Economy Patch

By: Bonnie Dwyer
Manchester, Maine

This early twentieth-century Economy Patch, all wool tied comforter is part of my personal collection. It was acquired in July of 2014 at a fundraiser for the Quilter’s Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana. It is lap-sized; the all wool top is foundation pieced by hand onto white cotton muslin and tied with red wool yarn in the center of each patch. Its overall condition indicates it was heavily used. The use of multiple colors, randomly placed, speaks of a scrap quilt, which I interpret to mean this was made with materials at hand. A true ‘economy’ quilt.

The strong, saturated colors caught my eye; and the extremely soft red backing wool, which looked like a recycled blanket, possibly hand-woven, had a comforting feel. One puzzling feature was the narrow flange on the two long sides. Was this purposeful? Or were these dictated because of the size of the backing piece? These are questions to which there are no answers — only speculation.

I paper pieced the study quilt in one-fourth scale, using Cherrywood cotton fabrics to replicate the look of wool. It was designed using Electric Quilt design software and printing the templates for paper piecing. I closely followed the color placement to imitate the original, although it is not matched exactly.

I enjoyed creating this study quilt, while speculating about the original quilt’s maker. Did she live in the area where it was purchased? Did she create the flange for a purpose? Is its size indicative of a quilt made to cover a coffin? Could the flanges have been created for tucking under the sides of a coffin cover? These were some thoughts I entertained, but eventually dismissed because of the colors. Bright red would seem inappropriate for such a somber occasion. So, I concluded this was a lap quilt, pure and simple. After all, that backing wool begs to be used for snuggling.