November 15, 2014

A Quaker Cotton Boll Quilt from North Carolina

Our last post featured a circa 1880 Pineapple Quilt.  This time we are sharing another quilt that is  dominated by yellow/orange fabric.  This one displays an elegance of technique and refinement highlighted by simplicity.  It is estimated to have been made sometime during the period 1870-1885.

Cotton Boll Quilt.  Photograph courtesy of Lisa Hammell.
The Cotton Boll Quilt measures 82 by 72 inches and is comprised of nine blocks that are approximately 25 inches wide and 28 1/2 inches long.  The blocks are hand-pieced together and the quilting stitches on the white portion of the quilt are 16 per inch.  The number of stitches on the teal appliqued elements total 12 per inch.  This is perhaps because the quilting of these elements was through three, rather than two, pieces of fabric.  The quilt's binding is hand-basted and machine-sewn.  The hand-basting threads have not been removed.

Detail of block and double-row, cross-hatch quilting.  Cotton Boll Quilt.
Photograph courtesy of Lisa Hammell.
Detail of quilting stitches on teal elements.  Photograph courtesy of Lisa Hammell.
Detail of quilting from the back.  The pattern of the cotton boll is outline-quilted.
Photograph courtesy of Lisa Hammell.
The cotton boll pattern, also referred to as Chrysanthemum, is an example of adopting an image of local flora to produce a quilt pattern.  North Carolina Quilts, the publication resulting from the North Carolina Quilt Project, cites four cotton boll quilts, one of which was made by Temperance Neely Smoot in about 1860.  Its fabrics have faded from what was probably a red and green motif to a color motif that now appears orange/red and muted green.  Another cotton boll quilt in the same publication is attributed to Frances Johnson (1782-1872). This one is red and green with a Flying Geese sashing and border.  It is also dated 1860.  (Roberson, 93 and 94.)
An article about a modern cotton boll quilt posted to the Internet by the Upstate [South Carolina] Heritage Quilt Trail states that the cotton boll pattern "is a traditional Carolina block made in the late 19th century."  The tradition has been to place the applique pattern on a white background surrounded by Flying Geese sashing and a Flying Geese border.
Family tradition has it that our featured cotton boll quilt passed down through a Quaker family.  The owner's former father-in-law is descended from a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family, the Biddles.  Robert and William C. Biddle, along with a group of ten other, mostly-Quaker Philadelphia residents settled Riverton, New Jersey, in 1851 to build summer homes away from the industrialization that was over-running the Schulylkill River.
Wernwag Bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.  View of the South
Gardens at Fairmount Water Works, ca. 1830.  Photograph courtesy of Adam Levine,
Historical Consultant, Philadelphia Water Department.  Image source:
The Cotton Boll Quilt is believed to have been made by Sarah White (born 1860), one of three daughters born to David White, Jr. (1823-1895) and Isabella Wilson (1830-1899).  David and Isabella White lived in Perquimans County, North Carolina, with their family.  One of David's and Isabella's three sons, David White III (1870-1923), received his unmarried sister's quilt after she passed away.
David White III later married Henryanna Clay Hackney (1876-1913) and they had a daughter named Priscilla Henryanna White (1913-1971).  While attending Guilford College in North Carolina, Priscilla met and married Charles Miller Biddle (1911-2006) who was also attending this Quaker school.  The Cotton Boll Quilt passed down from David White III to his daughter, Priscilla Henryanna Biddle, and from there made its way to the current owner.
Perquimans River, North Carolina.  Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.
Sarah White and her parents are recorded in census records as living in Perquimans County from at least the 1850s through the 1880s.  Sarah's father, David White, Jr., is listed in 1850, before Sarah was born, as a farmer/tanner.  He is listed as a farmer in 1860, 1870, and in 1880 when he was fifty-nine years old and Sarah was nineteen.
The 1870 census indicates that the family had an extensive farm with a property value of $7,000 and with personal property worth $1,500.  (These combined amounts are equivalent to $154,342.81 in 2013 dollars.)  The family also had five servants and field workers, three of whom were free blacks by the last name of Riddick.  Cotton was a prevalent crop in North Carolina at the time and it is quite possible that the Whites devoted some or all of their fields to cotton.  If this is the case, its presence may have inspired Sarah to choose a cotton boll pattern for her quilt.

