Tag Archives: quilt

Grandma Lizzie’s Quilt, Update

I first wrote about this quilt in 2008. At the time it was just a finished pieced top that needed some stabilization work. I talked about how I was going to get it finished. Well, twelve years and one pandemic later, and the quilt is finished. I’ve been working on it for weeks, but I’m strangely sorry to see the work end.

I’ve reposted the original writing from 2008 below, but I have a bit to add to the story. I wondered about all the different pieces in the quilt. At the time she made it, probably the early 1940s judging from the fabrics used, most of her children were grown. And from photos of herI know she didn’t wear colorful dresses.

From recent conversations with niece Amari, I saw the 1940 census entry of my father’s family. I expected that at thirteen, my dad would have been the youngest in the household. But then I saw that two of his sisters who had children of their own, had moved back into the family home. There were five little kids and three young adult daughters, all of whom must have enjoyed having pretty dresses and blouses.

So, here’s the story behind my Grandma Lizzie’s quilt.

I was named for my paternal grandmother, Lizzie Adams, who died about a year before I was born.  She was one of those rare individuals who seemed to be universally loved; I’ve never heard a bad thing associated with her at all.  She had eleven children, all of whom (the nine that had children of their own) named a daughter Elizabeth in her honor.

Growing up I had another grandmother whom I adored, but I always felt somehow that I’d missed out by never knowing Grandma Lizzie.  It was always a treat hearing my dad’s family talk about her.  But my favorite story came from my mother, who only knew her for a few years.  One day, not long before Lizzie died, my parents and older brother were visiting her.  She brought out two quilt tops she had pieced, but had never gotten around to quilting.  She gave them to my mother, saying she made these for Jack’s daughters.  My mother was sort of taken aback, as Jack (her husband, and my father) had no daughters.  But as fate and Lizzie would have it, eventually he did have the two predicted daughters.

My mother gave me my quilt top years ago, and for years it’s been stored away.  A few months ago, I got it out.  There was quite a bit of fraying and raveling where it had been washed, so I decided to secure all the edges, going over the stitches my grandmother made so many years ago.  I’ve felt a closeness to her that really can’t be explained.  I can’t help but wonder about the pieces – if they came from her old aprons, or were scraps from dresses she made for a daughter or granddaughter.

I’ll admit I’ve been envious of those cousins who were older than me and lucky enough to have known her.  But I have the quilt.


Filed under Sewing, Viewpoint

How Not to Waste a Scrap

I recently found a set of twelve unfinished patchwork pieces in the Dresden Plate pattern. I scooped these up from the bottom of a bin at the Goodwill Dig, knowing I had absolutely no use for them. But the thought of these Depression Era fabrics ending up in a ragger’s bundle made me so sad I had to rescue them.

All the fabrics are 1930s dress fabrics or feedsack fabrics. Some of the fabrics are the same but in different colors, like the blue and green examples above. Maybe a mother made matching dresses for her little girls – blue for one girl and green for the other. And since that same design is also present in red and in purple, maybe there were four daughters.

What really impressed me the most is that some of the pieces are actually pieced from even smaller scraps. The center piece above is made from five tiny scraps, some of them much smaller than an inch in width and length. The maker really knew how to use up every tiny bit of the precious material.

Amazingly, these designs were all pieced by hand. Do you see why I just had to rescue these?

In my own sewing, one of the things I hate facing is the large amount of unusable scrap fabric left over from the cutting. I’m not a quilter, and for the most part, don’t indulge in fiddly crafts that use tiny scraps of fabric. I do make lots of pillows, and all my scraps are cut even smaller to make filling. After reading about how much textile waste ends up in the trash dumps of the world, I can’t bear to add to the problem.

I know that in some areas there is textile recycling. And if worst comes to worst, scraps can be donated to Goodwill where they end up in the ragger’s bundles.  Are there any other ideas?

So now I have twelve pieces of Dresden plate, which I don’t need. I’d love to pass them on to someone who will actually use them, and that person has been located. Thanks, Joni, for taking these off my hands!

A few of the pieces have stains. This is the worst one I have noted.





