The Lure Of Antique Quilts


Quilting Contessa discusses some of the key things she learned during a display of antique quilts at a quilt show in the United States. Read along and share.

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The Lure Of Antique Quilts

We added a small display of antique quilts to our Guild Quilt Show this year. The five quilts were each more than 100 years old, one of them having been crafted in New England in the 1700’s.

The Lure of Antique Quilts


The quilts were displayed in a setting with other objects borrowed from members and from an antique shop. The area was well-chosen and was easily roped off to ensure the safety of the quilts. We hadn’t tried this type of display in many years and were thrilled with the success.



We know we did three things right. First, the quilts were displayed at eye level, or just below to make them quite easy to see. Even though they were roped off, the whole cloth quilt with trapunto was displayed on a fake bed so that the observer could look down at the pattern.



Second, the quilts were displayed in a setting which made the display pleasing to the eye. The addition of an antique ironing board and iron gave the display a homey feel. Third, and most important, the quilts were displayed by a committee that really knew their quilt history! One of our older members told me that she was so fascinated by the stories that she found a chair, pulled it up, and sat and listened.



She told me that she liked three things about the stories. First, that each quilt had a story of its own. Those of us interested in quilts know that every quilt tells a story, but also may have a story of its own. Second, she loved the history of the fabrics and how trends have changed through the years. Last, she loved hearing how patterns have changed over time.



For example, the Log cabin was popular during the Civil War and several popular stories link the pattern to Abraham Lincoln, the pioneers, and the Underground Railroad. Later, the log cabin pattern, where half the square was made of dark fabrics and half from light fabrics, became popular. The popularity of this variation is back – at least at our local quilt show!


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Moving a hot iron while it has contact with fabric. Often ironing can stretch and distort fabrics and seams. A better alternative is to press, where you just lay the hot iron down and lift straight up from the fabric.

See Also: Pressing
Log Cabin
A quilt pattern in which narrow fabric strips, or logs, surround a center square to form a block. These may be pieced from strips or sewn onto a foundation of paper or fabric.
A raised, dimensional surface created by putting additional batting or stuffing into areas to sculpt the surface.
Whole Cloth Quilt
A quilt made from one large piece of fabric, historically a solid color, that is quilted in usually intricate patterns. There are no pieced blocks in these quilts.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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