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Sandy Erdman: Whether heirloom or new, a quilt can be a prized treasure

January 14, 2019
A vintage applique quilt, white background with applique morning glories and colorful border, found at Mantorville Square.

My sewing room has stacks and stacks of beautiful fabrics, showing my love of fabric ready for me to do something magical with it during the cold winter months.

My mother was always one who could work with swiftness and accuracy making slipcovers, pillows and drapes that were the fad back in the ’50s and magically transformed our living room into a brand new space. My grandmother was the quilter who made summer quilts using tiny pastel prints with a length of fabric, the colors of the rainbow, turned into prized treasures.

Today most quilts are machine-stitched but can still be beautiful treasures and practical, too. Handmade quilted totes, gift bags, bowl covers and pillows are stitched for style and practicality. Whimsical quilts, using the newest techniques and blended with treasured old fabrics, are still made with love. Visiting with quilt makers, at antique shops and thrift stores, we can find folks still have the love for quilts old or new.

Quilt makers

Britta McColl, Fountain City, Wis.: “I don’t have so much time any longer to make quilts, but I’ve made quilts for my children when they were babies and toddlers. Then I made them quilts for their beds when they were teenagers, some quilts for beds at my mom’s house and for my bed. But I really call them comforters, not quilts. Some are very simple piecing of fabric, but nothing that would be called a traditional quilt. A very simple method because you just use strips that are cut, then sewn back together and put in different patterns.”

Deb Dunn, Winona: “I do the bowl cozies in various print fabric. My mom-in-law made a bowl cozy and I thought, what a great idea. So I started making them. I use mine all the time! Great for hot soup and cold ice cream. I have them in my booth at Treasures Under Sugar Loaf, Winona and sell them for $6.99 each.”

Quilts in antique malls/shops

Joan Thilges, The New Generations of Harmony, Harmony: “We always have a number of quilts for sale at our antique mall. Some people collect them and others, like me, use them for projects. We sold a damaged quilt top today to be used for pillows. I have sewn them to muslin and made valances or dust ruffles. Older quilts are popular for wall hangings or stacked for display. We also have a number of vintage quilting books selling for $2 to $10. Good quality quilts typically sell from $100 to $350 in the mall.”

Chris Rand Kujath, Old River Valley Antique Mall, Stewartville: “Most of the quilts we have are older, we do have a couple of newer ones. I think we still have a couple of quilts for kids. Most people buy them to use. I don’t recall seeing any cut-ups lately. Our quilts usually sell from $10 and up.”

Quilts in thrift shops

Shayna Dais, Rusty Bucket, Winona: “We really do not have anyone in the shop that ‘makes quilts’ but we always have some in our shop and they are good sellers as we keep the prices affordable. We try to find patterns and colors to fit the time of year we’re selling them.”

Betty Butters, Catch My Thrift, Stewartville: “I have a couple of quilts, but they are newer made, selling at $8.99 to $12.99.”

Auctions, estate sales and flea-markets

At these sales most often a quilt will be buried under other items or sold with a group of items. I have seen this happen quite frequently and in most cases it is the “tops” which are unfinished piecing that has yet to be “turned into a quilt.” Families often aren’t able to finish these tops and they can be a find for someone who can finish them. I have even found them at craft shows unfinished.

Added information

If you have an heirloom quilt, it is best to have information documenting it for insurance reasons in case of a fire, water or a storm. An appraiser will evaluate your quilt and provide you with a written form setting its value. A rider can be added to your homeowner’s policy with this information.

If it is not properly appraised and documented, many insurance companies will only refund you the replacement cost of your materials, but only if you have saved your receipts for your fabric purchases. No matter how much insurance you have purchased, if a quilt is not appraised, you will not receive the value of your quilt, only material costs.

A label is vital on a quilt. It’s history. List information about the maker, date, pattern, why it was made and if it has won awards or displayed somewhere. All this adds to the value when appraising a quilt. Don’t put the history of the quilt on a piece of paper, as it can easily be separated — put the history on a label on the quilt.

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