Monday, January 31, 2022

Machine Quilting 1

Andrew, great-grandson of Joseph Deibert (see here and here) emailed me again with a photograph of another quilt.  This one was not made by Joseph but by his great grandmother and gifted to an aunt of Andrew's.  It is made of silk:

Isn't it gorgeous?

At first I thought the backing was machine quilted and possibly purchased.  I have a similar piece but the quilt pattern is different.  After studying what I can see, I'm not sure:

It's almost impossible to tell from photographs whether or not it was a machine quilted backing.  The quilt is also inscribed and of course that makes it even more special:

This got me to thinking about machine quilting and I thought this week was as good as any to discuss what I know about the matter.  I'm certainly not an expert and I've never found a definitive study on the subject.  

But here is what I've learned just from reading newspapers.

As early as 1872, I found evidence of a "quilting machine" in an ad from Montgomery Alabama:

In 1878, The York Quilting Factory (in York, PA) advertised that it:

 "is doing a largely growing trade.  These quilts are made of the neatest patterns of calico, lined with cotton batting, and are quilted on the large quilting machine run by steam power.  Thus they are enabled to turn out quilts by the hundred daily, and can supply the world cheaply, and with the very best articles."

These quilts were made to be marketed in stores. 

Insight into the machine quilting industry was provided a little more by an article published in Kansas in 1885.  This article focused on machine made quilts produced in eastern Connecticut.  Originally the companies hired farm women to hand quilt.  The women were layed-off  with the advent of machine quilting.  It was simply more profitable to make quilts by machine.  This article cited that 700,000 to 800,000 were produced in this part of Connecticut in just 1884; the quilts were sold throughout the United States.

1893 image of one of the Connecticut factories in New London, Connecticut.

The article cited that the quilts were not exported to Europe because "down coverlets, or those with wool filling, are used extensively on the Continent."

Originally traditional calico was purchased but that choice was discarded for plain cotton which was then printed: "originating their own designs for patterns and having the calico printed especially for their use."  I have no idea if the fabric was pre-printed patchwork or what some call cheater cloth.  

The fabric would then be assembled by machine and sewn on three sides to form a bag.  The "bag" was then filled with batting and pressed down.  "Three boys manage the rack, and so rapid are they that they readily fill seven hundred quilts daily."

After the fourth side was sewn closed, the pieces were taken to the quilting machines, tended by girls.  The machine had a mechanism "that mechanically follows an arm running in a metallic guide to for the desired (quilting) pattern."  The article does mention that the girls made two-and-one-half cents for each quilt, and forty quilts are considered an average day's work.

As if to apologize for the child labor: "Some of the girls make seven dollars a week.  The work requires very little exercise of either strength or attention.  It is a trifle oily, but is above the average of factory occupations in health and cleanliness."

It is unknown how many days a week or how many hours the children worked a week.

1910 girls working in hosiery factory (Library of Congress)

The newspaper article had an interesting insight on why the factory produced quilts were so popular:

"Of late years since the crazy-quilt mania has taken possession of the feminine mind and zigzags in silk and velvet have been in vogue, the old patchwork vagaries in which our grandmothers delighted to have been relegated to the prize booths at agricultural fairs."

It only makes sense that quilted backings for crazy quilts and other silk decorative items were made and sold from machine quilting factories.  Crazy quilts were meant to be decorative pieces that exhibited the woman's ability to embroider, manipulate fabric, and paint.  Most of the makers were probably not that interested in actual quilting.  

Like Andrew's family quilt above, not all women chose to make  crazy quilts.  Some chose an orderly design but used silk.

Here is one from my collection:

Fan quilt with ribbon border.  The ribbon was also used to bind the quilt (folded to the back).

Machine quilted backing.  

The top is cleverly tied to the backing and barely discernible. 
Below:  You can see one small stitch that I had to magnify a bit for you to see:

Tomorrow will look at another invention.

Have a safe and happy day!

Friday, January 28, 2022

Friendship Friday

Happy Friendship Friday!

