Patches From the Past
Scraps of Fabric, Sewing & Quilting History

Reproduction Quilt Patterns by Froncie Hoffhine Quinn

Seeing, touching, experiencing - immersing yourself into an antique quilt. Is it a longing of yours? As a pattern designer of historic quilts, I'm in that enviable position. As a result, I'm able to be your eyes to quilts you may never have the opportunity to see. I want you to feel the thrill I feel; I want you to learn the intricacies of the quilts' original construction and I want you to be immersed into a small snippet of history.

This beauteous spread will say to thee, From one and all, remember me
      - Elizabeth Green Quilt, 1852

find the pattern for this museum quilt

This poignant phrase taken from the Elizabeth Green Signature Quilt offers a tiny glimpse into the lives of a bygone era. I cannot begin to describe how it feels when an antique quilt is unrolled for my viewing. I am suddenly whisked into another century, peering through the frosted glass of a window in time. I want to see and learn more, but the passage of time has only permitted a foggy peek. The histories of each antique quilt we study build upon themselves until the glass is warmed, the window becomes clearer and our knowledge expands. It is a privilege for me to view these antique quilts and it is my goal to engage you as I have been engaged.

I write the historic patterns not only so one can make an accurate reproduction, but also so that others can "see" the details I see. If the history of the quilt or quiltmaker cannot be found, I will find another detail to archive. It may be the quilting designs or the fabrics or in the case of the Elizabeth Green Quilt, documenting the signatures and phrases found on the quilt.

I also find delving into the original construction of the quilt to be fascinating. Does the quilt have damage or is it pristine? Are the pieces sewn together to make the shape needed? How may stitches to the inch in the quilting designs? Is it pieced by hand or by machine? What unusual characteristics are evident? Is it signed? I don't want you to just make the quilt, I want you to learn about the quilt.

find the pattern for this museum quilt

Let me whet your appetite! One quilt was made by a 14 year old girl, another an 80 year old woman. One quiltmaker's relative was the inspiration for the song Yankee Doodle and yet another was made by a member of the Vanderbilt family. As you collect the historic patterns, you'll be able to discover the answers to these clues.

Reproducing an antique quilt does not need to be difficult. Although many old quilts exhibit amazing quilting and incredibly detailed appliqués, many also are beautiful in their simplicity. The Elizabeth Green Quilt is a good example. This quilt is a treasure! Not only was it primarily made out of women's' old gowns (in which case we can sneak a peek at the lavish fabrics from the 1850s), but the beautiful calligraphic phrases and names are a collection of clues into the lives of the people who contributed to the quilt. By my including the phrases and names in the pattern, you are provided the opportunity to research them further. Perhaps you'll find a relative!

This is a wonderful quilt to begin your reproduction collection. Being a scrap quilt, there is no pressure to "match" your fabrics and the Album design is an easy one. The pattern gives both hand and modern rotary techniques (as do all the patterns). It has another very special detail that is fun to do. Five of the blocks have little water colored drawings in them. A stencil, which accurately reproduces them, is included in the pattern so these charming drawings can be recreated.

find the pattern for this museum quilt

Many companies are now printing reproduction fabrics. Local quilt stores are a good source for finding high quality material. There are also numerous websites and online stores that specialize in the reproductions. I enjoy haunting flea markets and antique vendors who sell early and vintage fabric. By incorporating the old fabrics with the reproductions, the quilt takes on a true look of antiquity.

Recreating the past through these historic quilts is a journey through time. As you stitch your quilt think about the era from which it came. Was it during a war? What must the quilter have been thinking or experiencing? Was is from the late 1800s during the Victorian period when women could actually be paid for their needlework? Was it a slave quilt? What must the significance of the quilt have been for the maker? We may never know the definitive answers, but we can certainly surmise a great deal. For the time line to carry on accurately from here, we must remember to sign and document our quilts.

In future times, this silken quilt will tell, Of those who shall have bid the world farewell
      -Elizabeth Green Quilt, 1852

This says it all.

© 2003 Frances H. Quinn (Do not reproduce this article without permission from the author.)

Froncie Quinn is a quilt historian, designer and teacher. Her site, Hoopla ... for creative quilters, displays the quilt patterns she has developed based on quilts from the Shelburne Museum, Old Sturbridge Village, and the Vermont Quilt Festival. Each authentic reproduction pattern comes with historical information about the original quilt.

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