History of Solids in Quilts
One of the subsets of vintage quilts are quilts made with solid fabrics. You may think quilts made with solids are a modern thing, but that isn’t the case at all.
Pictured quilt is Pieces of History, and antique quilt from the American Patchwork & Quilting collection.
Maybe the most recognizable quilts made with solids are Amish quilts. The Amish began making quilts in the late 1800s, developing a style that included geometric shapes being made with solid fabrics. It wasn’t until the late 1960s-1970s that people outside of the Amish communities starting discovering these quilts and bringing them to the broader collecting community.
Research of these Amish quilts has discovered there are regional differences in terms of the colors that could be used in different parts of the country. Quilts made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, look different that those made in Holmes County, Ohio, and different from those made in Kalona, Iowa. In recognition of these beautiful quilts, the US Postal Service issued a set of stamps featuring quilts from the Esprit collection as part of its "American Treasures" collection in 2001.
While we think of red, green, and white to be Christmas colors, they were often combined in appliqué quilts of the 1800s. White for the background, solid green for the vine and leaves, and shades of red for the floral motifs.
1930s fabrics bring to mind small prints in pastel or sherbet colors. But there are many documented examples of 1930s quilts with those same pastel colors in solids. Dresden plate, Double Ring, and Grandmother’s Flower Garden are several examples of patterns that were made with solids only. These quilts often have a very modern look to them.
Two-color solid quilts are easy to find. Blue and white, green and white, and of course, red and white being some of the most sought-after by collectors. In 2011, over 650 red-and-white quilts from the Joanna S. Rose collection filled the Park Avenue Armory in NYC for the Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts exhibit. In the years since the exhibit, we have seen books, patterns in magazines, and other exhibits inspired by these amazing solid two-color quilts.
Every other year, The American Quilt Study Group issues a challenge to members to make new quilts based on vintage quilts. In 2018, the challenge was “200 Years of Solid Color Quilts, Cultural and Regional Distinctions." The challenge was to create a small piece inspired by a vintage quilt made with solids. Forty-seven of those quilts have been published in a book called, 200 Years of Solid Color Quilts: A Quilt Study.
Solid quilts have timeless appeal and are used by many modern quilters now. You can find free patterns using solids here.