This lovely quilt will be featured as one of those for sale December 2-4, 2014 at  For more information, contact Lisa Hammell at
Our thanks to Lisa for letting us share this colorful and attractive quilt.
Sources: census and Public Family Tree records, accessed October 10-15, 2014
Hammell, Lisa.  "Genealogical Notes," October 20, 2014.
Roberson, Ruth Haislip, ed.  North Carolina Quilts.  North Carolina Quilt Project, 1988.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.



November 1, 2014

An Almost-Quaker Pineapple Quilt & Southern Union Spies

Today's post concerns this sweet, applique quilt with an estimated date of ca. 1880.  The pattern is identified in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Applique as (not surprisingly) "Pineapple".

Pineapple Quilt, ca. 1880.  Private collection.  Photograph by Mary Holton Robare.
Although we can't document the quilt to a Quaker maker, we are presenting it here because its owner calls it a "Quaker quilt", and because it opens the way to some fascinating Quaker history.  In the course of studying Quaker quilts, we frequently run into quilts that are cherished for their connection to Quaker forebears, even if the actual maker is unknown.
The quilt was brought to our attention because the husband of the person who handed it down in the family was descended from the Hollingworths, Quaker settlers in Winchester, Virginia. The quilt owner's husband was also a descendant of the Wrights of Frederick County, Virginia.  The owner so closely identified with this family that when she had the opportunity to visit the Wright family homestead toward the end of her life, it felt like a pilgrimage to her roots.  Before we tell you more about the Wrights, let's look at the quilt.
Measuring 67 1/4 by 84 inches, its twenty 15 by 15 inch blocks are separated by one inch sashing.  It is quilted in diagonal rows, cross-hatching, and with stitches that outline the applique.  The backing is seamed and it has an applied binding.
Details, Pineapple Quilt.  Photographs by Mary Holton Robare.
With an estimated date of ca. 1880, it is the search for a probable maker or first-owner that leads to the story of Southern Union Spies.  Family tradition is that the quilt belonged to Esther (Riggin) Raymond.  Born in 1918, she was too young to be the original maker or owner. Esther's mother, Edith (born 1878), was also too young to have made a quilt ca. 1880.  There is no way of knowing who made the quilt, but the investigation into Edith's ancestry gets interesting.
Edith's mother, America "Mae" Hughey (1856-1933), was from Ohio.  If she made the quilt, there is no indication she was a Quaker.  However, she was married in 1874 to a birthright Quaker, Jonathan T. Wright of Frederick County, Virginia.  Thus, IF (being highly speculative) she made the quilt, we might call it "almost Quaker".
Of more importance here, however, is history associated with Jonathan T. Wright's sister, Rebecca -a famous female Quaker and Civil War spy.
Rebecca M. Wright (1838-1914).  Image courtesy of the Southern Unionists Chronicles website. 
Jonathan and Rebecca were two of several children born to Rachel (Lupton) and Amos Wright.  Amos was known as a Union sympathizer, as was his daughter Rebecca.  She worked as a young teacher before deciding (in about 1854) to study further at a "Friends School in Loudoun County, under the direction of Samuel M. Janney."   This school, unnamed in accounts, was most likely Springdale, the boarding school founded by Janney in 1839 and operated in Loudoun County until his retirement in 1855.  Its mission was to provide a "guarded education" for young women.
Springdale, Loudoun County, Virginia.  Photograph by Mary Holton Robare.
It has been long-rumored that the school's building was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad but this has not been satisfactorily verified to scholars.  What is known, however, is that Janney's "anti-slavery efforts included founding Sunday schools and day schools for African American children, lobbying the District of Columbia to abolish slavery, and supporting emancipation and colonization societies."  His influence was profound.
Despite a public stance of neutrality, Quakers (not all but many) tended to be Union sympathizers due to their general disapproval of slavery.  In the town of Winchester, Virginia, sentiments were so sharply divided between all residents that the town changed hands over seventy times in the course of the Civil War.
It was in the fall of 1864 that Rebecca Wright was recommended to General Sheridan as a "person of Union loyalty, who might be able to give information on the Confederate forces."  In seeking a trusted go-between for communications with Rebecca Wright, Sheridan found Thomas Laws, "a black slave from Clarke County."
Thomas Laws.  Photograph excerpted from Winchester Star newspaper article.  The image
depicts a sketch of Thomas Laws from the James E. Taylor Sketchbook. The caption states
that, "[...] the Laws sketch was probably from a picture that Laws sent to [Taylor] in 1894."  Star
photo courtesy of the Western Reserve Historical Society.
Laws was the courier for notes exchanged between Rebecca Wright and General Sheridan.  The notes were written on tissue paper and wrapped in tinfoil which Laws was instructed to hold in his mouth en route. He was further instructed to swallow the packets in the event of capture.
Newspaper writer Val Van Meter states that the information exchanged was "[...] responsible for the timing of the Third Battle of Winchester and the Union Army's subsequent conquest of the Shenandoah Valley."
Indications are that Thomas Laws lived in Clarke County, Virginia, for the rest of his life.  When Rebecca's role in the events leading up to the Confederates' defeat was discovered, she was hated in her hometown.  She recalled boys spitting on her in the streets, and being called names such as "Traitor of the South".  Deciding to leave Winchester after the Civil War, she secured a job in the United States Treasury Department with the help of General Sheridan.
You can learn more of this story from our list of sources and you can see a ca. 1889 image of Rebecca on these websites: and
Sources and Notes:
Special thanks are extended to Ruth Raymond, Karen Colley, and Barbara Garrett.
You can see another Pineapple Quilt dated 1850-1875 on The Quilt Index, Record # 1E-3D-2F2.
Scheel, Eugene.  "Underground Railroad-Journey to Freedom Was Risky for Slaves and Guides" in The History of Loudoun County, Virginia at
"Summary of Memoirs of Samuel M. Janney" in Documenting the American South at
Van Meter, Val.  "Teacher, Slave Unite to Help Union After Course of Civil War" in The Winchester Star, 13 September, 2014.
Williams, Kimberly.  Quaker Sites in Loudoun County, Virginia. Loudoun County, Virginia: The Mosby Heritage Area Association, not dated, at .




