January 14, 2015

More old fabrics

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Fabrics,◦rickrack.com,◦Vintage — sharon @ 11:18 am

Besides quilt blocks, another item we come across from time to time is a bunch of precut pieces for quilts. Sometimes squares, triangles or diamonds, but this time we found a bunch of hexagons.
hexagon patches

All great fabrics from the 1880′s and 90′s, the hexagons measure 3 inches across, and right now are being offered on our eBay store. There are 75 different prints, plus a few extras.
hexagon patches

We have many more bits of old fabric, and we’ll be making up more assortments soon, including more hexagons and of course our perennial scrap offerings.
hexagon patches
hexagon patches
hexagon patches

June 10, 2014

Early Quilt Blocks Galore

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Fabrics,◦rickrack.com,◦Vintage — sharon @ 8:01 pm

One of the things we’ve been selling a lot lately has been antique quilt blocks. Here are a few pictures of ones that we’ve recently sold:
economy 9-patch blocks
4-patch blocks
round blocks
triangle blocks
star blocks

The variety of fabrics in these early blocks is fascinating; a collector or student of antique cotton fabrics would have to enjoy seeing many of these, as I have.  Among some of the blocks we’ve sold, the same fabrics have turned up repeatedly – in a few cases I believe the blocks were made by the same seamstress.

But we’re not close to running out.  Here are some of the blocks we currently have for sale on eBay:

variable star blocks
album patch blocks

And coming in the near future will be more album patch blocks, hexagon star blocks, and early ones with crescent moons and stars:
hexagon star blocks
moon & star blocks

There are many more still to be unearthed, so stay tuned to our eBay offerings.

And while we’re looking at early fabric, we found some that was never made into blocks – it’s also in our eBay store.
charm squares
Early fabric lovers, enjoy!

March 19, 2013

A Long Absence

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Fabrics,◦rickrack.com,◦Vintage — sharon @ 9:38 pm

We have neglected this blog for a long time.  However, we are hoping to once again post at least periodically, and to sometimes resume our Feedsack Friday postings as well.  For now, I’d like to discuss the lowly 9-patch quilt.
9-patch blocks

A 9-patch block is one of the simplest building blocks in quilting, consisting of 9 equal squares assembled into a larger square.   With only straight seams, the 9-patch is often a favorite of the less experienced quilter.  But depending on fabric choices, arrangement of the blocks and other variations of placement, bordering, etc., the result can be a vast difference between 9-patch quilts.  Here are a few from our site:
9-patch on point
Here’s one with sashing, as shown in our sidebar:
And a couple more different arrangements of the 9-patch blocks:
And of course, the 9-patch is the source of the quilt we know as the “Irish Chain”.
9-patch chain
9-patch quilts are by far the most common in our inventory; hopefully we’ll soon be adding a number of them on the Quilt Pages of our website.

December 22, 2009 The Vintage Business

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Fabrics,◦rickrack.com,◦Vintage — sharon @ 3:31 pm

I posted recently a post called Vintage Vintage, about the misuse of the word to designate items that aren’t really older, just inspired by older things or made to an older design. And I’ve probably mentioned before how absurd and difficult it can be to try to make a business of selling things that must be sought out and found individually, and offered for sale in whatever condition their age and experience has given them. How much more simple – and businesslike – it is to be able to order things by the dozen, bright and shiny new, and sell them one after another, never having to change the picture or advertising copy.

How much simpler, yes, but where does the joy come in? And that is the word that makes the difference. For some of us (you know who you are!) it’s all about finding that special vintage item, one with character, color, warmth, the love hand-crafted into it! It’s why we keep going to antique shows, flea markets, estate auctions and yard sales – hoping for that brief moment of elation, our heart skipping a beat on finding something wonderfully special. For instance, this Turkey red tablecloth from the Victorian era sets a festive tone for the holidays that can’t be matched by mass-produced, synthetic goods.
Turkey red tablecloth

Because we are privileged to live in a time of abundance, in an area whose history provides such a wealth of things made and saved, preserved and treasured for generations, we have been able to enjoy this feeling of discovery more frequently than many people, and that enjoyment has accounted for a rather large accumulation of vintage treasure. This is the wealth from which our business was conceived and born, but the joy of the find is still the spark that motivates all that we offer. Hopefully the joy is passed on with many of the special items we’ve been blessed to offer.

