Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vintage Sports Quilts

Jayhawker by Thelma E. Humphrey, 1934-1935
Thelma collected signatures of sports stars at the University of Kansas where she worked in the athletic department. This block features James Naismith's signature.
Naismith invented the game of basketball

When Deb Rowden and I began thinking about doing a book on sports quilts we looked around for vintage quilts celebrating teams, athletes and games.
We knew of two that we featured in the book Sew Into Sports: the Jayhawker quilt above and the bowling shirt quilt top below.

This odd item is an unquilted top, possibly pieced of bowling shirt backs from about 1960.
We are guessing it's from Mason City or Chicago.
Or it may be a sampler of the kind of work an embroidery company could do.
The Club Ki-Yowga in Calumet has fortunately changed their logo since then. For 75 years they've been sponsoring kids' sports.

We found some quilts made of tobacco flannels that featured sports premiums. In the early 20th century tobacco products included cotton collectibles in the packaging.

Flags are far more common flannels than baseball stars.
As you can imagine the baseball flannels are more valuable than the flags.

We found a few other sports quilts pictured in online auctions.

Those are probably not actual Yankee autographs on this quilt dated 1941. Just a list of players.

This one is also easy to date. Is that a rose or a ball?

Clara Schmitt Rothmeier was the queen of sports quilts.
Her baseball quilts were auctioned earlier this year.
See more about the quilts here by clicking:

Stan Musial pointing to his portrait in 1973

It is surprising how few sports quilts made before 1975 we found.
It's time to make up for it.


  1. The bowling shirt quilt is so cool!

  2. There were 2 quilts made to honor the 1935 Detroit Tigers and their World Series victory. They were mentioned in the Detroit News Quilt Club Corner columns. I think one was redwork and the other pictorial applique.

  3. Thanks for the interesting post. I hadn't thought about the lack of sports quilts. The examples you have here are terrific and I can see how sports could lead to some interesting designs. In my design ideas file I have a picture of a base because I felt the stitching on it would make an interesting design. that design could be part of a baseball quilt. Hmmmm....

  4. I had no idea these were ever made. What fun! Thanks.

  5. Sport quilts ARE rare, among all the other memorabilia ...

    Love the Jayhawk quilt - I grew up in Olathe KS and probably would have gone to KU as all my cousins did, had we not moved to Texas

  6. I have a quilt that has ECS 1886 stitched in the lower left corner. Its very old with birds and animals and little things like old ladies boot and kettles sewn into it. Its a little torn in places but still very vibrant. The stitching is incredible. I would like to know the monetary value of it and also find a way to preserve and hang it on the wall. Any suggestions will be appreciated.
    thank you

  7. Barbara,
    I have a Kansas Jayhawk quilt that is remarkable similiar to the one pictured. Could I email you pictures of it and maybe you could help me with some information about it? (Im a college sports collector, not a quilt collector!)

  8. I am the grand-daughter in law of Thelma Humphrey and I would love to get a copy of your book!

  9. I’m the grand-daughter in law to Thelma Humphrey and I would love a copy
    Of your book!