Friday, February 15, 2008

Flannel Flag Quilt

Updated 3/2017-- all links removed as many are no longer active and it's easier than checking each one.

When I first found this quilt top, I was told it was made of "cigar felts". It is made of 128 "flags", 8 across and 16 down. I have several other "flags" that aren't sewn together. I am thinking about disassembling the quilt top, removing some of the duplicates, and adding in some that aren't there. Maybe doing two so they are wall size. Then I could display them better once they are quilted.

I have learned that they are not felts. They were not associated with cigars. They are cotton flannels. They were associated with cigarettes as premiums. That doesn't make me any less enamored of them. There is so much history there. The history of advertising, quilting, society, and more.
Check out some of these of these flags -- the countries -- Austria-Germany, Siam (with the elephant), Ireland (with the harp), the United States (only 48 stars). Korea is spelled with a "C" (not pictured).
And China (with the lion), Denmark (red with the white cross), Poland (eagle on red field with blue X), Liberia (similar to the US flag (one white star in blue field with red/white strips).

Here are some others I have not sewn together. The Germany one is interesting--remember this flag was pre-World Wars. The purple and red is Morocco.
Here is Norway, Burma, Egypt, and Switzerland.

The practice of inserting advertising in tobacco products and packaging began about 1870 and continued throughout the late 19th Century into the first decades of the 20th Century. The inserts or premiums that I find interesting are the ones that became parts of quilts. Tobacciana includes tin tobacco tags, cigarette cards, cigar ribbons, silks, and flannels. The ribbons, silks, and flannels were often collected and sewn into quilts.
Silk Cigar Ribbons
These ribbons were used to tie the bundles of cigars.    Often the ribbon had the tobacco company’s name imprinted on it.  The ribbons came in bright colors;  most commonly gold or yellow, but also blue, green, orange, purple and red. Cigar ribbons are narrow in width, usually about 3/4 inches wide. They are usually 12-15 inches long. (an example can be seen here)
Pillows, tablecloths, and quilts were made to show off the ribbon collections.  Log cabins and fans were two popular patterns.
Tobacco Silks
Tobacco or cigarette “silks” were often made of  silk or silk satin, a silk-cotton cloth blend, a cotton sateen or even a plain woven cotton.  These “silks” were beautiful and printed with pictures of various themes:  floral, flags, American Indian motifs, bathing beauties, animals, and more.  Several came in series.  One such group was the city seals which contained over 75 individual items.  (examples can be seen here)
Here is a website related to a A Floral Silkies Quilt with pictures and the family history of the quilt.
Tobacco “flannels” were actually made of a cotton flannel fabric.  These too were printed with designs such as the “silks.”   (examples can be seen here)
I wish some company would do something like the above today. It would be great! Godiva does with ribbons, but how much chocolate would I have to eat to get enough ribbon to make a quilt? I have a couple of these ribbons. Anyone want to send me their ribbons? Any company (for healthy products) want to start doing something like the above premiums?

Textile Tobacco Inserts and Premiums used in American Quilts, and Related Household Articles; By Laurette Carroll, Quilt Maker,
Quilt Collector and Quilt Historian
"Better Choose Me: Addictions to Tobacco, Collecting, and Quilting, 1880-1920"; Ethel Ewart Abrahams and Racheal K. Pannabecker from Uncoverings 2000
America's Quilting History; Tobacco Premium Quilt History: Silks, Ribbons & Flannels --
A Flag Quilt Launches a Search into the Past; Merikay Waldvogel; Quilting Today, Issue 68, pp 26-28
Museums & Quilts; Attic Treasures for Everybody at the Bowers
Museum of Cultural Art; Carter Houck; Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, Jan/Feb 1995, No 269, pp 40-41


Øystein said...

The Norwegian flag is actually a colonial flag, used 1844-1899 when we were "united" with Sweden. Parts of the Swedish flag can be seen in the upper left square. This was known as the "herring salad" amongst Norwegians.

In 1899 this square became all red, like the others. Norway gained full independence in 1905.

swooze said...

Your quilt is wonderful. Thanks for sharing this with us. I bought some flag ribbons off ebay to add to a future crazy quilt.

rlbates said...

Thanks for the information, SterileEye. That helps date them. Amazing to know how old some of them are!

Swooze, thank you. I would love to see your crazy quilt when you finish (or as you make it).

jmb said...

What a great post R,these are very interesting fabrics. Are they all in good condition? The quilt top is smashing.

Anonymous said...

Oh Ramona,

You caught my heart with this one: fiber art plus history plus tobacco products? My three favorite topics and your photos are stunning!

Lovely post.

I don't think the shrink-wrap on cigarettes OR nicotine replacement products would be quiltable.
thinking on ribbons or ribbon-like products...

rlbates said...

JMB, they are in good condition. The Germany one needs to be laundered, but that can be done safely with gentle soap and water.

Laundress, what about cloth premiums from book companies? Especially, the companies or series that target women (not the writers listed who combine quilting/sewing and novels). Or the fabric companies -- buy so many yards, get a "coupon" that can later be redeemed (maybe 5 coupons per "flag").

Anonymous said...

Hmm, Ramona,

I have been thinking and thinking...

what about ribbons from candy boxes?
(my worksite -- a public library -- has been swamped with heartshaped calorie traps. Dieters just surrender their goods to us. Mostly tied with pretty fabric ribbons.)

Avoiding both ribbons and candies myself! (but scraping the bottom of yet another 1 lb bag of pistachios).

Funny, so much that used to be fabric is now either paper or plastics...

Hey, you could quilt with paper, right?? Say YES? and I will be off on new tangents.


rlbates said...

TL, I'd love to have all those ribbons! Yes, we quilters sometimes use paper for paper-piecing or foundation piecing. Not as the actual quilt though.

And you are right about how so many things used to be fabric--flour sacks for one.

Chris said...

RL, enjoyed this post and pictures.

Interesting how vice industries often package goods with a perk: from the felts you showed to baseball cards or free T-shirts. I've seen some wonderful collections of beer giveaways. Wonder if there are any good gun marketing giveaways?

Have fun!


Muddy said...


Anonymous said...

I have a buch of those flags! I didnt know what they were. Thanks for the great info. How much are they worth? Your quilts are beautiful. Does anyone know how I should store the flags?

rlbates said...

Anon--I don't know how much they are worth. A good antique dealer (one who deals in quilts, etc) would be able to help you with that. Store them flat, not creased and in a dry area. Do not put in a plastic bag, but a paper one or a cotton pillow case.