One especially tantalizing type of find is that of the unused item, preserved in its original package, still adorned with paper labels or price tags, put away for a rainy day that never came. Again we have been lucky to find many of these, and love having them to offer on our website, like these two tablecloth sets:
Wilendur tableclothPrints Charming tablecloth

Or these aprons:
MWT apronMWT apron

But even lacking like-new condition and original labels, it’s still a thrill to find something old that has somehow avoided the ravages of time, that has become the exception and survived unscathed, or only showing slight traces of the history that used up most of its contemporaries. This is the case with so many of the quilts we find in our area, the ones that were only for nice, and were carefully stored away for generations while the workaday bedding bore the brunt of the wear and tear. So that an item lovingly crafted 150 years ago can still look like this:
Whig rose quilt

So it is that we enjoy our business because we enjoy the beauty of the items, the connection with the past, and the linking of the past with people of today besides ourselves who appreciate the many qualities we nostalgically revere of days gone by.

I suppose it’s naive of me to have assumed that pristine condition in a vintage items is a desirable quality, though I’d be willing to bet that to most collectors, it is. And so in my naivete, I was surprised to recently receive this email:

Hello & Merry Christmas~
I want to start with telling you how much I did enjoy your aprons choices. I would like to interject though that you should take a little more care in your photography of the items you are advertising to sell……

It is quite obvious to me, and probably others that collect aprons that your items are reproductions and not actually VINTAGE APRONS. Look at the photographs- the aprons are pristine, unwashed, unused and have never been worn before! It can be easily deduced by any aficionado that these aprons are copies that had just been sewn probably from either migrant workers or from a foreign country for pennies on the dollar. I suggest that you wash them then partially iron them to give that a slightly worn look before photographing them.

This is just a suggestion…. I did alert a family member that was thinking of ordering from you that these aprons were not authentic vintage aprons. I’m probably not the first person to do so…..

And another immediately following:

I just took a look at your FAQ page- it is SUCH a lie that these are authentic VINTAGE products- you might want to think about changing your wording… it is totally false!!!

So we have come full circle. Apparently wear and tear is a desired commodity; pristine condition an impossibility! If I were to take these missives to heart, I’d have to change my whole philosophy. It’s not that I don’t find joy in things that have been used, on the contrary I have a special place in my heart for items that have been mended and patched, sometimes patched on top of patches, feeling the value that their owners obviously placed on them over the generations.

The Christmas greeting I received above bothers me more because I’ve been so careful to be honest, to represent what I sell as accurately as possible, and despite all of that been taken to task for gross dishonesty – for lying – based on scant and faulty evidence. Heaven knows I don’t think my pictures are all that good, and all too often the aprons are wrinkly or show a spot or something. But why, if I were selling repros, would I only have ONE of EACH?? I’m crazy enough to be in the vintage business, not crazy enough to try to pretend that new is vintage. Oh yes, and though my business is based on recycling at its best – re-use rather than new manufacture, I’ve been accused of abusing slave labor!

We spoke with this lady on the telephone, and wished her a Merry Christmas also. I think I overcame her skepticism and convinced her that we’re just a couple of people trying to make a living and preserve the best of earlier times, not to hoodwink anyone into buying shoddy merchandise produced in labor camps.

The vintage business. It is crazy, labor intensive, more a hobby than a business really. I’ve been told before that one or another of my items was new, not vintage, and had to point out that the maker whose label adorned the product had not been in business for decades. I’ve also been taken to task for having too great a markup, since the item I was selling for $30 had the tag still on showing that I had paid only $1.29. That tag was also from a store that was out of business before I was in.

Christmas hankyI won’t be changing my business model. It’s all right there and plainly visible to an unbiased view. I have often wondered about people who find deception in everything they read or hear. I have no problem with common sense, value it highly in fact, and am the last one to accept everything at face value. But if you look, really look, you can see the difference, can’t you?

Wishing all my readers the most joyous of Christmases, or happiest of whatever holidays you may celebrate!

