to rescue it. Enjoy contemplating on its' origins as you work to restore its' beauty. ~ Lina

Sister Stoll said...

Does the little square look like it has a little light bulb in it? I may have it in my stash.

Julie-Ann said...

I, too, feel a need to rescue old, worn and much loved quilts. Please see my recent post as I need help identifying the pattern of one. I love the quilt you found. It is very unusual and I would have bought it, too. Do you recommend anyone who restores old quilts? I'm a newbie quilter but have several family and recently purchased quilts that need tender loving repairs!

Kathleen Tracy said...

Wish I could recommend someone but I'm new to this myself.

I do have quite a bit of pink Judie Rothermel and Jo Morton fabrics, but don't know which it may be for sure.

The square has just a dark pink dot next to a white dot.

Happy Cottage Quilter said...

What a beautiful Schoolhouse quilt. So glad that you rescued it.

Sherri said...

I found a few small pieces of this print (only yellow) in my scrap basket. While I can't be certain, all the other fabrics in that same container were Cranston fabrics purchased from Walmart. Hope that helps.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Nope, haven't bought any Walmart fabric. I do have an idea where I bought it and should probably just retrace my steps from among 3-4 shops near me. They don't usually keep fabric that long though.

Shelley said...

I know I have a piece of that fabric somewhere....I think it's a P & B fabric. I'll look tomorrow.

Lori said...

What a wonderful find!!!

Ann's blog said...

I really enjoy reading your posts Kathleen. I am so glad you rescued the Schoolhouse quilt, it is simply gorgeous. I love Grandmother Flower Garden quilts and have just completed one in the Rouenneries fabrics. This one in reproduction fabrics is beautiful, so easy to make but they are timeless.

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