Signature Quilts Patterns

Signature Quilts

Friendship and quilting go hand in hand. The Signature Quilts Patterns From the 1820’s, during the start of the westward migration movement, women started making quilt blocks inscribed with signatures, to be sewn together into quilts for friends and family members leaving for the frontier.

Since then, quilters have continued this tradition, making signature quilts to present to friends, or as a tribute, or as Signature Quilts Patternsfundraiser projects.

The popularity of the signature quilt mirrors that of the mid 19th century’s autograph album. Autograph albums were fancy small leather bound books, in which signatures, small verses and poems or drawings were collected from friends and family.

A signature block is one with a central patch that is made of a light colored plain fabric in which a signature is either embroidered or written in permanent ink. Signature blocks are most often pieced, and in some cases also appliquéd. Some block patterns lend themselves well to this type of quilt:

-Nine Patch block and its variations

-Chimney Sweep

-Cracker Box

-Bear Paw

The quilt blocks in a signature quilt can be all alike, in which case the quilt is called “friendship quilt”, or the quilt can be made with blocks in different block patterns, all the same size. In this case, we refer to that type of quilt as an “album quilt”.

There are several types of signature quilts according to the purpose they were made for:

-Quilts for an important person in the community, which were made as gifts are known as “presentation quilts”.

-Quilts for brides, including signatures from her family and friends are “bride quilts”.

-Quilts for men on the occasion of their twenty first birthday, on which young men emancipated from their parents’ authority became known as “freedom quilts”. During the Civil War, quilts with signatures were made for soldiers leaving for battle. In both cases, the friendship block incorporates a sentiment or advice alongside the signature.

-Quilts made as a means to raise money for a cause are “fundraiser quilts”. People would pay a fee to have their name embroidered on a quilt block, or women would contribute a block, sew the quilt together and then the quilt would be Signature Quilts Patternsraffled off. Fundraiser quilts were popular during war periods, all the way into the twentieth century to collect funds for charitable organizations (Red Cross during the First World War and for soldier’s relief groups during the Civil War, like the Sanitary Commission).

Album quilts reached their peak of perfection in Baltimore, Maryland during the decades spanning between 1840 and the beginning of the Civil War. The quilts of that period from that area are superb examples of workmanship. Very fancy appliquéd quilt blocks were joined together in a style that became known as “Baltimore Album”. They were mostly made as presentation quilts. Signatures and sentiments were inked in appliquéd quilt blocks with floral, cornucopia, basket, and other motifs. They remain among the most beautiful, intricate quilts made in the history of quilting.

The popularity of the signature quilt continued after the Civil War. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, crazy quilts incorporated blocks with signatures. And at the end of the twentieth century, a new type of friendship quilt with signatures became fashion among contemporary quiltmakers. Right before the beginning of the millenium, Internet swap groups were created for quilters to exchange signature blocks and pieces of fabric, to be put together into what became known as the “millennium quilts” or “Y2K quilts”. The tradition of signature quilts and the new technologies gave women of the twenty first century the opportunity to celebrate both the arrival of the new millenium and quilters’ friendship in a new way.

To make a friendship/signature quilt, a quilting group must decide whether all the members will exchange blocks made with the same pattern, or whether each of the members will choose a block to suit their skill level. In that case, the quilts made from the exchanged blocks will be “album style” quilts.

Often times, members will pick the color they’d prefer for their blocks, which helps give contemporary signature quilts continuity, making them scrappy, yet in a controlled manner. Once those decisions are made, the members make and exchange the signature blocks, to be put together by the recipient into a quilt that will become a cherished reminder of the quilt group’s friends.

Signature blocks are, in most occasions, best sewn together with lattices or sashing, because they don’t always turn out precisely the same size (variations in seam allowances can occur when sewing on different machines). It is simpler to ease blocks into a quilt that will lay flat that if blocks are joined with lattices. It is also important to make sure all the signatures are either embroidered with colorfast thread (stem stitch works well for this purpose), or if signed with pen, this should be done with an acid-free permanent pigment pen for suitable for writing on fabric, such as Pigma pens. Ironing freezer paper to the back of the signature square helps to stabilize the fabric for writing on it. Inked signatures should be heat set with an iron to prevent them from fading after washing the signature quilt. 


For more information on making a quilting block click here!


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