March 18, 2013

December 6, 2009 Cheesy Quilts

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Fabrics,◦Vintage — sharon @ 11:54 pm

One of the staple colors of quiltmakers of the 19th century was that strong, deep yellow we call “cheddar” today. Though not as popular as the ubiquitous double pink,, overdyed green or “Lancaster” double blue calicoes, cheddar was used by Pennsylvania German quiltmakers in a number of variations. As a solid color fabric, it was used both in backgrounds and in highlights, particularly in applique quilts. Less common were the cheddar calicos, a double print similar to the blues and pinks, and one seen more often with a cheddar lattice with a black and red figure overprinted.

This latter fabric seems to have been a favorite of one Mary Groh, who made these two quilts in Berks County, PA in the latter part of the 19th century. I like them for their vibrancy, not least because of the color choice.
Chinese lanterns quilt

This Chinese lanterns quilt positions the lanterns as pinwheel or windmill blades, set in a bright cheddar field. Sadly, as sometimes happens, the cheddar is somewhat oxidized in places, taking on a greenish tinge.

9 patch variation quilt

This 9-patch variation uses the cheddar only in the outer frame of each block, again shows that oxidation. But I love the way the red patches chain the whole pattern together, with another chain of red diamonds in the border. Mary also made a pink ocean waves quilt with embroidered embellishment that is nothing like these two – just illustrating further her artistry and originality – which is what makes me love the huge variety of Pennsylvania German quilts, particularly those of Berks and Lehigh Counties.

October 29, 2009 Joy of Quilts

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Country Living,◦Fabrics,◦Vintage — sharon @ 7:11 pm

In the world of antique and vintage quilts, you truly never know what you’ll find next. Here in Pennsylvania, we know we’ll always see a certain number of beautifully crafted antique quilts in any number of traditional patterns, and many of these can be truly astonishing in their beauty and workmanship. But we have a place in our hearts for the unusual, and have presented a few of them here in the past.

This week we found a quilt unlike any of the traditional PA quilts we’re used to; in fact, it resembles much more closely those quilts from Gee’s Bend, Alabama that have been so widely celebrated since their discovery a few years back. And like those quilts, this one is delightful for its originality, its exuberance and joy in the use of what were obviously scraps of cast off material to create a thing of utility and beauty.

corduroy reversible tied quilt

It’s a heavy quilt, quite warm no doubt, constructed of mostly brightly colored corduroys. But there are numerous other fabrics included as well, from wool army blanket to 1970’s poly knits. It’s not quilted, but tied with strings or heavy thread in blue and red. And as if it weren’t enough to have pieced all these various fabrics together in these colorful variously sized arrays, rather than finding larger pieces for a backing, the quiltmaker has pieced another joyful top!

corduroy reversible tied quilt

This reverse side clearly shows the ends of the ties, and features a somewhat cooler palette than the front, but is otherwise every bit its equal in originality and creative use of scrap fabrics. On both sides are strips of fabric clearly added in order to make squares of various sizes fit together, and other strips to square off the whole, but there’s a freedom apparent in the sheer variety of fabrics, patterns, shapes and colors that belies the cohesiveness of the final product.

corduroy reversible tied quilt

Because it’s so different from everything else we find here, so unfamiliar to us in every way, we don’t quite know what to make of this quilt. But we can’t help smiling when we look at it, and that’s a good thing. And the more we compare it to those famous quilts of rural southern black communities, the more it seems to us to resemble them, to be representative at least of that tradition. Barring the unlikely discovery of where it originated and how it came to be here, we are left with little else but conjecture. That said, in the world of quilt history we often use a certain amount of conjecture along with our knowledge of fabrics and historical data to determine a probable origin, etc. So while we obviously cannot tell the name, locale, skin color or even the gender of the maker of this quilt, it certainly bears comparison to the housetops quilts of Gee’s Bend and other rural southern communities.

corduroy reversible tied quilt

And as I said, it sure makes us smile to look at it!

