What’s Old is New Again – Vintage Family Quilts

The April Island Batik Ambassador challenge is to “Look Back” and allow vintage quilts to inspire new creations. I am blessed to own over 30 vintage family quilts and they are all so inspiring. Most were made by either my grandmother, Mary Brown Pliler, or my great aunt, her sister, Effie Brown Barker. Each of these ladies made beautiful quilts, what today we mainly call utility quilts – quilts that were both beautiful and functional. Occasionally there were the “fancy” quilts – but the ones with the most memories are the ones used as “covers” when my sister Amy and I would stay at our grandmother’s.

Originally when I received the list of challenges for the year I thought of a quilt made by my grandmother’s sister-in-law Gustia Brown. Actually, we aren’t sure if she made it or not, but I inherited it from her estate so I call it Aunt Gustia’s quilt. Forgive the quality of the photo – this was taken not long after Hurricane Harvey when we were still living in the house trying to move things to storage…this quilt was my “comfort” quilt during that time.  I’m not sure of the pattern but it appears to me to be mini “trip around the world” blocks set on point with a pieced sashing. Some might call it a “postage stamp” quilt design. All I know is I liked it and thought it would be fun to recreate…I could just imagine it in beautiful Island Batik Fabrics….ah, but a gal can change her mind!

Vintage Family Quilt fro the estate of Gustia Brown, owned by Karen Overton

Sharing of the Vintage Family Quilts

Lest you think I’m the greedy one in the family, I’d like to mention that my mother and my sister both have their fair share of family vintage quilts – including some present day quilts that I have made them and one each that they themselves have made.

So here it was Friday, April 27 and I need to make my April challenge…I decided against Aunt Gustia’s because it’s packed in storage somewhere during Harvey reconstruction and I wanted a better photo if it were to be my “inspiration”…so I called my sister and asked if she’d take photos of some of the quilts she had and text them to me so I could start sewing that night.

Vintage Family Quilt circa 1956 made by Effie Brown Barker, owned by Amy Tull

When my sister sent this one I knew this was the one!!! For one reason, it’s scrappy – which I love, and it’s purple – which both of us love! So into the Island Batik Ambassador box I dove, totally inspired by this vintage family quilt.

What is Old is New Again

All the fabrics in my reproduction quilt were provided to me by Island Batik as part of their ambassador program or are from my personal Island Batik stash.

Island Batik Stash Builders

In my wonderous box of Island Batik fabric, there were 5″ strips of fabrics that were either a part of this year’s or last year’s Stash Builder rolls. Perfect for scrappy! The quilt needed to be a minimum of 36″ x 36″ so I figured 6″ nine-patches made from 2 1/2″ strips would be perfect when sashed with purple to represent the original quilt. I loved that there was no rhyme or reason to the 9 patches except they were of two different prints per block. I could do that!

Fabrics are chosen and pressed


Preparing the fabric

I’m a huge fan of strip piecing so I figured out how to strip piece my nine patches. Since the stash builders were 5″ x WOF I decided to cut three 2.5″ x 5″ sections of each strip – which barely made a dent in the stash so these fabulous fabrics will resurface in another scrappy quilt in the future! I then arranged two sets for each block. Set 1 would have fabric A, fabric B, and then fabric A again. Set 2 would be the opposite with fabric B, fabric A, and finally, fabric B. When subcut into 2 1/2″ strips they could be rearranged to make the nine patch.


Strips were alternated and sewn together to make the strata needed for the nine patches


Then came the hard part. Deciding which sub-cuts to use and which one would be left over (perhaps pieced into another scrap quilt or on the back?)

This way or…


..that way? What would you pick?

Soon all 20 blocks were pieced and pressed. Time to call it a night!

Soon all the blocks were sewn together


Day Two – A New Method of Construction

I have a method of “pre-sashing” my blocks to make it easier and quicker to sew the blocks together. The blocks measured 6 1/2″ unfinished so I cut my sashing 2 1/2″ x 6 1/2″. This is where I deviated from the original, my sashing would have to be scrappy based on the fabrics at hand. I could just imagine Great Aunt Effie nodding her head in agreement – she was a very practical woman and I believe she would have encouraged me to use what I had on hand.

