Quilting a Vintage Quilt-Diamonds On Diamonds
Today’s Topic: Quilting a Vintage Quilt-Diamonds On Diamonds
Good Morning, Quilters!
As you may recall, I took the plunge this year and purchased a BERNINA Q24 Longarm.
I spent much of this year learning to quilt on a frame.
My Quilt Top Collection
First, I did an inventory: I had 25 full size quilt tops!
Most of the quilt tops were not my own creation. I inherited several from my mother; a few were made by my daughters, and the rest were vintage quilts, gifted to me or bought on Ebay.
Quilting Vintage Quilts
I decided to use the vintage quilts as practice quilts. This allowed me to relax a little as I learned long arm techniques. However, vintage quilts come with their own challenges: hand stitched seams, old thread, old fibers and stains.
Furthermore, some of the quilts were more expertly pieced than others. (One quilt was ultimately unquiltable because it was so distorted!)
Connection with the Past
While there are disadvantages to using vintage quilts, I love the connection with the past!
As I quilted, I thought about the unknown quilter who made the top. I said a little prayer for her and another asking that my quilting would honor her efforts. I wondered about her life. Fabric was clearly more dear. Many of the quilts contain stains that appear to have been on the fabric before the quilt was made. Obviously, a stain was not reason enough to throw the fabric away! What a different time!
All of these quilts were created before rotary cutters were available. The pieces were cut using a template made cardboard (usually a food box) and scissors. Can you imagine how long it took to cut the individual pieces that way? Can you imagine quilting without a rotary cutter or a mat?
Many were hand pieced. Even very complex designs were hand-pieced. Again, I am in awe of the effort and it draws me back into their world: Did they have good lighting? Where did they learn to quilt? How did they choose their designs without the internet?
And of course, they were also cooking and baking from scratch!
For each quilt, I take copious notes. This has already helped me learn about techniques.
For example, I include information on thread, batting and fabric, as well as the time it took me to quilt.
I write down what worked….and what didn’t!
In addition, I like to include design ideas and techniques used and things to try in the future.
What About YOU?
Do YOU admire vintage quilts?
Have YOU ever quilted a vintage quilt?
Do YOU keep a quilting journal?
We’d LOVE to hear!
Learning to Long Arm,
PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy Quilts and are intended for personal use only. Feel free to re-blog, pin or share with attribution to LKQ. For all other purposes, please contact me at Lori@LoriKennedyQuilts.com. Thanks!
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28 responses to “Quilting a Vintage Quilt-Diamonds On Diamonds”
I have a wedding ring quilt top I purchased at a local auction many years ago. I started hand quilting it but life got in the way. Thank you for giving me the incentive to machine quilt it (otherwise it might never get done and it’s beautiful).
I have a longarm on a frame and I quilt for customers and yes, over the course of time that I’ve been doing this I have quilted a few vintage quilts, some that have been stitched completely by hand and been stored in closets for many years. It definitely is fascinating to get these quilts as it sure takes me back to a time where I used scissors and cardbord templates to create my kids quilts. Seems like a life time ago for sure, but also is definitely a challenge to quilt these amazing quilts…
I have a full size Sun bonnet Sue hand pieced top that was my daughters great grandmother’s on her fathers side . I want to honor her by hand quilting it, but with the advancement in sewing machines, I think I am going to give my new machine a try. I sure enjoy your blog! Thank you 🙏🏻
I was given a grandmothers fan quilt top by my sister-in-law that was made by her grandmother. It was definitely made using scraps from clothing and the background was cut from sugar sacks! It was a full bed size quilt, but she wanted me to make it into two lap quilts for her children. So I cut it in half, made many repairs to it, and added a 4 inch border. I am now ready to quilt them both, but I can’t decide how to quilt them. So they sit waiting for some inspiration!
I enjoy both machine and hand quilting but tend to give the respect deserved to vintage quilts and hand quilt them.
I should keep a journal but haven’t. I’ve finished and gifted or sold many quilts that I forgot to take photos of.
If nothing else, I need to remember to take pictures before they leave my house.
Lately I’ve been pretty good about taking photos of the fabric before cutting; the stacks of cut pieces and the pieced blocks but I still tend to forget to take photos of the flimsy or finished work.
I love finding a vintage top and “communing” with the maker as I work on it. I usually handquilt them when I see the tiny stitches done by the Unknown. I hope they are looking down and thanking the rescuer. I like to think that some day, some one, will do the same if I leave some UFO’s behind.
My mother-in-law had some quilt tops done by her mother-in-law and my husband’s father. She had them finished with pantographs by a long armer. The one I have was done with a swirl. The quilting seems really out of place with a broken star quilt but it is finished.
Thank you for your prayers while you quilt. “A prayer in every,” is a phrase I write on every quilt label. My quilting time is a time alone with my cares and concerns. I often find answers during this thought/prayer time. Thank you also for sharing your work.
That is so beautiful! I agree—quilting brings me peace.
That should have read, “A prayer in every stitch.”
I wrote “With love and prayers in every stitch” on a quilt I made a few years ago. The entire time I worked on it I thought about the intended recipient, and hoped the quilt would help to ease her pain, bring her some semblance of peace, and help her feel wrapped in love. I was told she immediately wrapped herself in it and would not be without it. Now one of her sisters treasures it.
I’ve been meaning to put together a quilt journal. For some quilts I have design drawings, copious notes, anecdotes, material costs, fabric pieces, and photos at various stages. For all my quilts, except the first two I ever made years ago, I have photos of the front and back, and close-ups of the label(s) at a minimum. Sometimes there is more than one label on a quilt. I try to also get close-ups of the quilting design, and sometimes the piecing when all the points match perfectly. I’m not sure where it all is currently, but I really need to gather it all together and create that journal! Thank you Lori for the reminder.
