Sunday, October 2, 2011

Great Aunt Laura's Double Wedding Ring Quilt top

This past weekend, I was given, by my Aunt Marg Hart, my Great Aunt Laura's Double Wedding Ring quilt top. The top - pieced by Great Aunt Laura in about 1931, was given to my Aunt Marg approximately 60 years ago. Aunt Marg told me that she doubted that she was going to get around to finishing it, so was giving it to me to finish. I'm thrilled!

The quilt top is HUGE for a quilt top made in the early 20th century. It measures 90 inches by 104 inches. That would have generously covered any full size bed with lots of hang on either side. It also would have tucked nicely up under and over pillows at the head of the bed.

The Double Wedding Ring quilt pattern was first published in 1928. However,
the flood gates opened in 1931 with a dozen or so publications illustrating the Double Wedding Ring and selling its pattern--Successful Farming, the Mountain Mist batting wrappers (pattern 21 ©1931), Woman's World, Nebraska Farmer, Missouri Ruralist.

I am going to guess that my mid-west great aunt (from Michigan) most likely used one of these patterns - thus my guestimate that her quilt was made c. 1931. I also find that the original pattern for the Double Wedding Ring instructed the quilter to sew the arcs of the ring to the center piece by stitching them down from the top, like an applique rather than the classic method of stitching the arcs to the center piece . This is indeed the way this top is constructed.

The numerous pieces found in this gorgeous quilt are predominately feed sack type fabrics. Colorfully printed sacks made to contain animal feed, flour, sugar, etc. were popular in the 1920's and the 1930's. The lady of the house collected these sacks to use for sewing clothing as well as quilts. Many a housewife gave her husband specific details about the sacks that the feed needed to come home in. However, both my mother and my aunt tell me that they do not remember seeing feed sack fabrics in their home. Their animal feed was grown on their farm and they took their grain to the mill to be ground into flour. The flour always returned in the same beige fabric sacks.

Both Great Aunt Laura and Grandma McPhee spent time as young ladies working in the city for the rich people doing child care, cooking, sewing and working as nannies. They worked as a "team". I suspect that the colorful feed sack fabric as well as the smattering of fabrics that don't really seem to belong there (satins, silks and brocades) probably were scraps from the sewing done for the families that employed them.

Both my mother and my Aunt Marg remember that Grandma and Aunt Laura worked for a rich family by the name of Hanchett in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They also remember hearing about the work that they did for "a judge" in Saginaw, Michigan. The research that I have done this far does show a wealthy family by the name of Hanchett in Grand Rapids during that time frame. They lived in a large home "with 5 chimneys" in the area of Grand Rapids now known as Heritage Hill. I have not yet been able to locate the name of a judge who would have lived with his family in the Saginaw area during this time frame.

Before I started thinking about quilting this antique top, I wanted to be sure that putting a new back on the quilt, using modern cotton batting and machine quilting the piece was not going to destroy the value of the top.

Quilt historians and quilt restoration specialists encourage those faced with this question to determine if the quilt top is a one-of-a-kind museum type piece, beautifully constructed and original or is it one of hundreds made of any given pattern. Once you add new batting, backing and thread to an antique quilt top, you have a - quilt! Nothing special to anyone but the person that owns the piece.

If it is a museum piece, it should not be quilted. It is worth more as an antique quilt top. Otherwise, the quilt's value is determined by the person that owns it. This quilt top is worth LOTS to me, but it is probably not a museum piece. It is one of many double wedding ring quilt tops made - I think that Aunt Laura would want me to finish it! So, I am going to give it my best shot. Now on to determining just HOW I am going to finish this quilt.

History of the Double Wedding Ring


  1. Aunt Beth,
    I'm so excited for you! I can't wait to see it in real life! How wonderful that you know the history too! Too cool!
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Go to a good size library with city directories from that time period, and you should be able to check from year to year to see who was living in the home. Generally boarders are listed as part of the household AND as their own entry - but not always.