Cottage collectibles from the attic: The quilt

Columnist Sandy Erdman says hand-made quilts are a versatile purchase at area antique and collectible shops.

Spring time color onto the porch found at The Yellow Monkey, Rochester..jpg
Springtime colorful quilt for on the porch done by volunteer Karen Galuska, Rochester. Found at the Yellow Monkey, Rochester.

When I think spring and summer, I think of quilts with bright colors and garden flowers, I call the cottage collectible. Those quilts are found in grandma’s attic in cedar chests or storage trunks, at some estate and garage sales, flea markets, antique and second-hand thrift stores and websites.

Handcrafted quilts are sentimental favorites, memories of the past, and are highly sought after by designers and collectors. Especially those from the 1950s made of gingham fabric which was a common fabric with aprons, but also summer quilts.

Start a collection or add to one

If looking for small quilted items, look for the same color to add to a collection and you can even add your own hand-work to an item to bring a vintage piece back to life.

A vintage male equivalent to Sun Bonnet Sue, in the form of a country boy with a few boys holding a balloon found at the New Generations of Harmony.jpg
A vintage male equivalent to Sun Bonnet Sue in the form of a country boy with a few boys holding a balloon. Found at the New Generations of Harmony.

A particularly weak quilt or a quilt found at an estate sale, thrift shop or flea market with no family attachments can be used for decorative purposes as a purse, tote or place-mats, and all are fun to make. Hang the quilt as a painting or make sofa cushions, pillows or an upholstery piece. Quilts make great table covers on the porch for summer.

Shayna Dais, owner of The Rusty Bucket, a gift and thrift shop in Winona, says, “Lisa Lubinski Torfin re-upholstered a chair and pillow to sell with a vintage quilt for a project. We also have pillow shams and vintage quilts reasonably priced at our next sale, May 7-8.”


At the Yellow Monkey, Rochester, Karen Galuska not only volunteers but also makes quilts, runners and more. Owner Cindy Rigotti says, “Karen also uses a long-arm machine for her quilting pieces and they usually range in price from $29-$39.”

Mary F. Nelson, well-known Winona quilt artist says, “I will have a couple of quilted bags I stitched with old embroidered linens, trims, and quilting cotton along with other items for sale at the Cottage Cupboard sale ... Winona on May 5-7.”

Vintage finds at area antique malls

Erica Thilges, manager at the New Generations of Harmony, says, “Handmade quilts always gather a lot of attention. We have some lovely handmade quilts in the antique mall right now, with several of them in spring pastel colors. There are two quilts in the classic ‘Sun Bonnet Sue’ pattern, one pink and one green. The green gingham Sun Bonnet Sue has beautiful hand embroidery. Additionally, we have its male equivalent in the form of a country boy holding a balloon. Crib to queen-sized quilts with conditions ranging from ‘lovingly worn’ to ‘never used’ are from $60-$95.”

Old River Valley Antique Mall, Stewartville, owner Chris Rand Kujath says, “We have many quilts and sold a lot of them last month. Our prices start at $10 and up. Many have been sold to be used in baby nurseries, cabins and homes to decorate or just use.”

Repair, wash and dry your quilts

Old patchwork often rips open at the seams, and it’s important to reinforce those patches surrounding the ripped ones as the adjacent patches will be the next to go. Sometimes whole patches must be replaced and I recommend using a similar reproduction type fabric as you can find to match the quilt. Also, I recommend hand-stitching the new patch using a thread that contrasts attractively with the backing fabric.

Hand-wash old quilts or wash on a very gentle cycle with a gentle soap in cold water. Orvus paste soap works well because it has no phosphorus to harm your quilt. Generally, hang to dry – or better yet, lay flat – but if you do put in the dryer put on fluff or air dry.

A couple of qulted bags that Mary Nelson stitched with old embroidered linen, trim and qulting cotton as similar will be found at the Cottage Cupboard sale May 5-7.jpg
A couple of quilted bags that Mary Nelson stitched with old embroidered linen, trim and quilting cotton as similar will be found at the Cottage Cupboard sale, May 5-7.

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at .

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