Mrs. Thomas’ Vintage Quilts

28 10 2013

I was recently an overnight guest of Mrs. Thomas who showed me vintage quilts made by her mother-in-law, Hattie Harwood Thomas. Hattie was born in Dunlap, TN and lived in Whitwell. She and her husband farmed near Crossroads in the Sequatchee Valley. “Sequatchee” is Native American for “horse trough.”

All the quilts were, for the most part, scrappy but contained enough of a strategically placed solid fabric to appear planned, cohesive, and beautiful.

Mrs. Thomas said, “Cheese,” as I snapped photos.

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This “Lone Star” or “Star of Bethlehem” is so well-loved, the batting is leaking from the worn spots of fabric. But the shading of the fabrics is still lovely. According to Mrs. Thomas, Hattie pieced with a treadle sewing machine. The batting in all the quilts was unbonded cotton. And most of the quilts were hand quilted with a Baptist Fan design. The choice of quilting design is appropriate since Hattie’s father was a Primitive Baptist minister.

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Two of the quilts were the same pattern but the patches were slightly different sizes.

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Even if your eye is drawn to the circles of yellow or orange, don’t miss the string pieced scraps that form bowtie shapes.

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Perhaps you can better view the fabrics in a close-up photo.

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Here is an unusual style of “Dresden Plate” with only 8 wedges per plate. The background, a pale peach, sets off the scrappy, yet coordinating “plates.” Perhaps Hattie thought of these as flowers rather than plates and gave them yellow centers. I love the movement of the red and white zigzag stripe fabric.

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The dark red center strip in each block makes this a handsome quilt. It anchors the scrappy strips so nicely!

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Take a look at this “Birds in the Air ” quilt. Notice the machine quilting . . . a grid of not-so-straight lines. I can just imagine a quilter determined to finish her quilt before the cold Tennessee winter set in. Notice the machine zigzag finish on the binding.

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Was Hattie going for the “Spider Web” look or aiming for White Stars surrounded by print strips?

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Study the picture to determine that each block was planned as a Star. And when the Stars are set side by side, a secondary “Spider Web” design is formed.

I really enjoyed my visit with Mrs. Thomas and feel privileged to handle and photograph her family quilts. They are not heirloom in the sense of intricate design or stellar workmanship, but they are heirlooms, nonetheless, made by a beloved mother-in-law who created a legacy of thriftiness and warm love for her family.

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