Ann Champion’s Blog

Today the quilt I’m pulling from the cupboard is an old string quilt. It’s a utility quilt. It was made to be functional and keep someone warm. Scraps of whatever fabrics the maker could find were put into this quilt. It has had hard use.

This quilt dates to 1930′s-1940′s and contains a wide variety of fabrics from that era.


As you can see the borders aren’t even. There is damage to the edges. It appears that at some point someone trimmed the quilt down because the edges were worn to shreds. After the quilt was cut down, the backing was brought around to the front and stitched down to form a binding. There is further wear to the quilt so apparently it was needed and put to use after the repairs?

This quilt has a thick cotton batting and as a result tiny quilting stitches weren’t possible. The maker probably didn’t worry about the size of her stitches though. This was no show quilt. The stitching just needed to hold the quilt together so it could be put into service. You can see in this pic there are two patches (the bright blue and the dark green) which were added at a later date, probably to repair a fray or split?

There is some fading as well. You may be wondering why on Earth I would buy this quilt? To me it has character. It has been well loved and well used. It has a comfortable look to it.

I sometimes display this quilt draped over the back corner of a denim chair I have. It looks right at home with the recycled denim. It looks as comfortable as a favorite pair of old jeans.

There are some fun fabrics in the mix of strings here.

I really like the pieced back side of this quilt too.


More fun, cheerful prints!

*Note: Joan from Wishes, True and Kind brought up a good question in the comments section. She wondered if it was common to piece the backs of the quilts like this during the era this quilt was made.

I know that large flour and sugar (and sometimes feed sacks) were bleached to remove the advertising and were used. BUT I don’t know if using pretty feed sacks or yardage that was pieced was common? I think we’ve all seen a lot of older antique quilts, but rarely get a peek at the back.

If anybody out there has any of the older utility or family quilts and can tell us what the back looks like..I’d love to hear from you!

EDIT: Louise replied about the backs in the comment section. I’m posting the info here.

That’s such a cozy and cheerful quilt! I’ve seen quite a few old quilts that have large pieces of colorful feedsack sewn together to make the back. They used what they had, and I guess feedsacks were plentiful.


Nancy Ray added:

Thank you for sharing this string quilt–and its back as well. From my experience (I’m providing a home to 100+ old string quilts, and have looked at or handled many more), the backs were very often home dyed. Quilters were practical and thrifty; they used muslin, plain bags or those with printing, and sometimes mixed fabrics which they dyed at home. I’ve seen these home dyed backs on other scrap quilts as well; actually the practice reveals the quilter to have been taking care and pains with the quilt she was making. The process of collecting the fabric for the back, bleaching it to remove letters or logos (sometimes done, sometimes not) and then dying it a complimentary color took time and additional effort. It wasn’t what a woman would do if she were just throwing something together to be done with it, presumably as fast as possible and without concern for how the quilt looked.
While I do have some string quilts with pieced backs, and some with whole cloth print backs, many more are backed with home dyed cotton (muslin, usually bags)–green was a favorite, but I also have some in other colors: grey blue, pink, yellow, and gold. Thanks again for sharing!

*A Great big thank you to you both for sharing your info with us!