Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beauty on the back of antique quilt blocks

Last month I attended a board meeting for the Alliance for American Quilts in Grafton, Vermont.  We were treated to a wonderful experience in the lovely hamlet of Grafton, thanks to our host, Frances Holliday Alford, and assisted by Kathy Metellica, a fellow-resident and quilt maker.
Among the experiences we had was an old fashioned "quilt turning".  We viewed many Vermont quilts and learned about the history of each.
Mark Dunn, founder and president of Moda Fabrics (foreground)
admires the beautiful antique quilts 

Amongst the treasures were a number of pieces owned by Kathy.  She was given several quilts, along with a group of pieced "Grandmother's Flower Garden" blocks.  While lovely, I was absolutely thrilled with the exposed paper on the back of each hexagon.  The handwriting is exquisite, and I love that the maker used her old letters and bills to piece these blocks.  The blocks are circa 1870's.  Take a look:

While much is known about the quilts we viewed at the turning, we know that so many beautiful quilts, antique and contemporary, become disconnected from the maker.  Without proper documentation of both the quilts and their makers, part of the beauty of the quilt is lost forever.
The Alliance for American Quilts is dedicated to the preservation of these stories.  I currently serve on the board of directors of this marvelous organization.  Many of you are familiar with the project, "Quilters: SOS (Save Our Stories)".  Did you know that this project part of the Alliance?
We are currently challenged to match funding, dollar for dollar, by an anonymous donor, up to $30,000.
This is a tremendous opportunity for the Alliance!  I encourage you to consider joining, if you are not currently a member.  There is such a wealth of information on the website!  Please take time to read some of the interviews from QSOS, as well as browse the immense Quilt Index.  For those of you attending the International Quilt Festival, Houston TX, the Alliance will have an exhibition and several special events during the show.  I personally invite you to click the link to our website.  Please consider becoming a member.  Alliance for American Quilts


  1. Leslie, this is so interesting! Funny to think that at one time and in some locations, paper was almost as precious a commodity as fabric, so that everything was used multiple times. Thanks for this fascinating post.

  2. It is hard to remember how scarce paper (and everything else) was up until recently. The gorgeous script just kills me. I could have scrutinized these blocks for hours. I'm glad you enjoyed seeing them, Linda.

  3. From around the same time or a bit earlier I have seen actual examples and read mentions of people writing and reading letters written across the sheet of paper and then turned 90' and written vertically over the other lines of writing - on the same sheet of paper. I imagine each side ... Back when I started my grandmothers flower garden quilt, a WIP these 30plus years!I used brown paper supermarket bags, and now I am nearing the end I'm using a nice weight of junk mail, magazine cover equivalent.

  4. Alison, I have some WIPs that old. Do you think we will ever return to them? I have a quilt, so close to being finished, that has appliqued hand-prints of my 2 oldest daughters when they were babies (they are now 27 and 25). Sigh.
    I love the history inside those little GFG pieces. Oh, to be able to read one of those letters.....

  5. Thank you for these close-ups, Leslie. Our guild here in South Carolina lost Kathy as a member when she recently moved up there ... we miss her.


I love to hear from my readers! Please drop me a line!