INTRODUCTION including Antique, Handmade, Rag and Vintage Quilts
Hundreds of thousands of quilts were made during the past two centuries by American quilt-makers — these antique handmade quilts are now heavily prized. The need for warm covering was a motive for quiltmaking in the earliest times, but the beauty created by many of the quilt-makers has intrigued collectors for many years. Quilts of all patterns, styles and materials such as rag quilts continue to turn up in estate sales and regional auctions. The current interest in quiltmaking by a million and a half Americans has renewed a parallel interest in the quilts of the past. Interest in antique quilts has resulted in statewide quilt search days and the publication of state history and statistics about antique quilts. Fabrics and quilts designed from antique patterns are frequently published in magazines sold internationally.
During the past quarter century, antique and collectible American quilts have received recognition worldwide as the cultural and artistic value of quilts continues to be explored. Quilts can be purchased in many places. The flea market find is rare in this day of well-published information about all quilts, but bargains are still to be found in local auctions, estate sales and antique stores. Vendors of antique quilts can be found in the many quilt shows throughout the country. Internet quilt dealers are plentiful and the quilts can be viewed at all times of the night and day.
BUILDING A QUILT COLLECTION
Consider the condition of the quilts that you are willing to accept in your collection. Many quilt collectors start by rescuing worn quilts. The fabrics, patterns, and quilting designs can be used for display, study, or replication. More experienced collectors prefer to buy quilts that are in excellent condition and thereby eliminate the need for time-consuming and expensive restoration or conservation. Generally, quilts in excellent condition will cost more to purchase than quilts in poor condition. We recommend that you purchase quilts in the best condition that you can afford.
Quilt collecting came into vogue during the 1920s (probably beginning with rag quilts) and has steadily grown in popularity. The first bit of advice for antique quilt collectors is the same as for collectors of any other antique item: Buy what you like and buy the best you can afford. Consider making a plan for the theme of your collection. It is more desirable to assemble a unified collection, rather than just accumulating a group of quilts.
Closely examine any quilt you desire to purchase. Have the quit held up vertically so that you can see the way the quiltmaker arranged the elements of the design. Look for patterning in scrap quilts. Look for symmetry in applique and quilting designs. Look for the innovative way a setting or border changes the quilt. And again, determine the overall condition of the textile.
Of the most interesting collections are those that represent the personal tastes and interest of the co\lectors. Collections can be as unique and individual as the collectors themselves.
COLLECTING BY COLOR
Some collectors choose quilts of a particular color or color combination. Blue and white quilts of any pattern or age are the most collected of all quilts. Red and white is a close second. Red and green with yellow or orange also comprise a category of very collectible quilts. Sometimes collectors focus on a color, such as pink, and only collect quilts that are primarily that color.
COLLECTING BY PATTERN OR STYLE
Log Cabin, Nine Patch, and stars are probably the most recognizable patterns and many examples still can be found by collectors. Nine Patch blocks can be the subject for a collection. The little block was reputed to be made as a first block for children, and can be found in all decades of patchwork. A similar design is the uneven Nine Patch, commonly called Puss in the Corner.
A collector could define a collection by purchasing quilts made from Mountain Mist patterns or patterns designed by Ruby McKim or Nancy Page.
There are literally thousands of quilt patterns so you are only limited by your imagination. . Style might indicate a technique such as broderie perse or applique. Or, style might reference a certain arrangement such as four block or medallion. Also, we might think in terms of style meaning theme, like patriotic or centennial. Refer to each individual section, for example, Log Cabin Quilts or Double Wedding Ring, where specific patterns or styles, but different examples are shown together.
COLLECTING BY VISUAL ELEMENTS
Finding a quilt with great graphics, innovative techniques, artistic color choice: unusual setting choice, or special finishing techniques will suit the collector of this kind of quilt. Not the ordinary of any pattern, but a maverick of some detail, is what they seek. Collectors of these elements find quilts with a look that is unique. Quilts with only chintz fabrics would be a good example of special elements. Quilts that pertain to mourning or coffins would be another category.
Quilts from different regions of the United States often have different characteristics. Pennsylvania quilts are a good example. With Amish, Mennonite, and Quaker quilt-makers and quilt-makers of German heritage, the the quilts vary in color, design, fabric, pattern, and finishing technique.
COLLECTING QUILTS BY AGE
Study quilts of the type you want to collect in museums, quilt shows, and publications. Note the typical coloring for the age of the quilt. Study the patterns, settings, and borders. Look at the quilting designs. Educate yourself about the quarter century style changes and choose the era in which you want to collect quilts.
Setting boundaries on the age of the quilts collected will define the collection. Collections containing examples of 19th century quilts or only twentieth century quilts are possible. Depending on the use of the collection, quilts may represent every decade of American quiltmaking. A large variety of quilts were made in the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century, including pieces, appliqued, and crazy quilts; therefore a large collection could consist of quilts from that 25 year period. Turn of the century quilts are prized by some collectors. The distinctive two-color prints and limited pallet did not create a limit for the quilt-makers of the time.
DISPLAYING QUILTS IN THE HOME
One of the oldest methods of displaying the very best quilts in the house is to put them on beds. Arrange to remove the quilts before the bed is used. Quilts exhibited on racks and in decorative wall hangers should be examined carefully as the quilts might exhibit uneven discoloration if not moved regularly. Any direct contact with sunlight or unsealed wood should be avoided.
Using antique quilts to decorate your home has been in vogue for many years. Quilt displays are frequently of interest to visitors. Use quilts as textile art in many different rooms. Protect each quilt from bright light and place it away from cooking areas where grease and moisture are more prevalent. Prepare the quilt to hang by stitching on a sleeve.