I selected my ca. 1860 Princess Feather as my inspiration quilt for three reasons: one – fortunately, I already owned it; two – the fabric, batting, and backing had separated down the middle, needing extensive repair, so I wanted to replicate it in some form; and, three – I was initially told by the seller that the quilt was created in my home state of Ohio, so I wanted to confirm that fact through further study.
By researching the name of C. E. Winters (embroidered in cross-stitch on the quilt), I was able to identify the maker as Cynthia Ellen Winters. Cynthia was born in 1842 in rural Clark County, Ohio. In 1863, she married William Henry Harrison Sterrett, a local farmer who also served as a soldier in the Union Army. The use of her maiden name on the quilt indicates Cynthia made the quilt prior to her marriage, dating her quilt to our study period of 1850-1865.
Cynthia’s Princess Feather quilt is a typical pre-Civil War four-block style Ohio quilt. Each block contains an eight-pointed Lemoyne star featuring one feather coming off each point of the star, surrounded by a large amount of open space. The colors are solid over-dyed blue/green teal and walnut brown. The ground is white cotton, with cotton batting, muslin backing, and half-inch walnut brown binding. The appliqué feathers are quite primitive, with no two feathers exactly alike, indicating a hand-cut template. In making the new quilt, I tried to keep the same primitive style as Cynthia, but used period prints instead for the feathers, eight-point stars, and binding. Cynthia needle-turned her large appliquéd stars and feathers, but I chose to blanket-stitch the much smaller pieces of my Ohio Princess Feather blocks. When possible, I tried to duplicate the double-rod, feathered wreaths, and cable motifs of the original quilting.
While working on the study quilt, I learned that there are many different styles of the Princess Feather and that the length, angle, and “motion” of the feathers can vary. Cynthia created her Princess Feather quilt using a very simplistic, graphic style, and her choice of teal and walnut colors make the feathers very distinctive. Her feathers are set like the spokes of a wagon wheel. I chose to add more movement to my feathers for a pinwheel effect. By using Cynthia Winters’ quilt as my inspiration, I hope to honor her creation and convey an equal sense of vibrancy in my own interpretation over 150 years later.