Vintage Baby Quilt from 1912

1912 baby quilt detailAmong the myriad things my Mom had kept over the years was one small box labeled Dad’s Christening. My Dad was born in 1912, so these items are at least 99 years old. But he had several siblings both older and younger, and I suspect some of those babies may have used them as well.

In the box is a modest christening dress in ill repair, apparently store-bought and not made at home. A simple touch of a finger caused some of the yellowing fabric to disintegrate. The real little treasure in the box is a small baby quilt. Made of a lovely, babyish print in cadet blue and white, it is all hand stitched. It is simply a top with a backing, and the batting appears to merely be another layer of the backing fabric. A perfect size for swaddling, and in pretty good shape, considering its age and that it has not always been carefully stored.

Cadet blue, a lighter shade than the more common indigo, was first seen in quilts around 1900. This dye was made from the newly developed synthetic indigo. The high cost of natural indigo had led several fabric manufacturers to employ chemists to develop alternative dyes. In the late 1860’s Adolf von Baeyer¹ created the first such indigo replacement, but it was a cumbersome process that did not take well to mass use. He sold his patent to others who refined it to a practical product just before 1900. Von Baeyer was a true innovator and some of his experiments led to the first barbiturates. He also developed simple plastics concurrently with others, and he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1905.

vintage cadet blue and white baby quilt 1912There are various values of cadet blue, from vibrant to pale, and it was very popular until the 1920’s. The retro prints we often associate with the early 1900’s are often those from 1920-1940, with many clear colors that shed the darker tones seen in the quilts of the late 1800’s. Cadet blue may have been first synthetic dye that made all these other new dyes possible.

In the nearly 100 years since my Dad used this little blue quilt, synthetic fabric dyes have grown to be the most commonly used dyes for cottons. I treasure this little gem, but not only because it was my Dad’s. It was the first quilt that made me think about the history of the fabric used, and started me on my curious quest to learn more about fabrics.

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About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
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8 Responses to Vintage Baby Quilt from 1912

  1. nanayane says:

    wow…just wow…in the future will people look at the quilts we make and contemplate history? makes one think!

  2. Donna says:

    Charming, and it looks to be in really good condition, for it’s age! I live the cleanness of the colors and the fussy cut cats. I wish my parents had saved a few things!

  3. Martin says:

    Sweet little quilt, and wonderful to have it preserved and in the family.

    Ever since I started reading your blog, I fund myself looking at old quilts in shops and telling people about the child laborers and slaves that probably made the cloth. And I catch myself looking at new fabrics and wondering what the dye came from. Thanks for helping me think more about the work that was done long before I came to work with my fabric.

  4. Beth says:

    I have a quilt from my great grandmother that I absolutely cherish! Just thinking about all the family members that have used it is wonderful. It is hand stitched, and I almost feel guilty at how much easier it is to make the same quilt pattern today. I hope the quilts I make last as long as Grandma’s has!

  5. Ann says:

    How wonderful is that quilt. To think your dad was bundled up in it and you still have it! Just wonderful!

  6. LaVoice says:

    What a wonderful vintage treasure filled with great memories.

  7. Tammy Dorn says:

    A lovely antique family treasure. Given its age it is in really good shape. Thanks for sharing.

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