The hand-me-down quilt


So far, I’ve made one quilt in my life. It was a baby quilt for my cousin in the simplest pattern I could find. It was fun to make, came out to be very cute, and I completely forgot to take a single picture of it. Duh.

This was about a year ago. Since then, I’ve been meaning to make another quilt, but I’ve never really gotten around to it. Quilts are awesome, but the lure of making clothes is just too much for me. It’s just more my thing.

So this shoebox was just the kick in the pants I needed.

My grandmother gave me this partially made quilt to finish. She didn’t make it herself, and I’m not exactly sure where it came from, but I’m guessing an estate sale or the second hand shop where she volunteers. I can only imagine the woman who started and didn’t finish this little beauty.

The pattern is dresden plate, which is a classic that I’ve always admired.

There are so many pieces cut for this thing that I could probably make a quilt that would cover a whole room in my wee little house. I’m not sure what size to make, but I’m thinking I’ll do a cream background with french blue sashing and binding. What do you think?

Oh, and all the rings are hand stitched together, so I may continue with that. Then I’ll hand applique it. But probably machine quilt it?

Don’t worry, this will not become a quilting blog. But I did have to share! And if any of you experienced quilters have ideas or tips, let me know!

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

More about our writers

Comments 73


What beautiful fabric! I am not a quilter myself, but I would become one very quickly with a head start like that. Thanks for sharing!

Emilie LG

I don’t know anything about quilting, and I have never been attracted to learn, but these fabrics are amazing ! I think it’s a wonderful idea to destock falls of fabric (not sure if it’s called like that…sorry for my english….)
I can’t imagine the final result and the hours of work but I know it will be very pretty !
Can’t wait to see what you will do with that :-)

Fab Platy

Emilie, “des chutes de tissus” are scraps of fabrics :-) but then again, they always end up on the floor so they should really be called falls of fabrics.

Love the bonanza, it’s always exciting to inherit a project you never expected to tackle! Sarai, please do keep us posted on your progress.


I have been eyeing quilts left and right lately. I have visions of curling up on my sofa and hand stitching a quilt together throughout the winter. I have been thinking about trying something simple with a jelly roll pack of fabrics to get me off the ground. I would be beside myself with the gems in the box your grandmother gave you!


What gorgeous fabrics! They look as though they are 30’s depression era by the prints. I’ve pieced together two now that I found half finished in a thrift store and found it very rewarding! I hope you do too! You’ll have a very beautiful quilt!


Yes, they do look it, but I’m not sure if they’re actually that old or just reproductions? There are a lot of fabulous repros out there, though the hand stitching makes me think they could be old?


What an amazing find! I love the vintage fabrics. And it’s funny, I’ve always been the opposite, afraid of sewing clothes.. Love your initial color choice and think that if you want to go for a different vibe, a coral sash might be lovely as well.

Barbara J

A gorgeous stash of Dresden plates. The fabric are feedsacks which were popular in the 1930s. Just know it’s going to make a lovely quilt. Maybe you could make a small quilt or even a table runner too. And perhaps consider big stitch hand quilting with Perle Cotton No. 8?

Jane swayinglights.comy

That stack of quilt pieces is just beautiful! What a wonderful find to have passed on to you.

I think the hand piecing and hand appliqué suit that work wonderfully – I might consider hand quilting, though, as well. I tried it about a year ago and it was a surprising amount of fun!


After I read your comment and Barbara J’s above, I looked up images of some hand quilted dresden plate quilts, and I think I might be convinced. It could look really stunning. Though it probably wouldn’t be done until next Winter at the rate I finish hand needlework.


And, that’s the fun of a beautiful keepsake quilt. Slow and steady, an episode or two of Downton Abbey at a time….lucky girl!


Oh! Those colors will be gorgeous with all of those dresden plates. And how relaxing and wonderful does handsewing all of that sound? I know this isn’t a quilting blog, but I would love to see updates as you move along with this project. Thank you for sharing!


