I've been digging around in some long-forgotten drawers and I found an odd piece of something I picked up somewhere a long time ago. I thought it was interesting, but didn't really know what it was, so down it went into the depths of an odds-and-ends drawer.
I finally decided to clean out that drawer today, and this time I decided to try and figure out what it is. It's made up of two-inch silk rectangles, each depicting a type of flower. The center panel is made up of fine velvet or flocked geometric rectangles (that seemed out of place to me until I read the history below). They're each attached with flame-stitch embroidery to a 19 x 20 inch blue cotton striped and flowered back piece. (I'm guessing it was going to be a pillow top.)
I vaguely remembered something about cigar silks, but they were ribbons that women gathered and made into quilts. I looked them up on Google and found just what I was looking for!
Wow! My thanks to quilt historian Laurette Carroll ( and Google) for that incredibly thorough article on textile tobacco premiums. The pictures are terrific, and it says they're all from her own collection!
Silks and cards from Laurette Carroll's collection
I thought the center pieces on my piece looked out of place, and I wondered why anyone would put them together. But in Laurette's article she shows the dark geometrics, calling them "flannels". They were tobacco premiums, too, as she shows in this picture:
Neat--but. . .swastikas?
I can't believe I haven't seen more about this before. I wonder how many quilts and pillows were made using these little premiums? (And--uh, oh--how many cigarettes were smoked in order to get this many?)
And I can't believe I stuck this lovely thing in a drawer to moulder for many years when it held a history so fascinating I've now spent hours happily reading about it, only to be craving more!