Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Details. I could spend years looking at the details in old quilts. Like the way the colors in this Sunburst block in an old Mississippi quilt are stronger in some areas than others. I wonder why she chose a stripe for the center circle? And another stripe for the sashing around the block too. Look how the heavy fan-pattern quilting runs right over the whole thing. Interesting eccentric details.

Years ago while researching quilting patterns (the stitched designs) I was lucky enough to be working in the David Pottinger collection of Amish quilts. Dave had a beautiful pole barn-type building with built-in shelving for his quilts. The shelves could then be covered by roll-down "blinds" of heavy blue denim to protect the quilts from dust and light. On the second day, Dave came into the building and watched me work as I transferred designs from an old quilt to sheets of flexible Mylar. He watched as the black marker traced onto the Mylar the hidden designs. He was amazed. "Those designs are on my quilts?" he asked in astonishment. Then I knew that he had collected those wonderful quilts exclusively for their colors and graphic effect. He hadn't seen or understood the function or the subtle beauty of the stitches. His own comprehension aside, Dave Pottinger did a great job of recording and collecting Amish quilts from a particular area in Indiana. If you'd like to see the Pottinger quilt collection online, much of his collection is viewable here at the Indiana State Museum.

Lots of folks are like Dave Pottinger and it's especially true in our favorite craft. Unless you understand how a quilt is constructed, you can miss the details. And I love the details. Here are a few favorite photos of quilt details. I don't always have an overall shot of the quilt but then again, I don't need the entire image to appreciate the work. Kind of like eating just the cherries off a sundae. Why do you suppose this 1940s quilt from Quebec has gaps in its borders? For the pillows perhaps?

And isn't this a nutso block? 'Busy' is too pedestrian a term to describe the frantic movement of the blocks vs. the pieced sashing.

This quiltmaker obviously thought white strips between blocks was boring so decided to jazz the quilt up with rick-rack sashing.

Don't you wish you could go back and ask these folks questions?