“If you had told me years ago that people all over the country would ask for my opinion on antique quilts, and I could give them valid answers, I would have laughed about it. I would have thought I’d as likely have been an astronaut.”
Though with her hallmark humility and sharp Southern wit, Teddy Pruett makes it easy to underestimate her significance in the quilting world, one look at her jam-packed tour schedule makes it easy to see beyond her self-deprecating charm. She’s not only one of the most sought-after quilt appraisers in the country—honored guest of quilting guilds, clubs, and conventions from Punta Gorda to Paducah—but she’s the creator of some of the most beautiful, poignant, quirky, and laugh-out-loud-funny quilts being produced today.
Fortunately for us, Teddy has stayed—both literally and figuratively—down to earth. Trunk stuffed with duffels and bags bursting with bright quilts, she’s traveled the country for some twenty-five-odd years, shaking the dust out of heirlooms and flea-market finds to help folks discern trash from treasure. One could almost say that Teddy was born into the traveling lifestyle: growing up in a military family took her from one end of the globe to the other. Despite the shifting geography of her youth, however, Teddy’s Southern roots run deep, and it shows through her vernacular (“I ‘fix’ to do things—I’m fixin’ to answer your questions”), her style, and her unbridled, infectious enthusiasm about life in general. Ask her for a list of passions and you may sit all day; she loves big dogs, old cars, buttons, goats, and trees, driving (not flying), outsider art, and, perhaps most of all, the pinky-brown promise of well-worn fabric.
It’s easy to imagine that it was this insatiable enthusiasm that drove Teddy to carve out an industry for herself where none existed before. Her expertise is the combined result of a self-taught eye and voracious study. Quilt appraising takes more than just a shake and a sniff. It requires knowledge of 300 years of textile history, dye processes, fabric printing methods, patterns, construction techniques, regional variations, and market values—just to name a few—and Teddy’s know-how and knowledge has made her an invaluable resource: she’s appraised literally thousands of quilts across the country.
To assume that quilt appraisal is just a vocation, however, would be a great mistake. For Teddy, it’s about more than the pecuniary sum of frayed edge and faded dye. Each quilt offers a tactile dip into a memory. It should come as no surprise, then, that Teddy herself is not only an appraiser, but an avid creator as well, offering up quilts that are as unpretentious as they are stunning—avant-garde, multi-media mixes of storytelling stitch, bits, and bobs. Some of her creations are deliciously irreverent, such as To Hell with Housework (“Dusting Causes Warts!”), while others are an exercise in catharsis—a stitching up of wounds too deep to heal on their own.
Within each quilt you’ll not only find Teddy’s own story but that of those who paved the way before her. With a keen eye and open ear, she scours bargain bins and secondhand stores, searching for abandoned bits of doily, time-worn aprons, or snippets of hand-hemmed hankies, and uses these to preserve the memory of the women to whom they once belonged, carefully stitching their stories into her own narrative. As a result, Teddy’s quilts—those she creates as well as those she appraises—are not representative of a single woman’s experience, but of the collective voice of generations.
See More of Teddy Pruett and Her Quilts Here