October 16, 2014

American Quilt Study Group Seminar 2014, Part 3

We promised earlier to share with you a quilt that was on display in Christine Bowman's vendor booth at Seminar in Milwaukee.  Well, here it is.

Eight-Pointed Star Quilt.  Photograph courtesy of Christine Bowman.

The quilt is comprised of 42 twelve-inch square blocks placed seven across and six down.  These blocks are surrounded by a white border measuring approximately three inches on each side and five and a half inches at top and bottom giving a measurement of approximately 88 by 80 inches.  Three additional blocks, not incorporated into the quilt, came with it.  Documentation obtained with the quilt states that it was Quaker-made in the 1840s and that it was assembled and quilted in 1955 in Milwaukee.  The red binding would have been added at that time.

Photograph courtesy of Christine Bowman.
The quilt blocks were paper-pieced using eight diamonds and a center octagonal piece.  Most of the octagonal elements are inscribed, either free-hand in ink or stamped, with the names of members of families living mainly in Delaware and Maryland as well as Philadelphia, Virginia, and St. Louis, Missouri.  The dates inscribed on the quilt are 1843 and 1844.
Extra block showing paper-piecing technique.  Photograph courtesy of Christine Bowman.
The fabrics comprising the stars are cotton prints.  Two of the stars, which were dark brown printed with roses, have deteriorated and are partially worn away, revealing the cotton batting beneath.
This and the next three photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Extra block with attached names to be inscribed on it and perhaps another of the extra blocks. 
The names are R.T. Davenport and Sarah Davenport.  None of the blocks in the quilt are
inscribed with two names even though it was common Quaker practice to inscribe the
names of both husband and wife on a single block.
This and the next three block photographs courtesy of Christine Bowman.
Preliminary research into the names inscribed on the quilt revealed the presence of three particularly prominent Delaware families.  All settled in or around Wilmington, Delaware, where the Brandywine and Christina Rivers converge.
Map of the Brandywine and Christina River watershed.  Courtesy of Wikipedia.
The first of these is a family of Quakers by the name of Richardson who settled near what-is-now Wilmington in the late 17th or early 18th century on the Christina River.  John Richardson (1679-1755) migrated to the New World from England and amassed a considerable fortune from his operation of a gristmill and from foreign trade.  He had two brigantines plus a sloop that sailed with cargo from his own wharves and storehouses selling grain, flour, lumber, and barrel staves, returning with sugar, molasses, rum, and salt which he sold locally.
When John died in 1755, he left his mill property to his son Richard Richardson (1720-1797) who, in 1765, built a large stone house overlooking Newport Pike.  One year later, Richard married Sarah Tatnall, the daughter of a wealthy Brandywine miller, and moved her into this house.  The house is still standing and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Richard Richardson House in 2010.  Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.
One of Richard's sons, Ashton Richardson (1776-1852), inherited the mill property and continued to pursue several milling operations in the area.  Ashton, a prominent and wealthy Quaker, was considered one of the area's most eligible bachelors.  In 1804, he built Ashley Mansion on his inherited property and three years later married Mary Wood.  They had eight children and lived in Ashley Mansion until their deaths in the early 1850s.
Ashley Mansion.  Photograph by Bill Pfingsten, Bel Air, Maryland.
The names of two of Ashton's and Mary's daughters, Hannah W. (Wood) Richardson and Mary Richardson, are inscribed on the Eight-Pointed Star Quilt.  Both blocks indicate they were living at Ashley Mansion at the time the blocks were inscribed.
Block inscribed by Hannah W. Richardson.  Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoeth.
Note the Quaker-style date of 1sr mo 1sr 1844.
The second early family living in this same area were the Shannons who resided in what became known as Christiana.  The names of five Shannon family members are inscribed on the quilt, including that of William T. Shannon.  William T. Shannon was a descendant of William Shannon, an innkeeper who owned the Shannon Hotel, a popular inn located at an important colonial crossroads that linked Christiana with Philadelphia and the then-province of Maryland.  The hotel was constructed about 1766 and was purportedly famous for the quality of its food.  Local lore has it that George Washington, Lafayette, Benjamin Latrobe, and Mason and Dixon all stayed there at one time or another.  The Shannon Hotel still exists but is in disrepair.
