Cut and stitched from the last remaining pieces of the scrap bag, Postage Stamp quilts and String quilts represent the ability of our quilting predecessors to be able to make wonderful quilts out of myriad fabric fragments. These scraps gathered from the remains of worn out clothing, practical sewing done for the household and treasured pieces from the dressmaker’s basket became the quilters’ palette in creating beauty and warmth for their loved ones. Throughout the years of hardship brought about by the Great Depression of the thirties quilters kept busy with needle and thread, stitching quilts to brighten their lives and lighten their spirits.
Fortunately many of these quilts have been preserved and we can enjoy studying the style and artistry of the makers who created beauty out of the scrap bag.
Twin Postage Stamp Quilts.
Set against a white background and solid red squares surrounding the assorted patterned fabrics, these quilts consist of 5,670 seventh/eighths inch squares. Each quilt measures 58 inches by 82 inches. The fabrics are typical of the 1930s with a couple from earlier decades.
Some of the fabrics show signs of wear which indicate they were probably cut from used clothing. The quilt was skilfully machine pieced (more than likely on a treadle machine) using tiny seams. There were no rotary cutters or quarter inch seams in those days as that would have been considered far too wasteful. The quilts are simply hand quilted with neat, even quilting. Many designs belong in the category of Postage Stamp quilts and this lay-out of the squares using the red surrounded consistently by a floral fabric set with white can be identified as Jewel Box or Steps to the Altar.
The maker of this quilt not only saved her strings and strips, but saved the thread from the feed sacks at her disposal, to stitch the strings onto newspaper foundations. The quilt consists of 288 blocks which were stitched by hand onto the foundation. The 288 four and a half inch blocks were stitched together by machine, once again probably a treadle.
There are some amazing fabrics used in this quilt including many feed sack fabrics, ginghams, solids, stripes, plaids and most pleasing to me red polka dots.The strings range in size from one quarter inch pieces to 3 inch at the very largest. This quilt maker would not have been following a pattern or instructions but would have worked freely and intuitively to create a vibrant design without letting one tiny string go to waste.
I have been inspired to make string quilts and continue to add to my scrap bag saving dressmaking scraps, recycling my son’s expensive pure cotton shirts,saving postage stamp size pieces and strings and strips from every quilting project.
The String Pieced Star and the Alice’s Tulips quilt, made in memory of my mother-in-law, are two of my attempts at string piecing. Needless to say there are many more quilt plans ahead.
Save the Pieces
Janette – The Plain Needlewoman