Swans on Lily Pads circa 1930s

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From Fairy Tales to Ballets, swans have provided ideas and inspiration for many artistic pieces.

Swans certainly inspired the creation of this unique quilt. Using fabrics from her feedsack scraps and her fine sewing skills the quilter produced a magnificent example of folk art.

Detail of Swans on Lily Pads

Detail of Swans on Lily Pads

Searching through my books and magazines for a pattern source I have been unable to find any patterns for appliqué swans. However, there are many patterns for embroidered swans. Swans were popular motifs for fancy work and examples can also be found on redwork quilts. The maker of the ‘Swans’ may have drawn her own design or found her pattern in a newspaper, magazine or embroidery booklet.

The maker had a good collection of feedsack fabrics. There are 21 different patterns used in the quilt and the yellow solid backing fabric may be a plain feedsack fabric. There are 25 blocks. The quilt is finished with three borders – two of feedsack prints (also used for swans) and the final border is plain homespun.

Detail of quilt backing

Detail of quilt backing

The swans and the lily pads are appliquéd with turned under edges and embroidered with stem stitch. Further details are embroidered. The embroidery and quilting is very well executed. The maker used a soft batting and the quilt displays IMG_3537IMG_3538 traditional quilting designs. Cross-hatching was stitched across the blocks and a beautiful feather design was chosen for the border.

As a collector of old and vintage china swans this quilt is a favourite of mine. I hope you enjoy seeing it.

China Swans

China Swans

More swans from my collection

More swans from my collection

Wishing you all a wonderful year of stitching. Janette – The Plain Needlewoman

Annie Mary H. Gehris Redwork Quilt

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One hundred years ago Annie Mary H. Gehris proudly embroidered her name and the year onto the borders of her redwork quilt. IMG_3619<i

Annie was obviously very pleased with her neatly stitched quilt. Annie added her name to both the top and lower borders and the date ‘1915’ is centred on both the side borders.

There are 56 blocks featuring the seasons, the months and the days of the week. Little Kate Greenaway figures are carrying out their daily chores and enjoying seasonal activities.

Kate Greenaway figure for December

Kate Greenaway figure for December

Wednesday's chores

Wednesday’s chores

These motifs are placed beside a parrot, a goat, pug dogs, swans and many other designs.IMG_3622IMG_3624IMG_3613IMG_3627IMG_3625

Herringbone stitch was embroidered over the seams. The quilt has nice wide borders quilted with the classic cable designs. The blocks are quilted with cross-hatching. There is a very fine batting in the quilt, possibly hand carded cotton. The quilt appears to have never been used.

A spider's web for luck

A spider’s web for luck

As we say farewell to 2015 it is the perfect time to reflect on our quilting past and present. The women of the past found time to do needlework through all kinds of trials, as we do today. Whether you plan to finish quilts already started or commence new projects may you find much joy in your quilting in the New Year.

Wishing you a wonderful year ahead, Janette – The Plain Needlewoman.

Redwork – Excellence with the Needle

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Emil. Mae's Redwork quilt dated August 1917

Emil. Mae’s Redwork quilt dated August 1917

The popularity of Redwork during the period of 1885 to 1925, coincided with the development of a colourfast dye that produced a lovely clear red. The name given to this red was Turkey Red. The name came from the country where this difficult and complicated dyeing process was created and produced under much secrecy. Even today it is not known beyond all doubt how the original methods were carried out.

Patterns for Redwork were published in the Women’s Magazines such as The Ladies Home Journal, The Modern Priscilla and Godey’s Lady’s Book. Stamping Kits and Patterns were offered to entice customers to take out subscriptions. This is an early example of advertising. The patterns used in Redwork were not specifically for quilts, but for all household linens. They were also known as Penny Squares, Storybook, Pictorial or Nursery Rhyme designs.IMG_3520

Due to the simplicity of Redwork and the basic requirements needed Redwork was a good project for beginners and children. Redwork quilts were often made up without batting and in some instances they were simply backed and not quilted.

A story book Redwork quilt -quilted without batting

A story book Redwork quilt -quilted without batting

A stanza from The Needles Excellency by John Taylor published in 1631 describes embroidered pictures. It is also a fitting description of the variety of images found on Redwork quilts made nearly 300 years later.