I’m a clothesmaker myself , but I get the itch every now and then to start learning how to quilt – Can’t wait to see how it turns out!



OMG!!! those feedsack patterns are so amazing. What a great find. Show us the quilt when you’re finished it.


This is so, so cute. I am so, so jealous!


Amazing fabrics…looks like they might be vintage? Definitely not modern quilting fabric! Just wonderful & I can’t wait to see it finished. Cream & blue–good choices.

I think you’re soooooo fortunate that the little plates have been made–that would be way to fiddly for me!


Most of them have been made, but I’d probably need to piece a few more. That doesn’t faze me at all… to me, the applique process is more daunting!

emily hassman

I just started my first quilt… simple, small, only squares. I’m excited. These pieces look absolutely beautiful! So inspiring.


I picked up a quilt at an antique market because I fell in love with the fabric, which is strikingly similar to yours. I guessed that it was 1930s, but I’m happy to hear other comments that confirm that suspicion. I’ve never really had the urge to quilt before, but if I could stumble upon a stash of pieces like yours I would definitely go for it!


What a lucky find! I found a similar stash a few years ago and loved finishing the project someone else has so carefully started. Some words to consider with these older fabrics. If you plan on using and washing this quilt, machine piece and machine quilt. The fibers are weaker even if they have been sitting untouched. And the die in these prints will run. Once it is made into a quilt, wash on cold with vinegar and buy one of those dye catching cloths to prevent major color runs. Good luck!


Thank you for the tips, I hadn’t really thought about that yet. Definitely will think about the durability issues.


Hand quilted? Wow! I can only imagine the woman that started the quilt and what kind of seamstress she would have been. You’re one lucky seamstress to get your hands on such a thing. I can’t wait to see how this turns out!


(Swooon)…….completely lovely~! You are a very lucky Lady~!
What a terrific grandmother you have. ♥


What a stunningly gorgeous find! Beautiful.


Funny you posted about making a quilt….I just made my first-ever quilt top. I had leftover flannel fabric from making my grandson pants, and thought..”this can’t be so hard ” Well, the squares don’t all match, but that’s ok, but now I’ve bought the cotton/bamboo batting and more flannel for backing and….I’m stuck. Not sure how to proceed with putting the whole thing together. I may have to call my ex mother-in-law to go any farther !


Chris, Google “quilt sandwich” and “binding a quilt.” These are your next two steps. There are literally hundreds of blogs and videos out there to help you get the job done. Since you are making the quilt out of flannel then I would suggest hand tying it. It is the simple and easy way to finish your quilt, and of course there is plenty of info on hand tying too! Oh, and congratulations on making your first quilt! It is such a rewarding craft.


gorgeous fabrics. I quilt and I think mintbasil’s comments are perfect. Older fabrics need special care. I would send it out to a longarm quilter for finishing esp. if you want a large bedsized quilt.

Miss Crayola Creepy

You scored! What beautiful fabrics.

Adri H

What a great gift! If you need some tips on putting together dresden plates, I found Amy Gibson’s free course on Craftsy to be super helpful. She does 2 styles of dresden plates.

I think these pieces would look beautiful on a cream backing or a pale blue backing with pale grey for sashing (or same as backing fabric as sashing). If you want to try your hand at quilting this yourself, I’d consider hand quilting just in case the fabric is too weak to stand machine free motion quilting. What a wonderful responsibility. :)

Elizabeth Cake

SWOON. Such beautiful fabrics imbued with history, creativity, time and hard work – lucky you being given such treasure. Can’t wait to see your finished results. :-)


Lovely 30s dresden plates! You can do a machine blanket stitch to attach them to the cream background fabric. They used to use black of all things! But you can choose whatever color you like. I have a finished top of this era and it has sherbert colored orange sashings between the blocks and an ice cream cone border.


