Inspired by antique quilts: 3 stunners + their remakes

Antique quilt block from Fancy to FrugalSee if you’ve ever been in this situation as a quilter: you’re at the quilt show, the antique shop, or the museum.

Suddenly your jaw drops. You let out an audible gasp. You cup your hands over your mouth.

Your eyes quickly move from side to side, top to bottom, taking it all in.

(You look around. Does anyone else SEE what you’re seeing?)

It’s the most gorgeous antique quilt you’ve ever laid eyes on!

If only you could take it home…

If you’ve ever been inspired by antique quilts, you’re certainly not alone. Vintage quilts ignite the creative passions of many Martingale authors. And when those authors can’t take an antique quilt home, what do they do? They create present-day quilts that honor the historic quilts they adore. (Of course, along the way they update the techniques the original makers used. Only the most recent quiltmaking methods employed here!)

Below are just a few examples from designers who have re-created the beauty of the past with the ease and speed of techniques from the present. See if you fall in love with these antique quilts and their remakes as much as we did.

“Garden Spinners”
From the book Candy Store and More by Kay Connors and Karen Earlywine

Garden Spinners quilt

Kay and Karen write, “The quilt-block design for ‘Garden Spinners’ was found in a box of old newspaper clippings. Someone had trimmed away the text and source information, so the origin is a mystery. The large blossoms, constructed from colorful triangles, demanded a striking border with even more angles. The result is dramatic!”

Discover more stunning remakes of ’30s quilt blocks >

“Pumpkin Peel”
From the book Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts by Mary Elizabeth Kinch and Biz Storms

Pumpkin peel antique quilt
Left: “Wagon Wheel,” c. 1920, 66″ x 79″. Maker and location unknown. From the collection of Nancy Ray. Right: Updated “Pumpkin Peel” quilt from the book Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts.

Detail of Pumpkin Peel quiltMary Elizabeth writes, “‘Wagon Wheel’ is graphic and bold. Inspired by this antique, Biz extracted a two-row segment and married it with its mirror image to form an elliptical shape reminiscent of a Double Wedding Ring or Orange Peel pattern. Sixteen elliptical shapes later, and she’d created a four-block quilt evocative of the blocks found in the original quilt!”

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See more striking small-piece antique quilts and their updates >

“Aunt Amy’s Sampler Quilt”
From the book Quilts from Aunt Amy by Mary Etherington and Connie Tesene of Country Threads

Aunt Amy's sampler quilt
Left: Aunt Amy’s sampler quilt, circa 1898 (when Amy was 21 years old). Can you spot the block that inspired the “21st-Century Bull’s-Eye” quilt on the right?

Mary and Connie write, “Our reluctance to piece curved seams gave birth to the raw-edged Bull’s-Eye block. This is the most relaxing quilt we’ve ever made! We cut the circles freehand, and nothing had to match except the corners of the squares. Machine washing the quilt after it was quilted added texture. Since the circles and fabrics don’t need to match, this quilt would make a perfect group project. We’ve had more positive feedback about ‘21st-Century Bull’s-Eye’ than about any other quilt we’ve ever done.”

See 19 more designs inspired by Aunt Amy’s sampler >

Want to see more quilts inspired by antiques?
Click on a book cover to add more jaw-dropping moments to your day!

Candy Store and More Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts Quilts from Aunt Amy
Fancy to Frugal Small Blocks, Stunning Quilts Link to the '30s

What’s your take on antique quilts: love ’em or leave ’em? Tell us in the comments!

Simple Applique

21 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Love them. I have collected a few over the years.

    —Dawn Smolsky on April 30, 2015
  • Antique quilts are my very favorite. They bring back memories of my paternal grandmother and great-grandmother. I do a lot of English paper piecing and applique with the fabrics from the "30’s. The colors are so refreshing. Civil war repro fabrics are rich and wonderful to work with. So I do love the old quilts the very best.