October 21, 2009 Fun quilt find

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Country Living,◦Vintage — sharon @ 7:06 pm

Once again we’ve bought a quilt we weren’t expecting at an auction. In fact, there were several quilts prominently displayed at this particular sale, none of them particularly intriguing. But since we look for a lot more than just quilts at an auction, we stayed for the duration, buying a bunch of tea towels, framed prints and needlepoints, and sundry other textile items. At some point, the auctioneer said, “Now we have a quilted baby blanket.”
Looking up, expecting to see a crib pad or some other machine made cover, we were surprised by this:
Bars crib quilt

Not exactly what we’d call a baby blanket, rather a bars pattern crib quilt. All solid colors, the reds and the black are wools, the blue is cotton. And it’s beautifully hand quilted in dark thread. To us, this looks suspiciously like an Amish quilt, in pattern, fabrics and quilting design. And the fabrics are not new. There’s a little damage – some small moth bites and some whitish paint/glue that we haven’t really tried hard to remove, until we figure out if it’s safe to do so.

It is hard to understand why a Berks County auction would have a quilt like this, practically hidden away, while it openly presented other mediocre offerings. Again, we were able to buy it for practically nothing. Are we missing something? Are little treasures like this one really just a dime a dozen?? If they are, I guess we’ll probably end up with dozens of them!

March 15, 2013

May 2, 2009 Kutztown quilt show

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Friends,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:02 pm

This morning we attended a quilt show at the Kutztown (PA) Area Historical Society, Pennsylvania’s Quilt Treasures: The Art of the Needle. Consisting of 32 19th century quilts from the collection of Arlan & Pat Christ, the show features a broad spectrum of eastern Pennsylvania quilts, both patchwork and applique. There’s something for everyone, from early chintz-bordered Rob Peter to Pay Paul quilts, elaborate Whig Rose and less vivid but beautifully quilted lily and tulip appliques. And there’s a lovely book available to accompany the show, so you can revisit the show after it ends.

Some of my favorites may be less extolled than some of the earlier quilts, but in the room devoted to post Civil War quilts there was a wonderful pinwheels quilt that had layers of pattern on pattern, the central four blocks forming a sort of medallion surrounded in trip around the world style by coordinated blocks in three more color combinations, all sashed with a striking striped shirting fabric that really set off the entire design. Also notable was an ocean waves quilt featuring stars in the blocks between sets of waves, and a glorious lone star, from the collection of the late Richard and Rosemarie Machmer.

Arlan and Pat have been seriously collecting antique quilts for a relatively short time, but have a well developed eye – Pat has been quilting for much longer than she’s been collecting. The richness, variety and overall quality of the show does much to reinforce the impression that eastern Pennsylvania still is fertile ground for the serious quilt collector, especially one who loves vivid color. The show continues tomorrow, and Sundays through May 24th, noon to 4 PM.

March 14, 2013

March 20, 2009 Spring

Spring is finally here. It’s chilly today, with snow flurries early this morning, not atypical of the first day of spring, but we’re seeing more hours of daylight, and the temperatures in general are rising.

Though spring is our most eagerly awaited and anticipated season, it’s also the one that brings the most responsibility. It’s time to ready the garden for planting and clean up winter debris, and also time to prepare for our spring season of outdoor antique sales as the weekends warm. And it’s a time for beginning new projects, as if we didn’t already have plenty on our plates. Luckily the season brings with it a burst of energy; hopefully the energy lasts long enough to accomplish a reasonable number of the tasks.

Between chilly gusts of wind today I managed to photograph a quilt that I thought was appropriate to early spring both in color and theme. I don’t know if the pattern has a name, or whether it’s supposed to represent anything in particular, but the idea of flowers along with the preponderance of green along with a little Easter purple seemed to me just the thing for today.
spring flowers quilt
spring flowers quilt

With all this greenery, the real flowers won’t be far behind – our snowdrops are blooming throughout the woods, the daffodils are 4 inches out of the ground, and Tim’s already planted carrots and peas in the field.

March 9, 2009 A star of a different color

A couple of weeks ago I posted a quilt that was a 1930’s variation on a traditional pattern. So again today, a quilt we just found last week here in Berks County, PA. This time it’s a lone star, or Star of Bethlehem, in anything but traditional color and form.
1930's star
This came from an estate where quilting was a family affair; there were two sons who had each made their own redwork quilt at the age of 16. Do you know any 16 year old boys making any quilts today??
Anyway, I love the color choices, and the way the star is framed. The quilt does boast an altogether 1930’s character in it’s geometric layout. Oh, and the back is a great color contrast…
1930's star
More pictures of this quilt can be seen here.