Filed under Shopping, Textiles, Uncategorized

Early Southern Stitchery at MESDA, Winston-Salem, NC

Last weekend it was my great fortune to attend the MESDA Spring Seminar, Stitching a Southern Identity: Defining Female Culture in the Early South. MESDA is the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, and is located at the southern edge of Old Salem, a Moravian town dating to 1766. The museum is located in a converted Kroger supermarket, and dates to 1965.

I signed up for this seminar on a whim. I’d planned to go to Williamsburg, VA for the Costume Society symposium, but a conflict prevented me from getting to make that trip. So this was a bit of a consolation prize, but as it happens, I’m really glad things turned out this way. I was pushed out of my comfort zone of 20th century clothing, and into a field about which I probably knew less than any of the other participants, at least it seemed that way by the learned conversations going on around me. And I can’t remember ever learning so much in two short days.

As the title suggests, this was all about the manufacture and decoration of textiles, mainly for use in the home. Most of the research presented was on samplers and quilts, but we also saw quite a bit of  other types of embroidery and of weaving. Without a doubt, my favorites were the samplers.

The word sampler tends to pull up an image of a school girl practicing her stitchery, and that’s a valid thought. But what was so surprising to me was the skill these girls exhibited in their work. Because girls tended to not only sign samplers, but also recorded their ages, we can see just how young these stitchers were. Even eight-year-olds were doing embroidery that would put me to shame!

Today samplers are valued not just as charming reminders of past childhoods, but also as historical documents. A girls would often include the names of family members, where she lived, important dates. But what is really interesting is how researchers today can look at a sampler and see so much more than the bare facts. This unusual sampler was stitched by Salley Keais, in 1793 in Washington, NC.

Researcher Marquita Reed was able to piece together a very good family history, just from the names and dates on the sampler and through searches in period newspapers. Her research helped explain the mermaid and the ship as it was found that hers was a family in the shipping business.

Another great sampler is this one by Sarah Hatton McPhail of Norfolk, VA. Other samplers of a very similar composition, including one by Sarah’s sister, were known to have been made in the Norfolk area. This tends to suggest that this was the style taught by the girls’ teacher. The fact that similar samplers were produced in the same school is a big help in identifying samplers, and has even led to the discovery of multiple samplers made under the direction of a particular teacher.

This close-up shows just how skilled Sarah was. She was eight years old at the time.

Click to enlarge

This remarkable sampler is part mourning tribute, part family register, and part scrapbook. The stitcher, Mary Ann Colboard, made this sampler in 1821 in Charleston, SC. It is thought that they are mourning the death of Mary Ann’s stepfather. The church is easily recognizable as St. Philips, where Mary Ann was married the year after she completed this work.

We also learned about quilts and other bed coverings. This is part of an album quilt. Each square was made by a different woman, and then put together and quilted by Catherine Palmer, near Charleston in 1848.

The squares were appliqued. Each maker would cut out a design from printed chintz (often combining elements from three of more different prints) and then stitch the new design to a square of cotton. Then it would be assembled and quilted.

Even though this quilt is attributed to Catherine Palmer, it is very possible that she had help in the form of her enslaved workers. Documenting the work of enslaved persons is extremely difficult as their labor was an expected part of the household work and was not often noted. However, careful examination of quilts often reveals that the stitching was done by more than one hand. It stands to reason that these other hands could have been enslaved.

Weaving was another task often carried out by enslaved workers. Again, curators and researchers take what they know about a piece and try to determine whether or not it is possible that the item was made by an enslaved person.

It’s not possible for all the museum’s textile holding to be displayed all the time, but I was really surprised when the curatorial associate opened this cupboard to reveal a trove of handwoven coverlets and blankets.

I was surprised to see a few wallpaper covered bandboxes. For some reason I tend to associate them with the North, maybe because they are so seldom seen for sale here in the South.

Boys of the Powell Family by Samuel Moore Shaver, Knoxville, TN, circa 1850-1869

Just so you won’t get the idea that MESDA is just needlework, here are some details from their great collection of paintings. You will also find furniture, pottery, silverwork, clocks, books, woodwork and architectural elements, and ironwork.

