Family stories in quilts


I went the the Iowa Illinois Quilt Study Group for the first time last weekend. The study topic was family quilts.

The only family quilts I have are ones that I’ll make and pass down to my children someday. And I hope that these hypothetical children will cherish these quilts so that they don’t end up at an estate sale or on Ebay when I’m gone.

That’s where appraiser and lecturer Janette Dwyer purchased many of the baby quilts she brought to show as part of her lecture, “Baby Quilts: A blanket with a heartbeat.”

As you can imagine, antique baby quilts in good condition are rare since most of them received several washings and were used until they were worn out. Many of the surviving examples we have came from wealthy families who could afford to make more than one baby quilt.


Some of the most adorable quilts Janette brought with were quilt kits from the 1950s of embroidered scenes such as bears, babies and animals.

Janette’s advice for deciding when to buy an antique quilt is: “If I want it or I don’t have it. … Also if you touch it twice, then buy it.”

One thing that was emphasized over and over again was to get as much information as you possibly could about a quilt from the seller when you buy it. But take the provenance with a grain of salt, because sometimes oral histories are not correct and the information garnered from the fabric and pattern put it in a different time period than family history places it.

I’ll be writing more posts about the Study Group later this week. It was pretty neat, and I have lots of pictures of some really amazing quilts.

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