Many of you were interested in the Nancy Page Snowflake Quilt and I was happy to send a copy of the pattern to you.  I am so grateful that Madelon sent some photos of her quilt that features the pattern.  She was the owner of the quilt that I saw at Study Group years ago and it is really fabulous.  One thing I want to mention is that the background is blue.  It's difficult to see the true color (the photo of the full quilt is most accurate).

Thank you Madelon!!!

Isn't this gorgeous?

If this piqued your interest, I'm happy to send you a copy of the pattern.  Please email me at

51 days until spring!
Lorraine's birthday was this past week and she sent some photos to cheer us all up!  Here is a bouquet of Alstroemeria and other flowers she received for her birthday and some sweet African Violets!  Happy Birthday Lorraine and love the table runner as well!

Lorraine also sent a photo of two pots of amarylis that are sprouting!  Makes me long even more for spring shoots coming up (and it is snowing as I wrote this).


The Paris/Prussian blue post interested many of you.  Nann asked me the name of the Agatha Christie book that discussed thallium poisoning and while searching for that, I found an interesting story.

In 1976, a very sick child from Qatar was flown to a London hospital.  As doctors attempt to diagnose the patient, a nurse realized that the symptoms mirrored a book she was reading by Agatha Christie.  The book was called The Pale Horse and discussed thallium poisoning.  It was indeed what the child had.  Apparently thallium was used in rat poisoning in Qatar and the child must have digested it.  The child lived and returned to her family.  The NY Times headline was "Agatha Christie Book Saves An Infant Life"; we all know the nurse actually saved her life but what can you do...


What made me laugh this week:

Two local trade cards made me giggle this past week.

Today's ad agencies would never advertise China and Chamber sets together:

Back in the late 1970s/early 1980s I had a friend who loved antiques (actually a lot of us did then).  None of us were that knowledgeable but we liked making our homes pretty.

Every time I stopped by my friend's house, I was struck by a pretty pot she had on display on the sideboard in her dining room.  "You must really love that pot," I said to her one day.  She said: "It's such a pretty soup tureen so I wanted to show it off in the dining room."

Real friends will tell you when you have a piece of lettuce stuck in your teeth; they will also tell you when you suspect their 'soup tureen' is really a chamber pot.  I told my friend my suspicion and when she investigated it, the chamber pot was removed from the dining room.  We still laugh about this!


Wishing you a safe and happy weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Prussian Blue/Paris Blue/Berlin Blue

 I'm scanning a lot of my trade cards so that I have copies on my external hard drive.  This one is so cute!  It was published in 1881:

The image is a little girl carrying a doll and dragging a box behind her.  The title "Family Cares" is more about the little girl than the box she is dragging with the cat.  But the box is what the trade card is really advertising.  Paris Blue--aka--Prussian Blue--aka Berlin Blue is often discussed as the first synthetic dye.  Discovered by accident in the early 1700s.  

My favorite image of Prussian Blue dye is actually a photograph of a dress (here) because the Prussian Blue Rosettes of the dress pop! 

You might also enjoy this article on how Prussian Blue changed art.

Quilt history owes a lot to the color as well.  Here's a number of examples from Barbara Brackman's blog.

As for the trade card, it was partially to announce a contest for designs for Reckitt's Paris Blue Dye:

And finally, Prussian Blue is considered by the World Health Organization as one of the most essential medicines.  Actually the first place I ever heard of Prussian Blue was in a chemistry class.  The second was in a murder mystery written by Agatha Christie (the poison was thallium).   Prussian Blue is a critical antidote for patients who have ingested heavy metal poisons like thallium.

If you have anything to contribute to Flower Friday, please email me at

Have a safe and happy day! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Tale from the Quilt Vault: Lucky Stars

 My friend Carol used to call me "the quilt whisperer".  She certainly didn't call me that because I was a great quilter--in fact one of my favorite t-shirts is one she gave me that said "most mediocre quilter in the world"...and she was right!

Carol called me that because I had a weird sense of finding quilts; she had seen this first hand while attending flea markets, auctions, and estate sales with me.

