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Quilts to Cloths: How an Antique Appliqué Pattern Inspired Our Latest Swedish Dishcloth Design

I’ve been participating in live, online auctions lately. This is a completely new experience for me. And, I must say, it can be quite thrilling (and surprisingly expensive!). It started innocently enough when I was buying abandoned quilt tops and blocks for the Quiltfolk Foundry—a very specific kind of treasure for which to look. However, in my hunting for these hidden gems, I was also watching dozens of beautiful antique quilts come up for sale. And it was hard not to fall in love with so many of them, as well as their stories.

One particular morning, I was working with the Quiltfolk team on designs for a spring-themed collection of Swedish dishcloths—a popular product we’ve offered to readers for several years now. As we discussed new design options, I received a reminder notification on my phone: “Auction starting NOW.” Not being in a hurry to spend money, I somewhat lazily launched the auction in a new browser on my computer and continued working without paying much attention. 

An hour later, I decided to pop in and see what was on the block. And there she was: a beautiful Rose Wreath appliqué quilt from the late-nineteenth century.

I was struck immediately by its beauty and unique take on the Rose Wreath pattern. But, almost as quickly, like a bolt of lightning, I was hit with another thought. I quickly took a screenshot of the center appliqué design, rotated it 90 degrees, and there, lo and behold, was the perfect design for our new dishcloths.

We’d never created any quilt-related products with designs from antique quilts. But with the recent launch of the Quiltfolk Foundry, where we’re finishing orphan quilt tops and blocks, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can breathe new life into antique quilt designs—how the hard work from generations past can make their way into our collective creative consciousness today. And, in that moment, there didn’t seem to be a better example than the one I was staring at right in front of me.

We purchased the quilt. And a few months later, we began working on adapting the design for our dishcloths. Quiltfolk designer Janelle Frazier played with many color variations for the cloths, including pulling from a palette of colors from that time period. But it was her take on a mid-century modern color scheme that ultimately captured our imagination.

The new dishcloth collection launched in April and has been our most popular of all previous designs, by a wide margin!

The most incredible part of this process has been knowing that we are all able to enjoy this classic quilt design, in a new format, more than a century after it was made. And there’s something special about seeing beloved quilt patterns with fresh eyes—even when it’s shared in a different application, somehow the story continues.

I never know how these ideas will go. But I have learned that it’s always worth taking a shot. Because if you see a quilt design that you love, chances are, someone else will love it too.

So, stay tuned. We don’t know what other quilt treasures are waiting to be found, but you can bet that more are out there—and they will reappear in future lines of Quiltfolk goods!

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