Tuesday, February 23, 2016

This is what I'm finding

Over the years, in searches of books and other reference materials available prior to the 1990s, and subsequently in searching the internet for "postage stamp" quilts, the selection produced is always a little odd, quite varied, far-ranging, and (at least 50%) wrong. People want to think they are creating a "postage stamp" quilt simply by virtue of the fact they are using one cut size piece square, and nothing could be farther from the truth.

There are a LOT of 'one block wonders' - or, 'one patch wonders' - made with hundreds and thousands of simple square patches, but that doesn't qualify them as "postage stamp" quilts.  The name for postage stamp quilts came about because the diminutive pieces comprising the top were literally the size of a postage stamp - and those were small.

Less than an inch.


Any quilt created from the mid-twentieth century and before, with finished pieces exceeding 1" was not referred to by its creator as a "postage stamp" quilt. I've yet to find one.  Those quilters had pride of work, and were not as boastful or in need of [internet] glory and fame as are today's quilters - and they would not stretch the parameters of what should be in order to claim something they made was other than what it was. Their pride came in the form of a neat, precision-pieced and hand quilted end result.  They might allow for modern day quiltmakers to feel special by claiming 1.5" finished pieces to fall within the realm of the postage stamp title, but they'd do so with a wink and a knowing nod shared between them.  So let's be honest with ourselves...whadaya say?

1.5" cut pieces will yield a finished patch of one inch. Likewise, a 1" cut piece becomes one half inch when pieced with its neighbors.  Those are traditional, acceptable, and true sizes for creating a postage stamp quilt.

Cutting and piecing 2" cut pieces (whether by joining strips and cutting, or by joining individual cut squares) does not make a postage stamp quilt.  Not in random placement, not in creating Granny Squares, small Trips Around the World - or larger whole 'Trips' - etc, etc, etc.  Nope, the traditional postage stamp quilt was comprised of thousands upon thousands of postage-stamp-sized pieces.

Does it take patience?  Yes, lots of it.  Does it take a lot of work cutting and organizing and piecing it well? Oh, you bet it does - this I can attest to.  Isn't it time-consuming; couldn't I create and finish a quilt faster (and then move on to another project sooner) if I only used larger pieces and took shortcuts?  Yes, without a doubt, but the huge portion of me that is a traditionalist quiltmaker would have to throw the other portion of me down a flight of stairs for being untrue to the spirit and beauty of traditional quilting if I strayed that far from the honesty of what is right.  If I told a quilt lie, I would totally expect to be called out for it.

What I'm finding is I am becoming (sadly) intolerant of the title "Postage Stamp Quilt" being used so freely by people espousing their non-postage-stamp-sized pieces to be something they're not.  So, if you are making (or have made) a PSQ using any square pieces of a finished size equaling more than one inch... and I am within range... and you hear me scoff or snort or guffaw or bristle noisily at your lovely quilt, please know it is only because your quilt doesn't deserve the honor of the title "Postage Stamp."


Susan said...

This was an interesting read. I never thought about the true definition of a "postage stamp" quilt before. I would be afraid to take on something so daunting (probably because I am not the most precise of quilters). How did you decide to start this project? I wish you luck with your quilt, and look forward to seeing the finished top.

Deb said...

Love your post, I often wondered if anyone else feel this way about the so-called postage stamp quilt. Years ago when I first started to quilt I fell in love with several quilts true postage stamp minuscule bits of nearly perfect pieces lovingly hand stitched together and decided here and then to start one and began saving bits of fabric scraps over the years. I began hand piecing my postage stamp which are just a bit under 1 inch its a lifelong project and one day it will be done.