Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Palmer Quilts

Crazy Quilt from the early 20th century

A quilting friend recently told me that she had no use for crazy quilts.  "They're too chaotic."  I'm not sure if her opinion reflected the wild times we live in or just a personal preference.  But it got me to thinking...

On Monday I wrote about Marie Webster and the first quilt revival of the 20th century.  

But I also have this 1882 article I found, that appears to signal another revival:

"Patchwork Quilts Again" the headline read and discussed how ladies were busily making quilts again.  I suspect the ladies made crazy quilts, a big fad at this time.

I had noticed ads for quilts throughout the 19th century.  One of the most popular quilts sold were Marseille Quilts and you can read about them here.  Ads for these quilts appeared here and in England in the first half of the 19th century.  

Dry good stores also sold quilts in the later half of the century.  Here is an ad from 1880, Lancaster, PA:
So who was making quilts at "low prices?"  An 1885 article published in Louisiana provided the clue.

"A Novel Industry"  the headline read.  "Over Seven Hundred Thousand Bed Quilts Manufactured Last Year in One Connecticut Village."  Although the article doesn't mention the actual name of the company, it is mostly like the Palmer Brothers Company.  

One of the things I love about this article is that it actually relays the progression of the company.  According to the article, local farm housewives originally made the textiles sold by the company.  The wives were grateful for a supplemental income to their homes and "worked between twelve o'clock dinner and 6 o'clock tea, as well as the hours of long winter evenings."

As was often the case during the Industrial Revolution, soon machines replaced the hand work.  Instead of peddling the quilts, the Palmer boys began shipping their quilts to stores.  Farm women no longer worked for Palmer.  Instead they employed three boys and a number of girls.  The girls made 2 1/2 cents for each quilt.  "Some of these girls," the article stated, "make $7.00 a week."  That's roughly equivalent to $204 dollars today but I couldn't find any data on how many girls earned that sum.  Does a few equate two workers and how often did that occur?  If I sound suspicious it's only because so often factories skewed the realities of child labor.

1912 cartoon

There were different grades of batting which dictated the price of the product:

"There are three grades of quilt fillings.  The cheapest quilt is given a filling of shoddy, which is prepared at a cost of ten cents a pound, while pure wool costs fifty.  The better grades of quilt are filled with common cotton, and those of the best grade are filled with carded cotton.  These are lighter, cleaner and bring a high price.  Shoddy filled quilts retail at about seventy-five cents each, those made with ordinary cotton at from $1.50 to $2.00, while carden cotton quilts bring $2.50 and upward."

The Palmer Brothers continued to manufacture well into the 20th century.  An ad from 1915 relays:

So the highest price "Palmer Quilt" in 1915 was $3.50.  According to two different Inflation Calculators, the equivalent today would be $91.14.  It sounds outrageous, right?   Measure that against the cost of calico--I found an ad from 1914 for calico at 4 1/2 cents a yard. So a queen sized quilt of 12 yards of fabric would be just over $5 and that doesn't include batting and thread.  

One 1932 ad for a Palmer Quilt shows an image and it appears that pre-printed calico (formerly referred to as cheater cloth) was used:

The sale price would be equivalent to about $32 dollars today.

The Palmer Brothers did end up going out of business in 1949 and I found some interesting articles here , here, and here.

Did crazy quilting save our handwork in the late 19th century?  I think not.  Barb G, a famous Pennsylvania quilt historian often has remarked that the Pennsylvania Germans had money to buy fabric and when we look at Pennsylvania German quilts we find lots of examples of traditional patterns used by them during the same time that crazy quilts were made.

Kemmerer quilt, last quarter 19th century.

Additionally, the Ladies Art Company was established in 1889.  The company sold quilt patterns that could bring all different kinds of patterns to one's mailbox like this carpenter's square quilt made in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Still, crazy quilts put needles in the hands of lots of women who might have not considered hand sewing at the time.  Even though "crazies" are often tied and not quilted, the style provides a unique and interesting aspect of our history.  

Have a safe and happy day!


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

This and That Tuesday: March 29, 2021

 It's time for This and That Tuesday!

Congratulations Wendy!!!

Kudos and congrats to Wendy who reads this block and who has quilts featured at the New England Quilt Musuem!  Whoo hoo and congrats Wendy!  You can see a preview of her quilts here.  Her work makes me wish I was better at applique.  Also I love her blog, check out her latest quilt with circles and some of her other work at her blog, The Constant Quilter.

