Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Turn of the Century Strip Quilt Top

You can get the idea of how a border design was created with rows of triangles and then a final row of squares going around the quilt's parameter.  The rows of triangles at the bottom don't create the wonderful zigzag pattern found on the sides. 

Bottom right corner.  Alternating the placement of the prints in the side borders creates the wonderful zigzag design.

The pink and yellow plaid on the black background is not a woven fabric, but a bright neon novelty print of the 1890's.

A few bars were exclusively light colored shirting and light color prints.  The light/dark sequence was eliminated.

I was thinking about the direction of quilt making today and I thought about the majority of new patterns coming out on the market or in magazines utilizing large geometric shapes that are easy to piece together.  Let's not forget that I just did a Sticks and Bricks for my daughter for her wedding which was just rows of different size rectangles pieced together. Certainly there are intricate patterns currently being painstakingly created by the many talented quilt artists across the globe.... but then there are just these simple quilts the designers or magazines will categorize as simple or beginner quilts - easy patterns using quick strip piecing techniques to make it even faster to assemble.

When I first think of 19th century quilts, I visualize intricate patterns pieced together or time consuming applique.  But, then, there is this category of bar or strip quilts which is the easy or simple pattern of the era -  sometimes referred to as utility quilts.  Random patterns assembled in order to create a usable household object.

The bars in this top are all hand pieced and the bars added to the long fabric border strips are machine pieced.  Maybe these strips were left-overs from another quilt project that got too large?  Maybe hand piecing the strips was an enjoyable activity, but adding the long strips was just the right kind of task for the sewing machine?

The end result is a very primitive quilt with a masculine feel.  Now this is what I would call a farmhouse primitive; just the kind of quilt made for the farm hand for his bunk.


  1. What a fabulous find -- I LOVE the fabrics in this quilt! The patterns and colors are just beautiful and even in photos you can see that they are bright and crisp. The construction and points look good, too, which I don't find very often. Even still (and I know some people might be horrified at this), all I can think about is how I would be taking that top apart in a heartbeat. It's my crazy obsession to remake them.

  2. I love the crazy obsession you have Martha, especially when you have the ability to transform vintage fabric into something wonderful. The only thing which horrifies me is when I see vintage blocks chopped up to make stuffed cats, ducks, pigs and cows. I'm not referring to old quilts cut up to recycle, but vintage blocks never utilized in a quilt.

  3. ....and after thinking about this a little more, and looking at how the quilt was pieced together: I believe the inside bars were done by one quilter (execution was exact and piecing was very uniform) and the borders by a later quilter (just not the same precision as before). So maybe this quilt top was a recycling effort beyond the initial piecing from used clothing and fabric scraps. OR....maybe it is one quilter who aged and had diminished eyesight?

  4. I enjoy Martha's crazy obsession, too! When I first saw this top, besides falling in love, I thought of how Martha would be taking it apart and making it perfect.

    Don't you love how the reds were used so wisely to tie together the shirting and other fabrics?

  5. Oh Tina, you must know Martha well to have the image of her carefully snipping the seams of this top apart for the fabric!! And, you are so right. There is just a bit of unconventional design in this top that makes me love it though.