Friday, June 7, 2013

Fancy Borders: A Dating Clue

Mid-19th century
quilt from an online auction.

 I've been doing posts about borders and how the changes in style can help in dating antique quilts. What seems to be important in dating is the elaborateness of the border. Quilters working between 1880 and 1930 were not as likely to make complicated applique borders like these mid-century examples.

When you find an antique quilt with a fancy appliqued border think: Before 1880. Like most other border clues this is a weak clue.

It's always fun to find someone who took parts of the block design and made a border like the quilts above and below. 

I  like the idea of throwing in some dots.

Often the border has NOTHING to do with the block, but the clue to a mid-19th-century quilt is that it's a 
fancy border.

NOTHING to do with the block...

The clues you can count on here: Red and green applique quilts tend to date from 1840 to 1890 (that's a strong clue.) The fancy border is a weak clue that helps you narrow the date to before 1870 or so.

Above is an applique from Tennessee with a plain border date-inscribed 1885. Plain borders are more typical of what you see in red and green later in the century. There are exceptions to the rule about fancy borders---which is why it's only a weak clue, but it can still help you narrow the date a bit.

One more thing: Here's a style characteristic that is NO HELP in dating:

The lack of a border is no clue to date.You see it in the star quilt above dated 1854...

and in this sampler dated 1894. No border means nothing---a double negative.


  1. Thanks for all the information about dating. It's fun to admire these antique quilts and even better to know a bit of history about them. When we aspire to reproduce some of these gems, we may even "get it right".

  2. Thanks for sharing your vast research and knowledge with us.

  3. As always, there is a wealth of quilt knowledge to be found on your blog. I am forever learning something new and forever grateful for your generosity in sharing you research with the entire quilting world. Thank you, Barbara, from carol in Plenty, Saskatchewan, Canada.

  4. I really love the look of appliqued borders, but have been too lazy to do one, I always use a nice print or a flat color for the border.


  5. I live in a small apartment and if I've left the bedroom door open when I went out, what you see when you enter is straight down the hall to the side of my bed, about 40' away. What you see IS the border of the quilt. You'd have to be in the bedroom to see the top. So in some circumstances today and maybe more so in earlier times, a quilt border can be worth the trouble -- even though it can easily take as much time and fabric as the center of the quilt.

  6. I love fancy appliqued borders, especially on red and green quilts. I was so surprised and HAPPY that you have a picture of a quilt that I bought at auction oh maybe 7 years ago -- it's the 11th picture down. I have copied the border in two quilts I've made.

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