The quilt list: antique, vintage, resale?
A couple of weeks ago, when I asked Catherine E. what kind of quilt she was interested in, she told me she loved the look of Dresden Plate quilts from the 1930s. I started researching it, and discovered something I really should have predicted, but had not: many things on places like eBay turn up from estate sales, and quilt pieces are part of estate sales. I've been staring in fascination ever since.
What I realized: if you're looking for the right type of item, it is possible to pick up actual antique unfinished quilt pieces for less money than it would cost to pick up the same amount of reproduction fabric representing the same period, and make the pieces yourself.
Discretion is required, obviously. I've seen some real nightmares up for sale:
(I should note that there's a question coming at the end)
I Know What It's Worth, So Pony Up, Suckers
These are the people who have provenance, have an exquisite item, and are asking for museum-quality prices. I have trouble believing these ever sell, but they do occasionally get listed, and when they are listed, they are stunning. I love you guys, but nowhere on The Quilt List in my head does it say "I will buy you a $12,000 quilt." Love, it seems, has its limits.
I Know It's Trashed But Maybe You Won't Notice
These are the ones that are sold for parts, for decoration, for creative crafting and reuse. The best example I saw last week was a quilt whose seams weren't just busted, as the seller claimed, but whose seams appear to had been nested in by mice. Someone bought it, much to my shock. I would have burned it.
If We Call It 'Americana' Will You Buy It?
Lots of cheap quilt tops with bad design decisions show up here. I can understand the preservationist drive on some levels: "it's old, you know you want to save it!" they say, but deep inside your head there's the little voice that responds, "But it isn't very good!" This is probably the biggest category I've seen. The items' main attraction is their age, not their quality or design choices. Sometimes a poorly sewn or ugly quilt top didn't get finished for a reason...
So what's left?
What's left after all those are blown away in a Kansas storm? Not much, but a few scenarios remain:
- I found an unfinished quilt top and don't have the time or skill to finish it, so I'll make a few bucks and get it out of my house.
- I already had one like this and don't need another.
- I have no idea what this item is, or its worth.
Not very many items fall into this final category, and most of the ones that have caught my interest fall into the "I found an unfinished item and can't/won't finish it out" subcategory. I've wrestled with the idea of "is it really still a gift from me if all I do is find it and finish it out?" I think the answer is yes, but I think I'd like to hear the answer from others.
At last, the long and rambly question
If I found antique/vintage pieces -- or heaven forfend an entire quilt top -- would having a finished quilt out of such items appeal to you?
I think for some of my friends, the answer would be no; there are some people for whom I have specific motifs and color choices in mind, and these quilts probably wouldn't appeal to them as much as a quilt that was designed specifically for them. This is a totally okay answer.
I suspect there's a subset of people for whom the answer is a vehement yes: they would get a kick out of 'their' quilt being a rescued / resurrected antique quilt top, even if it isn't wholly perfect.
I'd like to know which you are. Are you a new-quilt person? Are you an antique-salvage person? In either instance, did you have a pattern or color set growing up that fascinated you? (Muted Civil War colors, crazy quilts, turn-of-the-century indigos, Depression-era pastels, 1940s-1950s brights, etc)
(For myself, I'm likely to go trolling for a Depression-era 'double wedding ring' quilt; I slept under one as a child, and it wasn't until I grew up that I understood those pastel colors marked it as being from a certain place and time.)