Monday, November 12, 2012

Utility Quilt Love!

I found one antique shop open yesterday. Only two things caught my eye enough to be photographed. The first one?? This machine. It was definitely a “Catch & Release” – worthy of a photo, but I did not bring it home.

It’s  a New Home, and I love how “industrial” it looks with its bronze color and its beveled  base.  It’s just a straight stitch machine, but it is a direct drive – with the wheel on the motor turning the hand wheel on the machine, rather than using a belt the way Singers of the same era did.

It was a beautiful machine, but I don’t need a machine in a cabinet, and this didn’t even have a price on it – and I really wasn’t planning on bringing it home so I didn’t find out…..

I kept browsing!

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I  definitely have it bad for Utility quilts.

You know the kind…the ones that come from a meager scrap bag, don’t have much rhyme or reason to them….just made to be warm and comfy and do their job of keeping family members warm through the winter.

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I like to think that these quilts tell the story of a quilter’s life ---making something out of nearly nothing, providing joy to the maker in the process, while she relived every memory attached to every piece of fabric as she sewed.  You know that whole thing of quilting being “cheaper than therapy?”  I can imagine how comforting it would be to someone who didn’t have much, to sit down and stitch beautiful colors together into patterns either random or planned.

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This 16 patch quilt was a utility quilt to behold!  The stitching is primitive.  The fabrics are varied and include cottons, upholstery fabric, and double knits as well as some that felt like wool.  It is in very ROUGH shape.

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A view of the backing!

As I said, EVERYTHING went into this quilt, and it is very large!

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It is rather “big-stitch” quilted ---and a hole in the backing fabric showed that a wool blanket has been used as batting.

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I was guessing for a date on this one…..I had a hunch, but it was the backing that gave me the final clue!  See that paisley in the upper right corner?

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Late 1960s!!

The front has fabrics from several decades – but this fabric is easier to date than any of the plaids or stripes or solids!  I think I remember Goldie Hawn wearing this on Laugh In!

If this were on Ebay, it may be listed as an “African American” quilt – however, unless there is definite provenance, I don’t trust that label for any quilt---based solely on the assumption that because it is wonky, scrappy and utilitarian in nature it must be African American made. 

No matter what its origins – THESE are the quilts I consider my favorites.  The ones that have all the memories attached to them from many years of hard use and dreaming!


  1. Having grown up in the south, I agree with what you say about the "assumption" of quilts being African American. A lot of times, folks just want to attach that label with hopes of raising the prices. Such as a Gees Bend type of quilt. NOT!~~
    There were just as many poor, depressed, industrious, "make do" whites as there were blacks.
    I just simply call them SOUTHERN QUILTS.

  2. Love the 16 patch quilt! Makes me want to dig into my scraps and start one.
    Bonnie, I did it again. I came home with a 2-tone 301 in a cabinet yesterday. I'm so bad. I swear they just follow me home.

  3. I love those old quilts like that. I always wonder about their history and who made them.

    I have a machine identical to that one. Actually, it was the first vintage sewing machine that I bought. Mine is also in a cabinet and I paid $20 for it a thrift store. It sews great but, I would rather have one with a belt instead.

    Have a wonderful and Blessed day

  4. That New Home machine is the one I LEARNED TO SEW ON!! Built in and everything. Absolutely the best machine. It was guaranteed to never get stuck. (or whatever you would call it. If there was a "nest" or some other problem with the needle going down, it didn't.) My mother got rid of it years ago. I can't tell you how many times I was up late finishing a dress that I was going to wear to school the next day. Thanks for the memories.

  5. That looks EXACTLY like something my grandma would have made. She reared 10 children in a "two room" shack on a mountain in Tennessee. The wall between the two rooms was one of these type quilts and her grandchildren (me) got to use these warm toasty quilts as they grew up too. Mine shredded to pieces a few years ago, but I kept a few pieces to remember the warmth and love. There's LOVE sewn into those quilts.

    Thanks, Bonnie,
    Lucy (in IN)

    1. I wish more would share stories like yours. I love hearing them...

  6. I'm guessing WWII army blanket--we had a few of those around when I was growing up.
    I've been able to use one direct-drive sewing machine for a while. A friend told me the little wheels often warp because people forget to disengage them--but now that I'm sewing on treadles, I probably wouldn't be tempted either, although the way they look is just intriguing.

  7. I love the look of the back also, using up what was available to finish a quilt. I am sure some people will look at mine and say, "She was trying to use up what she had in her stash." Makes me want to go sew!

  8. fabulous! my favorites too!

  9. I have the sister to the New Home machine in my guest room. It belonged to my mother and I just brought it home as my Dad is now in assisted living and we are closing their home. I remember how excited my Mom was to get the machine, I must have been around 5 at the time, I'm now 67. Mine has cherry cabinet. It still sews just fine but I don't think the needle had been changed for years. :-). I look forward to making at least one quilt on Mom's machine. She would have been pleased.

    1. The one that I have is also in a cherry cabinet.

    2. What a great memory to have and be able to use your moms machine
      So many memories I'm sure you have from that .

  10. I love that quilt, and it would be a fun one to copy.
    I agree - 1960's. That orange/pink flowered fabric looks familiar; it may have been in my Mom's scrap basket. That Army blanket sure must make it warm.

  11. I was thinking army blanket when I saw the inside...my gandmother made one with my Dad's navy blanket! Really, really warm!

    Love the fabrics in this quilt...

  12. Those are my favorite quilts, too! Every scrap has a story. I just think it's too bad that they aren't kept in the makers' families. When I see them in antique shops, I feel the same way about old photos and scrapbooks.

  13. When my mother in law taught me to quilt, she used old blankets as batting. Then she tied them. She'd pick them up at a yard sale for next to nothing. They were very warm! Miss you on Quilt Cam!!! Can't wait to see you again!

  14. Bonnie, I have that machine and it's great! I had to replace the small rubber wheel but it runs like a champ. My cabinet needs some work but for $40 I couldn't argue. : )

  15. Anonymous11:47 PM EST

    Super inspirationquilt. we are SO lucky to be able to go into a QUILT shop and buy fabrics.

    Bonnie, I think the quilt is older than the "Goldie Hawn Paisley" -that piece might have been one of many patches added over time.

    Imagine when the quilt was newer -- snuggling up under it in a Winter of freezing cold snows ... I agree it has a reality many quilts are lacking when just made fancy like.

    THANKS for sharing that one with us.

  16. oh, Bonnie,,,I sooo agree with you,,,these are the kinds of quilts that lured me to start quilting myself,,,, the warm, cosy, bundles of love and life. they wiped tears, cuddled wee ones, warmed guests, and were dragged to the couch on Saturday mornings in January,,,Lord, please let my grandchildren feel the love in these beauties!!!

  17. I think quilts like these are why I'm so drawn to scrap quilting...very real, useful, needful and reminiscent of the love that went into each stitch.

  18. Bonnie thanks for sharing your lovely quilts that you got to see . There are so many memories made under that cloth and so great someone will buy them and give them a new lo home and love for again. So cool to see these scrappy old quilts They are just the greatest!!!!. So cool to see all the old patterns and also get see you some scrappy quilt ideas. .
    Cant wait to see the first Celtic clue :) will be looking right after midnight so if I need any extra fabric I can go on Black Friday for some great deals!!!!!
    Love you Bonnie Happy Turkey Day
    Debbie Kelly http://somewhereinstitches.blogspot.com


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