Monday, 9 June 2008


Dear Lene,

I suppose we can just resign ourselves to being jealous of each other's weather through the summer. I know you think you want some nice warm weather, but really - 35º/95º is not something you really want. Please trust me on this.

I was going to write today about more snowflake quilts, but then I got distracted and wound up going for two quilts that are at least related somewhat. Not the same pattern, but both are signature quilts.

The first is the only antique signature quilt that I've bought. It's the snowflake pattern (again)
I should know a little more about dating it by the fabrics, but I'd say it's from about 1875, although some of the fabrics are definitely circa 1850. There are signatures on it, both by stencil:

and also by hand:

(I just love the name "Delilah Kirby", don't you?) There are a lot of Kirby and Potter names on the quilt, but other than that I have nothing to go on. No idea where it came from, or who anyone is. Ironic, isn't it, that a quilt can be signed for remembrance and then all the names on it forgotten in time?

The other signature quilt that I'm honored to have the safe-keeping of is one that belongs to my aunt. Years ago (about 30) she had rented a house in Vermont for the summer, and one summer she bought this quilt at a local estate auction.

It's an absolutely fabulous hexagon quilt, hand pieced with cheddar orange triangles in between the hexagons. It's signed, and many of the signatures have "Dover, VT" beneath the names.

My aunt spent that summer researching the quilt in the local cemetery. She was able to date it to no later than 1850, based on the names and the gravestones there. The quilt has a fabulous collection of mid nineteenth century fabrics, and is in perfect condition. Obviously never washed or used.

The maker(s?) took enormous care in placing the fabrics in the hexagons to form kaleidoscope patterns.
Every time I look at this quilt, I'm really in awe. Interestingly, it's not paper-pieced, but pieced by hand with a regular running stitch. I love the way the quilt's colors jump out with the orange and white background. I think this quilt is almost entirely to 'blame' for my love of the color orange, actually!

I had hoped to take some more pictures of quilts I've made, but really the weather is too hot to be moving big, warm quilts around. I'll save that for another time. And really, I think these quilts are more special than most (if not all) of the things I've made. A little bit of history to think about.


PS - I'm almost halfway done with my second block. I spent the weekend shut in a room with air conditioning, working on it. Today looks like more of the same weather, so I'm hoping to make some more progress and show some updated pictures soon.


Marianne said...

That hexagon quilt is amazing! I love how the fabrics (some) are nearly 'fair isle' in colour changes. Sweeet.

Anonymous said...

Ref. your 4 Jun post, about having trouble with the freezer paper on top, just use the freezer paper as a pattern. Get in the habit of cutting the fabric around the freezer paper the same size as your seam allowance that you tuck under, then you can take off the freezer paper. Leave extra fabric where the applique is tucked under another applique piece. Nancy

Patti said...

Hi Cassie, I don't know whether or not both of you get all the comments from each other's posts, so just in case you don't I'm going to leave two comments. I found your delightful blog through my friend Kathie Holland in New Jersey. I've just finished reading from the beginning. What a wonderful idea - doing the two projects and writing to each other via this blog. It's a great way for you two to communicate and even better for the rest of us who can share the adventure with you when we visit here. Both of you do extraordinary work. The quilts are going to be spectacular when they are finished!

I will second the suggestion that you use the freezer paper for transferring the design only, removing it before you start sewing. I know Kathie sent you pictures of the process. I do as she does, except I use a permanent fine tip black marker to trace around all my pieces except for the darkest. You will find you can see your stitching so much better without the freezer paper in the way.

I'm eagerly looking forward to reading more delightful posts from the two of you!

Kathie said...

I love both of these antique quilts and hope to make one like the first one someday.
The second one is similar to a quilt I made that Andover put out a few years ago. It is a quilt in the folk art museum I believe and the fabrics are reproduced from the quilt
It is an awesome quilt in mho!
I am hand quilting (should be working on it but I am not!) and hopefully someday will be done!
can't wait to see your second block...hopefully today will be cooler...its way too hot for my liking!

beadlizard said...

Oh wow, Cassie, the cheddar hex is amazing. Someday when I can travel, that is one I want to see in person, please, pretty please!

Time to write a romance novel about a quilter named Delilah Kirby, eh?

elizabeth said...

The signatures on the quilt remind me of old postcards. Whenever I go to an antique store, I look for old postcards. I love the elegant handwriting and the way they can just put "Rebecca Smith, Louisville, Kentucky" as an address and it GOT THERE! Very Andy Griffith.

I'm glad you have the orange quilt, but it makes me sad that someone auctioned it off and that it was never used.

Anonymous said...

I agree that that second quilt is amazing. The geometry of it is fantastic.

On dating, which I have been thinking about a bit: It seems to me that it would make sense that some of the fabrics would be older than the quilt. Since a quilt is a big project and often made with scraps (or partly with scraps), a quilter might have saved fabrics for many years before making the quilt. Also, she might have incorporated special fabrics given to her by someone who had had something in her collection for a while.

Thus, it seems to me that we could never definitively date a quilt by the fabrics but rather give a date before which it could not have been made (the date of the "youngest" fabric).

Diane said...

"When this you see, remember me." ~ Anonymous! It is sad and ironic that these glorious old quilts, so beautifully inscribed with prosaic names, can't be more accurately traced to their makers. But how lucky that they ended up in the hands of someone who truly appreciates their value, workmanship and history. Lucky you!