Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seeing Red...and White

I (Kara) love antique quilts! If I had an unlimited budget, I would fill my house with them and then travel around the country showing them to other people who love antique quilts as much as I do. Alas, I do not have an unlimited budget and currently do not even have a line-item in the home budget for such a thing. However, I do have three antique quilts that have been given to me over the course of my life. The one I'd like to share with you today is the quilt that was always called "The Turkey Red Quilt," for obvious reasons.

This quilt came from my father's side of the family and was given to me by my Grandma Killian. I just learned a little bit more about the quilt from Phyllis Hatcher last week when I took it to her to have it appraised. It was most likely made around 1870 and is a Snowball Variation as per Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Quilt Patterns. This pattern was also called "Octagons." Because it is made with turkey red dyed fabric, it is assumed that the quilter was in a position financially to purchase that more expensive fabric. My Auntie Mike has a little information about it, but we don't know which family member made it. My aunt and I have narrowed the possible quilter down to one of three ancestors: Sarah Foster, who grew flax and had a linen-weaving business as a widow, her daughter Eliza Stratton, or her granddaughter Electa Mae Young. The Stratton and Young families were flour mill owners, which gives credence to the use of a more expensive fabric.

It's not easy to see unless you are looking for it, but there is one block out of the 25 that has the snowball colors reversed. We will probably never know why the quilter made that choice.

A close-up of one of the 25 blocks
The one block that is reversed
The hand-quilting on this quilt is thoughtfully and expertly done.
There is a funny albeit semi-tragic story about this quilt that my aunt tells. When she was about 17, she took the quilt out of the laundry area where it had been stored only to discover that some bleach had been spilled on the quilt. One of the blocks had lost all of its color, so she decided to fix it. With a permanent magic marker. I will be researching the best way to clean it, but there is the issue of what the magic marker will do when it gets wet. My aunt is pretty sure that she used a permanent marker, but who knows how that marker's permanency has broken down over the years.

The back side of the colored in area
A close-up of part of the colored in block
In spite of its "restoration," the quilt is in great shape structurally if not a bit dirty because it was hung on a wall in our house for about 6 years. Which leads me to a write about the choice we have with not just antique quilts but all quilts. Display and Destroy or Pack Away and Preserve. The word "destroy" might be a bit harsh, but had I known how old this quilt was when I was contemplating hanging it, I don't know if I would have put it on our wall.  The consequences of hanging it for all those years are that it has faded in spots and is overall quite dirty, yet we were able to enjoy its beauty and its exquisite craftsmanship. I think the decision to display a quilt or not depends on a lot of factors: age, value (sentimental or monetary), hanging location, and personal preference. I will admit my knowledge base of quilt preservation is at this time very limited, but as I pursue my career as an antique quilt junkie collector, I need to learn more so that these quilts will still be around for future generations. Oh, and I need that unlimited budget, too.


  1. I love your story - your aunt's solution to the bleach problem was very creative!!! Having a 17 year old atm, I can well imagine him doing something like that -especially if he thought I wouldn't notice!

  2. Thanks! I think she did a pretty good job of making it look good. You can hardly tell from a distance.

  3. Thanks for your story and the chance to see this beautiful quilt!

  4. You're so welcome! We appreciate you stopping by our blog!

  5. Loved reading about this quilt. I personally believe that a quilt needs to be on display to show everyone the hard work that's gone into the making of it.

  6. Loved reading about this quilt. I personally believe that a quilt needs to be on display to show everyone the hard work that's gone into the making of it.

  7. I have read that if a OLD quilt gets dusty, place a window screen, with edges taped so won't harm quilt, on top of quilt, lying flat on floor, and using the hand attachment of vacuum, clean the area through the screen, move the screen to next area and continue till all done. Another way would be to put in dryer for fluff (short period of time) to remove dust. Just a thought!