“Flowers, Plants and Fishes,
Beasts, Birds, Flyes and Bees,
Hills, Dales, Plains, Pastures,
Skies, Seas, Rivers, Trees,
There’s nothing ne’er at hand or farthest sought
But with the needle may be shap’d and wrought.”

Sheep in the Meadows

Sheep in the Meadows

Pigs in the Farmyard

Pigs in the Farmyard

Horses - a favourite subject

Horses – a favourite subject

Daisies

Daisies

A Crib Quilt

A Crib Quilt

Any-one for tennis?

Any-one for tennis?

Wishing you all a safe and peaceful Christmas. I hope you find time during the busy festive season to spend in pursuit of excellence with the needle. Sending my best, Janette – The Plain NeedlewomanIMG_3510

Irva’s Ocean Waves Quilt

Ocean Waves quilt made 1932

Ocean Waves quilt made 1932

Hand written note

Hand written note

A hand written note attached to this quilt provides an insight into the quilt’s story. The note tells us that the quilt was made in 1932 by Irva Wagner with ‘a few stitches added by her future husband Eugene R. Douglas 1932’. A sentimental note was added to this information wishing ‘Good Health to who ever uses them. I.R.D. 1992’ At the top of the note there is reference to a Dark Red Quilt from Mother Wagner’s early years.

One can presume that the note was written when the quilts were being passed down through the family. On this tiny scrap of paper much information is revealed – the maker’s maiden name, her future husband’s name and the year the quilt was made. The addition of the note, stating that a few stitches were added by her future husband indicate that Irva was stitching this beautiful quilt for her approaching marriage and her new life ahead.

The quilt is hand stitched from many small scraps. The fabrics include shirtings, plaids, ginghams, feed sacks and dimities. The soft palette used certainly suits the quilt’s name – Ocean Waves. Shades of blues, pinks, beiges, reds, mauves and a touch of orange and black were selected from scraps, some dating back to the turn of the century. Placed next to a crisp white background, the quilt evokes a Summer’s day spent looking over the ocean with the constant ebb and flow of the waves. The quilt is beautifully hand quilted.

Detail of fabrics and hand quilting

Detail of fabrics and hand quilting

Detail of piecework

Detail of piecework

Border detail

Border detail

With the prospect of a long, hot, dry Summer ahead, I am happy to have Irva’s Ocean Waves quilt in my collection to remind me of the cool ocean breezes coming in from our bay.

Irva's Ocean Waves

Irva’s Ocean Waves

Thank you for visiting and hope the weather is kind to you all whether it be Winter or Summer in your part of the world. Janette – The Plain Needlewoman

Yo-Yo Quilts

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It is uncertain of when and where the technique for making yo-yo quilts originated. The earliest known examples date to the 1920s but the technique and pattern became prominent in the next decade. By the 1930s patterns were appearing in the women’s pages of weekly publications. In Merikay Waldvogel’s book ‘Soft Covers for Hard Times’ it is recorded that kits containing materials and instructions were available for making yo-yo projects.

Due to its simplicity and minimal requirements, yo-yo quilts were very popular during the depression era. All that is needed to make a yo-yo quilt is a large supply of scraps, a circle template, a needle and thread. They are a very portable project, that can be put down and picked up again for a few moments of stitching. It is easy to imagine the busy women of this era making a couple of yo-yos when they could spare a few moments

A bundle of yo-yo quilts

A bundle of yo-yo quilts

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The two yo-yo quilts in my collection were purchased from The Donnellys.

Eileen and Bernie shared the story of how and where they found them. The quilts were bought from an antique shop in Winchester, New Hampshire USA on 7th October 1994. They were lying on the very dirty floor of the shop.

Of the two quilts one is in good condition and the second one needs some repair work.

area needing repair

area needing repair

The first quilt is constructed with 25 yo-yos stitched 5 x 5 to make a block. The blocks are joined with 2 rows of mauve yo-yos to create a lattice effect. Four lemon yo-yos are placed as cornerstones. The maker then created lovely bunting type triangles to give her quilt a very decorative finish.