I’ll close with this portrait of Mary Hawksworth Riddell and her daughter, Agnes Riddell. It was painted in the early 1790s by Charles Peale Polk (of the famous Peale family of artists).

I love that this sweet picture includes a basket of needlework.

My thanks to MESDA for such a rewarding experience. You can see more of their collection online.

1 Comment

Filed under Museums, North Carolina, Road Trip, Textiles

What I Didn’t Buy – Tie Quilt

Last week I found a good reminder that your grandmother was reusing out-of-date materials and clothing to make something that might be useful, and she didn’t even have Pinterest to inspire her.  In this case, someone took a bunch of old ties and made a lap quilt.

Sometime in the early 1950s men started seeing a shift in tie design.  Ties became longer and more narrow, and the colors and designs became much more conservative.  What looked right to men after returning home from WWII now looked a bit clownish.  I’m sure that many men did like my Uncle Corky and just left the crazy ones on the tie rack.  When he died there were dozens of great 1940s ties buried under the somber 1950s and 60s ones, and there were even a few new 1970s polyester ones on the very top.

But some clever quilter saw patchwork material when looking at these old, unstylish ties.  I’m pretty sure this was made in the 1950s because of the type of rayon that was used for the backing.  Maybe it was a gift for the original owner, or maybe the maker collected them from friends who would no longer wear them.

I look at something like this today and realize that as far as monetary value is concerned, the seller of the quilt would be better off having the ties intact. But it’s hard to criticize the maker of the quilt, and she (or he, possibly) would never have dreamed that anyone would ever be caught dead in these again.

I see dozens of old ties in practically any thrift store I visit.  They are rarely older than the 1970s, but some of them are made from fine silks.  I’m not a quilter, but I’ll admit I’ve been tempted to collect then just so I’ll have a project in case I ever get snowed in for two weeks with no electricity.  And I always look at ties in thrift stores in the hopes of finding a Liberty Tana lawn one.  I always get them because those long strips of bias fabric come in handy for various projects.

That one with the swordfish is pretty nifty.

Nothing says “classy” like big old green and orange gems.

Do you know a steel-working man?  There was a tie for him.



Filed under I Didn't Buy...

What I Didn’t Buy – Hawaiian Print Quilt

Flea market season is here, and with it, a new edition of What I Didn’t Buy.  You are looking at a pieced quilt top made of rectangles of 1940s rayon Hawaiian print fabric.  Things like this tend to stop me dead in my tracks, and so I was standing there with my mouth gaping open when the seller approached me.

She must have seen that “I can’t believe what I’m seeing”  look before, because she volunteered that she felt like the top was made from scraps from a sewing factory.  I just stood there thinking that yes, that was possible, but that it was also possible, and quite probable, that someone cut up several dozen 1940s Hawaiian shirts in order to make a quilt that was never even finished.

Look carefully, and you will see three different photo prints, several prints of tropical fish, prints with Hawaiian men fishing, sailboats, palm trees, and enough tropical flowers to open a wholesale flower business.  All I can say is that I hope the seller was right in her guess as to the quilt top’s origin.  Considering that there are so many different prints, perhaps that actually is the case.

But if the reverse is true, there can’t be a better case against the current trend of re-purposing.  I didn’t get the price of the quilt top, but the value of  the intact shirts would be in the thousands.   Just last year I sold one with tropical fish similar to one of the prints in the quilt top for $650.   So why would anyone cut up such valuable shirts?

I suspect it would have been made in the years after the shirts ceased to be fashionable, but before they were discovered to be cool.  In those years the shirts would just have been fabric, much in the same way the so much of the used clothing found on today’s secondary market is just considered to be the raw material for crafting projects.  Of course, the big difference is that the vintage rayon shirts were made out of a quality fabric, and were very well made, and 95% of the stuff found in thrift stores today is the total opposite.

So how does one figure out what may become valuable in the coming years?  I wish I had a crystal ball and could answer that question.  I never thought I’d see the day when young women were wanting to wear cheap poly dresses from the 1980s, but that has come to pass.  Of course they have to be chopped off in order to cut down on the dowdy factor!

