Antique and Vintage Fabrics

Antique Fabric ScrapsSometimes I find an old quilt that begs to be repaired. Since I enjoy giving old quilts new life, I buy antique or vintage fabrics to use for this type of a project. When repairing and restoring an antique quilt, it is important to use fabrics from the same era of the quilt that will be restored.

Using fabrics from the same era ensures authenticity for the quilt restoration.  Equally important is the choice of fabric color and design. When the quilt repair has been completed, the repairs should not be obvious — the replacement fabrics should blend and not stand out.

Antique FabricsWhen doing antique quilt repairs, it is necessary to have a good supply of antique fabrics. Having the correct fabrics is critical for quilt repairs and quilt restorations.  Occasionally, I will be fortunate enough to locate a 1/2 or full yard of an antique cloth.

Most of the antique fabrics in my collection are leftover scraps or unused patchwork pieces. Other antique fabrics have been collected from patchwork blocks that have been given to me. When the patchwork has been disassembled, the pieces can be reused for a quilt repair. What a great way to recycle!

Strippy Foundation TopThis full-sized foundation strippy quilt top was purchased because some of the fabrics used were from the 1880s.  Examining all of the fabrics found in this quilt top, it is apparent that this quilt top was made in the post-Depression era (one fabric from that era is the pink floral cotton). This top will be disassembled so that the antique cottons can be used in another quilt.

Foundation Back Sewing the random patches onto a foundation fabric was a ‘double find’ for me, because the foundation pieces included large sections of cadet blue cottons and cotton shirtings. When I need these fabrics, I will disassemble the quilt top. Tedious work, but the patches are all large and pieced by hand, making the task much easier.

Vintage Fabric ScrapsWhen working with a vintage era quilt from the 1920s or 1940s, the cotton fabrics used are different than the antique fabrics from the 1800s. Many quilts from the Depression era, or post-Depression era, are made with feed sacks. And some of the cotton fabrics are in color combinations that are not often found in today’s fabrics. Doing repairs or restorations on quilts from these eras creates a need to have cotton fabrics that were manufactured during that era.  On occasion, I have been given quilt blocks so that the fabrics can be used in some manner. And sometimes I have found feedsacks that have not been cut — a great find for a vintage quilt repair.

Although antique and vintage era fabrics are more expensive than today’s fabrics, they are cottons from another era and are critical when restoring quilts. Even unused, these fabrics are rather special to me — they have been made before my time, in a different era.

4 Responses to “Antique and Vintage Fabrics”

  1. Cindy C Says:

    how can I find out the age of fabrics in an old quilt top? Would a quilt shop know? I have an antique quilt to quilt and I would like to know about some of it’s fabrics and when it might have been started.

  2. Tricia Halle Says:

    First, I love your web site. It is now one of my “favorites”. I like to dream and wish I could do as well as you do someday! I am an ammiture quilter with a pillowcase of old(probably 40+years) fabric I’d like to sell. Any advice as to how to go about it. I don’t have a clue but I know I’ll never use it but have an immediate need for the money! Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

  3. Lynn Says:

    Hi Tricia. To sell the pillowcase, you might try eBay and let the bidders decide what the fabric is worth. Just admit you don’t know what era the fabric came from — honesty is always the best way to do business, I think.

    Glad you like this blog and hope you return. Remember, quilting and all other hobbies start out with beginners! One day at a time…..

  4. Chanel Says:

    I want to use the fabrics from a quilt my grandmother made for my parent’s wedding gift back in the early 80’s but I fear I may ruin the fabrics… But this quilt needs new life I have used it my entire life thus far… 28 years. I was thinking of using a foundation fabric would this aid the life of the old fabrics in the ‘new’ quilt I plan on making? Thanks so much! Chanel

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