Lay-out arrangement

Lay-out arrangement

Decorative finish

Decorative finish

The second quilt is a random design but is brighter than the first quilt. Both quilts contain a great assortment of fabrics including feed sacks, dress fabrics, shirtings, ginghams, stripes and juvenile prints. The first quilt was probably the best quilt and the second was the everyday quilt receiving much more wear.

Brighter colours and random placement.

Brighter colours and random placement.

I soaked the quilts for 36 hours in Retro Clean.

Soaking the quilts

Soaking the quilts

After soaking I transferred them to the washing machine. Yo-yo quilts are very heavy and once wet even more so. They had to be machine washed in two separate loads. Once washed and dry I assessed the repair work. The first quilt only needed a couple of yo-yos restitched and two needed replacing. The second quilt is in the repair pile awaiting restoration. Both quilts are a wonderful time capsule of the fabrics from the 1930s and probably include fabrics from earlier decades.

Reverse side of quilt.

Reverse side of quilt.

Detail of fabrics

Detail of fabrics

I hope you enjoyed the stories of the yo-yo quilts. Thank you for stopping by,
Hope your stitching is going well, regards Janette – The Plain Needlewoman.

A Stitch In Time

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Two new Postage Stamp quilts have recently been added to my collection.

Pretty Nine Patch Crib quilt

Pretty Nine Patch Crib quilt

Steps in the Flower Garden

Steps in the Flower Garden

Postage Stamp Quilts are quilts made with very small scraps of fabric. One inch squares are common but sometimes the quilter cut her squares even smaller. At this time in quilting the seam allowance was smaller than the standard quarter inch seam that we use today. The designs vary from a one patch layout to more elaborate settings. Solid fabrics in complimentary colours were often used to set off myriad pieces selected from the scrap bag. The tiny squares may have been cut from worn clothing, household linens and the scraps left over from other quilt making projects. Postage Stamp quilts offer a wonderful opportunity for fabric study and sometimes older fabrics from other eras can be identified.

Pretty Little Crib Quilt

With its hot pink border this pretty little crib quilt remains bright, clean and colourful. The solid pink and white fabrics are in excellent condition. However, some of the squares were completely worn away. IMG_3220
The quilt is beautifully quilted in half inch cross hatching.

To repair the worn squares I cut a square of paper to size and tacked fabric onto the paper square, as you would for paper piecing. I pressed the patch well and removed the tacking and the paper. The patch was applied to the damaged area and neatly stitched into place. I then quilted over the newly patched area.

Patch ready to be stitched into place

Patch ready to be stitched into place

Repaired square

Repaired square

This dear little quilt measures 42 x 52 inches with the nine patch blocks measuring 3 inches square. It appears to have been made in the 1930s and may well have been used by many babies. I am sure it was much used and loved.

Steps In The Flower Garden circa 1930s.

This vibrant and colourful quilt had not been washed or used when I received it. The quilt had a rather bad stain (possibly from storage) on the back and about 10 squares had disintegrated. These appeared to be the same fugitive brown fabric

Fugitive fabrics

Fugitive fabrics

Using the same method as for the Crib quilt, I repaired this wonderful example of a Postage Stamp Quilt.

Detail of repaired area.

Detail of repaired area.

I soaked the quilt in Retro Wash for a day with a colour catcher added in case of colour run. After a good old soak it was into the washing machine and onto the line for some fresh air and sunshine.

A lovely bath!

A lovely bath!

This quilt has a very light wool batting. The quilting is simple diagonal and horizontal line quilting. The quilt is large, measuring 76 x 88 inches.

I am very happy to report that the quilt washed extremely well. The quilt is fresh and clean with the stain removed.

Stain prior to washing.

Stain prior to washing.

Lovely clean backing.

Lovely clean backing.


I love this quilt with the vibrant black and orange solid fabrics unifying the many patterns and colours of the scrap pieces used by its maker.Detail of quilt. Detail of quilt.

I hope my Stitches in Time will save these quilts for many more years and they can be studied and enjoyed by all those who see them.

Thank you for visiting, Janette The Plain Needlewoman.