    —Patricia D. Roberts on April 30, 2015
  • Love them..such inspiration

    —Linda P in IL on April 30, 2015
  • When I look at some of the quilts and the tiny pieces that were used, I am amazed at the workmanship. The lighting we have now to help with fine handwork was not available and working with clothing scraps and feedsacks in not like the fine fabrics we can use now.

    —Donna Olson on April 30, 2015
  • I love the look of antique quilts and the repo fabrics that are available. I have a large collection of 30″s repo prints and have made a few quilts with them.

    —Peggy on April 30, 2015
  • Most of the antique quilts I have seen don’t have colors that appeal to me but repeating them in reproduction fabrics can really be effective. My favorite antique quilts are crazy quilts with the beautiful colors and stitches.

    —Barbara on April 30, 2015
  • I love antique quilts. It amazes me how they did such precise piecing considering how they had to cut their pieces. I have reproduced a few, including a Civil War potholder quilt I am doing now. I look at all the tools we have now and what they had, or lack of, and marvel at what they accomplished.

    —Lorraine Robertson on April 30, 2015
  • I have come into possession of a quilt top that my grandma made back in the mid 60’s. Not antique, but old enough for me to want to take the time and find the right fabric to finish it properly. I do recall "bees" at my grandma’s house. Large metal circles screwed into the ceiling just waiting for the ladies to come and begin the magic of sandwiching those pretty layers. The gentlemen would get the wood slats and bolts and screws to construct the frame that would hang from the center of the parlor. Wishing now, I’d taken pictures.

    —debra lee on April 30, 2015
  • Interesting books. I’d love to win.

    —caroline Rohrer on April 30, 2015
  • I love antique quilts for the workmanship and the historical view of the years in which they were made. I have quilts from both my and my husband’s grandmothers. While I would not try to replicate them I am inspired by the craft and have appreciated some of the designs as jumping off points for my own more quilts with current fabrics.

    —Jane on April 30, 2015
  • Oh, really love them! And yes, they do inspire me to make updated versions….tho sometimes I want to do them exactly the same as the old piece!

    —Jacque on April 30, 2015
  • i just love the elegant simplicity of them. I don’t know what else to say you can tell they were made with love and made to last!

    —Lori Chvojka on April 30, 2015
  • I love the old patterns. My mother has a stack of original Kansas City Star newspaper quilting patterns. We made a copy and put the originals in a binder sleeve so they weren’t handled. It’s fun to just sit and look at the older patterns and think of cutting out each template then the fabric with scissors since we do our cutting now with rotary cutters.

    —connie b on April 30, 2015
  • Love ’em! The old patterns never go out of style. After all, aren’t they the ‘roots’ for all that has followed?

    —Diana O on April 30, 2015
  • Yes I love them. I have to admire what they got done with so much to do!

    —Toni Chapman on April 30, 2015
  • I love the vintage quilts; the antique colors, fabrics, patterns, quilting.

    —carol on April 30, 2015
  • I have only been up close to two hand made 1930 quilts. what was interesting, besides the fact that both were made from shirting and PJ scrapes from the floor of the factory, was the person hand quilted each piece as she quilted block piece to the whole cloth backing-full size and batting. Never seen this method done today. The mystery flower pattern How about the KC Star newspaper?

    —Linda Christianson on April 30, 2015
  • truly amazing quilts made with love and necessity to keep the family warm!! i have made quite a few for our family of 9!!!thanks

    irene indelicato on May 1, 2015
  • I love antique quilts and I enjoy making traditional quilts with reproduction fabrics.

    —Cecilia on May 1, 2015
  • I too love the oldies. The feed sack pieces on the stark white background, what’s not to like. Then the deep richness of the colors in the Civil war period. Deep happenings, deep feelings and deep colors. Love them all.

    Donna on May 5, 2015
  • Love the antique quilts, have only a couple made by my Grandmother, who took in quilting during the depression, to add money for family.
    I also collect old blocks and quilts at Antique shops.

    —Susanne Frailey on May 31, 2015

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