Saturday, October 2, 2010

1930's string pieced Lone Star

This e-bay purchase was inspired by Ann  of  Ann Champion's blog  and Martha of Q is for Quilter, and their collections of antique and vintage quilt tops. This quilt top was advertised as of being feedsacks, but the fabrics appear (to me) to be dress fabrics.

The quilt top was not in great condition. Somebody had, at one time, sandwiched the star (there are no setting squares or triangles) with a thick polyester batting and machine appliqued it onto a pale yellow sheet and, apparently, used it as a bedcover or throw.

Some of the stains are probably age ones from the fabrics used being from used clothes, and some of the stains are new - like blue wax candles. Some of the fabrics are very faded and worn while some are in almost new condition. I assume that the maker used a combination of old clothes, and new dressmaking scraps. I believe that quiters coud also buy scrap packs in that period. In all there are about twenty small damaged pieces.

First I gave the whole thing a gentle soak in warm water with mild dishwashing liquid (with a few colour catchers thrown in). When it was dry I took the star off it's backing. Luckily it was machine sewn with a large zig-zag.

Then I made a template from one of the diamonds and used it to check that the outer diamonds weren't too damaged or frayed. Using the template I realised that no two of the diamonds were exacly the same anyway (perhaps because the quilt has been used and washed - or were they never precise?). Despite that, the quilt does lie flat.

I have gently folded under the outer edges and loosely basted them down to protect the edges from fraying any further. As many of the fabrics are thin, I am going to applique the quilt back onto a new sheet instead of using a setting fabric. That way if they wear there will be another fabric underneath to hold the quilt together.

I plan to replace the badly stained fabrics and the very worn ones, but some of the damaged pieces have just one very small (moth?) hole. I am considering just repairing them. I can always stitch a replacement over them later. Does anyone think that is a good/bad idea? I think I can darn the tiny holes with matching thread.

The curious thing about this top is that it does not have a homogeneous collection of fabrics. Some of the sections have very bright fabrics and some sections use much quieter fabrics. The stitching appears to be all done (by hand) by the same person. Perhaps she started off using her favourite bright fabrics and ended up scraping the scrap barrel at the end?  Two sections in particular are the most fadey, and strangely enough she didn't think of separating them with the brighter sections.
The nice thing about working on this top is enjoying all of the fabrics - there are so many to look at. They are so bold it makes me really curious to know what kind of clothes were in fashion at the time. Barbara Brackman has posted about housedresses from the 1930's here.

Ann Champion has a quilt top with the same design on her blog, and Bonnie from Quiltville and Tonya from Lazy Gal Quilting have both made modern versions of it (Tonya's top is actually posted on another blog - read the explanation here).


  1. What a fantastic find! It is so much fun to see those wonderful fabrics up close and personal. I also wonder what the maker was thinking. The quilt is sure where it will be appreciated!
    I say go for it and darn the little holes so they don't get any bigger.

  2. know I love this quilt! Sometimes we find old tops have holes because they were once tied quilts. The top I have like this had a few bad spots too. I appliqued strips over the bad pieces. You could do that on the bad areas..and maybe just a little darning here and there?
    A lot of the fabrics look like off cuts from dressmaking. Maybe they were purchased as scrap bags. Several mail order companies sold them. Mixed with what the quilter had on hand from her own scrap bag and maybe some good parts salvaged from worn clothing might explain the various wear on the fabrics? It looks like a treasure to me! :)

  3. Oh, Alice, that is so beautiful! I'm glad you're rescuing it. I don't know anything about restoration etc, so can't help there. gorgeous! oh, and thanks for the blog love. I have actually hand-pieced and you're right that it would be sooo easy to do those Y-Seams by hand!

  4. what a great old find!! This is why I love scrap quilts, the variety, and the ((hidden)) stories behind the fabrics that we will never know. No matchy matchy, no particular color scheme!

    I do have a pic of mine with borders's a top, I plan on finishing it for a book....someday. ;c)


  5. It's a wonderful quilt top, Alice. I love the colors and the random placement -- it's definitely my type of quilt. I'm certain I have some vintage fabrics that would blend in well, so I'll start getting those together for you.

    I would go ahead and darn the little holes -- I've done that lots of times. Although I have never tried this technique, I think Ann's idea of appliqueing some pieces over the worn fabrics would work really well on this quilt.