The ‘Collins’ Quilt – circa 1840s

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The ‘Collins’ quilt was purchased by Eileen and Bernie Donnelly in 1994 from Peterborough, New Hampshire, USA. It is a lovely old Album quilt with signatures of the Collins family and dated 1849. The names on the quilt are Thomas G. Collins, Samuel B. Collins, Smith Collins, Daniel Collins and Mrs Lewis Collins. They also added their location as Halifax and West Halifax.

The block is a simple but appealing Album Block. There are 49 blocks set on point with an alternate plain block in a lovely double pink and white floral. The blocks are pieced from scraps so there is a good variety of interesting fabrics to study.

Detail of blocks

Detail of blocks

There is some wear to this quilt due to its age and it appears to have been well used. Eileen has noted that a brown fabric has disintegrated, due to mercury being used in the dyeing process of brown fabrics in those days. Eileen has carefully stitched tulle over these areas to protect the fragile fabrics. The quilt backing is a plain cream calico. The quilt is hand pieced and hand quilted.

Tulle stitched onto the quilt to protect a fragile area.

Tulle stitched onto the quilt to protect a fragile area.

Bernie researched the history of the family and traced the Collins family to New England. Bernie traced the family back to 1740 to a Daniel Collins who married Alice Pell in New London, Connecticut in approximately 1762. Daniel and Alice were the Great Grand Parents of those who signed the quilt. Bernie also found a Robert Collins who married Ruth Browning in New London in 1809. They had 10 children including Lewis 1817, Daniel 1819, Samuel 1823 and Thomas G. 1831. These signatures are on the quilt along with Mrs. Lewis Collins. (perhaps she was widowed). Thank you Bernie and Eileen for the wonderful research and preservation work on the ‘Collins’ quilt and for providing me with the information.IMG_3027

Hope you enjoyed the story of the ‘Collins’ Quilt. Happy Quilting from Janette – The Plain Needlewoman

Perfect Piecing

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LeMoyne Star Quilt circa 1860 to 1880

The maker of the LeMoyne Star Quilt was skilled in both piecing and quilting. The three inch LeMoyne Stars are constructed from eight tiny diamond pieces measuring approximately one inch in length. There are 345 stars in the quilt. Each star is accurately stitched with nice sharp points and the centre seams aligned perfectly.

Tiny LeMoyne Star

Tiny LeMoyne Star

The stars are stitched into a nine patch configuration and are set with three inch wide lattice strips. More LeMoyne Stars are placed as the cornerstones. Two plain borders were added with the remaining two borders made up of the lattice strips and star cornerstones.

Lattice and quilting detail

Lattice and quilting detail

The quilting is remarkable in both design and execution. The quilting consists of double cross hatching and feathers. There are 12 stitches to the inch, counted on the right side of the quilt. The batting is a lightweight cotton.

Unfortunately some of the fabrics used to piece the stars are extremely fragile and showing signs of wear.
This could be due to corrosive substances that were used in the dyeing process at this time. The white background fabric and the quilt backing are in excellent condition. I will eventually stabilise the weakened areas with tulle. Despite this problem the quilt is still a beauty. One can only wonder at the ability of this quilt maker to accurately stitch this intricate design with out the benefits of the sewing accessories available to quilters today.

LeMoyne Star Quilt

LeMoyne Star Quilt

Thank you for visiting, I am off to do some mending,
Janette, The Plain Needlewoman

It’s Never Too Late To Mend.

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The Letter H Quilt

The Letter H Quilt

This gorgeous late 1800’s quilt arrived from America in good condition bar a 2 inch tear in one of the H blocks. As the general condition of the fabrics is excellent I can only presume that the quilt caught on a sharp object that caused the tear.

I sorted through my reproduction fabrics for a match to repair this block but could not find a suitable tone of red and black. I thought about using black tulle but didn’t have any on hand. I then remembered that I had some old black lace in my lace collection. I stitched the damage section of the quilt back onto the batting and covered the exposed area with the lace. This was an easy solution and the tear is practically invisible. I am happy with the result.

