It’s no secret that quilting has been around for generations, but have they always looked the same?
Sure, fabric styles have changed and almost every quilter now has a sewing machine of their own, but what did 1920s quilts and 1930s quilts actually look like?
I’m excited to share with you this post some gorgeous vintage quilts and even some depression-era quilt patterns.
I believe it’s extremely important to look back at some of these older quilt patterns to truly understand the craft of quilting and see the labor of love these quilters put into their craft.
- How to Find Inspiration from Vintage Quilt Patterns
- 13 Beautiful 1920s and 1930s Vintage Quilt Patterns
- 1. 1920s Maltese Cross Quilt
- 2. 1930s LeMoyne Star Quilt
- 3. Grandmother’s Fan Quilt
- 4. 1930s Triple Irish Chain Postage Stamp Quilt
- 5. Sunbonnet Sue Quilt
- 6. Flower Garden Quilt
- 7. 1930s String Quilt
- 8. Sailboats Quilt
- 9. Carolina Lily Quilt
- 10. Double Wedding Ring
- 11. Bright Feed Sack Star
- 12. Scrappy Nine-Patch
- What Is a Depression Quilt?
How to Find Inspiration from Vintage Quilt Patterns
A great aspect about many vintage quilt patterns is they are truly timeless and can still be “stylish” and beautiful today. So how do I find inspiration from vintage quilts? Well, the internet is an amazing tool.
A quick search can bring you images of all kinds of quilt patterns to study and take notes from for your own quilt projects.
I personally love to go to antique shops and see vintage quilts in person. Actually being able to touch and see the stitching and the way these vintage quilts were pieced (most by hand) is such an awesome experience. If you haven’t done this before, I definitely recommend it.
Something I love to see is when someone takes a vintage quilt pattern and creates a quilt with it using more modern fabrics. There’s just something about the melding of old and new that is really exciting to observe.
However you decide to look into vintage quilts, take these things into consideration to glean some insight and inspiration from them:
- The fabrics that were used-Most vintage quilts were made from fabric that was purchased specifically for a quilt. They’re made from old clothes, sheets, curtains, and other items the quilter could find around the house.
- The stitches-Think about it: these quilts have stayed together 90+ years from stitches that were done by hand.
- The pattern-Many of the old patterns had special meaning to the maker or for the person who was being gifted the quilt. They don’t just “look good”, many symbolized something very special.
- The time it took to create-I love to think about who the quilter was that created a specific quilt, what it meant to them, and how much time they spent stitches their masterpiece together.
So without further ado, let’s check out a few vintage quilt patterns from the 1920s and 1930s.
13 Beautiful 1920s and 1930s Vintage Quilt Patterns
This quilt was completely pieced by hand sometime in the 1920s. As you can see, the maltese cross blocks aren’t “perfect,” but that’s what gives it the handmade charm.
Likely made from old shirts and other clothing, this quilt is a beautiful example of taking what you have and making something beautiful with it.
This stunning quilt top was made in the 1930s. The LeMoyne Star may look like a regular eight point star, but if you look closely, the proportions are different, making this star a much more complex task. I love the mixture of bold colors and pastels on this quilt top.
This beauty is a replica of a Grandmother’s Fan quilt. The fan would have been hand-pieced and then appliqued onto the quilt top by hand. It then would be hand-quilted similarly to how the person who made this replica quilted it.
This photo is an up-close look at one of the “links” in the Triple Irish Chain pattern. The 1930s quilt patterns have a distinct look about them.
Since it was during the Great Depression, they are almost always mix-matched fabrics but with many details. These quilts likely helped the women working on them to focus and suspend their worries about the economy.
5. Sunbonnet Sue Quilt
The Sunbonnet Sue pattern is one of the more recognizable patterns from the 1930s. This design was very popular for children’s quilts.
Each little Sue is hand appliqued onto the quilt top and adds a sweet girly charm to the quilt. There is also a male counterpart design called “Overall Sam.”
6. Flower Garden Quilt
Hexagon blocks are one of those blocks that have stood the test of time. I love how these hexagons are arranged to look like flowers.
Think of all the time this quilt took to piece and then later quilt — all by hand. This is a beautiful example of the Flower Garden quilt pattern that gained popularity in the 1920s.
7. 1930s String Quilt
A string quilt is simply a quilt top made from larger scraps of fabric. This design would have been a popular way to create quilts during the Great Depression. This quilt was pieced in the 1930s and was quilted by a modern-day quilter.
If you didn’t know it was pieced back in the 30s, you could definitely mistake it for a quilt made right now since this style of quilt is still popular today.
8. Sailboats Quilt
Isn’t this quilt pattern adorable? These beautiful sailboat blocks are made up of half-square triangle blocks and rectangles, something we could very easily replicate today.
This sailboat block actually dates back to before the US Civil War, and there are some who say this specific block was used on quilts that helped slaves escape through the Underground Railroad.
The sailboat symbolized a waterway was nearby.
9. Carolina Lily Quilt
The blocks for this gorgeous quilt were made sometime in the 1920s. I had never seen this Carolina Lily pattern before, but wow, I would love to recreate something like this! The flower in these blocks is so interesting. I also thought it was pretty interesting that whoever created this quilt top chose such modern colors for the time it was created.
This gorgeous Double Wedding Ring quilt features soft pastel fabrics and a creamy white background that makes the interlocking rings pop! This quilt pattern is one of the more popular patterns in this era and represents love and coming together in marriage.
Looking closely at the rings, you can see they are made from various fabrics. This quilt took over 100 hours to create, and you can tell by looking at it that it took a lot of skill and creativity to make it.
Here is a quilt pattern called the Feed Sack Star pattern that features beautiful four-point starts on a crisp white backdrop.
I love the bright, pastel colors many quilters used in the early 1900s. Scrappy quilts were also all the rage back then, and this quilt is an excellent example. The quilter also chose to use a wide yellow binding that gives this quilt a fun, playful finish.
Here is another beautiful example of a scrappy quilt: a simple nine-patch quilt pattern. This beginner-friendly pattern would be a fun design to recreate. As you can see, the quilter used different clothing items in the traditional color palette of that time. The quilter used sashing between each nine-patch quilt block, allowing each block to stand out on its own.
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What Is a Depression Quilt?
A Depression quilt is a quilt that individuals made during the Great Depression era. These quilts can be characterized by their colorful, scrappy designs and white backgrounds.
The quilters used feed sacks for the background fabric and any clothing or household fabric items for the quilt blocks.
Women (and some men) made quilts during the Depression for several reasons. One apparent reason is that they needed them for warmth. The other less obvious but important reason is they made quilts for entertainment.
Being able to express themselves creatively kept their spirits up and brought them joy, something we can understand even today.
The timelessness of these quilt patterns is astonishing, and I hope they inspire you for your next quilt project. Imagine a hundred years from now if someone looks at one of your quilts and finds the inspiration to create their own interpretation.
Quilting is one of the crafts that will never go out of style and, with each generation, it will evolve and continue to be an enduring expression of the artist as the years go by.