Shannon Hotel, Christiana, Delaware.  Photograph from
The names and an inscription related to a third family represented on the quilt may give a clue as to who made the quilt and for whom it was intended.  One of the quilt blocks, bearing the name James Height, displays this inscription:
                                                       Although unasked,
                                                       I send a square,
                                                       To Mary Corse,
                                                       Of Delaware.
Mary is named on the quilt as are her mother, Rebecca Morris Corse, and two of her six siblings, William H. Corse and John R. Corse.
Rebecca Morris (1780-1864) married James Rigbie (also spelled Rigby) Corse in 1803 at Friends Meeting, Duck Creek, Kent County, Delaware.  The couple had seven children: Sarah Ann, Elizabeth Morris (French), Susan Cassandra, James Morris (an M.D.), Mary Berry (Oliphant), John Rigbie, and William Henry (also an M.D.).  James Rigbie Corse died in 1822 before his family settled in Wilmington, Delaware.  His wife Rebecca lived until 1864.
The quilt's inscribed blocks naming John R. Corse and William H. Corse show that they were in St. Louis, Missouri, in the mid-1840s, the time during which the quilt blocks were inscribed.  William H. had returned to Wilmington by the time of the 1850 census, but John R. does not appear in any census records after 1840.
Christine's superior sleuthing turned up a notice, published in The Friend Quaker publication on Twelfth Month 28, 1845.
"Died on the seventh of last month [November 7, 1845], at Rock Island, Illinois, in the 28th year of his age, John R. Corse, son of James R. and Rebecca Corse of Delaware -- his life was characterized by conscientious integrity and uprightness; his death was resigned and peaceful."
We know from the inscription on the James Height block that John's sister, Mary Corse, was collecting blocks for a quilt.  We know that the quilt top was completed but that it was not backed and quilted until 1955.  It would not be unreasonable to speculate that the quilt was being made for John, who had moved to Missouri, to remind him of his loving family and friends back home in Delaware. His untimely death perhaps explains why the quilt remained unfinished after its top was assembled.
Alternatively, the blocks could have been made for a quilt for Mary, herself, to commemorate her wedding to James Morris Oliphant which took place in April, 1845 prior to John's death.  This supposition leaves unexplained, however, why the quilt remained unfinished.
The other family names inscribed on the quilt are Height, Wilson, England, Simmons, Black, Morris, Latimer, McDowell, Griffin, Pinkney, Sutton, Harmon, Clemen, and Haymond.
Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Further research is needed to reveal the lives of the others named on the quilt, identify their relationships to one another, and understand why they were included as part of the "community" represented by the quilt.  It appears that the Corse family was central to the quilt making effort and, if so, all of the others named on the quilt may have had some kind of relationship to them.
Photograph courtesy of Christine Bowman.
This beautiful quilt has several stories to tell about colonial Delaware, its early history, and its inscribed identities.  If you are interested in purchasing it and continuing the research necessary to reveal the stories it has to tell, contact Christine Bowman.
Our thanks to Christy for her research contributions to this post and for her permission to feature this wonderful Quaker quilt on our blog.
"A Partial Genealogy of the Family of Caleb and Rebecca C. Davies," accessed 10/15/2014 at census data, Tait Public Family Tree, and Berger Forest Public Family Tree, accessed 10/14/2014,
Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog at
National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form, Department of the Interior Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service.  (Richardson properties.)
The Friend, Twelfth Month 28, 1845.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.



