September 15, 2013

A Variable Star Quilt Top

Last week we had the great pleasure of seeing an unfinished quilt top inscribed with the names of at least two mid-nineteenth century Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends. ( Research is just beginning to further identify the people whose names appear on the quilt top.) The top displays inscribed dates of 1844 and 1845 and measures 87 X 87 inches.  Many of its forty-one square blocks, sixteen triangles, and four quarter-blocks contain names.

Variable Star Quilt Top.  Collection of Nancy Hahn.  All photographs by
Mary Holton Robare.
Both men's and women's names appear on the quilt top, but just one couple is represented together in one inscription, although we do not know why -- or for whom -- the blocks were compiled.  The block inscribed with the names of the couple was placed nearer a corner (rather than the center) of the quilt top.  Whatever the role the couple played in this quilt project, they were fascinating people.
The quilt top owner's initial research discovered Daniel and Hannah T. Longstreth (inscription seen below) were prominent Friends.  Daniel married Hannah Townsend on 25 December 1832 at the Green Street Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, twelve years before this top was inscribed.  They were both clerks of Quaker Meetings.  Hannah was an ardent abolitionist and a friend of Lucretia Mott.  She was also a member of a relief organization that sewed and prepared supplies and clothing for soldiers during the Civil War.

Several blocks include hand-drawn art.  As a serious collector of antique quilting tools, the owner explained there were elaborate stamps available at the time.  However, stamps did not produce the finely-described lines and evenly applied ink to the degree seen in this quilt top's inscriptions.  Two  of our favorites are seen below.

One bonus of seeing unfinished work is that, because it is unused, the colors are still vibrant.
It is also fascinating to see how blocks were constructed.  In at least one case, the maker pieced fabrics so that the pattern on the front would match-up, as seen in the foreground of the image below.
Thank you to Nancy Hahn for sharing her wonderful quilt top, and to Georgina Fries of Bellwether Dry Goods for additional observations.
Jordan, John W. LL. D., ed.  Colonial Families of Philadelphia, Volume II.  New York & Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1911.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2013.

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