A Bethlehem Star quilt, 92” x 92”, in the textile collection of Colonial Williamsburg, became my volunteer assignment for conservation in preparation for a star quilt exhibit at the DeWitt-Wallace museum. Working on selected areas of this quilt for 13 months allowed me to study it extensively: fabrics, prints, values, color sequences and most of all the skill to create something of beauty that endures the years. Documentation indicates the quilt was probably made in Alexandria, Virginia 1850-1880. It consists of 2,212 pieces.
When AQSG announced the star quilt study I was challenged. It took one month to draft the pattern and three months to lay fabrics from my stash in proper color sequence. Value is most important! After the original, conserved quilt was displayed under glass at the museum, I saw for the first time the entire quilt instead of the small areas that I had delicately conserved. How could I select only a portion of this lovely quilt to replicate when its beauty was its entirety? Thus my 36” x 36” replication of the entire original quilt is made of reproduction fabrics of the 1850-1880 era and quilted exactly as the original.
I learned that when I view a quilt, I have not seen it in the depth that its maker did. From a distance I learned color value and placement are most important. After spending 13 months in the conservation process of the original quilt and with my interest in history I found my thoughts drifting back to the post Civil War era, the Virginia quilter’s life and gained an appreciation for the meticulous piecing, enormous hours involved and the maker’s devotion to her undertaking.