Cheer up! 1930s quilt blocks come back to life (+ fabric giveaway!)

Barn Dance quiltDoes nostalgia leap into your heart when you see a 1930s quilt? When you think about it, it’s astonishing that such cheerful beauty emerged from such a challenging time in American history. The style, colors, and motifs of 1930s quilts are instantly recognizable and full of fun, and they can just as instantly make us feel like we’ve been pulled back in time.

Sister designers Kay Connors and Karen Earlywine have been captivated by 1930s quilts for years—in fact, they’ve written two bestselling books on the subject. In those books, they unearthed forgotten block patterns from the era and gave them new life. After another exhaustive block search, they’re back to share more authentic designs from the 1930s in their latest book, Candy Store and More. And just like the quilts in their first two books, these latest quilts are nothing short of spectacular.

Today we welcome Kay and Karen to Stitch This! as guest bloggers. We’re eager to hear about this all-new batch of block patterns salvaged from the ’30s—and the accompanying quilt patterns updated for simpler sewing!

GIVEAWAY ALERT! Our friends at Robert Kaufman Fabrics have provided a ’30s-inspired bundle of 21 fat quarters from Darlene Zimmerman’s “Hanky Panky” fabric line to give away to you! Find out how you can win this beautiful bundle PLUS a copy of Candy Store and More at the bottom of this post.

Robert Kaufman Fabrics
Hanky Panky by Darlene Zimmerman for Robert Kaufman Fabrics

Kay Connors and Karen EarlywineWe are so excited to present our new book, our third one of 1930s quilts made new!

You know, when you decide to create a quilt book, years of ideas and quilts (the “A” material) go into it. That book was our first one, Link to the ’30s: Making the Quilts We Didn’t Inherit. A second book requires bringing forth another set of quilts and, although you thought you had used your best stuff, ideas and inspirations seem to spring from everywhere. Voilá, another book! That was Fancy to Frugal: Authentic Quilt Patterns from the 1930s.

When we decided to do a third book, we had some great quilts on the drawing board, but not enough for a full book. Then old quilts and old newspaper clippings began to present themselves. A friend loaned us her grandmother’s quilt to draw inspiration from; a quilt hanging on the wall in our little Hill Country house in Texas gave us another idea. A thoughtful Florida quilter sent us some old pamphlets that inspired a couple of others. As with our first two books, old patterns and settings became new! We took the liberty of changing settings from the more traditional, adding borders of our design, along with rick-rack, yo-yos, and embroidery.

Garden Spinners 1930s quilt
“Garden Spinners” is a remake of a quilt-block pattern that was found in a box of old newspaper clippings. Someone had trimmed away the text and source information, so the origins are a mystery.

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that is so, then we flatter the quilters from the 1930s who made such wonderful quilts in less than optimal conditions, and very likely with little or no funds to do so.

We’re sisters, but we live far apart. Karen is in southwestern New Mexico and Kay is in the panhandle of Idaho. Getting together presents a challenge so we tend to work independently, checking ideas and progress frequently by phone and email, sending photos and drawings electronically. But though we are separated by many miles, we are always in agreement in what we like—quilts inspired by the soft colors and the hard times of the Great Depression.

Draped Dresdens 1930s quilt
This sweet Dresden block came from a Depression-era booklet; the quilt was originally titled “Ferris Wheel.” Kay and Karen simplified the piecing and appliquéing of this beauty, called “Draped Dresdens,” streamlining the use of lots of ’30s reproduction scraps.

You might notice that some of our new quilts have names that honor our life stories and locations: “Hill Country Pinwheels,” “Idaho Bouquet,” and “Southwest Cactus Baskets.”

Hill Country Pinwheels 1930s quilt
“Hill Country Pinwheels” (left) was inspired by an old quilt (right) that used solid colors and simple Double Pinwheel blocks, featuring the same color in each horizontal row of blocks. The vintage quilt appears to be missing two rows of Double Pinwheels; this is because the yellow fabric has almost completely faded to white, with only traces of the original color showing.

We honor our 99-year-old stepfather with “Morning, Glory!”

Morning, Glory! 1930s quilt
The blocks in this “Morning, Glory!” quilt began with an old favorite: a Square within a Square, or “Pershing” design, as shown in this old newspaper clipping from a Nancy Page column. We added rounded edges to each block and three-dimensional morning glory blooms in the border.

Sometimes we lived in the country, sometimes we lived in town. “Barn Dance” (at the top of this post) and “Candy Store” remind us of those times when we were children.

Candy Store quilt
“Candy Store”

The quilt we named “Candy Store” was originally seen on the Internet in dark colors, and it had no name. When we finished it in the soft colors of the 1930s we were reminded of all the penny candies of our childhood, seen through glass jars or glass-fronted display cases. Occasional purchases of those candies made them very dear, and we still remember wishing we could buy them all. We decided that we wanted to have that quilt on the front of the book, and the wonderful people at Martingale graciously consented. Thus the name Candy Store and More: 1930s Quilts Made New.

We hope you enjoy the book and make the quilts that we love so much!

Candy Store and MoreThanks for stopping by to share the story behind your latest book, Kay and Karen!

Do you own a stash of 1930s reproduction fabrics…or are you thinking of starting one? Tell us about your stash (or your stash to be) in the comments and you could win a copy of the Candy Store and More eBook PLUS the beautiful fat-quarter bundle from Robert Kaufman Fabrics! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win.

Check out more gorgeous, ’30s-inspired quilts in Kay and Karen’s other books:

Fancy to Frugal Link to the '30s

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The randomly chosen winner is D.L., who writes:

“I have quite a few 30’s fabrics. I have made one quilt using some of them and plan to make a grandmother’s flower garden quilt entirely by hand when I collect enough fabric. My grandmother’s parlor had a quilt frame set up at all times when I visited in the 1940s and she used wonderful 30’s prints – many of them recycled from my older cousins’ outgrown dresses – to make her quilts all by hand. Grandma did not own a sewing machine. Two doll quilts she made in the 30’s still exist and are in good shape – now owned by my grandchildren. How nice it would be to make something reminiscent of that era to have passed down to future generations. It would be great to receive the fat quarters and book.”

D.L., we’ll email you about your prize. Congratulations!


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