One thing that I  see that desirable vintage items do have in common with one another is that regardless of fashion, they tend to look good on the proper body.   Look beyond current fashion, and think of the merits of the garment as it would look on the body.  A nicely structured 1950s rayon swimsuit is going to make a body look good regardless of what is being sold in the stores.  The same can be said for a  perfectly fitted rayon shirt from the 1940s.


Filed under I Didn't Buy...

What I Didn’t Buy – Bowling Shirt Quilt

I spotted this quilt at a recent flea market, and I only have two sorry photos of it because the vendor seemed displeased that I was taking photos.  Anyway, it took me a few minutes to recover from the shock of seeing 40 vintage embroidered rayon bowling shirts cut up and stitched into an ugly monster of a quilt.  Okay, it is possible the shirts were trashed, but I didn’t see any holes, nor stains on the pieces.

Bowling shirts are one of those vintage items that go up and down in value depending on their current cool factor.  All it takes is for one A-list celebrity to be seen wearing one, and the value shoots right up.  But then people forget about them, and it is a bit hard to wear someone else’s name embroidered on your chest.  So, as I said, up and down.

I guess the quilt was made during a down time.  Even so the seller had a price of $350 on it. That means the shirts are priced at about $9 each.  Compare that to what she would have been asking if the shirts were intact.

Bowling shirts really aren’t my cup of tea.  I actually had one with my name on it, but I never wore it because it just felt too kitschy.  Still, I’d love to have a fabulous 1950s one with a name like “Mavis” or “Dot” or “Judy” and on the back would be an ad for the local drive-in theater.

It may be that I’m over-thinking this quilt.  I know people re-purpose for a reason, and it is just possible the maker needed something to keep her warm at night.  But I have another reason for feeling this one.  I’ve just finished cutting apart and joining together 20 of my nephew’s college tee shirts.  He is now the proud owner of a tee shirt quilt, something I was blissfully unaware of, and will now forget exists.  My hat is off to all you quilters.  It is a LOT of work!



Filed under I Didn't Buy...

Vintage Labels Quilt – Worth the Wait!

I’ve been waiting almost 10 years to see the quilt above.  Seriously.

When I was still teaching I had a kid whose mother worked at Lark Books in Asheville.  It was the early days of the VFG Label Resource, and I was telling her about that project when she mentioned a quilt made of vintage labels that was hanging in the lobby or stairwell of the Lark offices.  But she seemed to think that the quilt had been removed.  You know how it is when you see something everyday; after a while you stop noticing it.

She could see that I was excited to see the quilt, so she promised to track it down and then I could visit her at her office so I could see it.  Well, the quilt really was gone, and she was never able to locate it.

Last month while visiting Kate Mathews of Folkwear Patterns, I happened to mention the quilt, as she used to be co-owner of Lark.  She remembered it, but did not know what had happened to it.  It belonged to a guy named Chris Kluge, whose family owned the label company that made the labels.  She promised to track it down.

As it turned out, the quilt had been returned to Chris. A few weeks later she sent Chris’s email, and the rest is history.  Here, in Chris’s own charming words, is the story behind this remarkable quilt:

“It was created in the latter 1970’s by my best friend’s mother…. full name Laura Margaret Sherrill Hobson (aka “Midge” and “Midget”, for her diminuitive size ) Midge Hobson was born near Asheville, NC and  moved to New York City in the 40’s as an Arthur Murrey Dance Instructor… where she attempted to teach a semi-clumsy returning Navy veteran to dance…. He was hopeless as a dancer, and hopelessly in love (as was she) so they married… She spent most of the rest of her life in New Jersey, raising two boys with her husband, Russ Hobson Jr. (an inventor and successful entrepreneur. .a story unto himself for certain..) They retired back to NC (near Old Fort) in the early 70’s.

Midge Hobson was aware of my family’s history in the label business*, and, after showing her some old sample books (from 20’s and 30’s), she expressed an interest in using some for a quilt she was currently making. I happily gave her the books to peruse… and you see the result!! I was very surprised to receive the quilt after Mrs. Hobson’s death in the 80’s.

