1930s quilts for today’s quilters

Posted by on June 24, 2013, in quilting & sewing

Rose and Trellis quilt from Treasures from the '30s

Is it possible to sidestep fabric fashions? To make a quilt that won’t look dated in 10 years because of the prints you used? Yes indeedy. One approach is to embrace a bygone era’s favorite colors and motifs. That way, brand-new quilts come with built-in vintage appeal. And 10 years or more from now, that appeal will still hold.

All of which brings us to our love for 1930s quilts. Today, we salute a quiltmaking era that paired cheerful colors with make-do pluck. If a Great Depression quilt pattern sounds like your cup of tea, if you love to pore over Laura Wheeler quilt patterns, if you delight in contemporary quilt styles interpreted in ’30s fabrics, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in our roundup of ’30s-themed quilts.

And the bonus? Making a 1930s quilt doesn’t mean you have to replicate time-consuming Depression-era sewing methods. Popular designers like Kay Connors, Karen Earlywine, and Nancy Mahoney cleverly update vintage block designs so that you get an old-fashioned look via easier stitching. And quiltmakers like Cynthia Tomaszewski use reproduction prints as a springboard to entirely original, up-to-date designs.


From Quilt Revival: Updated Patterns from the ’30s by Nancy Mahoney

Chinese Checkers

1930s block pattern from Quilt RevivalIn a 1937 edition of the Kansas City Star, the pattern shown at right was described as “a lovely design. This quilt in dainty spring hues is an interesting piece of handwork.” The original block was constructed using set-in seams and many odd-shaped pieces. I’ve revised the traditional design and updated the techniques, making the blocks easier to piece. With the addition of sashing, you don’t need to worry about matching the block seams between the rows. Of course, that makes the sewing easier, too!

Chinese Checkers from Quilt Revival

Quilts from Quilt Revival

More quilts from Quilt Revival: Updated Patterns from the ’30s


From Treasures from the ’30s: Cheerful Quilts with Vintage Appeal by Nancy Mahoney

Laura Wheeler applique block from Treasures from the '30s

Bell Flowers

This darling Laura Wheeler block was available from Needlecraft Service, Old Chelsea Station, in New York City. The postage on the original envelope is 2½ cents, dating it between 1931 and 1933. During the 1930s, realistic-looking flowers were a popular appliqué design. I particularly like the graceful stems and delicate flowers in this block. Surprisingly the block was unnamed, so I called it Bell Flowers. For each flower, I chose a different print in one color family, ranging from peach to red, and then used one green for the leaves and sashing to tie it all together. This delightful quilt will convey a touch of spring all year long.

Bell Flowers quilt from Treasures from the '30s

Don’t miss a slideshow of more pretty quilts from Treasures from the ’30s, coming in Wednesday’s Quirky Question!


From Fancy to Frugal: Authentic Quilt Patterns from the ‘30s by Kay Connors and Karen Earlywine

Fancy Dish

1930s McCall  Dresden Plate pattern from Fancy to FrugalThe Dresden Plate is a much-loved traditional beauty. A friend found this old envelope pattern while antiquing in Nebraska. The bonus is that the pattern has an added design element: a pointed wedge separates every four rounded wedges. Then when the “plate” is complete, four pointed ellipses are appliquéd over the edges of the inner circle, enhancing the visual appeal of the block.

We used a darker, bold fabric for those pointed wedges and ellipses to add emphasis. Deviating from the original pattern, we created our own border design, which replicates a portion of the block pattern. The quilting designs are shared between the blocks for a stunning quilt that is truly heirloom quality. The result is our “Fancy Dish.”

Fancy Dish quilt from Fancy to Frugal

Quilts from Fancy to Frugal

More quilts from Fancy to Frugal: Authentic Quilt Patterns from the ’30s.


From Quilting Those Flirty ‘30s by Cynthia Tomaszewski

Quilts from Quilting Those Flirty '30s

History, Traditions, Heritage

Quilting is steeped in history. The skills, styles, and traditional designs have been passed from generation to generation and continue to survive. I still remember the first time I saw a 1930s quilt. I thought what odd, quirky little prints. Dancing rabbits, Scotty dogs with bows, Little Bo Peep and her sheep, perky flowers…what wonderful shades of color! The prints reminded me of a roll of Necco candy wafers. Each fabric was cute in its own right, but gathered together like a floral bouquet, the effect was charming and heartwarming.

The designs in Quilting Those Flirty ’30s will be tomorrow’s traditions. They’re firmly rooted in the past with the use of 1930s reproduction prints, but the designs are distinctive, open, and carefree to fit comfortably with your sense of today. If you like traditional with a twist, these designs will speak to you. If you want to make your own new traditions that reflect the modern quilter you are, then you’ll take pleasure in these designs.

1930s fabrics and reproductions are all just as charming and beguiling today as they were in past decades. For most of the quilts I used 1930s reproduction fabrics. In others I took the liberty of adding a few fabrics that aren’t 1930s reproduction prints, but fabrics that portray the feelings and times of the 1940s and 1950s as well. Like all quilters, I like to inject my own interpretation of the times into my quilts. Please feel free to do the same. Reproduction fabrics mix lovingly with many other fabrics. This mixture will give your quilts an updated edge.

More quilts from Quilting Those Flirty '30s

More quilts from Quilting Those Flirty ’30s


Do you have any 1930s quilts in your collection? Are they vintage or recently made? What story do your 1930s fabrics tell? Let us know in the comments!


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