Evaluating A Quilt–Looking at the Back

It’s important to look at the whole quilt.  This lovely pink and green appliqué quilt looks like it has some fabric toning and perhaps some wear.  However, if we turn it over we can see considerable water damage and stains:

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These stains are difficult, if not impossible, to remove and will affect the quilt’s value.  Frequently, condition issues, such as staining, holes, or wear, are easier to see on the back of a quilt.

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It is also easier to see the quilting on the back of the quilt–like the concentric circles and echo lines.  We can also see the quality of the quilting stitch, especially when the backing is a solid.

Have a quilty day!!


Evaluating the Whole Quilt

I love to look at the front of a quilt closely–the small stitches, the seams that match, the workmanship and artistry which go into the small things.  However, if a quilt is only looked at closely the visual impact of the quilt is not truly seen.s-l500 (2)

The pictures above are close-ups of a blue and white quilt.  The block above is called Fly Foot.  It looks fairly simple to construct–a half square triangle pinwheel and some bars.  Blue and white is one of the most popular color combinations in quilts.  From the closeup photos of this quilt it could be difficult to date–indigo solids have been produced for centuries.  Now look below at the whole quilt:


Wow!  No longer is it just another blue and white quilt.  The movement and pattern of the blue lines give the quilt energy and make the eye move around the quilt.  So many blue and white quilts are tranquil and serene–not this one!!

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John Hewson, Calico Printer, Revolutionary Soldier

John Hewson was one of the early calico printers in America.  He learned the craft of wood block printing while working at Bromley Hall near London.  Benjamin Franklin, while in London acting as an agent for the colonies, met John Hewson and was asked by Hewson’s family to take him to the new world.  According to his daughter, Sarah Alcock, John Hewson had did not believe in the divine right of kings, which could have made life difficult for him in England.  In 1773, he immigrated to Philadelphia with his family and some smuggled printing equipment.  At the time it was illegal to take printing equipment out of England.  He set up a calico printing factory in 1774 and began printing high quality and well sought after textiles.


He is well known for his wood block printed vases.  This style of printing uses a carved wood block to apply dye or mordant to a fabric.  Then the fabric is dyed, typically with madder or indigo.  Additional detail is added to the fabric by hand brushing (a technique known as ‘penciling’) dyes (or mordants).   The resulting textile is beautifully detailed and was prized by colonials.  Among his customers were George and Martha Washington.


John Hewson joined the 1st Republican Grenadiers in 1775 and when the group disbanded, organized his own militia.  When the British captured Philadelphia in 1777, Hewson was forced to flee with his household, and some of his printing equipment.  The British ransacked and destroyed much of his factory.    Hewson was captured by the British in New Jersey and spent some time in jail until he escaped to rejoin the cause.  After the war he rebuilt his factory and it remained in business until about 1820.


The printed calicoes or ‘chintz’ were often reclaimed after being used in dresses and petticoats.  The dress below is a 1780 fashion with an Indian chintz from the Coromandel coast.


A quilt’s center medallion was made from a whole design or motifs from the chintz were placed using appliqué onto a background, a technique known as ‘broderie perse.’   In many of these quilts from the late 18th and early 19th century motifs from the chintz which forms the center medallion are repeated in the outer borders.

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The indigo plant (indigofera tinctoria), which is native to the tropics, produces one of the best known natural dyes.  The name comes from the Greek word, indikon, or ‘India dye’.  It was well known in the ancient world–a Mesopotamian cuneiform tablet has a recipe for creating the dye.  Although the plant could not grow in Europe, other plants were grown, i.e. woad, to produce a similar, but lower quality dye.  In the United States early settlers were able to grow the indigo plant throughout the south.  In fact, Ben Franklin took 35 barrels of indigo to France to ask for their support of the American Revolutionary War in 1776.  Indigo was sometimes known as “blue gold”.