We attended one local auction years ago.  There wasn't much that I wanted (Carol always found funky treasures) until we went to the outdoor lot section.  If you've never attended an auction, the good stuff is always in the building and the lesser quality items are outside and sell first--usually for a very low price.

I didn't find anything I like indoors and wandered around the outdoor section, occasionally checking boxes and bags.  One bag seemed to have old household items in it and then I spied a plastic bag of Lancaster Blue fabric.  

Our friend Beth was still doing quilt restoration and I thought it would be nice to purchase the double blue fabric for her.  If you don't know what Lancaster Blue fabric is--it is a double blue print that was printed and popular in the later half of the 19th century.  It was very popular with various Pennsylvania Dutch quilters.  This is the closest fabric photo I could find of it.

Another woman at the auction told me she was a quilter and apparently she spied the fabric too.  We ended up in a bidding war for the silly bag.  I won the bag at $7.  

I would like to tell you that I was excited about my purchase but to be honest, I forgot about it until after we got home.  Carol finally said, "Let's see Beth's fabric!"

So I pulled the things junk out of the bag and then grabbed the fabric.

Except it wasn't fabric.

It wasn't even really Lancaster Blue fabric.  The fabric I had seen was a white ground with a blue print.  It's an excusable problem, I tended to just look quickly and pretend I'm not interested in the lot.  Below is the backing fabric and a sliver of the blue and white background fabric.

The quilt had been a gift.  
There was a piece of muslin attached that said 
"June from Mother."

The quilt was "crisp" as they in the collection world; apparently it had never been used and was in pristine condition.

Carol jumped up and down and repeatedly yelled, "I can't believe it!"

I was simply stunned.  Sometimes when quilt mojo happens it really hits you in the gut and knocks the words right out of you.

I thanked my lucky stars and treasure the piece today.

Wishing you a safe and happy day!

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Tuesday's This and That: January 25, 2022


If you enjoy listening to podcasts or videos while you are sewing (or just in general), The American Quilt Study has "Quiltside Chats" on youtube.  Here is a list of episodes.  Sometimes you have to wait a bit for the video to start (just warning you).  Enjoy!


A few months ago, I wrote about The Snowy Day and Ezra Jack Keats (here).   As part of the New York Public Library's 125th anniversary, the library announced which book was checked out most in their through the years:  The Snowy Day.  Read about it here.


Singer trade card

When I was driving home from my mother's last week, I saw a flock of robins near my house.  A FLOCK!  There were over 20 robins flying around together.  It amazed me.  Although many robins migrate, we have always seen a robin or two here in our yard in the winter...but never a flock of them together.  

Of course I looked it up and yes robins can stay north and flock together through the hard winter months.  They stay together to guard against predators and to scavenge for food.  Once spring arrives, they find their territory and guard it against other birds--including robins.  It was such a startling sight to see and I had to share that with you!


Have a safe and happy day!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Snow Quilts

 Happy Monday!  We had a light dusting of snow last night.  This morning I noticed that snow is falling in different sections of the country.

In the early part of the 20th century, a thick snow was often referred to as "a snow quilt" perhaps because of the weight of the snow:

Quilters of course tended to record whatever was going on in their lives or during seasons and there is a variety of snow themed quilt patterns.  Here are a few:

Laura Wheeler's Snowball Quilt found in a 1949 newspaper.

Snow Crystal by Nancy Cabot, 1936.
Snow Crystals seemed to be a popular theme with quilters.

1941 Alice Brooks for Household Arts

Another antique pattern called snow crystals can be found here.  Other crystal patterns are here.

Once in our study group, someone brought in an embroidered snowflake quilt which completely jazzed me.  I wanted to make one and didn't realize until years later, that I actually had the pattern in my collection.  The pattern was offered by Nancy Page:

God bless the quilter who made the quilt.  The pattern consisted of a quadrant which the maker had to reproduce in order to create the quilt. 

The pattern seems more do-able now with things like light boxes and Frixion pens but I can't imagine the patience it took to assemble just the pattern for embroidering back in the early 1930s when this pattern was marketed.

