Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Teeny Tiny Pieces & Confessions

I have been saving scraps if they are large enough to cut a 1" square. I didn't really like to tell too many people about this because, well, you know. Some people just don't understand. - the ones that toss really BIG hunks into the waste basket at retreats. Recently I even saw a big chunk in the waste basket of a vendor at our state quilt show. I regret not being bold enough to ask if I could dig it out!

However, I am no longer embarrassed or ashamed.

Here's a quilt on display at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, visited recently, that makes 1" pieces look big.


Here is the full view so you can get the perspective. Not terribly graphic from afar, is it? But get closer to see the size of the pieces and the purposeful arrangement of chevrons which are ultimately joined into four large sections. It's truly a wonder - a testament to patience and extreme thrift!

Checking The Quilt Index, where quilts from this museum collection are documented, I found out more about this quilt. Made by Bessie Sanford of Michigan, born in 1873, it is hand pieced and hand quilted from the back in fans. Someone more patient than I figured out that there are about 37,000 pieces. It measures 80" square. I understand and applaud Bessie. There is something so satisfying about 'using up' every tidbit.

In the late 1800's it became quite the popular thing for some quilters who were competitive in nature to try to earn bragging rights about the number of pieces in their quilt. Agricultural fairs promoted this popular type of competition and articles appeared in newspapers stating the number of pieces in someone's quilt so, inevitably, someone else said, 'I can top that!" and the challenge was on.

The result is that there are many such quilts but the first quilt that I admit brought tears to my eyes was Grace Snyder's Flower Basket Petit Point. I had never seen such a thing. It was on display in 2002 at the Houston International  Quilt Show, chosen as one of the one hundred Best Quilts of the 20th century.

It is composed of half square triangle units measuring one fourth of an inch!. You heard me right. Eight tiny triangles sewn together make a ‘block’ about the size of a postage stamp!

This in not the full quilt but you can see it at the IQSCG website. Double click this image for a close-up.

Grace was inspired by a needlepoint pattern on on a set of china. I was able to see the actual china for the first time at a recent lecture by Jeananne Wright in Colorado.

 The story of her life, as told to her daughter, is called   No Time on My Hands, the understatement of all time! I highly recommend it.

The Flower Basket quilt is now in the collection of IQSCM at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as is this hexagon quilt, also by Grace.  She just couldn't quit!

Click here for just one of many links with more examples and information about quilts with many small pieces.

So now you know. 
I save tiny pieces of fabric 
and beautiful quilts can bring me to tears!


  1. The dedication and patience and drive of quilters to use all those teeny, tiny pieces is more than I have. Their quilts are outstanding, and I'm pretty sure I'd be teary-eyed seeing some of them in person.
    Thanks for sharing these quilts, the photos, the links, and all the info.
    I really MUST get to the quilt museum in Lincoln NE one of these days. Our son graduated from UN-L about the time the museum was being finished, but I wasn't into quilting quite so much then, and I didn't appreciate the wonders I'd be able to see in that building. Now I'm ready for a trip back.

    1. Yes. Vivian - you MUST go. There is always a good exhibit going on and much to see. We pass through there twice a year on our way to AZ and always enjoy it and learn new things. Thanks for reading my blog and for your comments!

  2. Wow! All I can say is, Wow!! That is amazing! It must require so much patience and determination. I do use my scraps but don't know if they ever get that small. Thank you so much for sharing this quilt and the link.

    1. Yes. It is a WOW! Glad you enjoyed the blog and thanks for commenting!

  3. I got to see both of Grace Snyder's quilts that you have pictured at the IQSC display. She made many quilts~~~each grandchild got a special one. It was hard to move from quilt to quilt. They are so fascinating in person. Grace received a set of the china from the manufacturer, after they learned about the quilt. They had a tea cup on display with the quilt. Amazing woman with a needle!!

    1. Judy - thanks for that information. I think it was wise of them to give her a set of china - she probably had something to do with increased sales! She was an amazing woman and continues to inspire today. Have you read the book? After reading it I felt there was NO excuse. If a person wants to do something (make a quilt for instance) they will make the time to do it.

  4. Just remarkable! Keep saving those tiny pieces. One of my favorites is the man who made quilts from hexagons with tiny dimensions. By day he worked with dynamite! It's in the quilting documentary from PBS- titled A Century of Quilts I think. Amazing the patience and perseverance.

  5. Yes, Nancy. His name was Albert Small. I decided to keep my blogs shorter and do them more often so I didn't include many of the stories and images of this fascinating style of quilt but maybe I better do another entry as these quilts are of great interest!

  6. I was reading on the quilt made by Bessie Sanders. I got the history on it from the library and wondered how in the world were the pieces sewed together!! Some pieces are as small as 1"by 3/16". How I would love to try this and just may try.

    1. Thanks for writing....I have seen tops (back can be examined) with small pieces done both my machine and hand piecing. Usuallly the machine is a disaster with varying size seams and tiny stitches. Not sure why. I've done hand piecing and think with so little to 'hang on to' it would be a challenge. If you try both methods I hope you'll report back! You come up as anonymous so I can't reply directly to you but you can email me privately if you ever want to.


Thanks for adding your comments!