Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Don't Be Duped Again!

Make SURE this doesn’t happen to you!

About a week ago I got an email from Bernadette including photos of a quilt she found at an antique mall, and she was hoping I could give her more information on it.

She writes:

Hello Bonnie!

I've attached pictures of a quilt I saw at our local antique market. 
I'd love your insight...I have no idea if it's old, new...
The fabric on some of the snow ball blocks is faded.  It's been machine sewn, hand quilted, stitched in the ditch around the nine patches, braids in the borders, and flowers in the snowball blocks.
I purchased it as a gift for a friend, but I'm totally clueless as to whether or not it's new, or old...lol!

I'm a follower of Quiltville and Bonnie, I know you'll be able to tell me something about this...you're the expert!
I don’t really consider myself an expert….just a passionate quilter who knows what to look for in this area!

Let’s look at Bernadette’s Quilt:


Pretty pastels, 9 patches and snow balls….nice triangle inner border.

But is this antique?  I don’t think so.

Let’s loook a bit closer. This looks too “set up” to me.  Although it could happen in an antique quilt….I just doubt it with this one. I am also concerned about the “minimal” hand quilting and how poochie everything is around those blocks.

Closer look:


Toe catcher stitches!!

Can you tell that these stitches are like 5 stitches to the inch or fewer?  Definitely not a quilt of any quality, and we see this in import quilts a lot.  They are made quickly ---and the women making them work for pennies.  At the same time, the soft spot in my heart tells me that they are at least able to have a job to help support their families, but the time isn't given them to do a really nice job, they are forced to be fast and minimal with no quality to their work at all.

What I can’t tell from here, and I’m just guessing – is that this quilt has polyester batting, which I don’t think came in wide use until the 1960s.  If I could feel it…I’d know for sure.

Another photo:


Prairie point type edging with ZERO binding.

Mitered corners?

While prairie points ARE traditional, these are FAUX prairie points, and I don’t think you would see ANYTHING like this in an antique quilt.

Now let’s look at a REAL antique quilt and point out some things in comparison:


This is a view of a lovely antique double wedding ring with similar colors to the import quilt above.

Things to notice: 
  • Separate applied binding, sewn by hand.  Most Chinese imports are sewn with the quilt front and quilt back placed right sides together  with the entire quilt being sewn all the way around the outside edges, and then turned right side out BEFORE quilting. ((This explains a lot of the bunching and scrunching)) and are top stitched to give them a faux-binding.
  • Size of quilting stitches and amount of quilting:  This REAL DEAL ANTIQUE quilt has much more quilting in it and it is going to make the quilt more sturdy, not to mention more eye-catchingly beautiful!  Look at that texture!
  • Batting:  This quilt was batted with cotton, you can tell by the texture and feel of the quilt what the batting is inside.  Be sure to check.
  • Fabrics in the antique quilt represent the era in which the quilt was made.  This double wedding ring was made from the scrap bag around 1940 from decades worth of scraps.
In replying to Bernadette and trying to let her down gently, I asked if I could share these photos to hopefully help folks from making the same mistake that she did.

Her reply:
Lol...you can use both my name and the pictures!  Not being very good at dating fabric is an issue that many have.
My issue with the quilt was...condition, just tooooo white, and the way the backing was pieced.  Oddly enough, there was a feedsack quilt at another booth, (we don't see many of those up my way!) and there were two fabrics that were so close that I questioned it. 
It was simply too reminiscent of a quilt my mother had from the '60's, and it that was a repro.  Unfortunately, when you find a quilt up this way, and I'm in Mennonite country (Guelph, Ontario), they're usually at prices that are simply way over the value of the quilt, no matter the condition.

Being that it was a gift that was perfect for a friend, I still got it.  I dickered that baby down, telling the lady there was no way it was "old"!  It didn't hurt to ask, I am certainly not an expert on dating this kind of thing.
Hey, I found a Featherweight for $125 a few booths down, I consider that I came out ahead for the days hunting!

What a great attitude!

And I don’t think it’s a total loss either.  Quilts like this import may have their place, thrown over the porch swing as a soft spot to land where we don’t care what the weather does over time….use it for a bit of decorating, let the dog or cat use it as their “own” quilt, send it off with a kid to college, use it as a pretty picnic blanket or picnic table cover in the summer months when enjoying the outdoors ---

I hope this helps buyer beware!


  1. Anonymous9:49 AM EDT

    Bonnie, you just gave an invaluable lesson to us all about fakes in quilting. They are out there just waiting to bite your wallet.

    I only hope these fakes never make into REAL history as an American made quilt! Perhaps they will desolve fast in a washer? lol ... bad me!!!

    Smiles, JulieinTN

  2. Good information.Will tuck that away for use if I ever get to an antique mall or market. I am also from Ontario Canada and we don't have many antique markets where I live so lucky you Bernadette on your purchases! especially the featherweight!!!

  3. Good information. I've had plenty of imports before I made quilts for my own beds. I do use them for picnics, on patio furniture, on the floor or wall. I sent two home with our kids wrapped around furniture they were hauling. They have their place. Thanks for sharing, Bernadette and you, Bonnie.