For some reason, since your post about the seasonal closet switch, your blog posts have not been showing up in my bloglovin’ feed (even though posts from other blogs still do). I’m not sure if you’ve changed something or if bloglovin’ is just randomly acting up, but I just thought I’d mention it.


Wow, odd… they also stopped posting automatically to facebook at that time. We’ll look into it… thanks for telling me!


Alright, all of your posts just suddenly loaded into bloglovin’ just now, so it’s working, unless there was just a huge delay.


Kenn found the problem and fixed it! Thanks for telling us, really, because there were lots of people who weren’t getting the posts and we had no idea.


Don’t make all your decisions now. Wait until the blocks are put together to decide on color for the binding. Once the quilt top is assembled, then audition colors. You’ll be quite surprised by the results.


blah quilts, so not my thing. I’ve been the victim of too many horrendous quilts given to me as “gifts” that I am then supposed to cherish simply because they are hand made.

I’m sure that’s not the case with all the fine readers of this blog, and Colette, your quilt seems amazing, from what I can see. I do know some people who make absolutely gorgeous quilts and those are truly worthy of hanging on the wall and cherishing.

But it is so easy to mess up when matching different patterns and colorways together. I’ve seen too many quilts that wind up being a big mess of clashing color and patterns instead of a balanced beautiful pleasing quilt. Unless you use a kit or a pre-matched set, and then, where’s the creativity in that?

I do have great admiration for people who have the stamina to finish a quilt and the talent to piece together a beautiful one. Kudos to you! But frankly the thought of making a quilt stresses me out.


Wow!! What a score!! I am currently working on paper piecing hexagons and also a pinwheel quilt. I live attempting clothing but I am much braver with my quilting-making skills. This whole hand-work is new to me and I’m slow at it but I like the variety. Appliqué scares me too! I agree with your color choices, but also agree with waiting until its all together to make sure. Can’t wait to see it! Any tutorials I the future?!?? I wouldn’t mind…

Beaudon Thomas Matthews

would you consider comisioning a quilt for the right amount of $


This summer I got a family quilt with nearly identical feedsack cotton prints – that quilt makes me so happy! My great great Aunt Tiny pieced and quilted it long ago, probably in the ’30s or early ’40s. The pieces were cut from old dresses. My mother said Aunt Tiny was always quite fashionable despite a limited budget. I don’t know exactly when or for whom she made this quilt, but whatever the case it’s been folded up inside a pillow case in a linen closet ever since it was completed. And now it’s on my bed. I love the vibrant colors in these decades-old fabrics. Bedtime = time travel time. I could gaze at all the different prints for hours on end…..


My mom is a master quilter and restores quilts. I have a hand pieced, hand quilted Irish chain on my wall among others. I agree that you should continue hand stitching to keep the structural integrity of the pieces you have. Never, ever dry clean a quilt. Just a soak in a tub if you feel the fabrics are old, and air dry in the shade. That is what is done with antique quilts if they can handle a wash. HTH


Take your blocks to your local full service quilt shop. You should get suggestions and advise on the background fabric, options for blocks, and much more! After all, that is what they do best:) and you might find options you hadn’t thought about.


Oh what lovely colours! I’m not usually a fan of dresden plates because they often come out looking (to me) either a mishmash of clashing colours or too twee – but this one is just right! Luckily those 30s patterns are reproduced all over the place these days so you shouldn’t have too much trouble adding in a few if you need to. I second the comments above about being careful with the old fabric and stitching though, and especially the dye running! However you end up quilting it, if you’re planning on using it as a quilt (and I hope you are!) I expect you’ll need to make sure it’s fairly dense to give the fabric lots of support.


One of the quilting fabric lines has monotones in 30’s colours – you might think about picking your solids from that. It’s going to be lovely.


