Wednesday, July 24, 2013

1800’s Orphans! Modern? Or Traditional?

I Had a great night here at the home of Mary and Joe Koval, where I have stayed during my time here in Bedford, Pennsylvania.

I just love their home, a remodeled old church that was de-commissioned over 30 years go, and transformed into a wonderful living space by Joe several years back.

After a fabulous dinner we sat around while Mary pulled out quilts and tops from a tall antique cupboard, which lead to pulling quilts out of storage down stairs as we talked about this new fangled expression now known as “Modern Traditionalism.”

Yes, this goes hand in hand with the article I wrote for My Stars, the modern division of Kansas City Stars Books. Read it HERE and let me know what you think!

We discussed the difference between the Indiana Amish who were “quite progressive” in their patchwork during the same era that the Lancaster, PA Amish were very rigid.  Were those Indiana Quilters bordering on modern in their own day?

The conversation turned toward orphan block quilts, or “Cotton Crazies”, something we both have a passion for –and Mary pulled out this lovely cot sized quilt from I think 1860 to 1870 range if I remember correctly.

Was this bordering on "MODERN" when this quilter made her masterpiece? Or was it Traditional?

What I would have done to have spent time watching this quilter put this together!!

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Isn't this awesome?

Modern or Traditional, it is completely improvisational! ((Okay, I now have the tune and lyrics from Prates of Penzance floating through my head "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General"  LOL!))

CAN you make a modern quilt out of traditional fabrics?  This quilter did!  However, these fabrics WERE very "modern" in her day.

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Corner view.

I love that bit right above the 4-patch border…it looks like something was added to square the quilt up before the 4-patches were attached…were these left over blocks, or ones that just didn’t work? She used what she had to put this together in all its graphic wonderful messiness!

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Up the other side.

Look closely and you will find perfectly recognizable blocks, and lots of individual block units and elements ---what jumps out at you  first?  The lemoyne star?  The double 9 patch? Or perhaps that partial 7 sisters in blue and white?

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Little further up the side..

Do you see that one block with the zig zag around it?  SO wonky!  SO wonderful!  Look:

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If I could name this block, I think I’d call it “Wild Night Out!” :cD

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Down the other side ---

Love the section in the center that seems color controlled to red, tan plaid and navy…it’s like she worked with the scraps from one project here….slivers of this and that just sewn together randomly.

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Can you see it better here?  And I love that row of tiny triangles just before the 4-patch border.

Strips and strings and crumbs and orphans….what a great quilt!

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4 partial sisters!  Where are the other 3??

Life is kind of like this.  Sometimes we are left with all of these aspects and ingredients that don’t seem to fit together at all.  we can’t make rhyme nor reason, head nor hair out of how to make it work….None of these pieces and parts were sufficient enough to do the job on their own, but when they were all put together, they became a beautiful whole.


Orphan Quilt Back --

This is what I have on the back of Carolina Christmas, found in Scraps & Shirttails II.  I put this together much the same way for much the same reason ---pieces and parts and blocks that didn’t seem to fit together, but yet they found a place here.  I LOVE this quilt back….I love doing things like this.

Perhaps, if I were ever to meet the quilter that made Mary & Joe’s treasured orphan quilt, we’d find ourselves with plenty in common and lots to talk about!

On my way to Hershey today – I’m planning my route and hoping to find some cool antique places to stop along my journey.  I hope I’ll be seeing many of you there!

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  1. Bonnie, often cot quilts were "hired man" quilt -- a quilt made for a narrow cot, one possibly used by a servant or hired hand.

    So it makes sense the woman who made it used her orphan blocks and units. To us it's a work of art, and to her it was a thrifty way to keep a member of the household -- one low on the social ladder -- warm!

    Do you remember what the backing was? I'll bet it's a utility backing like sacking.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Oh, I love that quilt, put together from leftovers!! Just love it!! Seven Sister's jumps out, as that was my mom's favorite block...

  3. Duncannon Sled Works is cool if you have the time; as well as Burning Bridges Antiques in Columbia - if that one isn't too far out of your way :)

  4. I love this old quilt and your quilt back. I think I am an ADD quilter. Making a large quilt using the same fabric and design just doesn't appeal to me. I would get so bored with it. That must be why I love scrap quilts!

  5. Perhaps??? The piecing were all she had? Perhaps they were remnants from making other quilts? What she did, it is GREAT!!!! "Nothing is never really new" as the saying goes.


  6. Based on the era & size of this quilt plus it's scrappiness I would guess it to be either a slave quilt or one made for a soldier.

  7. With each picture, I kept picking out parts of that quilt that I loved....then your next comment would be about that very thing! LOL I LOVE this quilt! And, of course, I love yours, too! I think I need to start making extra blocks when I plan a quilt, so I'll have some orphans to work with! LOL

  8. Loved this post about "Cotton Crazies". I don't ever recall hearing that term before. Just love it and your back as well!!
    I want to go play with my orphan blocks.

  9. Too fun, sometimes I just like to sit and make simple blocks and they can be used together or as borders or backs.....just fun to make a block ...love the orphans all rounded up to make a beautiful work of art.

    Doesn't surprise me that the queen of scraps would love this type of quilt and piecing!

    Happy Sewing and safe travels

  10. Beautiful quilts, both the 1800's one and your quilt back show a snapshot of the work that both quilter's have completed. What a beautiful way to celebrate your work. Maybe one day I will have some orphan blocks to work into such a beautiful quilt. In the meantime I am still buying fat quarters to cut into scraps:) Thanks for sharing Bonnie and Mary. Have a great drive, and keep sewing.

  11. LOVE IT! I need to dig into my scraps and find my orphan pieces to make something like that!

  12. OMG !!!!! They just made my heart flutter. I love these kinds of quilts also. I am working on getting my scraps organized and I am having a ball finding fabrics from the past things I have made and the great memories that go with them. I am so glad I found you Bonnie thanks for all you share with us :)

  13. I think someday maybe you should do a little tutorial on just HOW you get all those different pieces and sizes of blocks and snippets into a large enough piece that will work for backing. Do you do rows, or sections or what? Mind boggling I tell ya!

    1. Sherrill --- Can I add my AMEN to your port? :)
      Smiles, JulieinTN

    2. Sherrill, I have a whole stack of orphans, almost none are the same size, so Bonnie could sure help me a lot with a tute on how to make them all work. Must be brain challenged for me. Think if we all begged a bit it would help the cause??

  14. You know I love these quilts! Who knows what goes on in the mind of a quilter...

  15. Perhaps a dear relative or friend left her a stash of ufo's and she couldn't bear to part with them. So she threw them all together and made this quilt. I just really love this! I found some ufo's in a fabric stash from Goodwill, and have been wondering what to do with them!

  16. love Mary's cotton crazy. love love love love. surprised, huh. hahahah. have fun on your travels.

  17. Love your Carolina Christmas Orphan Quilt Back.

    I've always wondered what you used for the back of Orca Bay-if you've ever showed or discussed it online, I've missed it. Could you show/tell us sometime, please.

    Enjoy Hershey!

  18. Love the blocks just sewed together from wherever!!
    It's like, Ok I have all of these and I am just gonna sew them together and see what shows up, LOVE IT!

  19. Anonymous7:22 PM EDT

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. It really resembles a Sanitary Commission Quilt in size, but with the Seven Sisters block, it may be from the South. I guess if there are fabrics in it later than the Civil War period, a hired hand's quilt is more feasible. That Seven Sisters block jumped out at me! Love the quilt!

  21. This quilt is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing the pictures :)

  22. This is by far my favorite kind of quilt. It has surprises to find every time you look.


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