Quilt Patterns Through Time

Patterns From the Depression Era for Doll & Baby Basket Quilts

basket doll quilt
"Baskets _ new ones, old ones, perfectly gorgeous ones, absolutely original ones _ all a joy to behold. Baskets have always been a favorite pattern and there are many varieties from the simple pieced ones to the more elaborate appliqued flower baskets…"   "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt" 1

The Historic Charm of Basket Quilts

The above quote is from the book, "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt", first published in 1935. It reflects the romanticism of the Colonial Revival that blossomed in the 1920s and 30s. Women wanted to make the quilts that were made in earlier times and baskets brought to mind images of charming Colonial women in bonnets carrying bread or flowers in a basket. Our child's basket quilt will reflect of this period in history.

Many of the quilts during this period were pieced and quilted by hand. The Colonial Revival idealized handmade products from furniture to quilts. I will leave it up to you whether you want to do your piecing and quilting by hand or by machine. My example is made by machine.

Depression Era Reproduction Fabric

Although the quilt patterns used were typical of the 1800s the fabrics were new. Bright pastels were popular often with floral or geometric prints on them. Charming prints showing animals, children and characters from stories were produced. Many of these delightful prints were also found on flour and feed sacks. These cheerful fabrics gave quilter's spirits a lift during the depression era. What we often call 30s or depression era fabrics are still a delight to sew with today. Almost every quilt store carries them so it will be easy to find fabric for this project.

The solid fabrics were slightly different tones than we find today. Take a look at Solids of the Depression Era to see examples of solid fabric in 1930s and 40s colors.

Baby and Doll Basket Quilt Pattern
basket crib quilt

This basket quilt pattern is made up of easily pieced blocks. My goal was to give you a opportunity to show off the delightful fabrics of the time. It also gives you a chance to use templates to mark your fabric for cutting. It would not be until 40 or so years later that the first rotary cutter would be developed for quilter!

One way templates were made during this period was to trace the pattern on sandpaper. In an interview one old-time quilter recalled how she cut a pattern. "Out of newspaper. And then sandpaper. See the material sticks to the sandpaper _ fine sandpaper." 2 Cardboard and paper were also used.

A Basket Like Border

I chose a border with a woven look at the corners that brings to mind the weaving of a basket. The doll quilt border is made with three strips of fabric while the baby quilt has five. A quilt by Marie Webster published in a 1912 "Ladies Home Journal" 3 is framed by a border of seven strips all interlocked in the corners. I'm sure this inspired many future quilters to use this sort of border.

The border not only frames the quilt but is also a way to use some of the solids of this period. Solids and prints were often mixed. The solids seem to calm down the active look of the printed fabrics so popular at the time.

Quiting Your Basket Quilt

Our first inclination might be to quilt in the ditch. But quilting in the ditch was rare until the 1970s. More likely this basket quilt would have been quilted about ¼ inches from the seams. This was a common way of quilting utilitarian quilts during the middle years of the 20th century. In this case the quilting is done just inside the pieces. Another way this pattern could have been quilted is with a 1 inch or so overall grid. 4 Either would be true to the period so choose which way you prefer quilting your quilt.

Use a thin cotton or mostly cotton batting to replicate quilting of this era. Off white thread was usually used for quilting.

Binding With Bias Tape

In her article, "Bias Tape - The Great Sewing Room Labor Saver", Joan Kiplinger wrote, "Bias tape was an indispensable sewing need during the 1920s-40s". In an interview old-timer, Viola Sanders Webb, of Tennessee, recalled her quilting from this period. When asked if a quilt she had made was finished with a bias binding she replied, "Yes, the bindings are on the bias. That's the only way you can bind a quilt. You got to be careful__If you do it by machine, the binding walks. For me, I did it all by hand." 5

Diane Shink is a quilt appraiser and an expert in the area of historical bindings. She suggested using single fold bias tape to represent bindings of this period. Although quilters still bound quilts with binding cut on grain, according to Barbara Brackman, bias binding for quilts became popular after 1925 while it was rarely used before that time.6 So bias binding gives your quilt an added historic touch. But take your choice as you will be historically correct binding your basket quilt either way.

The doll quilt shown above is done with 1/2 inch bias tape but wider bindings were more typical. Especially for the baby quilt, I suggest using the 7/8 inch bias tape. Quilters of the 30s had a much larger selection of tape widths available than we do today.

You just might find it fun to use bias tape for your basket quilt binding. There is no doubt quilters during the thirties favored it. Bias tape can easily be done by machine. If you choose to do it all by hand, enjoy knowing that Viola Sanders Webb would certainly have approved. 

Templates and Instructions for the Basket Quilt

Now that you have the background you need to make your reproduction quilt go to the Pattern for the Doll & Baby Basket Quilts for cutting, layout & sewing instructions.


1 p127 "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt", by Carrie A. Hall and Rose G. Kretsinger

2 p73 & 5 p74 "Soft Covers for Hard Times: Quiltmaking & The Great Depression", by Merikay Waldvogal

3 p24 "A Joy Forever: Marie Webster's Quilt Patterns",by Rosalind Webster Perry and Marty Frolli

4"Plain Quilting" digital newsletter #4 and 6 Bias Binding #38 , "Barbara Brackman, The Quilt Detective: Clues in the Needlework, 2005

Related Websites:

ReproductionFabrics.com: 1930-1950, Depression Era Fabrics

The Basket Quilt: A Daily Presence More detailed basket quilt history.

Depression Era Quilts (1930s): Cheer in Fabric and Color