Repaired block

Repaired block

About this quilt

The Letter H quilt dates to about the late 1890s to 1910. The Letter H blocks were probably made from the quilter’s scrap basket. The cream background fabric in the blocks is consistent throughout, as is the gorgeous double pink used for the alternate blocks.

Detail of blocks

Detail of blocks

The quilt has another double pink used for the side borders. The quilt measures 230 cms. (90 inches) by 178 cms. (70 inches) and the blocks are 24 cms. (approx 9inches) sq.

The backing is a very pretty shirting with a pink on white design. The maker obviously ran short of fabric and joined in a similar shirting to create enough fabric for her backing.

Joined Backing.

Joined Backing.

More of the pretty backing.

More of the pretty backing.

The quilting is the Baptist Fan design and is executed in a loose, relaxed style. The quilter bound her quilt by bringing the backing fabric to the front of the quilt. The batting is a hand carded cotton. When I washed the quilt the little black cotton seeds were clearly visible when the quilt was wet.

This quilt is one of my favourites. I love the design, the colours and the quilt’s tactile quality.

Unusual fabric design

Unusual fabric design

So it really is never too late to mend. ” Mend in time; patch to a purpose; reinforce for strength and take care with all.” (quote from Mary Brooks Picken).
Hope you enjoy the quilt and it’s story, Happy Mending – Janette – The Plain Needlewoman.

Lucy’s Quilt

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Four Petals made by Lucy M. Hauser

Four Petals made by Lucy M. Hauser

The Four Petals quilt was made in Kentucky by Lucy M. Hauser during the 1940s. It is hand pieced and hand quilted. The fabrics used in this quilt are feed sack and dress fabrics. The borders, lattice strips and setting squares are a bright pink and aqua. The backing is a feed sack print in a dainty pink floral which compliments the pink and aqua fabrics perfectly. The binding is of the same fabric and is machine stitched. The machine stitching is very fine indeed which indicates it was probably stitched on a treadle machine.

Detail of The Four Petals

Detail of The Four Petals

Fabulous Feed Sack fabrics

Fabulous Feed Sack fabrics

The story of Lucy’s Quilt was passed onto to me by Eileen and Bernie Donnelly who have entrusted this quilt and it’s story to me. The story of The Four Petals quilt is reproduced here as told by Eileen and Bernie. ‘We were driving through West Virginia and Maryland on the last part of our trip.(October 1994) We were looking for old quilts and had been told by one of our son Stephen’s friends, who came from West Virginia, that “old” or Antique Quilts were no longer easy to find. They suggested we stop at some of the old general stores in the small country villages and ask. We did just that and were sent to see Mrs. Lucy Mae Hauser on her farm a couple of miles away. At this stage we we were right in the middle of the Amish country in Maryland, just near the West Virginia border. Lucy invited us in to show us what she had. She was absolutely thrilled to see us as she had not met Australians before. She told us she was 79 then she remembered she was only 76. She took us into a spare bedroom and pulled back a crocheted afghan to reveal a very bright quilt. “Railway Tracks” design. She said she had not sold quilts before, but would sell one to us. So we bought it, literally off her bed. Then she remembered she had some other quilts in the cupboard. She showed us “this one” and we liked it better than the one we had bought, so she agreed to exchange it, so we remade her bed.

Quiltmaker - Lucy Mae Hauser born 9 May 1920

Quiltmaker – Lucy Mae Hauser born 9 May 1920

This quilt was made mostly from Feed sacks and dress fabrics and she said she had made it in Kentucky in the 1940s. The design Four Petals, is very unusual and comes from the Farmer’s Journal which was first published in 1877. The design has probably been handed down through the family.’

The Label beautifully hand written by Eileen.

The Label beautifully hand written by Eileen.

Feed sack backing

Feed sack backing

The instructions for reproducing this quilt were written by Eileen and published in The Australian Patchwork and Quilting Magazine Vol. 9 No. 4 February 2002.IMG_2997 Hope you enjoy seeing The Four Petals Quilt and reading the story of it’s journey to Australia. It is wonderful to have provenance of the maker’s of old quilts, so thank you to Bernie and Eileen for sharing the story of this lovely old quilt. Thank you for visiting The Plain Needlewoman.