Signature Blocks

I got a new addition to my growing supply of projects to be finished a few days ago.  20 blocks from an eBay auction

All but one have embroidered signatures.  when I make the blocks into a quilt I will add my signature to the blank block.

here are a few of the signatures

I find signature quilts fascinating.  I look at the names and wonder about the people who made the blocks; what was the occasion?  who was it for? why did it never get finished? So many unanswered questions.

My favorite quilt historian, Karen Alexander, (see her blog at http://www.karenquilt.blogspot.com/) has been working on The Signature Quilt Project.  Fascinating work! http://www.quiltindex.org/sqpessay.php.  I don’t have the patience for that kind of research, but sure admire those that do.

A few years back I purchased a signature quilt top from Oklahoma.  It was made in 1935 in Dewright.

It was in very bad shape!  It clearly had not been stored safely as there were mouse eaten areas in 4 blocks (right on the fold and through 4 layers) and it was filthy!  I was also confronted with the problem that it was so far from flat that it could not be quilted.  I had to separate the top into individual blocks, soak them and then press flat.  What I found is that the blocks were not all the same size.  Since each block was made by a different person each one had a different idea of how to do it.  I assume they all had the same pattern to work from, and about 1/2 of the women traced the pattern, cut it out on the lines and sewed it together (2 had a sewing machine).  The other 1/2 of the women traced the pattern and cut it out adding seam allowances, making for a much larger block. Over an inch larger in some cases.

Whoever assembled the blocks had the challenge of easing all the big blocks into the small ones and matching all the points.  I don’t know how she did it but she did, the only problem was that it became a puffy wavy mess (perhaps that is why it was never finished)

I trimmed all the blocks to the same size, and assembled again….I could not match the points, but it was now flat and quiltable.

click the picture to enlarge and you will see that the blocks don’t match up, but i put them back together in the same order as the original.

The mouse holes were repaired by pressing the remaining fabric flat and then fusing a piece of muslin on the back.  see if you can tell on this block.

(look at bottom half , in the center, below the signature square)

After all the cleaning and repair and re-assembly I decided to add a border.  I had a jelly roll of fabric in the “Hello Betty” line from Moda which seemed like it would work, so sewed the strips together and cut them to make the border

I had a hard time figuring out what to do with the corners but ended up mitering them.

The quilting was all done by hand. I think it always shows better on the back

I used Hobbs 80/20 cotton batting and Coats cotton quilting thread.  I keep thinking that I should record the amount of time it takes to finish a project, but so far I have not been that organized.  It took a long time but was great fun to “save” this quilt.

Karen Alexander was kind enough to do a preliminary search to find out about the city Dewright Oklahoma.  It is in Seminole county, named after Dewey Right, the first postmaster.  I fully intended to follow-up with research to find out about the people who made the quilt, However I started another, and another, and another quilt and the research thought was gone.  Perhaps its time to start again.  Here are a few of the signatures from the quilt.

I think every quilt tells a story, we just don’t always know how to read them.

Happy Quilting

Tim

9 thoughts on “Signature Blocks

  1. Ann Champion says:

    I’ve seen how some quilters would “make” blocks fit together. There’s no way some of those quilts would ever “quilt out”!
    You did a fantastic job of saving the blocks. I couldn’t find the mend even with enlarging the pic.
    I love the border you gave them. Those fabrics are the perfect compliment. Once again, your fantastic quilting just make the quilt.

    I’m so glad you won the latest blocks. I know they went to a good home. Isn’t it fun one block was blank so you can sign it? I think they were meant to be yours? 🙂

  2. timquilts says:

    Thanks Ann
    It was fun to save them and keep that piece of history from going into the trash.
    I am excited to get to work on the new blocks, they should be relatively easy since they are all the same size…I have to decide how to sign that blank block…not sure if I should date it?

  3. Cm Spinster says:

    Hi,
    I was just wondering if you knew what the name of the pattern is in the Dewright Oklahoma signature quilt you show in this post? I really like it.

  4. Tammie Warren says:

    I find it sad the receipient of the quilt never got to see it. it turned out beautiful.

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