One of my favorite things is to use an antique or vintage quilt as inspiration for a new quilt. Right now I am working with a baby quilt that belongs to Bill Volckening from the mid 1800's. This quilt is in poor shape but has some wonderful techniques still visible.
My first decision on a project like this is do I want to reproduce the quilt or use it as inspiration. And if I am going to reproduce it do I make it look like it did when newly made or an updated version of what it looks like now (minus the worn away fabrics and torn binding of course.) For this quilt I am going to make one that will be similar to what the quilt looked like new. I say similar since I am going to use reproduction fabrics and will likely have blocks that are more regular in size.
I still draft the quilt on good old graph paper. I lay the quilt out and make lots of measurements. This also gives me time to really study the construction. This quilt has everything - piecing, applique, reverse applique and some decorative stitching. Block sizes can vary greatly in these old quilts. There are 8 of these stars in the quilt and they vary from 7-3/4 to 8-1/2 inches finished. The other blocks are equally variable. I have chosen to make 8 inch blocks...
Next I pull fabrics from the reproduction fabric stash. It may sound strange but I keep my new fabric in two rooms. Reproduction fabrics are stored by time-period in three different cabinets in the guest bedroom. (vintage fabrics and blocks are stored in acid free boxes in the library...yes, fabric of some kind is stored in almost every room of the house!) Since there is so much wear on this quilt I am making some leaps of faith. For instance the greens in this quilt have all faded to blues and yellows so I am using a different green for each of the different faded fabrics "assuming" that they were different fabrics to start with. I make a chart by block type and fabrics so I don't repeatedly go back to this step...yes, playing in fabric is one of my favorite parts of quilting and I would go back to it for the smallest of reasons....(btw I am loving the fabrics in this charm packet of Moda called "Friendship"...would be perfect for this quilt but yardage doesn't come out until March! Giving us access to charm packs prior to the launch of a fabric line is great marketing but it can also be cruel and unusual punishment!)
top is Kona PDF and below Kona bone
After I have a stack of fabrics I then select a background. There is a fine line between using a background that can make the quilt "muddy" or "comicbook." And to make matters more challenging the same background could do either based on the repro fabrics so that is why I select the background last. In this case I am using Kona bone...it is just offwhite but not too yellow or grey.
Now it is time to stitch test blocks.