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A Stitch in Time

Vintage quilts tell stories of their original makers

By Amelia Blades Steward

Kaye Butler loves to show her own creations along with dozens of rare quilts dating back to the 1800s.

Quiltmaking has been a popular pastime in the U.S. since the late 1700s. Today, quilts are highly collectible as works of folk art with historical significance. They also inspire other quilters who collect them. Over the years, quilts have become more personal and less utilitarian. For Kay Butler, antique quilt collector, quilt historian, and conservator, quilting started with her love affair with fabric. It has grown into a passion that now includes collecting and teaching others about the history and value of antique quilts through her business “Quilted Blessings” in Denton.

What was your first piece?

I made my first quilt in 1985 after I joined the Heartland Quilt Guild in Denton. Later I stitched an Amish crib quilt for my newborn daughter. I continued my quilt hobby by making table runners, wall hangings, crib quilts, and eventually full-size quilts for which I have won awards.

Appliquéd design on rare chintz quilts over 150 years old

What made you start your collection?

I love the beautiful designs of antique quilts and wanted to reproduce those designs. As a perpetual student, researching the history of antique quilts has been a very gratifying passion.

What are your favorite things in your collection?

My favorite quilt from the 1930s is a Bible History Quilt produced by the Home Arts Studio out of Des Moines, Iowa. The quilt, divided in the middle by a cross, features stories of the Old Testament on the left and stories of the New Testament on the right, with scripture references in each quilt block. Another favorite quilt is one I made in 2017— a replica of a Shenandoah Valley Botanical Album quilt from 1858. The quilt, which uses reproduction fabrics, has been featured in several quilt shows around the country.

When did you start collecting?

I decided to purchase my first vintage quilt in 2009 while attending The Lancaster Quilt Show with a friend who collected antique quilts. It was a lovely 1930s applique basket quilt. I was fascinated with the beautiful designs and hoped that I could later reproduce those designs.

Are you still collecting?

I am more selective in my quilt collecting now, focusing on quilts that have special meaning or that tell stories. I enjoy sharing research about the original makers. I like to think that those dear ladies would love the fact that their quilts are appreciated and enjoyed.

Appliquéd design on rare chintz quilts over 150 years old

What are you doing with your collection?

Since I have retired from teaching school and because of the pandemic, I share my antique quilts with others through online teaching and small classes in my new basement studio here in our home and through the FACES in Denton. It’s important to me in planning my estate to make sure that my collection gets into the hands of people who appreciate quilts. I have family members and friends who will receive some of my quilts. Also, I donate my quilts to special groups to be sure they live on for others to enjoy.

For further information about individual and small classes, email Kay Butler at quilts4kay@aol.com or call 410-829-5136.

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