Saturday, December 14, 2013

Just Plain Ole Quilts

Maybe I was getting weary of uber-busy quilts or those masterpiece quilts with designs so elaborate they remind me of Victorian wallpaper. But the day I cruised Ebay and found these old girls, their simple patterns, forthright quilting, and yes even their wear-and-tear were appealing. I love this kind of country quilt. It seems so honest. True, it is a bed covering and at the same time, slam it up against a white wall in a New York loft gallery and watch people's jaws drop. Good as graphic art and with added benefits: if the heat's off, you can snatch that quilt from the wall and wrap right up in it.

The faded gold and black quilt is from Texas. It has lots wrong structurally with it-threads loose, a few little holes batting pokes through, and a ratty binding. The patchwork block is so simple that you almost miss the fact that once upon a time when this quilt was young, those white framing strips were indeed striped fabric.
And that pinky-tan? Dollars to donuts, that tan was once flaming scarlet. I think the quiltmaker's choice of black around the patchwork and bright gold sashing is really gutsy. More on instinct than fact, I place this quilt's date as something around 1910-1920. Maybe an antique but certainly vintage.

The second quilt is late 1930s or maybe the 1940s. The pattern is often called Bulls-Eye. The prints here are much more feedsack-ish and feminine. This cheerful quilt is from Arkansas and in good condition.

Thecloser you look at the quilt, the more interesting it is. You can see the quiltmaker boldly used striped fabric and consistently used white, with one exception, as the blocks' centers.

We can surmise from a couple of clues that the maker was likely poor. Or perhaps raised and taught quilting by a grandmother who prized thrift as a virtue.                             Some blocks are pieced.

Others show defects in the print of the fabric itself and were likely the remnant that was on the sale table. But this quilter used it all!

There's even rayon in the quilt.

The stitching is a geometric 'elbow' of right-angled lines and the white stitches show well against the cornflower blue backing.
Both quilts are deceptively simple at first glance but upon a long view followed by close thoughtful examination, they can still teach us by example. For instance, the first quilt says "Use large bold patterns" and "Dare to combine black and gold in the same quilt." The second quilt reminds us to "Use what you've got-" and "Keep it neat" but "Quilt densely in a pattern not dictated by the seams of the quilt top." Lots of lessons here.