Thursday, October 10, 2019

When the Unknown Surprises You!

As we have shared in the past, Teri and I (Kara) are novice quilt collectors. We started with a few quilts that we inherited and picked up a few here and there as we wander the antique malls—one of our absolute favorite things to do together! A few of those inherited and purchased quilts have been shared on the blog (you can read about them by clicking on the links at the end of this post). Over here in Germany, there are not many antique quilts to be found, so I have formed a habit, albeit not necessarily a financially savvy habit, of perusing some online auction sites. 

My first purchase of a quilt online started with finding a quilt that I kind of liked because it was different. The description was minimal at best and read, Late 19th century pieced quilt, hand-stitched and hand-quilted, 7'2"x7'2". I knew I liked the quilt for the colors and the pattern, and that was about it—my expectations were low for the most part. I had it sent to Teri because it was simpler than shipping it across the pond. When the quilt came and Teri opened it, we were both in shock as to the quality of this quilt, the perfection of the hand piecing, and the density of the quilting. 

This view doesn't do the quilt justice as far as how it was made or its size. It is on a king-size bed and measures 87"x 86".

At the time of this purchase, my fabric dating knowledge was very limited, so I assumed that the auction house was correct in that this was a late 19th-century quilt. Much to my surprise, the appraiser dated the quilt at around 1830, based on the fabrics, with one little piece dated at 1810! This quilt is best appreciated in person, but since that isn't possible in a blog, here are some close-ups with more information from the appraisal.

The quilting from the back side.

The tiny 3/8-inch grid stitches

A near perfect diagonal grid

The pattern is King David's Crown,—#3649 in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

Each block is 14 3/8" square.

The blue in this fabric caught my eye and was one of the reasons I purchased the quilt.

For the most part this quilt, from a fabric perspective, appears to have been very thoughtfully laid out. But for some of the blocks at the bottom of the quilt, the maker had to resort to picking some pieces out of her scrap bag.

Here, all the component parts of the block are uniform.

The first dip into the scrap bag

The one block that has quite a few different fabrics

One of the earliest fabrics in the quilt

And one of the others

The pink that was used throughout

Another fabric with the blue that I love

This fabric has such an interesting pattern.

A beautiful brown

The quilt is in excellent condition for its age with some staining, fading, and migrating colors. There are also a couple—very carefully done—vintage repairs, but you really have to look for them. 

The one fabric that has experienced some disintegration and color migration.

Another thing that is wonderful about this quilt is the precision piecing. All her points meet perfectly, and the blocks are pieced so beautifully!

Here you can see just how close she was able to get the points to meet.

Alas, I have no provenance for this quilt, other than it came from an estate in Massachusetts. Having it appraised gave me so much more information, thanks to Phyllis Hatcher. The maker of this quilt was obviously a highly skilled seamstress, but as far as why it was made, for whom, and where, we have to make suppositions. I would have loved to have sat by her side as she made it to see her techniques—and maybe get some hand quilting tips!

I thought I was buying a late 19th century quilt for which I didn't spend an exorbitant amount. Much to my surprise, I purchased a much older quilt and one that far exceeded the value of what I spent; however, the monetary value is not what I treasure. Being able to see the thoughtfulness in the maker's fabric selection, her attention to detail in all aspects of the quilt, and owning such a wonderful representation of a quilt made so long ago—that is where the real value lies.

To see some of our other antique quilts, please click on the links below:


  1. What a treasure indeed! I am so thankful that it is now in your caring hands. I shudder to think that it might have gone to someone who didn't realize its age and historical value. It is simply stunning!