The year of 1856 must have been momentous for the quilter who created the wonderful red and green Prince’s Feather quilt that I used for my inspiration. What important event led her to mark the year so boldly? Was this the year she was married, as suggested by the quilted heart motifs? It is rare to see dates documented like this on an antique quilt.
Solid-colored fabrics such as this are difficult to date. However, the “1856” emblazoned on this beauty led me to select this particular one to replicate. I also loved the appliqué border. This quilt is part of my Faded Beauties collection, as it is very worn and faded, with the Turkey red fabric abraded away in many areas. While the quilt’s provenance is unknown, I am always pleased to commemorate the original quilt maker by copying or interpreting her design and work.
The Prince’s Feather or Princess Feather is the most popular appliqué pattern in the four-block style, according to Carolyn Ducey, Curator of Collections at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. The pattern is believed to represent the emblem of the Prince of Wales, which featured three tall feathers. However, recent research suggests the pattern may represent the red amaranth plant, which is also called Prince’s Feather. Its first use in quilting is unknown.
To make the study quilt, I reduced the original patterns by 50%. While the original quilt is sewn by hand with the exception of the binding, I machine-sewed the blocks and borders together, as well as the binding. All the appliqué and quilting were done by hand.
My replica is not exact; I used six feathers instead of eight, and added a few more appliqué pieces to the vine. The quilting is also not as dense as in the original quilt. The red, green and cheddar fabrics in the study quilt are close to the colors of the original. And I was not precise in replicating the appliqué and quilting motifs – flower designs, hearts, and feathers – to convey the folk art feel.
A love of mid-19th century red and green appliqué quilts has led me to collect quite a few of them. The color combination, most likely originating in the Pennsylvania German community, is very dramatic, and the style is quintessentially American.