August 26, 2014

First Prize Quilt

This surely is a "collector's dream" quilt.

It pretty certainly dates to the 1930s.  The peach and soft green were both new and popular colors at the time. I think the cream background is fairly close to the original color, i.e. not a yellowing of a truer white.

The appliqué and quilting are both masterfully stitched.  Actually, maybe I should say super fantastically out-of-this-world stitched.

Not surprisingly, this is a prize-winning quilt.

There is a rectangular area at one edge, about 1.5 by 2 feet, where the fabrics are generally worn.  The fabric may be slightly stained there, a bit of a yellowish tint, so maybe there was a spill of something that mostly washed out.  Washing it might help avoid further damage, but also always has the potential to cause more damage.  I would not attempt to wash a quilt of this value at home, and instead take it to a conservation lab.

I would never actually patch over this area either, because there is no way ever to reproduce the fabrics and workwomanship well enough to have a pleasing outcome.  The owner and I discussed having me put a layer of crepeline silk over the area, but in the end I decided against that, too.  Right now, the quilt is just going back into storage, so there is not going to be any stress or rubbing that could make matters worse.  Adding crepeline would add stitches and extra handling, and also would be more visible than the damage, as a lightening of the area.  The documented history of the quilt adds to the reasons to leave it alone.

The only thing this quilt really needs is to be re-folded periodically in different places, and to have the folds padded.  You can see the prominent creases from long-time storage.  Eventually, the fabrics will be more likely to break along creases.  So it's always best to leave the neat, orderly, housewifely folding behind, and re-fold often and randomly.  It's also highly recommended to pad the folds with acid-free tissue paper (available at conservation supply stores, such as Talas) rolled into"logs".  This avoids those sharp fold lines.
(The quilt measures 82" x 98", too big for me to spread out without moving furniture and too big anyway to get effectively all in the shot, so that's why the right edge is folded in.)

I posted about a vintage photo of some visitors at an Illinois state fair quilt display in 1947, a little later than this quilt, but it's fun to imagine the stir this one probably made at its public appearance.

I took this view of the quilt just so we can all imagine waking up on a gentle, sunny morning with this quilt spread over us and spring birds chirping.  Or maybe it's even better to imagine it on a grey, drizzly late winter morning when we need a little color and gracefulness to help us get out of bed.

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