Other blogs from readers you might find of interest:  

Diann from Colorado at Little Penguin Quilts 

Libby from Tennessee at Life On the Hill

Robin from Utah at I Like To Create

Nann from Illinois at With Strings Attached

Elvira from Spain at Retailes de Ilusion (Scraps of Illusion).



Some comments regarding last Flower Friday's post:

Libby in Tennessee loved Lorraine's many varieties of hellebores!

Many emails of gratitude for NOT having Sue's brazen deer in their garden!  😂


Here are some patterns I found on blogs this week.

There is an easy FREE pattern available over at a blog called Kairle Oaks Handcrafted Goodness.  She is shared a super easy but delightfully wonderful 4 patch quilt and you may wish to join her quilt-along.  See the quilt and the pattern here.

The Fat Quarter Shop has been sponsoring a "Sewcialites Quilt Along" since last summer.  It's also FREE!  I think I mentioned this previously but one of the aspects I appreciate on this pattern is that each block is labeled:  easy, intermediate, or experienced.  Additionally, they give instructions for a 3, 6, or 9 inch blocks which gives you more flexibility when you consider the project. I liked the tulip block featured last week!  Check it out here!

Barbara Brackman is featuring a FREE jelly roll pattern based on a vintage quilt over at her blog Material Culture here.

Wishing you a safe and happy day!

Monday, March 29, 2021

Marie Webster

 In our world of quilt history, we often allude to the first and second revivals of the twentieth century.  

In the early twentieth century we acknowledge that in the 19-teens, interest in quilting was revived and most likely inspired by Marie Webster's amazing quilt patterns.  Marie's home is now the headquarters for the Quilters Hall of Fame. 

Marie's patterns were published in the Ladies Home Journal and you can read about her life here.  She also started a pattern business and a quilt kit business.

Quilting fads then and now are often inspired by what people saw in print or (as in these days) social media.  Back in 1916, Webster didn't just have exposure from her work in the Ladies Home Journal.  She wrote a book called Quilts  Their Story and How to Make Them published in 1915.  It is believed to be the first book simply focused on quilting.   I have a couple of copies of the book.  

My oldest copy is from 1926, I read that the book was reprinted on and off for 25 years. The book was reprinted again in 1990 and you can still get a copy of her book or a book on her patterns at Amazon.  Not bad for a book on quilting!

But I wanted to give you a visual reference for how groundbreaking for the time.  As the new 20th century unfolded, quilters made a variety of quilts like...

Redwork quilts.  
Many have indicated that most of these were made for children.  This particular quilt from my collection was a full sized quilt and I've seen a number of other ones that were dated and fairly large.

The simple nine patch.  This was a favorite in our family and we have two quilts pieced with late 19th/early 20th century fabrics.

Crazy quilts may have been out of fashion by the early 20th century but similar techniques were used to make pieced quilts.  Some crazy quilts continued to be made but often the ones I have seen are utility quilts.

By 1916, numerous newspapers were writing about Marie's ground breaking book including this one from Pittsburgh:

Now imagine going to the book store and perusing Marie's work and seeing quilts that were...

Webster's Sunflower Quilt was often imitated throughout the 20th century by various quilt pattern companies but hers is exceptional!

Intended for a child's bed, The Daisy Quilt was charming and actually I'd make that for my bed (if I was better at applique).

Charming quilts for children including the Bedtime Quilt above and the Keepsake below.
Marie's suggestion to use scraps from children's quilts in order to create a special keepsake is still in practice today!

Marie's timeless patterns continue to inspire today's quilters.  
Here is the Poppy Quilt
Over on Ebay, a number of Marie inspired tops are still being made and sold.  See here.

I just love her work and I hope you do too!
Have a safe and happy day!

Friday, March 26, 2021

Flower Friday: March 26, 2021

It's the last Friday of March!  Yipppeee!  Spring is upon us and look at what we have blooming!

Lorraine has some charming hellebores (Lenten roses) blooming!

Sue is excited that her blood root is blooming:

And she shared why she doesn't have more flowers to photograph:
Sue said this is the boldest of the "Gang of Six" that frequent her yard!

My neighbor has tiny irises blooming!  My late neighbor Jeanette used to refer to these as Dutch Irises.  They are cute!

Have a safe and happy day!

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Nana's Sewing Box

According to scientists, smell and memory are linked because of our anatomy.  I'm sure you can think of scents that bring you back to another time.

