Friday, July 5, 2013

Strawberry Festival Quilt Documentation

Every year during Strawberry Festival, we document quilts at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.  I have the honor to be the Documentation Chair, which basically means I get things ready and keep things going through the day.  
I got there early, before the museum opened, and spent some time taking pictures outside.  Above is the museum entrance (there's a handicap ramp on the side).

It wasn't so long ago that the barn pictured above was all we had of the museum, before it was restored and remodeled.  For years we held our documentations in this barn.  I would unlock the padlocks when I arrived, stomp and holler a little to warn the critters (like mice and frogs and snakes), and open the big sliding door on the other side.  We had electricity, which meant lights and an old refrigerator, but the barn always had to be cleaned a day ahead, and items left out tended to be a little damp the next day.  If it rained, water came in the open door.
I don't miss those days.  We now have a modern building, much better lighting, real restrooms (not port-a-potties) and even air conditioning.  I am grateful every day for all the volunteers who worked for so many years to make this museum a reality, and all those who are still working every day to keep it going.
The quilts at this year's Strawberry Fest were wonderful.  We saw 5 log cabin quilts of different varieties, 3 crazy quilts, 3 embroidered quilts (from the same family), 2 wholecloth and 1 almost wholecloth (it had a border), plus nine patch, Dresden plate, basket, 8 pointed stars, and many others.  Lots of different historical time periods were represented as well, from the 1840s to just last year.  Our largest group was made in 1930-1949, which is no surprise since we always see lots of quilts from that huge quilt revival.  But we also saw 6 quilts in the 1876-1900 range and 6 more from 1950-1975.
Here are some of the quilts brought to be documented:
A log cabin, the courthouse square variety.

Here's a detail.  Such great old fabrics.

Here's an interesting novelty technique.  The quilt is made of triangles which are sewn "quilt as you go" style.  The quilter cut a square of fabric and another square of flannel.  She folded the fabric around the flannel (which serves as batting), sewed it shut, and quilted it.  Then she whip stitched finished triangles together.

This photo shows the back, where you can see the whip stitching.

A wonderful log cabin in the barn raising setting.

A pair of quilts donated to a local museum.  The pattern is pineapple log cabin.

This is an original!  The maker appliqued her son's toddler clothes to a background square, and used the quilt as you go technique to quilt them.  As an added surprise, on the back of each square is appliqued the back of the outfit!  She didn't finish it until he had graduated from high school.

A wonderful scrap quilt.

A mostly-silk log cabin.

Almost a wholecloth quilt, this is stunning when hung.

Signed and dated in embroidery, this quilt was made in 1895.

An embroidered State Birds quilt, with only 48 states.  (This helps with dating!)

An amazing Dresden Plate quilt, in very good condition.

A beautiful embroidered quilt, in perfect condition.  The owner even has the booklet the pattern came from.

Stunning!  Tiny blocks with more than 20 pieces in each one.

Here's a detail of the quilt above.  Sadly, nothing is known of the maker.

Over the course of two days, we documented 30 quilts.  I am now in the process of scanning the forms and sending copies of them to the owners.
No matter how many times we do this, we always see something different.  Each quilter takes this art form, and makes it her own.  And this infinite variety is what makes this work so interesting.
Eventually, all these quilts and more will be on the Quilt Index website (
As an extra bonus, a famous quilter stopped by on Sunday (June 23) to watch.  It was Victoria Findlay Wolfe, and she mentioned us on her blog!  Here's the link:
Have you had your quilts documented?  I have to admit, I've only had one of mine done!


  1. I've been searching for more information on the type of quilt that A974 is. I have one very similar. It had been used as a table cover for about 5 years in a flea market I go to. Last time, the lady was mending it, so once again I asked if she'd consider selling it. WooHoo - she said yes! The ends of my quilt are in a sawtooth pattern, instead of zigzag like this one.

    I wonder why there aren't so many of these around? It seems like the ultimate on-the-go quilt making method.


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