* The Label Business….. My paternal great grandfather was one of five brothers who, with their father, ran a narrow fabrics weaving mill in Krefeld, Germany (probably began in 1860’s or so)  They wove jacquard design trim for corset borders, and other apparel and design-related markets…. This business was called Gebruder Kluge (“Kluge Brothers”)

Around the  mid 1880s, Herr Papa Kluge sent four of his sons to establish new markets for their German manufactured goods… one to Sweden, one to Italy, one to United States, and one to Russia (and one Kluge stayed at home, wee-wee- etc… My great grandfather, Adolf Kluge, established German Artistic Weaving Company in New York City (somewhere around 32nd St.), at first only importing narrow fabrics woven in Germany.. .But, when tarrifs were put on same, he bought looms (again, in a loft around 32nd Street), to manufacture within the US. Family lore has a sheriff padlocking that location at one time(s) or another.

Adolf Kluge then bought riverside property in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey (from a black powder contractor to Dupont Powder Works… Smith Powder Works) With a water-driven turbine, he proceeded to build and expand on that site, eventually claiming to be “The World’s Largest Manufactuer of Woven Labels” (I have an old salescard that says so…. so it MUST be true, eh?)

Eventually over hundred looms were weaving narrow fabrics, coinciding with the  booming “ready-to-wear” garment needs of new immigrants, and his business thrived. (Side note… One of Adolf’s Brothers, Emile, came over to help with the business…. Emile thought he could do better, so he split off from his Brother Adolf, and established his OWN US-based label company… “E.H.Kluge” of course, the brothers never spoke again…. (Emile’s company was big success, until crash in 1929 wiped him out.)

With the outbreak of German hostilities in Europe, German-Artistic Company thought it prudent to become Artistic Weaving Company. ( which it remained until the 1970’s.)   Adolf Kluge died in 1920, leaving his label business to his sons, Albert and Willard. Albert bought his brother (my paternal grandfather) out in the early 30’s.   Albert Kluge built a label mill in Pittsboro, North Carolina (“Chatham Mills”) and it was still cranking out labels into the mid 1990’s. When Albert died in 1957, my Father, Willard Kluge Jr, inherited the company.  At that time the basic shuttle-style jacquard looms in use were not too different from looms of 100 years ago.

Loom technology changed dramatically.  Highspeed broadlooms, running polyester warps and figure yarns, were converted to narrow-fabric capability by having electrically-heated wires cut and fuse.  What had been used to weave broad goods could now crank out labels… AND, cause millions of people, myself among them, to cut out those nasty fused-edge neck labels

Which is a handy segueway back to those older labels Mrs. Hobson used for her magnificent quilt…. Being of such older vintage, they are mostly rayon and cotton (some might even be silk, which is what was used before Dupont invented Rayon.. in 20’s.)  The German Artistic Weaving company that was begun over 100 years ago in a loft in NYC ended in mid 1990s… sold to another North Carolina- based label company, which went bankrupt within two years.

The evolution and brief history of woven labels in the US is typical of many industries….. from small, family-owned endeavors, building customers, expanding into new markets, consolidating with similar businesses…. and, as all labor-intensive business have, fleeing to cheaper labor markets….. first labels….. then shirts……. then computers… then… finance? Stay tuned!!

Interesting how Mrs. Hobson’s handsewn quilt has outlasted the businesses that inspired her marvelous efforts!”

What a story!  My thanks to Chris for taking the time to write this all out and for sending photos.  If you want to see what Chris is up to, visit his website, Chriskluge.com.  He is a marionette maker, though I don’t see any on his site that look like him.  As I hear it he bears a striking resemblence to George Clooney!

Tommorow:  thoughts about vintage labels.


Posted by pinky-a-gogo:

What a great story and wonderful quilt!

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 4:46 PM

Posted by Jonathan:

Wonderful story and what a wonderful piece of domestic industrial folk art!

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 4:49 PM

Posted by The Red Velvet Shoe:

I don’t have time to read the whole post right now, but will be back to do so. What an amazing quilt, it should be in the Smithsonian!

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 5:00 PM

Posted by Couture Allure:

I am in love. This quilt is incredibly beautiful! Thank you so much for this great story, Lizzie.

