A wonderful gift of vintage stars

Are you wowed by vintage quilts?  If so, as you read this please be thinking of suggestions as to how I should proceed with this wonderful gift of vintage stars.  Here’s the story.


The blogging world never ceases to surprise me.  I often browse through the Tag Surfer feature of WordPress and in March I stumbled on this post on Ruth’s “Keep or Pitch?” blog.  She already had a photography blog and started this new one as a way to declutter her home in anticipation of downsizing.  I commented that her vintage stars were a family treasure and she certainly should not just pitch them, but if that was her decision, she could consider pitching them toward me.  Imagine my delight when that is exactly what she did.  I was so touched.  But I have assured Ruth I will make provisions for this treasure to come back to her family eventually.  Meanwhile, I will savor my temporary custody.

Ruth’s grandmother Mary Alta Kerr Hendricks, born in 1892, stitched these stars by hand.  Alta married Floyd, a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse (and later a feed salesman) in 1911. Ruth’s dad Roy, the eldest of 3 boys was born in 1912 and is standing on the left in the photo. They lived on a farm in Illinois.  Alta lived to see Ruth’s first child who will be 35 in May.  Ruth says her grandmother never sat still and worked from dawn to dusk.  She was a great cook, had such a beautiful voice she was asked to sing at weddings and funerals and taught four-year old Ruth to knit.  Her needlework projects included quilting, knitting, crocheting, tatting and needlepoint.  A sample of her work is on the right.  Alta’s last job was at a florist where she kept her lunch–a can of spinach and a hard boiled egg–in the flower cooler.




I am working on my fourth hand pieced project and it happens to be 6-pointed stars from diamond pieces.  But I need a different plan for these stars which are possibly made from feed sacks.  First of all, what additional fabric can I use to join them?  New reproduction fabric?  Thrift store items–clothing, tablecloths?  Aged muslin?  And what arrangement?  Ruth had posted there were 83 stars but I was pleasantly surprised to find there were actually 112!  All the stars have 3 points of the same navy print.  There are 18 different alternate point fabrics with the highest group being 15 stars and 4 groups with only two each.  My initial idea is to try and group them in several Seven Sisters patterns, maybe using a different connecting print per group.  But I would appreciate other thoughts before proceeding so please chime in.

There was one star with a stain which looks to be a number stamp.  I decided to experiment with it and appliqued it to a block which I thought I could trim to a hexagon shape.  I would also be able to test wash this vintage fabric without getting frayed edges.  After looking back at my Seven Sisters picture, this shortcut plan would only work for the center star so not my greatest idea.  In addition, the bias edges wanted to curve as I sewed them to the base fabric–frustrating.  I’m happy to report, however, that even though I have been unable to remove the stain, the fabric passed the wash test with flying (but no running) colors!

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About quiltfever

I retired in 2004 and have never missed the 8-5 grind even for a minute. Now I spend my time reading, traveling, quilting and trying to learn new things like Spanish and blogging.
This entry was posted in hand piecing, quilting, vintage quilts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to A wonderful gift of vintage stars

  1. Laurie says:

    I have seen a pattern called Seven Stars for Seven Sisters that might work with what you are doing. It actually has 7 Seven Sisters blocks put together – 49 stars total. You may be able to add an extra circle of stars around the center somehow. Glad you rescued those blocks. Have fun.

  2. Lynda says:

    Amazing! How wonderful for you to get to have them in your care for awhile. I am excited to see how you put them all together. A can of spinach and a hard boiled egg? Maybe that’s the key to a busy, happy, long life!

  3. Michele T says:

    The stars are lovely. I got in a seven sisters quilt to quilt today. It is the third quilt made by my client with this pattern. She is one of seven sisters and is making each one this quilt for their 60th birthdays. I will put a pic on my blog when I quilt it. It will be done in about 3 weeks time…

    I love the story of the blocks and to make them into a quilt will honour the quiltmaker’s work. Wonderful, eh?

    Whatever you do add to make this quilt will be OK. It too, will become part of the history of this particular quilt.

  4. Lisa Mason says:

    I’m so glad these are coming to you to live for a while. I like the idea of finding vintage fabrics at the thrift store. I’m sure you will find the perfect match for this, you always do!

  5. debmoyes says:

    Gorgeous stars! I am not a vintage person, so I’m not sure what to suggest. I do know there are quilters who collect vintage fabrics so they can do just what you are proposing, keeping the feel vintage. You might try Googling, because I am sure there are people who sell their fabrics.

  6. Gryphon says:

    What a wonderful de-aquisitioning story – it’s a parable for our time! And for the quilt background – what about aged muslin washed with bluing?

  7. rutheh says:

    Love how you put the post together and shared it around the world.
    I believe my grandmother would be pleased to know her hand-stitched stars are out of the bag and being lovingly cared for and stitched into a handsome quilt.

    My grandmother used to say “Bread cast upon the waters comes back to you, AND it is frequently buttered! ” That is how I feel. Thanks for making the story come alive. My sister and I had a nice visit and shared stories about our dear Gram Hendricks.

  8. The muslin idea, aged or not sounds good to me. The finished product definitely needs a very detailed label. Amazing treasure and great challenge. Good luck and keep us posted on it.

  9. Lani Longshore says:

    What a great story! Muslin or a pale blue solid would look nice, but how about adding some lace as part of a border, since Alta made that, too?

  10. Pingback: Paper Egg with the Pricetag Still On « Blog Archive « Keep or Pitch?

  11. Pingback: Easter Bunny with Knapsack of Tiny Colored Eggs « Ruth E Hendricks Photography

  12. piecedgoods says:

    What a great story! I’m so glad these stars were pitched your way. What a perfect place for them to land. I’d be inclined to use an aged muslin background. The stars would shine with something simple like that in the background. I cannot wait to see more!

  13. Wow–amazing grace. I, too, am awed by these generous gifts–of heirloom stars on the one hand, and the promise to return them, as a finished family treasure, on the other hand. Will you send them in one direction or more? Perhaps two smaller lap quilts, or wall-hangings for multiple family members? If the latter, maybe move toward art quilting–I’m seeing vintage lace tablecloths with dancing stars… Whatever you do, it’s certain to be lovely and cherished.

  14. Hi Carol, what a wonderful story! So glad you’ve rescued these blocks. Like the idea of the 7 sisters setting. I’d take them to your local patchwork store and “audition” some background/connecting fabrics – see if you can get something similar in vintage fabrics or use a repro which will still give that “old” feel. If you piece in the shapes to make them into hexagons there’s no hassles appliqueing the bias. Have fun and thanks for sharing the story and the photos. Can we please have progress reports?

  15. ivoryspring says:

    Oh my…. you landed with some sweet treasure there!!! I love the story.

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