If you fall head over heels whenever you see a vintage quilt, we’ve got a new a book that’s tailor-made for you: Preserving History.
From Preserving History
How do we know it’s just your style? Because author Julie Hendricksen falls head over heels for vintage quilts too. In fact, as a collector of antique quilts, she’s fallen several hundred times!
A connoisseur of antique quilts and author of Remembering the Past, Julie shares the best of her 30+ years of collecting in this exquisitely photographed book. Remake one-of-a-kind quilts from the late 1800s through the 1930s, each handpicked by Julie from her vast collection. A special section addresses an often-overlooked part of antique quilts: the quilting! Learn how to quilt an antique quilt using authentic examples from the era.
We recently had the pleasure of talking with Julie by phone as she tended to her award-winning Wisconsin quilt shop, JJ Stitches. Our interview is below—find out which pattern took her five or six years to remake, how her first book came about . . . and where she keeps her hundreds of antique quilts.
Julie: I’ve sewn my whole life—clothing, sewing for the house—but not quilting. Then, when my son started preschool, I wandered into a quilt shop on Main Street in my town. I ended up making my first quilt, and that’s how it all started.
ST: How did you become an author for the first time?
Julie: I’d designed 15 quilts for American Patchwork and Quilting. I’d gone to Iowa to do a trunk show featuring 75–100 of my antique quilts. Several girls from APQ showed up that night, including Jennifer Keltner, who said she’d love to feature some of the quilts in the magazine. When Jennifer moved to Martingale, she asked if I’d be interested in doing a book.
Julie: For the first book, we focused on showing an old quilt, and then showing a new version of that quilt. In Preserving History, we focus on showing how different vintage-looking quilts can be made with the same block. For example, we show a Flying Geese quilt that has 3″ x 6″ units, and then we show a second Flying Geese quilt that uses 1¼" x 2½" units. Two vintage quilts, same pattern, very different results.
For another set of quilts in Preserving History, Chrome Yellow, we show two antique quilts that are made in the same fabrics, but use two different patterns.
We also focus on the quilting of the period—we get up close and show how quilters of that time period were quilting their quilts. One of the Chrome Yellow quilts has a giant cable quilted through the blocks, which is unusual. And machine quilters can do cables, so it’s just another way of giving a vintage-style quilt a more authentic look.
ST: What time period does your collection span? What is your favorite era?
Julie: My favorites are turn-of-the-century quilts—the quilts with the bubblegum pinks, navy blues, and blacks, and those quilts have been easier to find. Obviously I also love Civil War–era quilts, but it’s hard to find those or afford to add them to my collection. I feel like antique quilts in general are getting harder to find. I’ve been collecting for 35 years, and I think about all those quilts that were bought up during that time. Newer collectors are now looking for ’30s and ’40s quilts because that’s what you see more often now.
Indigo Snowballs from Preserving History
ST: How many quilts do you have in your collection, and what do you do with them?
Julie: Oh gosh, I have several hundred in my collection, at least. And I do use them! Almost all of them are out and being used somewhere around the house. I also use them in my shop for displays.
ST: Have you ever found an antique quilt that you couldn’t re-create or that was especially challenging? What was different about it?
Julie: Sometimes it’s the difficulty of the pattern. The last quilt in the book is called Sugarloaf (below), and I love that quilt. I’d just never sat down and figured out how to make it because it seemed a little more difficult. But I think for a lot of us, we’ve been quilting for a long time and it’s time to take on something new.
Another one is Scrappy X Delight. It took me five or six years before I sat down and figured out how to piece it but I just love it. It was just a matter of cutting all those little strips. It looks complex, but you can cut strips with your rotary cutter and use the tools we have now. People tend to think that because it’s tiny, it’s hard, but it’s not. And it’s so much easier now to sew things accurately. The Xs in the quilt are strip pieced. When you sit down and deconstruct a pattern, you really can see how easy it is to make with the tools we have available today.
ST: Tell us about your Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, quilt shop, JJ Stitches—how did you start it? Can you tell us what it’s like?
Julie: The shop opened in 1975 as a clothing store. I didn’t own it then. But I was a manager there for almost 20 years. Eventually I purchased it. Now that it’s a quilt shop, it’s divided into three areas: Civil War and turn-of-the-century fabrics are throughout the front of the store. In another area we concentrate on flannels and textured cottons, which I love. And then in the back of the store, in another large room, people are surprised because we have lots and lots of ’30s fabrics and lots and lots of baby fabrics. It’s almost like two separate stores in one! We also have several hundred bolts of wool, and we carry hand-dyed wools too.
One thing we always hear from our customers is how much they love the finished samples we have on display. There are probably 30–40 finished projects in the store at any given time. Even if customers don’t want to buy a kit or whatever they’d need to make one of the samples, they’re inspired. We also try to mix in antique displays too, which I think is really appealing—it makes people want to come in and hang around for awhile.
Julie: It was great! We’d planned to do only one show but we ended up filming two because we had so many quilts from the book that we really wanted to show. One thing we showed was the construction of a Basket quilt block from the Sewing Baskets quilt in the book.
We had just about all of the quilts from the book there so we could refer to them. Starting in January you can visit the Sewing with Nancy website, and they’ll have a schedule of when the show will run throughout the country.
Which colors do you like best: the rich, dark colors of turn-of-the-century quilts, or the happy, bubbly colors of quilts from the 1930s?
Tell us in the comments and you could win a copy of the Preserving History eBook! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win. Good luck!
Can’t wait to see if you win? Buy Preserving History right now and you can instantly download a digital copy of the book for free.
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Thanks to all who entered the drawing. The winner is Kathie, who says:
“I have more of the darker fabrics in my stash, but I’ve used the 30’s for several quilts.”
Kathie, we’ll email you about your prize. Congratulations!