If you're ambitious and want to make the Nancy Page quilt, send me an email at and I'll email you a pdf of the pattern.

I didn't ever try to make one because I actually purchased a snowflake quilt and didn't see the need to make a different pattern (you can read that post here).

Yes there are other snow quilts but that's it for today.

Lastly,  a brief poem I found called "Snow Quilts" and published in various newspaper in 1940:

Have a safe and happy day!

Friday, January 21, 2022

Friendship Friday: January 21, 2022


Today the temps are feeling like -12 here.
Take heart, there are only 58 days until Spring!

Here's a photo of Sue's cat, Maggie May.  She's one of 5 cats that live with Sue; 3 are calicos!  That windowsill seems to be a wonderful place to relax during the inclement weather.  Love the African Violets too!

So Sue has a question for us all--she is wondering if any of you have solutions, ideas, recipes to deal with the pet food shortage (in particular cat food!).

I did read one article from a vet's office (here) and even the prescription food for pets is facing shortages.  Please share with the rest of us what your solutions or ideas might be!  

Thanks friends!
Have a safe and happy weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Balloon Girl and Teddy

 It's going to be another wintry mix day.  I don't even mind the snow so much but it's raining right now and 33.  By tonight, the temperature will drop to the low teens; I'm concerned the wet sidewalks and roads will freeze.  This of course means one thing:  

It's a sewing day!

One of the things I would like to do is to pull out a piece from my collection.  It's a UFO from yester-year and quite charming:

This is just a single piece of muslin and the picture was not completed.  What's missing?  The little girl's arm holding the balloons.  I've always meant to finish this and then I saw this piece on Etsy recently:

If you are interested in this piece it is here on Etsy.

Here's the arm that I have to reproduce (there's no image on my piece):

The quilting is lovely on this piece but I think I will have my machine quilter finish it for me when I am done embroidering it.

One thing come to mind when I look at these textiles.  It's always better to outline a human being in black versus the beige.  The outline of the figure is more visible with the black, don't you agree?

Anyway I think this would make a wonderful wall hanging for my niece's new baby due in May.  

What are you working on these days?

Tomorrow is Friendship Friday and if you have anything to share, please email me at!  

Have a safe and happy day!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Men Who Quilt: An Update


You might remember last year I ran a series called "Men Who Quilt" and featured some of the men that I had researched who made quilts.  Joseph Deibert was one of those men and I wrote about him here.  

Last week I received an email from Joseph's great-grandson Andrew!  It was a wonderful surprise and what was more exciting was that Andrew sent me two more photos of Joseph and Emma's quilts!  Thank you Andrew!  These are owned by Andrew's brother in Millersville, PA.

This quilt depicts the prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep..."

The second quilt appeared to Andrew as being "unfinished."  It's hard to say what the makers' were imaging.  I suspect it was a wedding or anniversary quilt judging by two monograms at the top of the centerpiece:

Andrew continues to hunt for more of his grandfather's quilts and if I hear anymore, I will be sure to let you know!


Please be sure to email for your free covid tests today at!

Have a safe and happy day!

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Tuesday's This and That: January 18, 2022


Happy Tuesday!  Yesterday we had a snow day.  There wasn't much snow but there was a layer of ice under the snow and I made an executive decision to stay indoors.  It was lovely!  I'm happy I finished my January block for the month and now will cut some fabric for the Romper Babies quilt.

Speaking of Romper Babies, here is another baby:

I'm beginning to get confused as to which babies I posted.  I'm thinking that I might put together a pdf and then (once it is done) I can let you know if you want a copy.  You can email me and just get the whole lot at once.  How does that sound to you?

Today we have a mystery and need to help our friend Libby.  She sent me a photo of a family crib quilt and wondered if I knew the pattern.  Although it looks familiar, I haven't been able to locate the name of the pattern.  It is adorable:


Isn't this charming?  Does this look familiar to you?  If you have any idea who published the pattern or when, please let us know!

Have a safe and happy day folks and stay warm!