My friend, Jenn, procured 30 “Little Dutch Girls” blocks hand stitched by her paternal grandmother, Leoma. We estimate that the blocks were made in the 40s or 50s. Look closely and you will see several distinctive design elements. Note that the blanket stitches are a long stitch alternating with a short stitch. Also note that the girls have two arms (or an arm and a hand); most Dutch Girl patterns that I’ve seen show only one arm. In addition, Grandma Leoma positioned the arm shoulder height toward the edge of the dress rather than in the center of the dress as most patterns of the era do.
Jenn gently washed the blocks by hand using “Retro Clean” whose motto is “safely brings age-stained textiles back to life!” The dolls were appliqued onto thin muslin rectangles that had been ripped rather than cut with scissors. The “fraying” resulting from ripping the blocks actually helped preserve their shape through the years. After pressing and measuring them all, I trimmed them the size of the smallest block, 7″ x 9.”
To “share the wealth” among family members, Jenn decided to split the blocks into three projects. Her mother sewed pillows of one Dutch Girl each for Jenn’s siblings, I made a wall quilt with four of the blocks for Jenn’s mother and father, and Jenn designed a quilt using the remaining 20 blocks. Although Jenn likes to decorate with muted, earthy tones, we had to choose sashing fabric that would coordinate with the primary tones of the Dutch Girl bonnets and dresses. Most Dutch Girl quilts of the 40s and 50s were sashed with solid colored fabrics; we followed suit with a turquoise/teal and rich brown. Here’s a photo showing the steps used to make the sashing pieces.
For the outer border and star centers, we found a dainty print in Edita Sytar’s “Color Daze” line that paired the turquoise with the brown.
Since hubby set up my long arm machine last weekend, I’ll soon be quilting “Little Dutch Girls.” I plan to use tan thread and an edge to edge clamshell design. Jenn is excited to see the project begun so many years ago completed. The quilt is doubly precious because Grandma Leoma passed away at the age of thirty when Jenn’s father was eight. I feel blessed to have a hand in making an heirloom quilt for Jenn’s family.