By Edie McGinnis
It was just a little more than a month ago that an email was being passed around among quilters who were interested in antique quilts. The email announced the moving sale of an area quilt teacher and historian.
Books, antique and vintage quilt blocks and tops, antique fabric and scraps, feedsacks and clothing were all being offered. And there was a plethora of each.
The weather wasn’t promising, and I had much to do the opening day of the sale. I hemmed and hawed and made excuses as to why I should not go. All were valid because the truth of the matter was that I really had enough unfinished projects around my house. I certainly didn’t need more.
And yet I could not get it out of my mind. The opportunity to find scraps of antique fabric that would meld into a set of blocks I have from the early 1900s was almost too good to pass up. Should I go or should I stay? That was the question that kept running through my head.
I stayed strong the first day and passed up the sale. But I wondered what I was missing. That afternoon, I found out how stupid I had been. A friend had bought a book that I have been dying to have, Old Quilts, by William Rush Dunton Jr. The book is rare and expensive when one is lucky enough to find a copy. She paid a mere $3.
I set off for the sale the next morning determined not to buy much of anything. I was just going to see what was still there. Surely by Day 2 there wouldn’t be anything of value left.
I was wrong, and more than $100 dollars later, I headed home with my goods. While Dunton’s book was gone, there were plenty of others waiting for me. I found five volumes of Uncoverings (an annual collection of papers presented at the American Quilt Study Group in Lincoln, Neb.). Several books about mill fabrics, old calicos and state quilt documentation also found a new home with me.
I bought a stack of single wedding ring blocks. There were 18, each of them hand-pieced. A wide variety of shirtings had been used in the areas that are light. The dark colors ranged from clarets to brown plaids and cadet blues as well as navies and mourning prints. They are a study in fabric used in quilt making and garment construction from the early 1890s through the late 1920s.
As I had expected, there were scraps of fabric from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. The scraps had been bagged up and marked $2.50 each. Mourning prints and shirtings were in the bags I picked up and added to my ever-increasing bundle of items I was purchasing.
The last pieces I chose were three little girl’s dresses and a slip. Two of the dresses were made from delicate shirting prints, and each had sections that had been carefully gathered by hand. One dress was made using fabric from one of my favorite feedsack prints. There was no way I was leaving it behind.
So now I have added to my stack of unfinished projects. And sadly enough, I am not even sorry about that!
Edie McGinnis is an author and editor for Kansas City Star Quilts. She writes every Friday.