I first saw the inspiration quilt for my reproduction in 2009 while doing a documentation day at Shelby Old-Fashioned Days in Shelby, Ohio. Sally Maier, director of the local Shelby Historical Society, brought an enormous bundle to my table, unfolded the layers, and revealed an antique quilt unlike any I had ever seen. It was obviously very old, hand-dyed, -sewn, and -quilted, using homespun wool fabric, wool batting, and homespun linen backing. I estimated the age at c1800-1820, based on the style, fabric, and pattern.
The quilt measures 94” x 104” and has 36 10” red and gold star blocks, set on point, alternating with navy blue blocks, and brown and blue triangles at the quilt top. The lower corners were cut-out 30” to accommodate a four-poster bed.
According to Mrs. Maier, the quilt was donated to the museum in 1983 by Donna Hart, who stated that it had originally come from Warren, Maine. The quilt was given to her mother in 1958 by a Mrs. Cook, who died shortly after at age 92. There was some speculation that it had belonged to the mother of one of her husband’s ancestors, a Captain Cook. The time frame is incorrect for it to be the Captain Cook of Hawaii fame, but there are records of another Captain Cook who lived in Maine at a later time. This Captain Cook was probably a local man who sailed out of the Maine coast. Further genealogy research will be needed to pinpoint the family.
In researching this type of quilt, I contacted Maine appraisers Bonnie Dwyer and Wendy Reed who indicated that the quilt does indeed look like a Maine-style wool quilt. Wendy wrote, “We have seen many of this type in our Maine Quilt Heritage project. We have found all of them to be wool, some are different weights of wool and when we can see the battings we have found them all to be wool as well. The Maine State Museum in August, Maine has a wool pinwheel quilt which is in this similar style and they do have photographs of it. The earliest “dated” wool quilt we have found is dated 1790 and the latest (of this type) that is dated is 1829. I’m sure the range is larger than this, but these are actual dated examples.”
I chose to duplicate this one-quarter-sized quilt using flannel, cotton batting, and muslin backing. I changed the colors of the star combinations and reduced the size of the cut-out, since the original cut-outs appeared to have been done after the quilt was finished, and were asymmetrical. Sewing this quilt has given me a profound admiration for the unknown quilter who created these seventeen-piece stars, with their perfect points, glowing colors, and stitching which has lasted almost 200 years.