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Indianapolis Chapter

Antique Quilts versus Contemporary Quilts–What’s the Difference?

Posted May 5, 2022

Contemporary quilts differ from antique quilts in several easy-to-spot ways. You don’t need to be a quilt historian to see the differences. When judging the age of a quilt, look at:

  • Quilting stitches – Antique quilts are usually hand quilted, whereas contemporary quilts are usually machine stitched.
  • Quilt size – King and queen size beds are a relatively modern invention.
  • Binding – Is the binding a separate strip of fabric sewn on? Or is the back fabric brought around to the front, folded, and sewn in place? Bringing the back fabric around to the front has fallen out of favor with today’s quilters.
  • Quilt block pattern – Some patterns, such as the Nine Patch, will always be popular, but others are much more common in antique quilts…Lone Star, Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Dresden Plate, and all appliqué patterns.
  • Fabric – Quilt historians look at the fabrics and date according to the “youngest” fabric.

Finally, keep in mind, a quilt could have blocks from one century & sashing from another century. Quilters make quilt tops and quilt blocks, then store them away for finishing later. Sadly, some quilters never got around to finishing them. When another generation finds those stored treasures, these quilts-to-be get another chance to become display-worthy and useful.

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