Column #50

Doll Quilts

Doll Quilts
Eight-pointed Star Doll Quilt, 20" x 20", made by Pairlee Williams.

Doll Quilts
Back of Eight-pointed Star Doll Quilt, featuring horse and cowboy conversation print.
Photos by Alex Labry.

Why are miniature things so appealing to so many of us? There’s something about the smaller version of an object that distills the essence of the larger, thereby making it more accessible. No doubt that somewhere, a psychology Ph.D. candidate has written a thesis on this topic, but it’s a certainty that tiny things have long captivated people.

For example, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, written in the early 1700s and describing the miniature country of Lilliput, has never been out of print since it was first published.

Portrait miniatures became popular in Europe in the 16th century and were carried by soldiers and sailors or kept by loved ones at home. Probably for as long as people have been making things, they’ve been creating tiny versions of those objects.

Fondness for the pint-sized also applies to quilts. I wonder how many quilt aficionados first fell in love with a doll quilt—perhaps one made just for them by a mother, grandmother, aunt, big sister, or other special person. That was the case for me.

I still have the doll quilt that my paternal grandmother, Pairlee Williams, made for me when I was six years old. Earlier that same day, Grandma had let me put my first quilting stitches on a quilt she was working on. Her quilt contained a blue conversation print with horses and cowboys on it that my first grade self thought was just the finest thing I’d ever seen.

She looked in her scrap bag and discovered that she had a piece of that fabric big enough to back a doll quilt, so she said she’d make one for me. She took an eight-pointed star block leftover from another project, added some borders, backed it with that wonderful cowboy fabric, and finished it off with red rickrack that had been used to trim a dress of mine.

My doll quilt was certainly nothing special to look at, and the workmanship was hasty since she stitched it up on her treadle sewing machine in no time flat. But to me, it was just beautiful. It kept my doll cozy for years, and to this day I still treasure it.

Nebraska quilter Mary Ghormley has been collecting doll quilts for 40 years. Her collection, which is housed at the International Quilt Study Center (IQSC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, can be seen on the IQSC website. Quilts from the Ghormley collection are also featured in a book by quilt historian, author, and Quilters Hall of Fame honoree, Merikay Waldvogel, entitled Childhood Treasures—Doll Quilts By and For Children.

Unlike my hurriedly made, scrappy doll quilt, some of the little quilts in Mary Ghormley’s collection were carefully crafted and feature exquisite workmanship. It’s a safe bet that they were made with as much love, however, as mine. And no doubt, the little girls for whom they were made treasured their doll quilts as much as I do.

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Archived blogs:

Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor

See other archived columns here

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