September 28, 2015

Antique Grandmother's Flower Garden Blocks

Recently, I received my second fantastic quilt history gift of the year.  A friend's neighbor was moving, had some quilt blocks she didn't want to keep, and they made their way to me.  They are super lovely!  There are 35 of them.  Hexagons are 1 5/8".

(The 5-part story of the first gift, a late 19th century quilt full of names and stories, begins with Part 1.)

What makes the blocks particularly fun is that the outer row of hexagons still has the newspaper patterns.  So I read them all, searching for provenance information - and found it.

The quilt is clearly from the Chicago area, as it includes the banner for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Daily News, and many classified ads with Chicago street names and neighborhoods and telephone numbers, and references to the Loop.  (That's the center of downtown Chicago, within the "loop" of the elevated train tracks that circle the area.)

I was also found a couple of dated snippets - 1932.

I like this lady with her 1930s-style sailor collar dress.

There also is a reference to a "big Cub gambling scandal."  I found the whole story of that, and as applies to this quilt, it did happen in 1932.

Here is an ad for James E. Bennet & Co.  I looked it up and found that he was a grain merchant.  The company had been founded under his father Thomas's name.  In 1909, James renamed it with his name.  He was very big in the Chicago business world it turns out, having served as both director of the Chicago Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.  I got this information from his 1948 obituary in the Tribune. 

There are lots of paper patterns with bits of ads for guns. 

And there is this one with a sporting good company name - VL&A.  I looked them up (of course!) and found the name "Von Lengerke & Antoine", which is described as the Chicago branch of Abercrombie and Fitch.
A place called "" has a 1939 VL&A catalog on sale for $75!

There are tantalizing bits and pieces of 1932 news and ads and classifieds - Moon Mullins comics, Vitalis hair cream, Fred Harvey's column, etc.  I had to include a photo of this ad for a show starring Maurice Chevalier.  My mom adored him, and I grew up listening to his singing.  Maybe she even saw him at this show!

The fabrics are absolutely gorgeous!  Many of them are glazed.

There are more than a few hexagons that are pieced from smaller bits of fabric.

This red and white squiggly print is pieced in all 6 of the hexagons.  The quilter was using the tiniest of scraps.  It becomes quite dizzying!

The intersection between the newspaper date and the fabrics is a bit curious, however.  My first, and then second and third, thoughts were that most of the fabrics seem to be mid 19th century.  The fabric on the outer borders, however, just doesn't fit with the rest.  My guess is that the flowers were stitched way back when.  Then in 1932, someone decided to finish the quilt and added those outer rows, using a fabric with dyes that hadn't been invented yet in 1860 and a 20th century stylized flower print.

And actually, that outer ring fabric still looks out of place to me, even more modern than the 1930s.  Either the newspaper dates confirm that I am wrong, or the later quilter had cut up old newspapers that she'd found in the same attic stash as the blocks.  Does anybody out there have any input on this?

And then, those poor, lonely blocks were put away again.

The tiny whipstitching is just as tight and precise on the newer patches as on the older patches.

Here's a gallery of blocks simply for the enjoyment of the fabrics.

Will I ever finish these into a quilt?  Probably not.  It's fun to keep the newspapers visible.  And also, quite truly, Grandmother's Flower Garden has never been anywhere close to a favorite pattern for me.  But I certainly am making an exception for these blocks.  I love them!  Thanks to the 1860s quilter, the 1932 quilter, and all the people who cared for them in between.


  1. Thank you so much for the great photos and tour of this historic unfinished quilt! Very educational and wonderful eye candy. What a wonderful gift you received!

    1. I'm glad you enjoy these blocks as much as I do! I love a beautiful collection of antique fabrics. (And I apologize for responding so late - blog comments were not coming through to me for a while due to a glitch.)

  2. Blue Lake Woman asks: I also have a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt that has stains on it. Should I remove the paper pieces before I wash it?

    1. I can't say for 100% sure without seeing photos. In general though, yes, you'd need to take the papers out before washing. The wash will likely ruin the papers, plus either printed newspaper or handwriting inks could run and stain. If the papers have historical value, you should keep them after you take them off. If you want to send a photo or two, you can email me: annquilts at comcast dot net. I hope this helps.

    2. Ann, thank you for taking the time to respond. I figured it would be necessary to remove the papers.I will send you a couple of photos.
      Also I have a great story I can share with you about a restored quilt that I did for a family. I couldn't believe what I discovered while working on it.
      Blue Lake Woman

    3. Yes, please send photos and stories. I always love a quilt with a story! Please send via email - I think that's best for a longer discussion. annquilts at comcast dot net