Monday, November 28, 2011

Lest I Shall Be Forgotten: A Special Exhibit of Signature Quilts

I appreciate a local quilt show that includes antique quilts and their stories.  For some attendees it is the only chance they have to see antique and vintage quilts.  I was fortunate to be a white glove volunteer here:

A Harvest of Quilts
presented by The Flying Geese Quilters Guild 2011

One of the special exhibits:
"Lest I Shall be Forgotten:  A Special Exhibit of Signature Quilts" 
                   Curated by Sandy Sutton of Seal Beach, California
Sandy at the exhibit answering questions
With Sandy's permission I am able to share the pictures and information from the detailed tags displayed with each quilt. 
Sandy is a Flying Geese Guild member, former show chair and former guild president.  She is a member of the American Quilt Study Group and Repiecers; a southern California quilt Study Group, Orange County and Orange Grove Quilt Guilds.  Sandy collects and studies quilts and is an accomplished quilter.  Her diverse collection of quilts cover global interests and centuries of work.

In curating this exhibit, Sandy selected examples from 1846 - 2008 all demonstrating the signatures of women displayed on the FRONT of each quilt.  In sharing quilt heritage Sandy believes viewers will appreciate all quilts with more in depth knowledge.
Join me - and enjoy this special exhibit:

Sarah's Quilt  c. 1869
Collection of Sandy Sutton

A signature quilt contains one or more signatures.  

This applique pattern is known variably as Rose of Sharon or Pennsylvania Dutch Rose and is done in red, green and bright cheddar.  

The binding is done in two colors, an unusual choice for this time period.

Many early quilts had initials or names cross stitched on the back.

This proud maker cross stitched her name, Sarah Elizabeth Smith, and the date 1869 on the front of the quilt.


Margaret L.R. Wilkin Sunburst Quilt c. 1847     84 x 84
Collection of Sandy Sutton
This exuberant red, green, and yellow quilt was made in the sunburst design.  It is hand pieced and hand quilted.  Every bit of fabric was needed, as even some of the diamonds are pieced.   
Was this a gift? 
Did she make it commemorate a special event?  
We will probably never know.

It is rare to find initials or signatures in the quilting design, and when found, it is frequently hard to decipher the information.

Hand quilted in the lower right setting triangle:

                        July 1
            Margaret L.R. Wilkin
                    her quilt 1847

Another inscription, on the left side is difficult to read, the date 1844, then July 28 is at the top with Margaret's name repeated.


Pennsylvania Friendship Quilt c. 1860   80 x 99
Collection of Sandy Sutton
The variety of blocks make this a "sampler" album.  Friendship quilts were made by mare than one person to commemorate a special event such as a birthday, wedding or departure.  
Some of the blocks in this quilt are embroidered with names and some are printed in ink.  
Row 4 Block 1

   Family names include:

The discoloration is due to dye migration.


Quilt from the collection of Quilt Historian Pat L. Nickols

Chimney Sweep 
c. 1889  63 x 78
Collection of Pat L. Nickols

With the Western migration, quilt blocks and quilts were made to accompany the pioneers to the new territories and to remind their owners of friends and family left behind.  This chimney pattern was very popular for a friendship gift.  

This quilt is dated 1889 and has some wonderful indigo blue fabrics in the blocks.  

It was said to have been made by women from Santa Ana, California.

Harriet Huston Whitcomb Quilt

Sandy with the Harriet Huston Quilt
Dated 1846    113 x 102
Collection of Sandy Sutton

Each block is inked with a signature.
The center block is shown in detail below.

The center is inked with the following inscription: 
Harriet H. Huston is my name
          America is my station
    Springfield is my dwelling place
       And Christ is my salvation
    When I am dead and in my grave
        And all my bones are rotten
              When this you see
                 Remember me
          Lest I shall be Forgotten
                     A.D. 1846

Harriet was 20 years old in 1846.  The signatures on the quilt are from her friends and family.
She married John Whitcomb in 1850, none of his family is represented in the signatures on the quilt.


Redwork Fundraising Quilt c. 1910    75 x 76
Collection of Sandy Sutton

Individuals paid to have their names inscribed on fundraising quilts, which were then raffled to raise money for a variety of causes.  

