Tag Archives: quilt

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Last week I found a good reminder that your grandmother was reusing out-of-date materials and clothing to make something that might be useful, and she didn’t even have Pinterest to inspire her.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.

 

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

Comments:

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 .
thanks

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

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Buyer’s Hindsight

When I spied this quilt in a local thrift store some time back, I was going through one of those “I’ve got too much stuff” modes.  Had I been in a “Must buy vintage textiles at all costs” mode, it surely would be in my house right now.  At least I had the forethought to take a few surreptitious shots of it.

Being born in 1955, I came at the very tail end of the Hula Hoop era.  All my older friends and cousins were still hooping it up in the early 60s, so I did become a quite accomplished hooper.  And I can still do a mean hula hoop, if I may brag a little.  I can hula hoop-down people 1/4 my age!  They say it is good for the waist, so I really ought to get one…

But back to the quilt.  It was priced at $15 – a bargain in any vintage fabric lover’s book.   A few months later, I spied it again, this time in the booth of a local antiques mall, and priced at $95.  Even that proved to be a good price, evidently, as on my next visit, the quilt was gone.

Comments:

Posted by Holly:

Lizzie–my friend had a cotton circle skirt with this print on it. She sold it on eBay in the great skirt deacession of, oh, I don’t know, maybe 2004. Maybe there’s hope you’ll see it again.

GREAT quilt!

Wednesday, April 22nd 2009 @ 3:09 PM

Posted by Lauren:

I am terrible at hula hooping. Possibly am the worst hooper in the whole wide world!

Thursday, April 23rd 2009 @ 7:00 AM

Posted by Marie:

Lizzie! I can’t believe you didn’t buy that! You are stronger than I am.

Friday, April 24th 2009 @ 6:38 AM

Posted by Jody:

Don’t you hate it when you leave something behind and then keep dreaming about it? This has happened to me more than I would like. I was born in 1955 too, and was a pretty mean hula-hooper back in the day. “Back in the day” – does that make me sound old?????

Saturday, April 25th 2009 @ 4:35 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Jody, of course not!! You can’t possibly be old because that would mean I…

I WILL see this print again, I know it!

Monday, May 11th 2009 @ 7:41 AM

 

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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 a dress 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.

Comments:

Posted by Couture Allure:

Great story, Lizzie! Are you going to make a quilt with it, or leave it as a quilt top? So pretty… 

Saturday, December 13th 2008 @ 6:11 AM

Posted by Stacey Newton:

Love your recent posts… I’ve been trying to catch up:) I especially love this quilt top. I too have a quilt from a grandmother I don’t remember – Somehow using the quilt makes me feel closer to her:) I use it as a tablecloth in my home office. 

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Saturday, December 13th 2008 @ 3:44 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

I guess I should have finished the story! Yes, it will be made into a quilt. My brother’s MIL is a master quilter, and she is going to put it on her frame and quilt it for me. Of course, I’ll be helping! 

Stacey, it’s funny how you really can feel a person throgh her work.

Saturday, December 13th 2008 @ 4:44 PM

Posted by Couture Allure:

Oh, that’s great! My grandmother was a quilter too. She made a quilt for each one of her grandchildren before she died. Mine holds a place of honor in my guest bedroom. I’d love to see your quilt when it is finished! 

Jody

Sunday, December 14th 2008 @ 6:01 AM

Posted by Martha Gray:

What a great old quilt. I love the feedsack prints and it’s pretty unusual to see this pattern with a print for the center circle — I’m certain your grandmother would be pleased. 

Friday, January 2nd 2009 @ 12:28 AM

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