Monday, November 28, 2011

Wool Quilts - Fancy and Plain

Just in time for winter here in Minnesota, our Land of Lakes Study Group met last Saturday to study wool quilts. I guess it was fitting that the day also brought our first real snowstorm. We didn't get many inches but it always takes a bit of getting used to - and it was slippery out there. One of our out-state members reported taking one hour to go seven miles and seeing eleven vehicles in the ditch!

We saw quilts from the late 1800's to the present time. Mary Chalmers started us off  by sharing several of her award winning embroidered wool quilts. Several years ago she was inspired by article in an old quilt magazine and this is the result. She took off from there as you will see in the rest of her pieces! Who can tell where inspiration will take us!

She does beautiful work. Watch for her pieces at major shows in the future.

Vibrant Fan Variation

Mary pointed out that each block is really a pieced design and only the background is 'crazy'. The black sashing helps contain the excitement.

The effort put into making a special border pays off

I was excited to share this Churn Dash, a gift from long-time friends Sharon and Horace. I had admired it years ago as it hung on a wall in their home. Thanks to their urge to downsize (and a generous heart) it came to live with me.

The 15"  blocks are made of a variety of wools, wool blends, cottons and novelty weaves.
Simple embroidered feather stitching in either white or yellow outlines each shape.
Top-stitched binding

The back is pieced of colorful 8" squares; also in a variety of fabrics including blends, cottons, silks and wools.
Though it has quite a few condition issues, the graphic appeal and the vibrancy of the colors makes it an exciting piece.

My friend Judy let me show her beautiful family quilt. She believes it was made for her Grandparents for their wedding in 1916. The log cabin variation, known as 'Pineapple', is done on a foundation in a style sometimes called 'pressed' work. The generous 20" blocks are composed of 1/2" strips. Instead of pressing the seam all the way open, the fabric is folded back just enough to cover the seam allowance. This creates a slightly three dimensional look and adds some added texture. The back is a brown cotton print c. 1890. 
Notice that the center block is slightly different than the rest - a subtle medallion setting! And check out that border.
The 20" block
The 'pressed' fold

This classic Amish Diamond in a Square quilt with Pennsylvania provenance was shared by Donna. Made of fine wool crepe, the quilting is done with black thread. Quilts like this are not common in the general public - most have been snapped up by private collectors and museums.

Detail of fine double row quilting
Click to enlarge

Visible moth damage and the printed cotton backing
Kelly shared this interesting family quilt. The maker took the time to cut diamonds for her nine patch instead of the simpler squares - that meant working with bias edges - and then she set it all on point.

Gail shared this vibrant and graphic wool quilt which was bought as a top. Her daughter finished it by tying and gave it to her Dad for Christmas. It is used regularly.

Kim Baird, from Fargo, ND, has been involved with the quilt documentation project in her state and active in many quilt related activities since the late 1970's.
She is particularly interested in the fan variation often called Wagon Wheel and shared many variations with us via Powerpoint.

Here's a lovely example from the quilt index.

This one-of-a kind fan variation is called Crazy Fans and is in the Henry Ford museum. They do look like wheels, don't they?  It was made by Susan McCord.
c. 1895
We got a big laugh out of the story Kim told about Shrek, a sheep from New Zealand  that eluded the shears for six years. Apparently the poor thing finally gave up when he could no longer see! Click here for the full story. Fifty nine pounds of wool was the yield!

HEY! Where am I? And I thought that was MY dress!

And finally, a very utilitarian example from about 1950 which I slept under many times. It was made by our Aunt Agnes. I told you about her in the post about my Second Wedding Quilt.  And that's my sister posing in front of it.
Neither of us knows what happened to the quilt but we do both remember that it was very heavy and that it kept sliding off the bed because the back was something slippery. I guess we never thought about about using it face down!

If you have thought of wool quilts as strictly utilitarian - everyday rather than fancy - some of  these examples tell a different story. As a natural fiber, wool takes dyes beautifully and gives a lustrous appearance not to mention the instant warmth such a quilt provides.
On the down side, it is prone to moth damage, a bit more challenging to clean compared to cotton and working with wool does present some unique challenges. But.....I'm inspired to add 'Wool Quilt" to my list of things to try - how about you?

Next: Just Two Colors - My Latest Additions


  1. I am thinking of making a wool quilt too. I sew and knit mostly with wool, it is absolutely my favorite fiber! Lovely blog!

  2. I loved seeing this variety of wool quilts, but as the years go by I become more and more sensitive to wool. Don't think I will be making a wool quilt.
    Love the story about the sheep. Thanks for the link.

  3. oh Mary's quilt is just BEAUTIFUL, thanks for sharing all these quilts, yes making a wool quilt is on my list of thigns to do someday.
    I love that wheel quilt by Susan McCord I have always wanted to replicate it. The pineapple quilt has me the center! Gail's quilt with the X in the center of a lighter red is wonderful, would love to do something like that someday too
    thanks for sharing, lots of inspiration!

  4. Wonderful post, wonderful quilts! Every one of them is so pleasing to look at. Mary's work is stunning.

  5. I had never thought about making a wool quilt, but you have changed my mind....all the examples are just beautiful!! Thanks for sharing them

  6. You have some beautiful quilts here! I think I am in love!

  7. Those are some beautiful wool quilts. Especially the first two shown in your post. How very interesting to have the addition of the embroidery. Different than traditional crazy quilt style embroidery.

  8. I joked that I thought that dress my sister was wearing was mine...and she pointed out that probably it WAS my dress eventually - handed down when she outgrew it. I bet that explains it!

  9. What a wonderful and inspiring collection. I make wool quilts from woolen clothing
    I guess they call it "up-cycling" These wool quilts are the warmest ever!!

    1. Thanks Ellen. I put one over you and it's instant warmth. One of my son's favorite quilts is the 'bricks' one in a separate batting...just backed and still the quickest warm-up you can get!


Thanks for adding your comments!