October 1, 2014

American Quilt Study Group Seminar 2014 (Part 2)

Two hundred and forty-two members of the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 10-14 to attend their annual Seminar.  This event provides attendees with a variety of activities including the presentation of original research papers, Study Centers on diverse quilt-related topics, tours to local places of interest, roundtable discussions, poster board viewings of research in progress, silent and live quilt auctions, on-site quilt vendor showrooms, member book sales, and a number of good meals.  Best of all is the opportunity to meet and network with people who share a common interest in quilts, quilt history, textiles, social and regional history, women's studies, and related topics.

Opening night quilt-turning event.  All photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Our last post described a trip to the Cedarburg Woolen Mill and Textiles Museum.  Other tours were offered as well.  Some attendees visited the Milwaukee County Historical Center, the Pabst Mansion, the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Kneeland-Walker House in Wauwatosa, and the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts in Cedarburg.  The Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts had on display quilts, ephemera, and personal items associated with Mary McElwain and her widely-known quilt shop in Walworth, Wisconsin.  Insight into Mary's life and her impact on quilting in the mid-20th century was provided by Pat L. Nickols.
Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts, Cedarburg, Wisconsin.  Interior of the restored
historic barn than houses the Museum's collections.
Study Centers at Seminar offer those attending a chance to participate in a number of topic-related groups concentrating on a specific subject.  This year's Study Center topics covered comforters, Seminole piecing traditions, mourning and "lost cause" quilts, the Quilt Index and its use, drawing and analyzing stitching patterns, African indigo resist dyeing, manufactured bias tape and its effect on quilts and other needlework in the first half of the 20th century, 19th century New York quilt patterns, American hero quilts and the International Quilt Study Center and Museum's World Quilts web site as a source of inspiration for quilt historians and quilt makers.
Detail of an 1830s New England comforter featured during a Study Center on New England
comforters conducted by Lorie Chase.  Chintz, patchwork-printed fabric (also known
 as "cheater cloth") with elaborate wool ties.
The main attraction of Seminar each year is the presentation of original research papers.  This year's papers were "Knockers, Pickers, Movers and Shakers: Quilt Dealers in America, 1970-2000" presented by Nancy Curry Bavor; "Textiles and Clothing of the Civil War: A Portrait for Understanding" presented by Beverly Gordon; "Tifaifai in Tahiti: Embracing Change" presented by Joyce D. Hammond; "'One Hundred Good Wishes Quilts': Expressions of Cross-Cultural Communication" presented by Marin Hanson; "Weft-Loop Woven Counterpanes in the New Republic: The Re-discovery of a Textile Legacy" presented by Laurel Horton; and, "Quilt Documentation Projects 1980-1989: Exploring the Roots of a National Phenomenon" presented by Christine Humphrey.
This year's research papers and Study Centers demonstrate the breadth and diversity of topics annually addressed at Seminar.  There is definitely something of interest for everyone attending.
When not participating in scheduled activities, Seminar attendees have a chance to browse through several high-quality vendor booths where antique quilts can be viewed, discussed, and purchased.  The vendors display quilt ephemera as well as quilts, providing a large variety of items to entice collectors. 
Just two of several vendor areas at Seminar this year.
One of the vendor areas, belonging to AQSG member Christine Bowman of Evanston, Illinois, featured a Quaker quilt from the late 1840s.  This star-pattern quilt will be the subject of our next (and last) post about AQSG Seminar this year.  It is really special.
If you are not a member of AQSG and would like to join all of us next year in Indianapolis, please go to our web site at and become a member.  We'd love to meet you and share the information, friendships, and experience that Seminar provides.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.



September 20, 2014

American Quilt Study Group Seminar, 2014 (Part 1)

This is the first of three posts that will be devoted to the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) Seminar held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 10-14th.  The last of these will feature a Quaker quilt on display at the Seminar dating from the 1840s.  Be prepared to see some wonderful fabrics!

