Initially, I planned to use a quilt in my own collection as inspiration for the Quilt Study until this long-time favorite jumped off the page of my well-loved copy of Treasury of American Quilts, by Cyril I. Nelson and Carter Houck. As Co-chair of the AQSG Quilt Study project I reasoned that changing my original plan would give me an opportunity to do what other participants were being asked to do: seek permission to use images of the inspiration pieces used for the Quilt Study.
My only disappointment in the process came when I learned from the Museum of American Folk Art, the current owner of the ‘Center Star Quilt’, that there is very little provenance available for this amazing bedcover. After reviewing what is known, it became obvious the information had evolved as quilt historians learned more about identification of fibers used in early whole cloth quilts. For example, the fabrics in this quilt are identified as linsey-woolsey in one publication and wool in another. The confusion about early fabrics gave me just the inspiration I needed; I decided to investigate the process of how ‘home’ spun and woven fibers used in early quilts would have been produced.
My journey started with the purchase of a 19th century spinning wheel. I had never spun any type of fiber before. I found the process VERY challenging in the beginning, initially believing I would never be able to produce a yarn consistently fine enough to actually create fabric. However, with a pound of perseverance I succeeded in spinning enough wool to weave all of the fabrics in my quilt. The front is 100% wool from sheep raised near my home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. For contrast I opted to create ‘linsey-woolsey’ by weaving a wool weft through a purchased linen warp for the back of the quilt.
As a result of making ‘Homespun Star’ I have a genuine appreciation for the industrial revolution that helped relieve women of the responsibility to create the fabrics needed by their families and in their homes. Notwithstanding the hours required to create a few inches of genuine homespun fabric, I am inspired to spin all of the wools and linens to make a whole cloth bed quilt the old fashioned way.