Indigo dye comes from the leaves of the plant which are fermented (to convert the glycoside indican to the indigo dye) and then mixed with lye and formed into cakes or powders.  It produces a blue/blue violet color which is beautiful in clothing, decorating and painting.  Quilts with indigo dyed fabrics continue to be among the ‘best sellers’ in the antique quilt market.  Here are some examples from online auctions:


A “shirting” is simply a fabric which can be used to construct a shirt.  The Sears Catalog no. 124 from 1912 offered several different fabrics called ‘shirtings’:  flannel, cotton calicos, corded, small prints, madras plaids etc.shirting 1Shirting calico(I can’t even imagine $.05/yard!!)

Shirting Sears Catalogue 120 Most quilters have come to know ‘shirtings’ as a cotton fabric with small abstract, geometric, or figure prints.  Most commonly the ground is white with the figures printed in one color.

A friend recently found a 5 yard chunk of shirting fabric from the 1890’s at a garage sale. 20170630_133749

Frequently prints like these with black or brown designs show signs of disintegration because the aniline dyes over time oxidize (burn) the cotton fibers.  In quilts we see prints with small holes the shape and size of the original design; or we see discoloration around the print.  Did you know aniline was also used as a rocket fuel as well as a dye?

Many scrap quilts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries contain shirting prints and stripes.  I imagine that many a household kept the scraps after making shirts for the family.  Here are some examples I found on Ebay:

Shirtings were used to make men’s shirts and women’s shirtwaists (a women’s blouse which had similar details to a men’s shirt).  Although many households sewed their own men’s shirts and women’s shirtwaists in the home, the garment industry employed many in the manufacture of these garments.  In 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire killed 145 workers, mostly teenage girls as they attempted to evacuate the building through narrow staircases only to find that at least one of the doors was locked from the outside.  As a result of the fire, laws were changed to protect workers and to make factories safer.




Sears Catalog no. 124:  https://archive.org/details/catalogno12400sear








Falling for Orange Quilts

The fall leaves’ color has peaked here in Wisconsin.  Our puppy has decided that they are a threat and gives a warning bark whenever the wind blows them around.  It would be annoying if she wasn’t so cute.  Today I thought I would show some pictures of quilts which reminded me of fall.  Orange dye was readily available in the 19th century–chrome orange (a.k.a. cheddar) is a very rich saturated color.  Here are some quilts which showcase cheddar:

In the 20th century aniline dies made a softer more pastel orange possible and moved the orange more towards a red-orange, as these quilts from the Quilt Index  and online auctions demonstrate:

I can’t leave out some stunning quilts which were probably made from kits:


Do you have any orange quilts?

On the Longarm Today–Minkee

I love quilting Minkee,  my machine likes it and the back shows off quilting stitches beautifully.  The picture above is the back of a traditional spools quilt.  The nap (the raised thread) of Minkee and it’s polyester thread reflects light and shadow.  It is also soft, cuddly and warm…as the temperatures continue to drop here in Wisconsin I will be pulling out everything that is warm!


I used an edge to edge feather design in the center of the quilt and a feathered scroll design in the border by One Song Needle Arts.  The traditional look of the quilting fits well with the traditional quilt design.  The spool pattern has been used in quilts for over 100 years and can look traditional or modern depending on the choice of fabrics, or how the blocks are set into the quilt top.


This quilt will make a lovely gift.




Political Quilting

Quilters have been using quilts to express their political views long before women were given the right to vote, August 18, 1920.  I designed the quilt above to illustrate some of the block  patterns which have been named after political parties, political candidates, and political issues in the history of the United States.

Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

The above quilt block is known by several names, one of which is Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!, a political slogan in the 1840 election of Harrison, whose nick name was Tippecanoe, and Tyler against Van Buren.  The slogan reminded the voters of Harrison’s victory in 1811 over the Indians at the battle of Tippecanoe.  It was one of the first campaigns which used songs and slogans to encourage voters, you can find a recording of the song here.