I love those fabrics. I went through a reproduction of 30’s quilt phase and I’m glad I did. You’re so lucky! To be honest, I wouldn’t machine quilt it. First of all, it’s really really difficult to control a quilt on a home sewing machine. I hate it. I always end up simply hand quilting and, really, for an old-fashioned quilt like this one is going to be, that is the best. I would probably hand quilt around the plates, like shadowing them. It’s going to be beautiful!


The baby quilt I made was definitely a pain, so I can only imagine what this one would be like. So many of you have suggested hand quilting, and I’m excited about the possibilities there.


I see boxes of unfinished quilts all the time in antique shops. My suggestion? Keep the quilt small, like baby-sized, especially if you plan to quilt it yourself. If you make it larger, have a quilt shop machine quilt it for you…otherwise, you might end up with carpal tunnel syndrome. Speaking of quilts though, I want to make a crazy quilt…one that really looks like the ones from the Victorian era with the fans, flowers, prints, etc.


Those fabrics are awesome! I am not a quilter in the true sense of the word but have done a little, you will love the finished product whatever you decide to do with them. Please keep us posted. Save a couple to do pillow shams if you are going to put it on your bed.


I really would love to make it for my bed and do matching shams. The problem is that I have two cats who love to do “happy paws” on anything soft. They tear up everything, the darlings.

Lynda Alford

I LOVE these old fashioned fabrics. If you go to a quilt shop and take it with you they would be able to tell if it’s the reproduction fabrics that are popular now or the fabrics are old. Keepsake Quilting have a great selection even on line and you will recognize some of the patterns. I bought an unfinished quilt a few years ago with hexagon shapes all joined together and it’s lovely. Good luck – love to see the progress you make.


After reading all the comments, the consensus is that you are so fortunate to have these pieces and many are overwhelmed with quilt-making! I discovered quilting about 12 years ago and love it, rather addicted to it if I must admit. If the pieces came from an estate or antique shop sale they are likely vintage. They look vintage. Many of the reproductions are very good but subtle shades in certain colors are hints, blues and yellow’s predominately are slightly different in shade. In any case, I think you should finish it by hand-stitching. I would use every block available, leave no orphans. Lay them out on different colors of yardage for an audition. It will speak to you. In any event, please keep us posted. A little relaxing hand-stitching after a busy day brings a peace and calm to any stitcher.


Thanks Corinne, wonderful tips, especially about auditioning colors. I’ll bring a plate to the fabric store when they’re all done and try out different ideas.

Linda Winders

A friend of mine found a box like this, from an estate sale. It was full of half finished butterflys….very primitive looking and hand stitched, what stitching there was. She did not sew, but I love to, so she gave it to me to see if I could do anything with it. Her favorite color was yellow. I finished the blocks, and not by hand! But put it all together with a sunny yellow….my Aunt Rosy Aunt quilted it, she had a small home quilting business, and presented it back to Carol. She was so happy, she kept it and gave it her daughter for a wedding gift. We never knew it’s story. Wish they would put little notes in with the pieces, clues to where it came from and who started it, and why. I will never forget the joy on her face, when she seen it finished. And I am a Dressmaker also, but this inspired me to make quilts for each of my 3 children. Linda

Linda Oldham Burns

I have a similiar story to yours about a quilt. The quilt came partially made, all hand stitched, by your father’s grandmother — to your mother — to you. About the same era judging from the fabric colors and patterns and the same quilt pattern as well. In college, my roommate and I handstitched the pieces on squares to then put into a quilt. Much time pasts, then 20 years later I put the pieces into wall hangings for the family. This way all the family will share in the quilt pattern from long ago.

Enjoy the process and the end result!!


I am not much of a quilter either but I have made a couple in a vintage style. These look like the old flour/sugar sack fabrics that they are replicating now. I cant wait to see how it turns out! I would love to get a hand-me-down like that!


wow what a find! so pretty! and so much of the work already done.

I wonder how the pattern is meant to continue at the edges! they would make awesome cushion covers too! (round pillows)



My mother and I saved an old quilt from my great-grandmother’s abandoned house. It had been left (both the quilt and the house) to rot. A travesty, considering its fine handwork.

