Recently, I received a gift from my Aunt Wanda. It was a quilt that her Aunt Annie made too many years ago to remember. I was thrilled! It reminded me that quilting has evolved tremendously from 100 years ago.
My new old quilt is very simple. You’ll see it in the photograph below. While it’s hard to tell exactly how big her blocks were, I suspect they are twelve inch squares of muslin. On each block is a butterfly.
My Great Aunt Annie lived on the farm where she was born and she gardened, canned, and did chores alongside her parents and siblings. I remember her hands. They were sturdy and well-worn. I can see them working as she hand-turned each butterfly and added a blanket stitch to the wings. And while the butterflies are very random, solid ones surround a center block of stitched flowers in a basket.
She sewed the blocks together with her machine and added a 3-inch piece of blue fabric for the border. The stitching on the edge of the quilt leads me to believe that she put the quilt together the “inside out way”. The quilt was quilted in a grid of 3-inch squares.
Old quilt treasures can still be an inspiration for quilters today. We know that because we look at museum quilts and see the same blocks and patterns we see in quilts today. I love intricate, beautifully quilted quilts. But I love simple things just as much. So what is the inspiration from a simple quilt like this?
I see a basic quilt sewn much as this one: make quilt blocks out of solid fabrics or small, subtle prints, put them together to make any size quilt. Choose an appliqué motif, one you pluck off the Internet or one of your own designs and place them on the blocks. Hand sew, machine appliqué your choice. Give it a “modern” twist with geometric shapes in great patterns or make your own butterflies with any of the beautiful prints available.
In my mind, I am working on a quilt of my own, with “Aunt Annie’s quilt” as inspiration. I will make it because I think its simplicity may help me finish it. I also know that if I were to give this quilt as a gift to someone who never expected such a gift from me, they may be as excited to receive it as I was when Annie’s quilt became mine.