Whig Rose

The Rose of Sharon (biblical name) or Whig’s Rose was named after a political party which was formed in the 1828 election against Democrat, Andrew Jackson.  The Whig party did not survive much past the 1852 election, but the name endures.  The party was severely hurt by the deaths of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.  It also fell apart along pro- and anti-slavery lines.

Clay's Choice

Henry Clay had his own quilt block, Clay’s Choice.  He was very active in U.S. politics for about 30 years and held staunch anti-slavery views.  His ‘choice’ was to be morally right rather than elected to the presidency.  Henry Clay ran against Democrat James Polk, a relative unknown, and was defeated, in part, due to Polk’s campaign slogan. Polk’s slogan 54°40′ or Fight! refers to the dispute with Canada over the placement of the border in the Oregon Territory, we eventually agreed on a border at the 49° parallel.  The block below gets its name from this slogan.

Fifty-four Forty or Fight

Nancy Cabot designed the “Little Giant” quilt block below to show her admiration of Steven Douglas, a man known for his short stature, but great energy and vitality.  He ran for President against Republican Abraham Lincoln.

The Little Giant

Lincoln and Douglas participated in a several debates during the election for the Senate seat in Illinois in 1858.  The issues debated would become important when Lincoln, after losing to Douglas, ran for President in 1860.


Of course, quilters also named several quilt blocks after President Lincoln.  One of several is the following, Mr. Lincoln’s Platform.

Lincoln's Platform

In 1932, the Kansas City Star’s E. Flogan designed two quilt blocks, Giddap (a donkey) and Ararat (an elephant, named after an elephant in the Kansas City zoo).  The two blocks have been used in quilts to symbolize the two political parties, Democrat and Republican, respectively.

One last picture of a quilt block with a political name is the Free Trade block.  It is certainly an issue which has endured through many presidential elections.

Free Trade

Will you make a quilt with a political message?

Enjoy your quilting adventure!

Lovelli Signature


Red and Green Applique Deliciousness

Ooh!  I love Red and Green Applique quilts and this one is a beauty.  It is from central Missouri and features Rose and Rosebud variation blocks set on point with a sashing.  Stems in the border are made from a 2-step green fabric, which is printed yellow and then printed with blue or the reverse.


Two very different shades of pink printed fabric make up the roses, one is a polka dot variation (perhaps from madder, because of it’s more ‘cinnamon’ shade)  and the other is a printed double pink.IMG_1979

The corners are cut out to allow the quilt to lay nicely on a 4-poster bed.  Quilting in the sashing strips is 1/2 inch diagonal lines and in the blocks the quilting is a 1/2 inch grid–all by hand through cotton batting.  The difference between the two very similar, but different quilting designs adds subtle texture and structure to the quilt, which you can see in the picture below.IMG_1975

I found some additional red and green applique quilts from online auctions:

I also did a Pinterest search which you can find here.  In addition, I searched the Quilt Index and found these quilts. I’d love to see your quilt treasures on my appraisal table, I have appointments available, please either comment below or email me to set a date and time.

Enjoy your quilting adventure!!

Lovelli Signature

On the Longarm today…

Today I had the privilege of quilting this wonderful table runner.  In the midst of quilting larger quilts, quilting something smaller is refreshing.  The first thing I liked about the runner are the wedge shapes, straight lines and circles.  The fabrics included some tone on tones, some text, and some small prints.


I kept all of these things in mind, as I looked for a quilting design.  I found this design, by Cyndi Herrman which came with my Statler Stitcher, called ‘Circles and Lines’:

wedge runner 2

On the quilt top the mock-up shows the circles and the straight lines of the quilting design, but I wasn’t sure that I liked it.  Next, I adjusted the design slightly keeping straight lines and circles, but changing the regular straight lines to create more wedge-like shapes.

Wedge runner

I felt like this design complimented the top and gave the quilt design more movement.  I chose a light gray color thread which blended into the fabrics and the following is the result:


The quilting provides texture to the top and accents the design.


Have a quilty day!!!