Years before I met my husband, I rented an apartment above a 1920s restored theater.  It was a huge apartment and I loved the light but when I showed the apartment to my mother said:  "It smells like your Nana Elsie."  It was another reason I loved the space.  The apartment had long been rented by two old ladies and they must have used the same perfume Nana Elsie did.  I signed the lease and moved in.

I was closest to my Nana Betty.  My brother Jim and I spent most of our happiest childhood times at her house.  She had three kids our age and at Nana's, being a kid was celebrated.

All my grandparents seemed to recognize that I was going to be the storyteller in the family.  They were eager to tell their stories and I was always eager to learn them.  One story Nana Betty told me that during World War 2 when Pop-pop was in the Navy, she would decorate my mother's clothing with what she called "navy dogs."  She was an artist and drew her own patterns and embroidered them on Mom's coats and smocks.  Years later, she gave me boxes of her early drawings and I found the patterns.  While she was alive I made tea towels with the dogs embroidered on them for my cousins.

When Nana was moved to the nursing home, I was given her sewing box.  I had seen it my whole life.  It was a humble box, not fancy or pretty.  Pop was a pharmacist and worked for Abbott Labs and I believe this had been a sample box.

But it was the inside that was magical.  Not because of the contents but because of the scent.  One day when my brother stopped by and was visiting me in the sewing room he had created for me, I asked him if he wanted to smell Nana Betty's house.  He missed her too.

"Oh my gosh, that is her house!" he exclaimed when I opened it.

Besides her tools and gadgets, there was a small bank envelope with a "someday" project my Nana had hoped to make, most likely for one of her 22 grand and great grandchildren.  Nana and Pop were both whimsical and got a kick out of making simple things for us.  

I have been thinking about her sewing box since my post last week.  Many of you sent wonderful suggestions for Jenny's sewing box and I thank you so much!  I think I will add one of Nana Betty's measuring tapes to Jenny's box and label it as such.  It would be good to pass along magic from Nana's special box.

Tomorrow is Flower Friday and if you have an image you wish to share, please email me at

Have a safe and happy day!


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A Wee Quilt Show: Mountain Mist

I have a weakness for Mountain Mist patterns.  They must have been popular in our area because I have found so many of them here and lots of the wrappers:

Mountain Mist was batting offered by the Sterns and Foster Company.  Apparently in 1929, the company decided to include a free quilt pattern on the back of the wrapper:

This wrapper featured "The Bluebirds of Happiness."

Sometime in the modern era, they sold actual patterns.  This one is copyrighted 1976:

Beth loves to tease me about my abiding love of Mountain Mist patterns.  Of course I tease her about her unwavering love of anything that is clothespin or washline related 😃  

Here are some of the Mountain Mist quilts in my collection.  Sorry the photos are so bad, these are the ones I could get a hold of easily...




Tulip Bowl

I have more and eventually will feature them again!

There's a great article about the company here.
Have a safe and happy day!


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Tinted Quilts

 For many of us, tinted linens are sweet and reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s!  They always remind me of my Nana Betty for some reason.  I'm not the only one fond of them, there are even some books out there that feature them:

Some of the tinted lines we adore today were pre-packeged kits that people could buy and embroider:

Others were colored with crayons.  These textiles can be problematic but they were popular.  I am fond of these because Crayola Crayons has a factory here in the Lehigh Valley.  They moved to the valley in 1900!
1933 ad from Needlecraft Magazine

Both the Nancy Page Quilt Club and Ruby McKim suggested using the crayon method for their patterns.  I'm sure other designers did as well.

The method was explained in this 1932 Nancy Page article:  "Another member was filling in the traced outline with colored crayon.  The crayon was set by pressing the material with a hot iron."  Hand turned applique was encouraged though because it was "judged the prettiest."

I use a McKim top for both the McKim program and my embroidery program.  The top was colored with crayon but rather ineffective because there was no outline for the eye to travel I added embroidery to visually show the difference:

One of the best crayon colored pieces in my collection is McKim's Farm Life quilt and is embroidered as well:

A 1930 article listed a Farm Life quilt in a newspaper sponsored quilt competition.  Miss Myrtis Vance colored her images with crayon and ironed them on the reverse side.  She then embroidered the outline with black floss.

If you are interested in using crayon in a quilt, I suggest Crabapple Hill Studios tutorial here.  She encourages using white crayon before you begin your coloring process.  It's very interesting!

Have a safe and happy day!