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Thread: Original "patchwork" quilts

  1. #1
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    Original "patchwork" quilts

    I do think some utilitarian quilts in the past (those made for the hired man or hired girl) were definitely made out of "whatever" - and there were some that tried to make even those somewhat attractive by arranging the pieces in a pleasing arrangement.

    Then i think there were some that just put pieces of fabric together until it was (barely) big enough to cover someone.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    I think you are correct. My belief is that quilting had it's beginning from the waste not/want not generations. People from the past utilized everything they could. Clothing with holes still has some good fabric that wasn't thrown away as it is today. The idea of buying fabric and cutting it up to make a quilt would have women of the past aghast. This is why you may find vintage quilts with a variety of textures. It was simply usable fabric turned into something of use in another way. And we think recycling is something new!!!

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    I will never forget the huge polyester double knit quilt that my grandmother made from scraps that she had leftover from making her pantsuits. It was extremely heavy and I am certain that it will last forever.

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    I do think some women used to buy yardage for quilts, not just scraps. Of course most of the quilts made during the Depression were scraps. But I have an old book (my first quilt book actually, bought second hand), published in 1964, that focuses on quilts made from 1840's to about 1920's. Most of the quilts are made from only three or four fabrics. The quilts are different sizes than what we generally make today, like 70"x85" being a "queen", so I guess the beds were smaller back then too.
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    I had some truly hideous and heavy utility quilts that were made from scratchy wool and tweed squares. They had started as tied warm quilts for winter at one time. Since someone later used them for the dogs to lay on, I threw them away. Do I regret that, nope, hideous and stinky.

  6. #6
    Super Member NZquilter's Avatar
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    I once read an account of a young teenage girl in 1936 who bought a quilt pattern and all the fabrics brand new for $6. She must have been rich!
    We didn't realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun. ~ Winnie the Pooh ~

    1912 World's Rotary Treadle (White Company), 1942 Singer 66-16, 1952 Pfaff 130-6, 1954 Singer 15-91, 1956 Singer 201-2

  7. #7
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    I also think some people did buy fabric for "special" quilts.

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    I think it depends on the esthetics and the means of the quilter. Just like now, some quilters were artistic and some just needed to keep their families warm. Some had the money to buy fabric and others collected old clothes. Same variety as today, (except today quilting has become an industry).

    Some of the coziest quilts I have made are from cotton men's shirts I have cut up. Even with that fabric, one can be artistic.
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  9. #9
    Super Member KalamaQuilts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by illinois View Post
    The idea of buying fabric and cutting it up to make a quilt would have women of the past aghast.
    A generalization I think, the museums are stuffed with quilts using fabrics purchased for specific quilts made by quilters from all income strata.

    Utility quilts on the other hand, yes, everything when into the pot. Waggas from Australia are great examples and bedroll quilts used by horse soldiers and cowboys. My grandmother fostered dozens of children and her utility quilts were made from mens suiting fabrics, garnered from who knows where. Backed with pajama flannel, Tied with red yarn, her signature. No binding, front and back were turned in 1/2" and seamed shut.

  10. #10
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    My grandmothers both had, and used, "quilts" which were wool blankets covered with large patches of a variety of cottons, some floral, some striped. Not pretty patchwork patterns, but a way of creating something a bit pretty while using every scrap they had. Still being used when I was a kid (50's/60's)
    These were around WW2, every thing on ration in the UK. My mother told me she even knitted a sweater from darning wool since that was not on ration.

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    Scraps from clothing and feed sacks were used for those old-timey utilitarian quilts. Later, in the polyester pant suit era, one of my sisters-in-law made a quilt out of those scraps. It was pure ugly and too heavy, but I bet it's still in existence somewhere. Totally indestructible!

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    My mother told me that they made utilitarian quilts when she was a girl. They were strictly to keep people warm. They were mostly log cabin because they were making them out of old clothes (primarily her brother's wool pants) and they could cut a lot of strips out of them. She never mentioned trying to make them pretty. She just said they did them all by hand with some of the girls cutting the strips and others sewing them together.

    My father's mother on the other hand was more affluent. She could afford to buy fabric to make her quilts. They were definitely made with an eye to color and design.
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    My grandmother and aunt use to make quilts from ribbons from cemetery bouquets My uncle worked there and would bring them home. They were pretty..
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  14. #14
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    Interesting topic Bear

  15. #15
    Super Member NZquilter's Avatar
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    This topic got me thinking, so what constitutes as a Utilitarian Quilt?
    We didn't realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun. ~ Winnie the Pooh ~

    1912 World's Rotary Treadle (White Company), 1942 Singer 66-16, 1952 Pfaff 130-6, 1954 Singer 15-91, 1956 Singer 201-2

  16. #16
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    In my mind a utilitarian quilt is one with three main purpose of keep one warm. Whether scrappy or with purchased fabrics it was not made to be an heirloom to be fussed over to preserve it for generations to come.

  17. #17
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    My definition of a utility quilt - which may or may not be the "real" one -

    One that will be given hard use, it may or may not be washed it frequently, made of leftovers or salvaged materials, sometimes given to the servants or slaves or to be taken to the beach or played on or under outside.

    My Grandma made quilts for donation that she was told to "make ugly" so the recipients would not sell them.

  18. #18
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    The "waste not, want not" philosophy was certainly at work when I was growing up. I remember my mother cutting buttons off clothes that were worn out. They "saved" everything on the theory that they "might need it".

    Although I don't personally remember her doing so, I know my grandmother made quilts both utilitarian -- to cover the beds of her eight children -- and as a creative outlet. As a child I slept under what I remember as a beautiful Sunbonnet Sue or little Dutch girl quilt that also had tulip blocks, made by my grandmother. I still remember the fabric and colors. It breaks my heart that my mother didn't preserve that quilt when it was "worn out"; how I'd love to see it again now that I am also a quiltmaker.

  19. #19
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    My grandmother used every bit of fabric she had. She even took my uncle's WWII navy uniform and made a suit out of it. When she died in early 1960, we found very many wire hoops full of buttons she cut off worn out clothes. She even made a quilt using curtains she found in a trash heap. She was a whiz at sewing.

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