I selected The Patriotic Crib Quilt from the American Folk Art Museum (1978.42.1) because it captured my imagination from the moment I first saw it in a photograph in Sandi Fox’s book, Small Endearments: Nineteenth-Century Quilts for Children.
This quilt presented so many questions, I eventually came to the realization that I would never know anything beyond the museum’s label for the quilt: “Artist unidentified, possibly Kansas, 1861 – 1875, cotton with cotton embroidery, 36 ¾ x 36 inches, gift of Phyllis Haders.” I was fortunate to have Lauren Arnold from the American Folk Art Museum go to storage and take additional close-up photographs for me. These photographs allowed me to examine the quilt more closely.
Peterson’s Magazine published a color illustration in July 1861 titled, The Stars and Stripes Bed-Quilt. This illustration features red and white stripes, a blue border with thirty stars and a square center medallion containing thirty-four stars. Assuming my quiltmaker was inspired by the illustration, her interpretation was to embroider fifty-two stars in the borders, construct the center as a star, and embroider thirty-four smaller stars in the large center star. The August 1861 installment of Peterson’s Magazine has a page titled, Varieties in Embroidery. The word Baby embroidered on the center panel of the quilt matches the style, motif and wording in the illustration.
I chose to make a replica of the quilt, due to its small size. The original quilt was made from homespun and home-dyed fabric, quilted simply. The back is printed in a foulard style with pink and red flowers. The edge is finished with a straight of grain binding turned front to back.
I am very grateful for the assistance provided by Lauren Arnold of the American Folk Art Museum. The process of asking for permission from the museum initially intimidated me. The assistance and encouragement provided by the museum made this a very positive experience.
I recognize the importance of documenting quilts for future reference. Gathering the information of who, what, why and where quilts are made is important to the context of quiltmaking as an art and social commentary. Quilts have stories to tell and it is important to preserve the quilts and the stories they tell. I will never know the who, what, why and where of my study quilt, but I will do my best to document my quilts.