Roses on Blue

Monday, December 30, 2013

Copying Antique Quilts

Merry Christmas and Happy Belated Holidays!  Yes, I am slightly late on blogging, so sorry, it's been a stressful month, to say the least.  But now that all of the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away in the attic for another year, I am feeling a much needed sense of calm and peace as the holidays are officially behind us.  My goal over the last few years has been to get Christmas put away before New Year's Day and it is such a feeling of accomplishment to do just that!  I am looking forward to starting out the new year with a fresh outlook, finish several projects and begin lots of new ones.  How about you??
I thought I would share a quilt with you that I made a few years ago that I copied from an antique quilt that I own.  This is a really easy quilt to do, a square in a square block, alternating with a solid block in between.  I foundation pieced my square in a square blocks.  It made my piecing much more accurate, I didn't worry about precise cutting, and was able to focus on color and pattern, which is what I love to do best.
Above and below, here are two similar shots, the one above is the newly made quilt and the one below is the antique quilt.  I bought the antique quilt for very little money many years ago.  It is very tattered and worn and I probably thought of it as a cutter quilt at the time.  But there is something about this quilt that I just love, the softness, the faded colors, the fact it is made up of mostly pinks and blues (another one of my favorites!), and the simplicity of it. 
I used to actually have it hanging on my family room wall but I think it finally served its purpose, as worn as it is.  So I decided to make one exactly like it.  How much fun was that!  I had one rule, I could not go out and buy more fabric.  I only allowed myself to use what I already had out of my fabric closet, knowing that I surely had enough reproductions to simulate the antique quilt. 
When I was deciding on the perfect blue for the alternating blocks and borders, I pulled apart the seams very slightly on the antique quilt.  I was shocked to see how much darker the blue was in the seam allowance!  The fading on this quilt was horrible, as you can see from the pictures.  So based on that discovery, I made the decision to go with a tone on tone blue reproduction print to match the original color as close as possible.
Once I had made my decision on the blue fabric, the rest was easy!  I pinned the antique quilt up on my design wall, and beginning with the first block on the first row, I made one block at a time.  My goal was to match the fabrics as closely as possible to the originals.  But on so many of the blocks, the fabrics had completely deteriorated and the batting was all that was showing.
In these photos, the new quilt is the darker blue one, the antique quilt is the faded blue.
One interesting fact I discovered was that there are virtually no floral fabrics in the antique quilt.
In these photos I have folded the new quilt back on top of the antique one so you can compare the two, block for block.
In the blocks that had deteriorated completely, there remained small bits of frayed remnants and threads of the fabrics that had been there.  So based on that information, I did a little detective work and tried to choose fabrics that I thought would have matched those that were missing.  I also read Barbara Brackman's book on dating fabrics, Clues in the Calico, to get a full understanding on what might have been appropriate for the time period when the quilt was made.
Once I got into the quilt, I also learned that it was probably older than I originally had thought.  When I first bought it, I assumed it was made in the 20s or so.  But after studying and comparing fabrics, most of them seemed to date from around 1890 to 1910.   
My blocks are slightly smaller than the original quilt blocks.  I had to keep the size uniform in order keep everything perfectly square.  The original quilt is also a combination of hand and machine piecing.  It seems that the pieced blocks were done mostly by hand but the quilt assembly was put together by machine. 
Choosing the fabrics from what I had available out of my stash and trying to match things as closely as possible to the original was by far the most fun.  It required a little bit of detective work but also forced me to use fabrics and colors in places that I would not have normally used in a quilt.  I am sure many of the original fabrics in the pieced blocks have also faded and turned from their original colors, but I didn't worry about those, I just wanted the reproduction to have the same "feel" and look as the original.
The original quilt is hand-quilted in straight lines and in a grid in the alternating blocks, my favorite type of quilting.  I copied the quilting design but machine-quilted my quilt entirely with a walking foot.
I learned so much about antique fabrics and quilts just from making this quilt.  I also felt a strong connection to the maker of the original quilt.  It was obvious she made this from old clothing and whatever she may have had on hand at the time.  It really gave me a new appreciation for antique quilts and how they were made with whatever the maker could get her hands on.  And considering they didn't have the tools, the quilt shops, the books, or the selection of fabrics like we have, they still found an outlet for their creativity and made beautiful quilts!  It really makes me think twice about "how much more fabric do I really need??," when I have a closet already stuffed to overflowing!
Hopefully this may inspire one or several of you to take out one of your own antique quilts and really study it, look at it, imagine what the conditions and supplies at hand were like for the maker of that quilt.  And if you really get inspired, try to copy it!  It is such a rewarding experience!
Happy New Year to each and every one of you!  May you have a prosperous and healthy 2014!!

9 comments:

  1. I love this quilt, Rahna! And your reproduction of it is gorgeous! Just the right blue, too! Square in a square is one of my favorite blocks, and I would love to make one like this, too! Thanks for all the great photos; the comparisons are awesome! Now you can tuck the antique away, and enjoy the 'new' quilt! :o) Happy quilting in 2014!

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    1. Thank you so much Regan! And happy quilting and New Year to you!!

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  2. Beautiful quilt, Rahna! You did a wonderful job recreating your quilted treasure. I can see why you fell in love with the original. I really enjoyed reading this post! And it did inspire me to revisit some of my antique quilts. If only they could talk! I'd love to hear what they'd have to say!

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    1. Oh thank you so much, thank you for your kind words! Yes, wouldn't it be wonderful to hear our antique quilts speak to us? I almost felt that this particular one did while I was immersed in making it. I appreciate your comment. Have a Happy New Year!

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  3. Thank you Rahna for sharing this quilt,and the processes you used to make yours.

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    1. Thanks so much Ginny and Happy New Year to you!

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    2. Happy New Year to you and yours. I am looking forward to more posts of your quilts.Take care.

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  4. Reproducing quilts is great fun! You did a fabulous job. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thank you so much Dawn! Yes, this was a blast to make and will hopefully inspire others to try it as well.

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