Some of the activities at the AQSG Seminar each year are tours of local places of interest to quilters, quilt researchers, and quilt historians.  One of this year's tours was a bus trip to nearby Cedarburg to visit the Cedarburg Woolen Mill and Textile Museum.

Entrance to the Cedarburg Woolen Mill and Textile Museum.  All photographs are by
Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The Cedarburg Woolen Mill is not an old restored woolen mill situated on a river.  It is the basement operation of Kay Walters' Civil War-era wool-to-batting processing business and a chance to see her use of 1860s seeding and carding equipment to produce batting for antique quilt restoration and for modern-day quilts.
Kay Walters describing the different varieties of sheep from which she obtains wool
for her batting operation.
The original Cedarburg Woolen Mill began processing in 1864.  Kay purchased vintage machinery patented in 1860 for her business in downtown Cedarburg and processes her wool in much the same way as it was processed in the 19th century.  The process includes washing and drying the wool, then using a mechanical burring picker and wool card to produce batting of various thicknesses.
Thin batting leaving the wool card on a conveyor belt.  To ensure the conveyor is functioning
smoothly, Kay occasionally gives it's engine a hefty kick!
Batting being wound onto a cylinder at the end of the conveyor belt for removal and bagging
in twin, double, and queen-size quilt amounts.  King-size quilts require placing two double-size
amounts side by side.  Kay says it takes four pounds of wool to produce batting for a queen-size quilt.
Wool batting has been used in comforters and quilts in America throughout its history.  Sheep were raised on most farms during colonial times and the nineteenth century.  The wool produced by these sheep was cleaned, carded, and used in bedding or spun, often dyed, and woven into fabric for clothing.  Quaker families were among those who raised sheep for their wool and much of that wool was used in bedding.
Patricia J. Keller, in her publication "Of the best Sort but Plain", Quaker Quilts from the Delaware Valley, 1760-1890, states:  "Rather than 'cotton wool' filling (more familiarly known in America today as 'cotton batting'), eighteenth-century silk-faced whole cloth quilts with Delaware Valley Quaker provenance tend to have undyed, carded wool as the filling.  The same is often true of silk-faced quilts of pieced or whole cloth construction made by women Friends in this region throughout the nineteenth century."  She goes on to say that the frequent use of silk for quilt piecing in this area, as well as the selection of "undyed, carded wool as filling for silk faced quilts" represent a distinctive Quaker tradition.  (Keller, 19.)
On the Ohio frontier, Quaker Anna Briggs Bentley and her husband Joseph raised sheep for wool.  The wool was produced mainly for home use but was also a commodity that could be sold or traded for goods the Bentley's did not produce.  Anna wrote to her sister in Maryland on 7th mo. 5th 1830:  "I have 4 trousers and 8 shirts to make, my wool to pick to have spun and linsy [sic] made, besides a great deal more sewing."  Anna converted her wool into fabric for clothing and bedcovers and also used it for filling quilts and comforters.  (Foster, 114.) 
The popularity of wool among Quaker quilters can be attributed to the facts that it was warm and durable, sheep easily could be raised on family farms, and slave labor was not traditionally required for its production. 
Kay Walters finds that there is still a significant demand for wool batting today, both to fill new quilts and comforters and to restore old ones.  Many of her clients bring their quilts and comforters to her to have the wool removed, cleaned, carded anew to restore fluffiness, and reinserted.  This work may also require mending the quilt or comforter itself.  Kay has shelves of what she calls "vintage and reclaimed" fabrics that she uses to ensure her "mends" reflect the time period of the quilts she is repairing.
Part of Kay's "stash" of vintage and reclaimed fabrics.
The trip to the Cedarburg Woolen Mill and Textile Museum was not only informative, it provided a window into the past when wool processing was done at home or in small, local manufactories.  Kay Walters is single-handedly preserving the traditions of the past using nineteenth century techniques and equipment.  What a treasure she is!
Foster, Emily (ed.).  American Grit, A Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier.  Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2002.
Keller, Patricia J.  "Of the best Sort but Plain", Quaker Quilts from the Delaware Valley, 1760-1890.  Chadds Ford, PA: Brandywine River Museum, 1996.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.