In 1910 members of a congregation in Carbondale, Illinois paid to have their names embroidered in this petal fashion.  

The money was used to make church repairs.  It is done in red embroidery (red work) on white muslin - popular in the 29th Century.


Depression Era Friendship Quilt c.1935/2003   66 x 76
Collection of Sandy Sutton

The colors of this cheerful quilt belie the hard economic times of the Great Depression.  Many of these fabrics are from feed/flour sacks and many are of poor quality fabric.  Dated 1935 and decorated with whimsical embroidery, these friends and relatives were making the best of hard times.  

The name Miner is repeated several times in the blocks.  The top was purchased in an antique shop and quilted by Sandy in 2003.


Famous First Ladies Celebrity Quilt  
            c.1992  86 x 86
Collection of Flying Geese Guild, stored by each residing guild president

The concept of the First Lady Quilt came after Linda Otto Lipsett spoke at the guild the first year of its operation.
The idea of collecting signatures for friendship quilts really caught on in the guild.  

Realizing that not many first ladies were still around, they decided to contact additional women who were leaders in a variety of fields.  
A letter was sent with a square of muslin for the ladies to sign and return.  The blocks were then assembled and the top was hand quilted.  It took 6 years to complete. 
Signatures include:  Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Dianne Feinstein, Lucille Ball, Sally Ride, March Eu Fong, Geraldine Ferraro, Jean Nidetch and Erma name a few.

Note:  I saw a young lady use her smartphone to look up Dianne Feinstein...light bulb moment!


Darla's Friendship Quilt
Flying Geese Guild President Quilt c. 2009  
Collection of Darla Cox

Signature and friendship quilts continue to be made. 
This presentation quilt was made for Darla Cox, who was President of the Flying Geese Quilter's Guild in 2008.  

Members of the guild made and signed blocks that were put together to make this embellished quilt in Darla's favorite color - Purple.

Special THANKS to the volunteers at The Flying Geese guild who hung, tagged and supported the show with hours of volunteer work!  Your time is greatly appreciated.

American Quilt Study Group  click HERE

Flying Geese Quilters Guild click HERE

Repiecers, Southern California Quilt Study Group click HERE

Lest I Shall Be Forgotten Anecdotes and traditions of Quilts Nancy and Donald Roan
ISBN:  1-883801-02-8

Thank you for stopping by today!


  1. Oh, I wish our guild did this. But if I suggest it, I'll be in charge! Never mind.
    Thanks so much for sharing these beauties of today and long ago. It does make me want to be president of one of our chapters so I receive a signature quilt. What treasures!

  2. Ooooo, aaaaah!!!!! Wonderful! I will come back here often and look at these over and over!!! Love signature quilts!! Such history, love and dedication went in to each quilt. I can only pray that my quilts I leave will tell a story to those who have them.

    Thanks so much for sharing!!! Blessings

  3. Wow! Oh how wonderful! I'm going to be coming back to this post to peruse some more for sure. Such a wonderful exhibit!

  4. Thankyou for sharing these beautiful quilts!!! I do love Harriet's quilt! she did a great job for one so young!!!

  5. Thanks for the quilt show! The sunburst and Harriet Huston quilts are my favorites but I really enjoy seeing all signature quilts. I have two that have the signatures quilted into them and I haven't been able to read what it says. Although, one is definitely a "Margaret." For some reason, that's an easy name to quilt legibly.

  6. Wonderful post, Dawn. A great collection of signature quilts. What a delightful feast for the eyes! Love these vintage pieces.

  7. Loved seeing these beautiful quilts. Harriet did a beautiful job of her quilt..

  8. What an amazing exhibit!!
    The silly poem about bones in a grave is one I found and was going to use on my BTCT quilt. :)

  9. Oh my goodness, Sandy has gorgeous quilts. Thanks for the great photos and details about the quilts.

  10. I love seeing vintagge quilts at shows! I wish it was a requirement. !

  11. Oh my gosh I am completely moved by this. Completely. Thank you for sharing!

  12. THANK you for showing those beautiful quilts and stories about them. I LOVE visiting your blog :-).


Thanks for your comments!