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 5:02 PM

Posted by Tina:

This is a beautiful quilt, I’ve never seen anything else like it!

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 5:08 PM

Posted by Brenda:

Worth the wait is right Lizzie. This is such an inspiring story and the quilt is incredible. Bravo!

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 5:17 PM

Posted by The Vintage Vortex:

How incredibly fabulous! Great reading and a great story!! I called my husband over to see as he loves quilts and he commented on how difficult if must have been to line up so many different size labels to make a perfect rectangle!! Amazing!

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 5:55 PM

Posted by The Cosmic Cowgirl:

Ah! The elusive label quilt! So glad you discovered and shared its wonderful story!

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 7:20 PM

Posted by Sarah:

What a remarkable quilt, and how wonderful that you managed to track it down! I agree with The Red Shoes that it deserves to be in a museum.

Chris Kluge supplies a fascinating story about the history and production of labels, and it was a pleasure to read.

Tuesday, February 9th 2010 @ 11:05 PM

Posted by Cathy Hammond:

What a fantastic piece of history! Thank you for sharing this great American story and the fabulous one-of-a-kind quilt.

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 4:16 AM

Posted by Carrie:

What an amazing quilt–both a work of art and a piece of history! And what a wonderful story behind it (and the tale-spinner is rumored to look like George Cloooney? 😛 )

Thanks for sharing the results of your sleuthing efforts with us, Lizzie!

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 4:33 AM

Posted by Mod Betty / Retro Roadmap:

How wonderful! I could sit and look at those labels for days. So glad you shared the history and story with us all!

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 6:29 AM

Posted by Sue Barton:

Lizzie, this was such a fascinating read and what a treat to see pics of this quilt. Great story! Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

🙂 Sue

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 7:31 AM

Posted by Susie Hurst:

What a fascinating quilt and story! Thank you so much for sharing this. I would love to see this quilt in person!:)

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 9:45 AM

Posted by Melody Fortier/Tangerine Boutique:

That quilt is a historical treasure!! Thank you so much for sharing. I hope it does make it into a museum.

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 10:02 AM

Posted by chris kluge:

I am very thankful for Lizzie tracking this fabulous creation of Mrs. Hobson’s down, and for allowing me to relate a little of the history behind the labels Mrs. Hobson so beautifully put to use!

( ,,and thx to Miss Lizzie for going along with the bit about George Clooney… 🙂 But all other parts of the story are TRUE… xx chris k

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 10:35 AM

Posted by Jeff Haubrich:

Thanks for sharing, not only great photos, but a history of Artistic Weaving and some family history.

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 12:46 PM

Posted by Woody Pumphrey:

Mrs.”H” was also a great jig-saw puzzle solver! The First thing she would do is hide the box, so she wouldn’t look at the picture. She never did the edge first, saying “that’s cheating!”. I have seen her do puzzles upside DOWN…it’s no wonder(to me) this Quilt is so Beautiful because she certainly was! 🙂

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 1:26 PM

Posted by chris kluge:

Woody P… .you are RIGHT!! I forgot all about her puzzle capabilities… and, considering the 2 genius rascals she and Mr. H brought into the world….. well, she was definitely quite a human!

Wednesday, February 10th 2010 @ 8:48 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

I’ve really enjoyed everyone’s comments. Woddy, thanks for sharing Mrs. H’s extraordinary puzzle solving skills. It explains how she was able to sort out all those labels!

And a big thanks to Kate Mathews for putting this into motion!

Thursday, February 11th 2010 @ 8:32 AM

Posted by fleur anglaise:

Wow – what a tactile piece of history! I want one!:)

Friday, February 19th 2010 @ 12:54 PM

Posted by Laura Stokes:

nice site

Friday, February 19th 2010 @ 9:27 PM

Posted by lady kingdom:

Very nice blog here …

Great post from you .

Monday, July 26th 2010 @ 2:19 AM

Posted by sara loughton:

That is the coolest quilt i’ve seen in awhile.

Wednesday, September 29th 2010 @ 11:28 AM


Filed under Curiosities, Sewing