Sunday, July 11, 2021

Tile Quilts: A Word in Edgewise


Wendy Turnbull's A Bird for All Seasons

About a dozen years ago everybody around here was in the throes of a tile quilt revival. Carol Gilham Jones and Bobbi Finley were working on their book Tile Quilt Revival for C&T Publishing and they were looking for contemporary ideas from their friends.

Kathe Dougherty's All in a Dream

Bobbi Finley's Starry Orange Peel

If you don't know what a tile quilt is you will want to check out Julie Silber's segment on historical tile quilts in our latest Six Know It Alls show.

Bobbi's inspiration was an antique in Julie's collection

Now you may notice when you tune in that I NEVER get a chance to talk.
You can buy a ticket to our July 14th episode here:

We are not only Know-It-Alls we are Talk-Over-One-Anothers.

If I coulda got a word in edgewise I'd have said:

Tile quilt is probably a recent term for these quilts of scraps appliqued to a white background. I think the first time I heard it was at one of the Great American Quilt Festivals in New York in the 1980s where a dealer (maybe Julie) showed us one and we discussed how they are like crazy quilts but different.

Collection of the Scottish Rite Museum 
Lexington, Massachusetts

Julie explains the differences and shows many tile quilts in Episode 5. I found a few antiques she didn't show.

Like this English piece I saw on Instagram
Looks 1840-1860 by the Prussian blue & buff prints.
Similar technique but the pieces are carefully planned.

Detail of the quilt in Lexington

And I didn't get to say that I think they are one more creative response to the availability of factory cutaways once ready-made-clothing began to generate so much waste at the end of the 19th century. Silk scraps went into crazy quilts with elaborate embroidery in the 1880s. Cotton scraps from New England factories went into Tile Quilts. Cotton scraps from Southern clothing factories went into string quilts.

Detail from 1882 in Tom Woodard & Blanche Greenstein's
inventory. Some tile, some string with no grout.

It's a good thing I have a blog so I get the last word (for now.) You can watch the episode here and we'll see if I get a chance to pontificate in the Question and Answers.

It's not crazy (well, depending on your definition of crazy.)

You can still buy Carol and Bobbi's 2010 Tile Quilt Revival book from C&T.

I wrote the introduction.
Hear Bobbi talk about the book on YouTube:

Birds in a Cherry Tree
William Morris prints
Bobbi Finley
24" Square


  1. I had never heard of tile quilts before. Thanks for the education! They are amazing.

  2. A beautiful post - I recently made a Celtic True Lover's Knot block. The one you show is so lovely I have to make another! I did find the Tile Quilt Revival book at Thriftbooks for only $4.69 and have ordered it.

  3. I have that book, lost in the shelves. I'd forgotten how lovely the quilts can be using this method.