Sounds like you have done the hard work. Have you heard of Circa notebooks—you might like it for your journal.
Is the note taking you show done on a Circa note sheet?? Which one? I really like how that one is laid out. I’ve been looking for something better to keep my brain storming ideas together. I’m an over thinker before cutting and I really like how you’ve kept it all together even if you used a different final design.
I bought the paper for my circa from Levenger. They have many layout options.
I have all of the necessary tools to make these Circa notebooks, but I would like to find paper that is bigger than 8 1/2 x 14. Either Graph, or ruled the “wrong” way. Any ideas?
I’m a fan of circa notebooks. I’ve used large calendars and check your art store. They always offer all sizes of paper
Love the idea of the journal. I’ve been meaning to try free motion quilting and keeping a record of progress and lessons would definitely help ease the nerves a little. Takes the pressure off being perfect from the start.
Thank-you for sharing all of your thoughts, Keeping a journal did occur to me, but i wondered what to put into it. Now after seeing your comprehensive journal notes I can see the value of keeping a journal as you take the quilt along it’s journey to completion. What a nice history to share with the prospective owners down the years too. I am going to have to get my discipline hat on and start on a journal with serious intent. Oh, I learned something really helpful yesterday, I was struggling to quilt on my my domestic machine , it kept stalling and snagging , I was in a class, the teacher came to me and showed me how to adjust the height of the spring on the foot, it was down too low, just a simple turn of the nut and I was flying. Such joy I could feel the quilt responding to my movements and no more dragging or snags; after all these years I did not know I could make such a simple adjustment, the nut must have worked its way tighter over time. Every little bit of new information helps. Best wishes to you and your family for Christmas and the New Year.
It does take a bit of discipline to create a quilt journal. I don’t do it for every quilt but am also trying to be better.
Your presser foot story is a great example of why you just can’t beat in-person classes!
Merry Christmas to you!
In addition to my comment, I forgot to say that when I was able to resume quilting, my teacher proceeded to talk about doodling, and to show me how to quilt in a continuous line, so I showed her your website, she was mightily impressed, I was so pleased to be able to repay her with my own special gem …borrowed I know from you. I am so lucky to have two great mentors from both sides of the world. Merry Christmas.
My aunt was born in 1905 in Gallatin, Missouri. She is just like you described the women back then. I have pieces of linoleum or cardboard all cut for quilts she made. She died in 1997. She was still quilting. At first she gave up hand quilting, then gave up sewing blocks and at the end was only cutting pieces. I have many quilts of hers and even more flimsies; I even have sets of blocks. I never did learn to quilt from her but she made squares for me to sew into 9 patches when I was eight. 30 years later I finished the patches and sewed it together and quilted it together. It was our first “collaboration. Since then I have quilted by hand one flimsy and our third collaboration was putting together blocks she had sewn and quilting it on the machine. She is my quilting muse. Whenever I have a question how to do something with a quilt, I go look through her quilts to find answers in her layouts, borders and quilting.
Yes! Yes! Yes1 I love vintage quilts for all the ways you have listed. There are a true learning experience of complicated quilt construction. How they came up with the variety of patterns and created a way to piece them together is absolutely incredible using the tools they had. My passion is to find ways to re-create the quilts/block with modern design programs and electronic cutting machines to cut each piece exactly the same without templates or specialty rulers. Then the challenge of creating the perfect digital quilting pattern to quilt the top on my longarm!
I remember my mother cutting out her template for the wedding ring quilt from the cereal box. I remember seeing her using it to draw her lines, cut her blocks by scissors. She also hand quilted it. It was given to my brother and his wife for a wedding present.
I started quilting in the 60’s when Quilter’s Newsletter was about the only magazine, no internet, no rotary cutters and using a sewing machine was frowned on. There were some kits available from Hershner’s catalog which is what I started with and was done all by hand. I cut with scissors and used the cardboard to mark my patches and later was able to buy template plastic! More magazines in the 70’s & 80’s for quilting patterns and inspiration as well as a few TV shows on PBS. I think my first machine pieced quilts happened in the 80’s but still were hand quilted and bound…loved to do feathers. Not sure when I started using a rotary cutter and rulers…90’s??? Now I have a good collection of both 😉 My first e-mail address was in 2001. A lot has changed in 50+ years! Oh My 🙁 has it been that long? Where did the time go? I better get quilting 🙂
Thanks for your inspiration Lori!
from an OLD quilter I guess
Now I feel inspired to get going on 2 quilt tops “donated” to me from an aunt, who inherited them from her motherinlaw, who sewed them in the 1950’s. I have hesitated for couple years because some of the pieces in her blocks were cut on the bias and hand sewed to pieces cut on the straight. It will not lay out flat ! HA! Surely I can solve this and get them finished for her family. There are 5 greatgrandchildren now. It will be top of my list for 2022..but who mentioned new year’s resolutions? Thanks for the inspiration Lori !! Marta
I have kept quilt journals from the very beginning thanks to the inspiration of my first teacher at JCCFS. Catherine had been teaching there for 20 plus years and brought her three ring binders full of photos and notes for each and every quilt she had made. As students we were fascinated to watch her evolution and we spent our free time perusing her notebooks rather than the library in the classroom. As far as vintage quilts – I have given many to others to quilt for me back when I quilted by checkbook – but now that I quilt my own on a sit down long arm, I need to find another vintage top and see if I can quilt it myself. Your blog is full of inspiration – thank you for sharing with all of us!
Hey Laurie I hope you never get tired of giving us inspiration and tips and know how to do the things that we’d like to do and that you have accomplished. Enjoying the trip very much.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all your readers and your family