Friday Favorites: Vintage Quilt Photos

I am inspired by so many things, I decided that every Friday, I will highlight a favorite person, thing, or idea. Maybe you will be inspired too! See all past Friday Favorites here.


Almost without realizing it, I have been amassing a collection for a little project I’m working on. It being no secret that I already love everything about quilts- making quilts, decorating with quilts, researching quilts, being around quilts, I recently started searching the internet for vintage photos of quilts. Just wanted to see what I could find. After a few minutes of looking, I was completely hooked. Which is kind of funny, because I’ve always thought vintage photos of people I don’t know were, well, creepy! But something about a few I found were pleasing in some way. For the most part, the types of quilt or blanket photos I found ran from one side of the spectrum to the other (there isn’t always clearly a quilted quilt in them, could be a knitted or crocheted piece, or just a blanket, not always easy to tell). Most of what I saw didn’t appeal to me- old quilting bee photos (althought those can have a certain charm, wasn’t what I was looking for) or pre-1940’s ones (no one smiling, lots of sad-looking picnics). So I soon developed some tight criteria for what I liked in the photos and a few I’m sharing here. I wanted them to be of people or families together- maybe at the beach or having a picnic-on the quilt or somehow using the quilt in the photo. Although sometimes the quilt is front and center, the main part of the photo like, in the one above (which looks like it could be a crocheted blanket). In other photos, maybe only a corner shows.
Little did I know that these photos would capture my imagination the way they have. Really! I had no idea! I find myself looking at these photos and making up stories about what must have been going on in them when I’m working in the studio. Take the one below, an image of a girl on a Sunbonnet Sue quilt.

 October 1955

Oh my gosh I love her sweet, coy smile, her bangs… Is this her room? Who is taking the picture? And what is that, tacked up on her wall, in the right corner of the photo? Favorite comics? Is this taken in a cabin? Did she just hear some really good news? I wonder if the swiss dot curtains on the window are white?

Back of photo: “Old Orchard Beach Mainn (or Maine)”, August 5, 1936

When I look at the photo above, I wonder if this was an impromptu stop at the beach, on their way to or from somewhere. Probably because most of the people seem dressed in clothes, not bathing suits. And the basket in front, picnic food? And I love the dotted shirt the lady on the left is wearing (I think that’s what makes the photo for me). Very little of the blanket or quilt is seen here, but they are all piled on it, clearly.

Nothing written on the back of the one above, but it is my absolute favorite at the moment. I.Love.This.Photo. What a beautiful family, I want to know everything about them. I love the smile on the mother, her dress, the women in the background, the umbrella, the dad’s outfit. And again, who is taking the photo? Maybe another sibling? Again, the quilt or blanket is barely visible in this one, definitely not a key part of the story. But there they are. On it.

When I put all these photos together to look at the little collection I’ve started, the quilts and blankets suddenly become more key. They are the real gathering point in the photos. It’s all happening around the boundary of the quilt. Be it a special occasion, or a cozy place. (Edited to add: I’ve been adding more photos to this collection slowly, and post them on Instagram using the hashtag #vintagepeopleonquilts.)
Pretty sure my kids think I’ve gone a little off the deep end. It wouldn’t be the first time. These images have truly captured my imagination, and if I’m honest, my heart. I feel quite protective of these images, of people I do not know, yet have developed a fondness for. I don’t know quite yet how they are inspiring me, but they most definitely are. Thanks for letting me share them. And thanks for all the great feedback on the Friday Favorites series.
Happy Friday!

  • Debbie

    January 24, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Love that these have entranced you and I’m anxious to see and hear more …

  • Byrd

    January 24, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    These photos are beautiful. I think this a great project you’ve started. A picture is worth a thousand words . . . or maybe just 50. Take care, Byrd

  • Annie

    January 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    The pic of Old Orchard Beach is in Maine. It definitely is a destination place, huge amusement park, long pier with eating booths, miles of white sandy beach. It’s as big and popular a place today as it was the date of your old pic. I live only a few miles away. Lovely old pictures.
    I enjoy your blog.
    Annie : )

  • Sara

    January 27, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    That’s so funny. For over a year I have been collecting vintage photos of women in nature. I have criteria too! Not overly cutesy, showing a more rugged side than we expect from women of the past. You have a lovely collection!

  • Cheryl Arkison

    January 29, 2014 at 8:20 am

    I’ll keep my eye out for you when I’m at the antique mall.

  • blair/wisecraft

    January 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Thank you Debbie!

  • blair/wisecraft

    January 29, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks Byrd, I completely agree!

  • blair/wisecraft

    January 29, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you so much for enhancing the story Annie!

  • blair/wisecraft

    January 29, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    That sounds like a wonderful collection. I really like the idea of honing in on the details that speak most to us. It weeds out a lot of possibilities (unfortunately) but it makes the collection have so much more meaning.

  • blair/wisecraft

    January 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Thank you Cheryl!

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