Quilts 101: Identifying Vintage and Antique Quilts

Quilts 101: Identifying Vintage and Antique Quilts 2560 1912 Gaslight Square Shoppes

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There is something so nostalgic and comforting about antique quilts. American quilting has a rich history among the first European settlers. Specific patterns and colors link a quilt to a particular time period. This means that a little knowledge can help you distinguish antique quilts from more contemporary pieces. So if you want to learn the basics about quilts, here is our version of Quilts 101:

What are vintage and antique quilts?

Quilts from the 1920s or earlier are antique and vintage quilts were made between 1930 and 1965. Up until the mid-20 century, most quilts were made by hand. A telltale sign is irregular, handmade stitches. Older quilts are also often faded. And while tagging handmade quilts became more common in the 20th Century, vintage and antique quilts often won’t have a tag.

Common antique and vintage colors

Double blue was a classic combination for quilts that consisted of a lighter blue over a dark blue background. It was a common pattern style used by the Amish in Lancaster county from 1860 through 1880, hence the name “Lancaster blue.” Different shades of blue became available starting in the mid-19th Century. These include Prussian blue, Indigo blue, and light blue. There were other popular colors throughout the years as well:

  • Nile green (pale green): This color, mixed with dark green, white, or cream, commonly appeared in quilts in the 1930s through the 1940s, reports SF Gate.
  • Cheddar orange (antimony): This color appeared in Pennsylvania between 1860 and 1880.
  • Post-civil war mourning colors: Quilthistory.com writes that widespread death from the Civil War contributed to a culture of mourning in the US, and quiltmakers reflected their grief in the use of darker colors. Shaker grays became common during that time, as well as vivid browns, cocoas, and dark chocolates.
  • Brighter colors: The late-19th Century also brought also brighter, cheerier colors. Yellows and pinks — particularly the use of double pinks — became common. Quilts also incorporated brighter and more varied colors as the 20th Century approached.

Quilt patterns

The oldest quilts that settlers brought with them to America were utilitarian, usually made from one or two sheets of the same fabric. By the 1800s, however, quilts became more decorative. This government article documents the discovery and history of US quilt experience:

  • Crazy Quilt: The crazy quilt evolved during the 18th century, becoming most popular in the US between the late 1800s and early 1900s. Women began to make quilts from random, odd-shaped scraps of cloth — including clothes, sheets, and other household linens.
  • Rose of Sharon or Whig Rose: This pattern dates back to 1820 when the Whig Party was trying to compete against Andrew Jackson.
  • Friendship Quilt: Groups of women usually collaborated to make these quilts. Each woman contributed her own block with its symbols of friendship and affection.
  • Double wedding rings: The double wedding rings pattern, made with light pastels, became extremely popular during the Depression Era.

Now that you know what to look for, start browsing through reputable, well-established antique shops. Gaslight Antiques has been in business for over 20 years, and its knowledgeable experts can you some great tips as you hunt for antique and vintage quilts and other treasures. Come out and visit us today!