  4. Doing an appraisal day last month a woman brought in 6 quilts - three were imports. One of them she paid a lot of money for...you gave some good points for folks to consider when they are out hunting!

  5. THANKS for such detail in this lesson...good to know that I was doing things correctly when seeking antique quilts....love the gal's attitude. and glad she got a deal on an old Singer :-) *~*CAROLE*~*

  6. Very good information. About 10 years ago, my husband and I took a trip to Eureka Springs. They had shop after shop full of "handmade" quilts. This was back before I knew as much about quilting as I do now. (Not that I am an expert, I have just learned a lot from your blog). We purchased a quilt that we liked (for $35) and after I got it home, I went over it. It looks like a comforter that has been "hand-quilted" by someone to make it look old. While it is a nice souvenir from our trip, I know that it is a mass-produced product.I have learned so much from you that I know a little more what to look for now.

  7. My sister took me to a garage sale to look at the antique quilts about a year ago. They were all foreign made quilts. The lady who had them for sale had them marked as antiques, but she forgot to take the labels out of the seams on some of them. There was not one real antique quilt in the bunch and there must have been 20 or 25. Plus, she wanted about $100 or more a piece. They didn't cost that much new at Walmart when they were sold.

  8. Bonnie, Thank you for this information. You gave me vaulable information to consider if I run across an "old" quilt. I printed this and put it in my wallet so I have it for future reference. Thank you and thank you Bernadette for letting her share your story.

  9. Thank you Bonnie for such great tips for evaluating "old" quilts. I wish I had more need for your tips, but there aren't nearly as many opportunities for using them as there are out in your part of the country.

  10. What I noticed years ago about the import quilts is that the fabric was of very poor quality. I would imagine that many children were quilting those quilts--thus the toe catcher stitches. My Korean friend, Helen, has told me how she worked from age 5 sewing just to help feed the family.

  11. Thanks so much for this info! There aren't any antique shops in my part of the US of A but I occasionally get to go to one with friends when I'm in the lower 48 and this will be great to know! Just hope I remember it in a year or so when I'm south again. But on the other hand...if I like something I find in an antique store and the price is right to me, I buy it and enjoy it regardless!

  12. Tim Latimer's Quilt Buyer Beware is a great source of info with lots and lots of pics. http://timquilts.com/buyer-beware/

  13. Bonnie... very good information to put out there. Thank you! Might I add what I always look when it's not totally obvious to me that it's an import, which most of the time it is. I look in the corners for where the import label had to be sewn by law. Most of the time, it's just cut even with the fabric and you can see what is left of it in one of the corners. BUT occasionally it's opened and removed and then sewn back up... sometimes with not so matching thread or the stitches are different. As hard as someone tries, it's difficult not to see the result of the label being removed. I've come across many of these in antique shops and pointed them out. Sometimes they appear interested, other times, it's a so what attitude. So be on the lookout for the fakes!

  14. I had one of those to repair for a friend, she got it in Panama on vacation. The quilting stitches were huge and the fabric very poor hand. But if you don't know those things you might be fooled into thinking its old. Like anything in a antique store or flea market, buyer beware. A bit scarier are the actually fairly well done quilts from china I think, sold by LL Bean and Eddie Bauer... much nicer and could easily be thought to be a vintage item.

  15. That's great information. I have a faux-antique Chinese quilt on my bed. I knew what it was when I bought it (in pristine condition at a thrift store...cheap..). I use it because it's practical. My cats sleep on my bed & the quilt is easy to wash, and I don't care if it gets kneaded by cat claws! It does look "real" until you get 10 feet away.
    I wouldn't buy one new at Walmart though, on the basis of principle. I don't want to support the Chinese sweatshops that churn those quilts out.

  16. I have 2 Chinese quilts I bought many years ago at Marshall's years ago..they go on our bed and the living room sofa, as the dogs sleep on them, too, and I can throw them in the washer and dryer frequently and don't care if they are faded and worn...someone came to our quilt group with an "antique quilt" that she bought at a yard sale with two shams.......she thought she got a real bargain and had no clue they were not old....

  17. Would you believe that I own a copy of that quilt? Got it at a rummage sale for $2. It washed up nicely, and I use it all the time, since the dogs can't hurt it. I knew it was chinese from the start, since I'm a hand quilter, and wouldn't want such large stitches in one of my quilts. Funny!

  18. This was very helpful. Thank you for sharing!

  19. About 20 years ago I purchased some pink Log Cabin quilts from Lands End. They were definitely made in China. Every once in a while I see someone selling one of those Log Cabins on eBay as a Vintage Quilt--same fabrics, same everything--and I have to say it's a bit annoying. I guess without the tag on it, a seller might not realize what it really is. Aside: I still have those quilts today and surprisingly they have held up well over the years.


If you are commenting as "anonymous" please leave your name at the end of your comment.

Did you know that ad space on this blog provides for all of the free patterns and free mysteries and challenges at no cost to you? Without ads, this blog would not be possible.

Thank you for understanding the many hours that go into this blog 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. :)