The Antique Honeycomb Quilt was a wonderful find during a visit to an antique shop in Farmersburg, IN during 1997. The top was in a pile of other antique tops back in a dark corner. I paid $15 for it, and happily took it home.
This quilt pattern is a bit different than “normal” because the honeycombs are more rectangular than hexagon.
I compared the fabrics to some other quilts I had. And did some research, including a visit with my aunt who specializes in antique quilts. We both decided it was probably made in the very early 1900’s. The range of fabrics is from the 1860’s to 1900.
Some of the browns are faded and starting to shred.
Please note that this quilt is not a charm quilt where each fabric is different. It is scrap with lots of repeated fabrics. Someone using what they had on hand at the time.
A note on old fabric:
The antique honeycomb quilt top really called out to me for attention and care. I very carefully and gently washed (really soaked) it in the bathtub (see Method 2 of this link). I did not wring it out or agitate it in any way, but there were problems even with this.
Some of the fabrics that were intact prior to washing started shredding. The flip side is that some of the fabrics stood up to the water just fine, and looked brighter.
Fragile old fabric is something to be aware of if you like antique textiles of any sort. The condition of the fabric will determine if it is for show or use.
Some basic research shows that if any metal was used in the dying or dye setting of a fabric, the fabric is much more likely to shred or deteriorate with time. This seems to occur more in the time period of the mid 1800s to early 1900s.
To hand quilt or not:
Even with some of the pieces shredding, I decided to hand quilt it. There are two reasons for this: I could keep the tension of the quilt frame loose enough to quilt but not put stress on the fabric. The top called out to be completed into a quilt.
This quilt had no border, and I chose to leave it the original size of 68″ x 74″.
Here is the antique looking fabric for the backing.
The hand quilting is a simple outline around each piece. I simply “eye-balled” the quilting. It looks uniform enough that I have been asked what I marked it with.
A simple solid red binding completed the quilt.
Most quilts that I make are intended to be used. This one is only for display. It looks very homey and comfortable.
Some quilters would replace the shredded pieces with reproduction fabric, but I chose to leave them there. It adds to the antique look and feel of this unusual quilt.
This quilt gets many comments from people who like antiques, and other quilters. It is an unusual block, the various fabrics, the backing, the hand stitching all combine to make for a conversation starter.
Would I do it again?
I honestly do not know if I would take the time and care to hand quilt an antique quilt top again. This one spoke to me and I paid attention. It is a source of happiness for me every time I look at it.
The moral to this is to follow your heart when making a quilt. Enjoy the process. Pick fabrics and colors you enjoy. Use a technique you enjoy. There is no right or wrong to making a quilt for yourself.