What to do with old quilts: 5 ideas to ponder

What-to-do-with-old-quiltsWhat to do with old quilts? It’s a question many quilters have asked. Whether you’ve inherited quilts, enjoy collecting antique quilts, or happen to own an old quilt with a story (or one that’s shrouded in mystery), knowing what to do with an older quilt can stump us.

We asked some of our antique-quilt-loving authors for answers to this quilt quandary. They’ve made antique quilts their passion, so read on—their advice might help you or someone you know bring an older quilt back to life.
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Mary-Elizabeth-KinchMake a copy of your favorite antique quilt. The makers of those quilts may not be around to tell us about their work, but with careful study the quilts will give up all their secrets and you will discover things about color, proportion, scale, fabrics, and prints that will be invaluable and that will influence your own work.

Below is a copy I made of the Dennis Cann Cot Quilt, part of the Quilters’ Guild Collection at the Quilt Museum in York, England. My quilt appeared in Simply Vintage/Quiltmania in 2013; you can see the original on my Pinterest page. Of course my propensity for small pieces means I ‘accidentally’ made the quilt almost half-scale to the original! Those wee squares in the center section finish at ½".”

—From Mary Elizabeth Kinch, co-author of Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts and Small Blocks, Stunning Quilts

Mary Elizabeth’s remake of the Dennis Cann Cot Quilt. See the original here.

Julie-Hendricksen“I’ve been collecting antique quilts for more than 30 years and at last count, I owned more than 200 of them. Each one is fascinating. The closer you look, the more interesting they become. Over the years I’ve discovered so many unique prints, unusual fabric pairings, faded colors that intrigue me, and distinctive settings or borders. All of this has helped me build a wealth of knowledge. That’s why I’d suggest you use a vintage quilt for color inspiration when making a new quilt. There’s so much to be learned from the quilters of yesteryear.”

—From Julie Hendricksen, author of Remembering the Past and Preserving History (coming September 2016)

Men at Work – antique and new versions – from
Remembering the Past

Nancy-Mahoney“When I started quilting, I was a purist. I wanted to continue the art of quilting much as our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did. Now 25+ years later, I’m a realist. There are too many quilts that I want to make, and too little time. That’s one reason I enjoy collecting vintage quilts; I can own a beautiful patchwork or appliqué quilt without having to make it! I think old quilts are a wonderful inspiration. I love remaking antique designs using new, up-to-date fabrics.”

—From Nancy Mahoney, author of Quilt Revival, Appliqué Quilt Revival, and Treasures from the ’30s

The charming block in this Beginner’s Luck quilt, featured in
Treasures from the ’30s, is based on a pattern from Laura Wheeler Designs, a company that produced quilt patterns for newspapers during the 1930s. Designed for piecing with curved seams and templates, Nancy updated the construction for rotary cutting and used a starch appliqué technique that makes the block much easier to sew.

Karen-Earlywine“If there is damage to an antique quilt from wear or the environment, some intact parts of an older quilt might be used to make a decorative teddy bear. I have one, shown below.

A friend of mine made keepsake birth announcements for each of my grandchildren by using portions of a quilt her grandmother made that had been largely worn out. She embroidered their names and birthdates on a piece of the quilt and then had them framed. It made for a very nice gift!”

—From Karen Earlywine, co-author of Candy Store and More, Fancy to Frugal, and Link to the ’30s

Teddy bear (pattern not provided) and quilts from
Fancy to Frugal

Where does your passion for quilts fit: old quilts only, new quilts only, or a mix of both? Tell us in the comments—and if you have an idea for using old quilts in new ways, please share it

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