I like your idea of a throwback plain cream background and blue binding.

Have you ever been to the National Quilt Museum? Their website could give some inspiration, if nothing else.

Nikki H.

My mom and I used to have a quilt top business, which was how I supported myself through college, so I’ve made probably hundreds of quilts. We never made ones this intricate, we focused on strip piecing methods with star designs, log cabin blocks, things like that. I think hand appliqué would be the only way to go with pinwheels like that. Quilts mean a lot more when it’s a mish-mash of old fabrics. It has such a nostalgic comforting authentic grandmotherly feeling to it, ya know?
I’ve kind of sworn off making quilts for awhile and am focused on honing my apparel skills. But if I had a box of fabric like that given to me I might have to make an exception. Or make a skirt out of it? Like a cute country farm girl look? It could work :)


If the quilt is too big for what you want, you can always use some of the dresden plates for a baby quilt for your co-worker’s impending baby.

I am a quilter and they do take a while, but it’s worth it. If you feel you are under time constraints, many quilting shops have a long arm quilting machine that you can pay a fee to use and machine quilt the pieced top, batting and backing together. Or you can actually pay them to do it after you pieced the top together and basted everything together.


What a wonderful treasure you received! Dresden Plate is one of my favorite patterns;made one years ago. I did mine by machine, it was a challenge by some friends and I did it. Hope you have lots of fun with it! Please share when you’re done, i’d love to see it.
Aloha, CreativeGrammie

Robin H.

What an absolutely wonderful gift you have been given! If you want the real vintage look I would hand quilt this gem. It is not hard, just a little time consuming but the finished result will be much more authentic, softer, and more drapey. The cream background and blue binding sound perfect!


I would set the blocks ‘on point’ either with just the same cream/white fabric as sashings or sashing pieced with white/french blue a bit like this
If it was just an all-cream background, I would have side setting triangles in a repro 1930s print or a pieced border followed by a white border. These types of settings always look pretty on a bed IMHO
can you tell I was once a craft magazine editor?!


That quilt is beautiful! I love quilts like that and the various fabrics are fantastic. At least *most* of the hard work is done. I.e. you don’t have to cut and layout the pieces. Have fun. It’ll be worth it!


Hi there
I have a quilting blog and I’d really like to be able to sew some clothes as beautifully as you do. My attempts are not usually so crash hot. However, with regards to your quilt you might like to play with this quilt and make a modern quilt with these traditional blocks. You could make several quilts using this approach. as you have so many Dresden plates. For example you could use a solid background – greys likes Kona ash and coal are popular in the modern quilt movement as are white and creams. You could then place your Dresden plates randomly on the background and applique them. You could shadow quilt them so that their shadows overlap slightly and look like ripples on a pond.

If you’re not sure what modern quilts look like here are two links to Smilebox presentations of the Modern Quilt Guild’s Display at Houston courtesy of the The Quilt Show. I hope this gives you some ideas.
Smilebox links:


Munaiba, thank you for sharing these links. There are some amazing moderns out there!


“…a cream background with french blue sashing and binding”
I like the way you think. This is beautiful, and it reminds me that I’ve got a 3 generation quilt (now 4, actually; my daughters are old enough to help) that I need to finish quilting and binding. It’s got fabrics from my grandfather’s shirts and such. I’ve had it for decades, but never knew what to do with it. What with the internet and all, I think it’s time I learn.
Thanks for the inspiration! And good luck with all the hand stitching. You are a brave, determined woman.