Adding pre-cut side sashing to the blocks while listening to music on my iPad


Next, I sewed the cornerstone unit to the remaining sashing


Sew the prepared sashing on the other side of the blocks


In no time, 20 presashed nine patch blocks are ready to layout for the quilt

Looking Back – Family Stories

I took a little break and decided to call my mom – I wanted to hear “the rest of the story”. Seems this quilt was given to her as a wedding gift in 1956 made by her aunt, my great aunt Effie. I asked her how my sister happened to come by it and none of us could remember the how, when or why. I do recall Amy saying that she liked purple before I did (grin) so it was hers. She shared with me yesterday that it is used daily (or should I say nightly) on her bed. Indeed, a well-beloved quilt.

I played with the layout for quite a while before deciding on this arrangement. I then sewed the blocks together in columns instead of rows and added the “missing” sashing to the top and left side.

I also learned today that mom used this quilt as a “pallet” or blanket on the desert floor when I was a baby on the naval base in Nevada. Mom said she could spread it out and place me on the quilt along with my little friend Wendy. Mom said Wendy would always crawl off and have to be placed back on the quilt whereas I was content and never crossed the borders! She said I was “dainty” like that probably not wanting to get dirty.

I like the way this little quilt has turned out, I can’t wait to have my longarm returned (and my studio reconstruction completed) so I can quilt it. I think I will call it Boundaries, in remembrance of the larger quilt with those beautiful purple boundaries that keep me safe and secure as I played outside as a baby. Who knows, perhaps this will be a little floor pallet for our future 1st grandchild “Baby O” due in early November!

Boundaries, designed and pieced by Karen Overton as inspired by a family vintage quilt. Pieced top completed April 28, 2018

This is Karen Overton, The Quilt Rambler, thankful for family quilts full of love and memories!

What’s old is new again – especially with bright Island Batik Fabrics!

Don’t forget to visit the other Island Batik Ambassadors to see their monthly challenges! Click here for a listing of their blog sites.

Also, you may want to visit a previous blog post where I recreated my baby quilt made by my grandmother with Island Batik fabrics as part of the 2017 ambassador challenge. Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2.

Please leave a note and share with me one of your family quilt stories! Thanks for visiting The Quilt Rambler, Let’s talk quilts!!


12 thoughts on “What’s Old is New Again – Vintage Family Quilts

    • TheQuiltRambler says:

      Yes I’m blessed with a lot of quilters in the family, even though I wasn’t taught to quilt by any of them (sigh). My mom is more of a garment sewer and maker of fabulous curtains for all the houses we’ve lived in. My sister just made her first quilt last year and I was able to quilt it for her on the longarm. One day I will pull out all of my family quilts and do a photo blog to share them. Yep, quilting is personal isn’t it? A labor of love.

  1. Roseanne says:

    Hi Karen,
    I just love how this little quilt turned out along with the wonderful tale you shared. The nine-patch block in one of my favorites and I turn to it often. I’m looking forward to hearing tomorrow’s podcast!
    ~smile~ Roseanne

    • TheQuiltRambler says:

      Sometimes it’s good to just keep it simple – be it ever so humble the 9 patch is a wonderful quilt block with so many possibilities! Thanks for the encouragement that I can count on you in the podcast audience!

  2. Kathleen McCormick says:

    I love that you made this quilt ias a reproduction of one of the family quilts. The way of putting on the sashing is a fun technique – I’ll keep that in mind for one day. Look forward to seeing it quilted one day.

    • TheQuiltRambler says:

      I have so many family quilts that I would love to reproduce at some point…eager to get this one quilted but I’m told it will be a while before I have a studio again…sigh…and yes, do try the sashing trick – it’s a time saver!

  3. Brenda says:

    It is so special that you made this quilt like the one your mother received as a wedding gift from her aunt! My great grandmother was the quilter in our family I do have one of her quilts. There are scraps of some of my dresses she made me in it! I love it. I’m sure “Baby O” will enjoy playing on it, and one day look back on it with loving memories!

    • TheQuiltRambler says:

      I’m glad you have a family heirloom quilt too! I have one that my grandmother made out of my clothing so I know how special yours is to you! And yes, hopefully I can get it quilted before “Baby O” is here to enjoy it!

  4. Pingback: One Monthly Goal Update - April - The Quilt Rambler

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