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Wondering About Baltimore

Dear Deb,

Can you tell me what a Baltimore Album quilt is and a bit about how they originated?


Wondering about Baltimore

Dear Baltimore,

You’ve hit on one of my own favorites here! Baltimore quilts are thought to have started in an attempt to emulate the autograph albums that were very popular at the beginning of the 19th Century. In about 1840 inks were developed that could be used on fabric without damaging them, so it was a short step from collecting signatures in albums to collecting them on quilts! These simple quilts became known as friendship quilts, each block the same except for the signature or poetry written on it by a friend. Eventually, friendship quilts developed into sampler quilts, with each block being different. They featured beautiful appliqué motifs.

At this time in history, Baltimore was very wealthy and the home of a growing textile industry, and the appliqué sampler quilts became all the rage. Because there was a large German community in Baltimore, German folk art motifs and symbols became a standard part of the designs. Mostly, the fabrics used were crisp and new, which made for marvelous applique techniques.

Baltimore quilts are not thick or heavy because only a thin batting was used and, generally, they were used for show rather than to keep folk warm at night! Making a Baltimore quilt is a long-term project because they are heirloom pieces but they are tremendously satisfying to make and you can incorporate loads of memories, or perhaps incorporate symbols that are special to the recipient of the quilt.

Because these quilts are made block by block, in the hand, they make for very portable projects. I have never completed a Baltimore Album quilt although I love to see them and to admire the work that goes into designing and making them. Sue Garman (pictured above) was one of our friends who passed away a couple of years ago leaving some beautiful Baltimore-style quilt designs.

If you are really interested in this type of quilt, look out for books by Elly Sienkiewicz, where you will find instructions for making your own blocks and quilts. One such book is "Baltimore Elegance". Another from Elly is Fancy Applique which is more of a technique book that includes 2 unique Fancy Sampler Quilts + 50 different blocks + All the techniques you need including: - cutaway and reverse cutaway appliqué - needle turn - non-decorative appliqué stitches - Stumpwork - Scenery blocks - Methods for perfect points, inside corners, and smooth curves ...not to mention that it is just a beautiful book.

Hope that helps – a word of warning though Baltimore Quilts can be addictive!

Until we meet again, may your days be pieceful!



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