New From Old: Vintage Blocks Reborn

melissa • January 05, 2017 • 1 Comment


  1. I have a fondness for modernistic design.
  2. I also have a fondness for ’30s prints.
  3. My weirdly anthropomorphic theory is that antiques and vintage things are pleased when they are still in use.

So when I saw Mary Kerr’s book, Twisted: Modern Quilts with a Vintage Twist (Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2016), I stopped cold in the Market aisles, lust taking root in my heart. While it’s one thing to riff off historic block patterns and design fresher versions, it’s quite another feat to take actual, pre-existing vintage blocks and give them a modernistic makeover. That’s what Mary and a team of guest quilters do in her book, and I have a feeling these orphans are quite pleased with their new “homes.”

The fragments and blocks that became the 21 quilts and one pillow featured in Twisted were treasures Mary found from various sources. Mary, being an AQS Certified Appraiser and quilt historian, among other things, knew exactly how to assess the odd old bits she came across. The oldest dates to 1880, while the majority are from the 1940s. Some were built into designs with little slicing and dicing, and others–perhaps due to stains or wear spots–were deconstructed a bit more, and reincarnated in whole new blocks or appliques.

Lemon Twist by Mary Kerr. Quilted by Barbara Dann. Photo courtesy of Mary Kerr


Pumpkin Harvest by Mary Kerr. Quilted by Gina Perkes. Photo courtesy of Mary Kerr

Stirring the Coffee by Mary Kerr. Quilted by Kelly Cline. Photo courtesy of Mary Kerr

Most of the projects were designed and constructed by Mary, and a few even included vintage fabric that was added for the big finish. For quilting, she turned to a bevy of fine quilters, including Cathy Wiggins, Candace West, Kelly Cline, Donna Ferrill James, Deb Levy, Gina Perkes, Dustin Farrell and Karen McTavish.

Mary Kerr Photo by Bonnie McCaffery

Several of the Twisted quilts were also on exhibition during International Quilt Market and International Quilt Festival last fall in Houston. That exhibition (see some images here) will be touring at other shows in 2017, including the New England Quilt Museum from May-July 2017. Give yourself a treat, and try to see these pretties in person. (See Mary’s website for updates on the tour.)

So, now let’s get back to my orphans. Thanks to a friend who de-stashed a few years ago (and her stash included remnants of other friends’ stashes), I have a small cache of either vintage or vintage-styled orphan blocks. Most are needle-turn applique with some embroidery, and there’s a big hand-stitched bow-tie block. I am eager to use some of the ideas Mary explored with the designs in her book, and see what I can come up with. (And when time allows–what’s that?–I can’t wait to poke around some of Albuquerque’s vintage and antique markets to see if I can unearth any more treasures.)

Quilt. Sew. Live. Breathe.


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1 Comment

  • LIzzie • 4 years ago
    COMMENT #1

    Exciting! I wish you luck in your block renewals! This book looks fantastic too….

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