Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

I’ve always loved the Civil War-era red and green appliquéd quilts, so it was natural for me to choose one as my inspiration quilt. The fact that I had never appliquéd, hand quilted, or done any trapunto before didn’t deter me, although in retrospect, it probably should have.

My inspiration quilt resides at the Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont. It was made by Samantha Holbrook, a young woman who was born in Hyde Park, Vermont, in 1837. I could find out very little about Samantha, other than the fact that she married Emerson B. Reed, a joiner and woodworker who operated a planing mill and job shop in Cady’s Falls, Vermont, a town which was, and remains, a wide spot in the road. She and Emerson lived in nearby Morristown, where they also ran a farm. Her marriage to Emerson was after the 1860 census. This quilt could easily have been made for her wedding. And it must have been saved for special occasions, as it does not appear to have been used that much. Records indicate that Samantha had only one (living) child, a daughter Effie, who was born in 1869. Effie passed this wonderful quilt down to her daughter, who donated it to the Sheldon Museum in Middlebury.

I was attracted to Samantha’s folk art version of the Rose of Sharon block. Samantha’s quilt is delightfully simple yet deceptively complex, especially when one considers the lack of measuring and cutting tools at the time. She even used trapunto to give the quilt a greater sense of depth. Samantha appears to have assembled the on-point blocks potholder style.

Since I collect crib (and doll) quilts, I chose to make a crib or cradle quilt version that could have been a companion to Samantha’s original full-size quilt. With the help of a modern copier, I reduced the size of the blocks by 50% and greatly simplified the border to create this mini version. I limited the trapunto to pieces large enough to make it possible for me to do. I like to think Samantha would have appreciated it for her daughter.