Colonial Belle Revisited

Colonial Belle Revisited

I selected my inspiration quilt because I wanted to try my hand at appliqué and was searching for a design reminiscent of the romantic feel of the Colonial Revival era. I remembered the picture of a quilt that my friend, Pat Lyons, sent me when she was trying to identify its source. We tracked down an illustration of the original pattern in an ad in Household Magazine, 1934. The magazine offered six free blocks with the purchase of two one-year subscriptions.

Rosie Werner then located some pictures of actual vintage blocks which helped me trace the designs of the six Colonial Belles. The patterns were also offered by Grandmother Clark’s Quilting Designs and were titled “Poster Girls.” The set of six white appliqué 18” quilt blocks sold for seventy-five cents.

I did not copy the original entirely because I wanted to incorporate my own vintage fabrics and trims into the Belles’ dresses and hats. Plus, I was not able to find the actual printed paper pattern, so I had to trace the ladies from completed blocks in existing quilts. Reproducing their faces proved more difficult than I anticipated, since I was actually reducing each figure to one-half size. Some of the eyes and noses contain only one or two stitches!

The similarities that I noticed between my quilt and the original included an obvious need for detail – my inspiration quilt contained twelve blocks and each was meticulously crafted down to the last eyelash, flower petal, and bow. The blocks deserved the attention that I tried to provide.

The main difference between the two quilts was that I had to adjust the original figures to one-half scale, necessitating the correct proportions of miniature prints and small trims.

I felt most connected with the maker while working on the embroidery in front of the TV, imaging my unknown compatriot taking her own stitches while listening to the radio during the 1930s.

My experience differed from my anticipated one in that I did not make my blocks as big as I should have, and had to adjust my sashing and border measurements accordingly. It also took much longer than I estimated to embroider the blocks – hats off to my inspiration quilt maker who embroidered twelve colorful 18” blocks!