September 2, 2014

Quaker Quilts at Abram's Delight

This has been a year of quilt activities at the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society in Virginia.  The finishing touches are being put on plans for their Seminar, "A Focus on Quilts from the Lower Shenandoah Valley", scheduled for September 19th and 20th.  (See information at left.)  Currently, "A Collection of Quilts" from their collection can be seen at the Hollingsworth Mill in Winchester, Virginia, through October 31st.

Additionally, it was Mary's pleasure to act as a Guest Curator for a special three-day exhibit of Quaker Quilts that was held June 13-15, 2014 at Abram's Delight, a Museum of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.  The exhibit featured twenty-six quilts made between circa 1840 and 2007.  All were made or owned for generations by members of the Religious Society of Friends.  Many were made by direct descendants of Abraham Hollingsworth for whom Abram's Delight Museum is named.  Built by his son, Isaac, it is believed that construction on the house started before Abraham's death in 1748.

Abram's Delight Museum, Winchester, Virginia.  Photograph courtesy of the
Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.
One of the most recent quilts on display was made by Janney Lupton in 1997.  Janney Lupton is a direct descendant of Isaac Hollingsworth, the original builder of Abram's Delight.
Hollingsworth Revisited, 1997.  Quilt made by Janney Lupton.
Janney based her Hollingsworth Revisited Quilt on the Hollingsworth Family Quilt, circa 1858, which is now in the permanent collection of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.
Hollingsworth Family Quilt, circa 1858.  Collection of the Winchester-Frederick
County Historical Society.  Photograph by Barbara Tricarico.
Janney Lupton's 1997 Hollingsworth Revisited Quilt won "Best in Show" at "A Century of Quiltmaking" at Belle Grove, Winchester, Virginia, and "Best in Show" at the 2007 Maine Quilt Show, Augusta, Maine.  Her straight-set reinterpretation is heavily hand-quilted in a half-inch hanging diamond grid design.  The applique designs include cutwork hearts, similar to those seen in several other mid-nineteenth century Quaker quilts made in Virginia, as well as five blocks of the pattern known locally as "Apple Pie Ridge Star".  (See our post of February 4, 2012.)  This block is at the corners and fourth from the top in green, far right.  Janney Lupton was the first to publish the charming block pattern name after learning it from this quilt's previous owner, her cousin Janney Wilson.
While examining the original Hollingsworth Family Quilt over a light box, Janney made a startling discovery.
Hollingsworth Family Quilt, detail.  Photograph by Mary Holton Robare.
Hollingsworth Family Quilt, details showing the same block of appliqued circles
lit from behind.  Photograph by Barbara Tricarico.
What appeared to be a block of appliqued circles is, in fact, hiding an original "Vase of Tulips".
Theories about why the original block was covered up are numerous.  The first thought is that the "circles" block was a repair.  However, close examination by an expert determined there was no visible damage to the original block.  Furthermore, the fabrics and stitching of the added block appear to be contemporary to the rest of the quilt. 
One possible explanation was suggested by Janney Lupton:  "Perhaps the maker of the hidden block was disowned by strict mid-nineteenth century Quakers, resulting in the block's 'erasure'."  Some reasons for disownment included training in the military, frolicking and dancing, marrying outside of the faith, or even simply attending a non-Quaker wedding.  While we may never really know why the pre-existing block was covered up, knowledge of its mere existence is irresistible to any mystery lover. 
Note:  You can learn more about the three-day exhibit in the new publication by Mary titled "Quaker Quilts: Snapshots of an Exhibition."  (See link at left to purchase it through  The pamphlet-style, 42 page book features a never-before published pattern for creating your own applique template of a "Hidden Vase of Tulips".  The pattern was originally drafted by Janney Lupton directly off of the circa 1858 Hollingsworth Family Quilt.
In addition to some family history and anecdotes pertaining to the makers and owners of the twenty-six exhibited quilts, there is a snapshot of a circa 1850 Quaker quilt that was brought to a Quilt Turning conducted by Barbara Garrett on June 15, 2014, at the Hollingsworth Mill, Winchester, Virginia.
______________  "Quaker Networks Revealed In Quilts."  In Proceedings of the Textile History Forum.  Cherry Valley, NY: Textile History Forum, 2007.
Robare, Mary Holton.  Quilts and Quaker Heritage: Selections from an Exhibition, Virginia Quilt Museum, May 3-September 22, 2008.  Winchester, VA: Hillside Studios, 2008.
Virginia Consortium of Quilters.  Quilts of Virginia: The Birth of America Through the Eye of a Needle.  Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2006.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.