Documenting our Quilt Heritage

We’ve been struck by the photos that one of our readers has recently shared with us. They show her great-grandmother in front of a vintage/antique quilt. It reminds us how important it is to document our quilts with photos as well as labels and written descriptions. Sometimes we know that a great-grandmother made a quilt. Sometimes we are lucky that she signed it. Very few of us have old photos of family members, or friends, with the quilts they made. With time, if we don’t document well, the information and tradition gets lost.

Our story started out with this photo shared with us by Marlo Raub. The caption is below.

from: Marlo A. Miller Raub: “Found this picture of my great-grandmother with this quilt hanging on a line in her front porch. Can anyone tell me the name of the pattern? Especially the corners.I think the inner part looks like the lone star. I wish they had color film back then. I’m figuring it’s from the mid to late 1800s since I’m 62. I love to quilt so it must be in my DNA. Lol”

Since we’re part of social media, almost 200 people commented on it within a few hours. Most agreed that the center motif is “Lone Star” or “Bethlehem Star”. One commenter, Debra, added that there was an old wives tale that if you did the Lone Star the person receiving it would have bad luck unless you put stars around it. We didn’t get a definitive name for the whirling stars in the corners although a few suggested they were twirling versions of “Mariner’s Compass” or Lone Stars themselves. Mary, another commenter, suggested that Marlo’s great-grandmother had probably cut out, by hand of course, so many diamonds that after she finished the Lone Star she wanted to use them, so created the other stars.

We are interested in the whirling aspect of the corner stars. We counted the number of patterns in Jenny Beyer’s huge book, The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns, that start with the word “Whirl”. There are 26, with many having several versions. The “feet” on the corner stars are very typical of whirligig or wheel designs. This is a very old motif.

The wonderful photo of Marlo’s great-great grandmother with the quilt on the porch is below.

from: Marlo A. Miller Raub: “I posted this photo earlier. Thank you for your interest and input. Trying to name pattern and year of photo. Most think it is a Lone Star in center. Not sure of corners. Here is the whole photo maybe that will help. My mom was born 1912 her mom my grandmother 1890 and This is my grandmother’s mom.”

So readers, what do you guess as the date on the photo?

We want to thank Marlo for sharing these photos with us at 24 Blocks. She also talked about how hard it is when photos are not labeled and dated. We would like to quote her: “Everyone, take time to label photos and quilts for future generations. Don’t leave us hanging without answers.

At 24 Blocks we really like the idea of creating good documentation of the quilts we make. We can add labels to them, but it’s also good to take photographs, not only of the quilt itself, but you with the quilt, too. You may want to create a portfolio of your work, showing pattern names and sources, a write-up of the techniques you used, and photos. You may want to add some fabric samples, too. Quilters are artists. We need to record our art.

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