a traditional hope chest – wedding quilt 1959

hand painted wedding quilt for hope chest 1959


I wanted to share these sweet family photos with you, showing a snippet of a traditional hope chest.

On Friday we celebrated the life of my great-aunt after she passed away at the age of 91.  This photo shows my great-aunt Irma and her husband, Norman, on their wedding day in 1959.  The quilt they are holding was made for them by my grandmother, Bertha Fullmer.

From the sheen of the fabric and also from seeing firsthand similar quilts that my grandmother made, I believe that this quilt was made from a whole piece of white tricot fabric.  The roses would have painted onto the fabric with oil paints, using multiple part hand-cut stencils and stiff stencil brushes.  The finished flowers would appear printed on the fabric, with delicate shading to make them look realistic.  Years later my grandmother taught me the same stenciling technique, which I used on a smaller scale for pillowcases and towels to fill my hope chest.

The quilt has a solid colored tricot fabric backing to coordinate with the color of the flowers, which was also used to bind the edge.  The quilting would have been done by hand, outlining the details in the roses, and also in closely radiating lines throughout the remainder of the quilt.  It looks like there are some lovely fan details quilted as well.  This quilt would have been just as pretty on the reverse side, with all of the quilting details showing in relief in white stitching on color, perhaps red or dark pink.   If you look closely at the photo on the right, it shows the quilt also had a rose swag motif placed to go across the pillows.

hand painted wedding quilt for hope chest

This quilt is strikingly beautiful in every detail!  The size would have been big enough to create a full drop to the floor, suitable for a bedspread.  On some quilts my grandmother created a scalloped edge, with large 8 to 10 inch scallops forming an elegant border on three sides.  On those the top would have been left straight to go across the headboard.

Part of the attraction for me in creating a traditional hope chest has always been kindled by photos such as these.  The pictures make me wonder about the people and their lives.  In looking at the stitching in a quilt, I think about the hands that created those stitches, as well as the time spent in selecting the materials and completing the binding.  In the same way, I wonder what became of the quilt and what stories it could tell about the home and day-to-day moments that it would have been part of.  Could I gather similar beautiful things to grace my home, things that perhaps someone else might nostalgically wonder about?

Not everything that goes into a hope chest becomes an heirloom piece, to be stored and perhaps only used on special occasions.  Linens become tattered and stained and everyday quilts show wear from laundering and constant use.  There have been moments when I have mourned the demise of some of the items that my first home was started with.  Still, how much more beautiful a home is when it is filled with lovely bits and pieces, reminders of happy times and the love of family and friends!

I read this thought on The Wise Woman Builds Her Home website:

…hope chests of the past have been replaced with modern stores but there is no reason why we cannot create and bless our daughters with a beautiful gift of a hope chest today.

Please join me in bringing back the traditional hope chest to your home in some way and share what you are doing!

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