I have been quilting for more than 25 years – so I’ll stick my oar in. Machine quilting anything much bigger than a cot quilt is really hard – and it is difficult to get a quality result to match your lovely fabrics. Hand quilting “traditionally” (ie. quilting thread and 12 or s stitches per inch) takes for ever, but a really lovely way to quilt (the only way I do it now) is with a No 8 perle in a contrasting colour (pale blue/ yellow/whatever) and big stitches (maybe 4-6 stiches per inch) . It is super quick – maybe a couple of weeks if you do an hour or so each night. It is also much easier on your hands and eyes – you don’t even have to use a hoop. It is a similar feel to sitting and knitting in terms of concentration.
If you use a high quality batting with a scrim , and make sure you ask for one that is easy to hand needle (ie. thin and not too dense), you wont need to quilt too closely. Maybe even just around the outside of each plate and inside each square – and maybe around the inner circle of the plate. This means no marking – even quicker. Modern battings can be quilted every 10 inches or so. Chose your batting by your climate – here in the land of Oz we choose pure cotton, but in a colder clime I would choose a 100% wool – a little bit dearer but worth every cent. One final tip – one of the most time consuming parts of quilting is basting. If you can get a cheap basting gun (or borrow one) – it will speed it all up by 10 times. I only make a couple of quilts a year now, and my quilting gun is the best $20 I have spent (since my rotary cutter). Good luck – and enjoy the process . Unlike garment making (or knitting) everyone can create a beautiful quilt.


Wow, I can’t wait to see how it turns out – those bits are just gorgeous!

Linda Fenner

Hi Sarai–

I will get Josie to take a picture of the quilt you made for Andrew.

I recommend, though I’m not exactly real experienced at quilting, that you have your quilt machine-stitched. Unless you’re willing to devote a lot of hours and sore fingers to doing it by hand.

Hope you and Kenn are doing well.


I am a longtime sewer and relatively recent quiltmaker although I tend toward art quilts. However I decided a couple of years ago to make a quilt for our queen size bed–it would be my first for a bed. I designed the top and pieced and appliqueed it by machine. I had planned to do the same for the quilting. However, I became too ill to use the machine and so I spent months in bed hand quilting with and without a quilting “frame.” I have had carpal tunnel surgery, have tendonitis in my elbows and a really bad neck that makes problems in my hands, so that was probably not a good idea and the reason it took so long; I could only work about 1 hr/day.
In the end, I’m glad I did it and, yes, there are sections to this day I’d love to rip out and do over. I started doing that once I got my stitch technique down–about 1/2 way thru–and then I decided this would be my first and last one and it should tell its story. I never did get near the “stitches per inch” they suggest is average because I used too thick of fabric on the “backing” and evidently too thick of “batting” so there was no way I was going to be able to get the needle in and out again that small but it was fine for me.
I taught myself how to do all of it–designing from scratch, the setting, and quilting. By the way–the part you’re trying to decide about is called the “setting”–how the pieces or appliques are arranged and any strips that are put in between the appliques are called “sashings” and the “border(s)” are between the central portion and the “binding.” I have put the basic quilting terminology in quotes. It took me f-o-r-e-v-e-r to finally figure all of these out when I first became interested in making them.
My last 2 pieces of advice: Google “dresden plate quilts” and look in Images. They have more than any quilt museum or site. Amazing. It will give you lots of ideas–maybe too many! and buy a basic quilting book–saves you a ton of work. I also searched for tutes and videos online.
OK. I’ll shut up.

Jennifer S

My first thought when I saw the plates was “Did mom seriously take apart that quilt she spent so much time finishing?” She got a box of Dresden plates from my gramma’s house about 15 years ago. They belonged (we think) to my step grandfather’s former housekeeper. My mother wants to quilt, but at the same time, is annoyed by the thought of cutting fabric into pieces only to sew them back togther. But she did spend the time hand sewing all the already hand stitched pieces onto a white background and used a royal blue for the sashing. It’s beautiful. Have fun!


Hi Sarai,
love the fabrics. I am sure the quilt will be beautiful. I enjoy you site


I love your blog so much. thank you for sharing with us

We’re sorry, comments for this post have been closed.

Printed from the Colette Blog

Get all of our tips, tutorials, and discussions delivered to your inbox — completely free!