Peonies Remembered

Peonies Remembered

A peony quilt made by M. M. Walker in about 1850 served as the inspiration quilt for this study. The inspiration quilt measures 88” x 90” and is red and green. The quilt center consists of sixteen 12” peony blocks, set on point, which alternate with nine 12” appliqué blocks featuring a simple leaf, bud and blossom. The middle appliqué block is signed by the maker. The border is informal, with whimsical finger trees in two sizes. The batting is thin and the quilting includes feathers, feathered wreaths, and outline quilting, with diagonal quilting lines filling open spaces. The quilt is part of my collection. I selected it for study because of the combination of piecing and appliqué techniques, because I have a boundless attraction to red and green quilts, and because I hoped to learn more about the quilt’s maker.

In creating the study quilt, I sought to use many elements of the inspiration quilt while staying within the size restrictions. The study quilt center replicates the blocks from the inspiration quilt, with four 12” peony blocks and a single signed appliqué block. Size limitations meant that I could not reproduce the wonderful finger-tree border of the inspiration quilt. A review of other quilts of the period drove my border decisions to include an undulating vine without coordinated corners and with few elements. The appliqué elements (leaves, bud and blossom) were taken from the inspiration quilt’s appliqué block. Unfortunately, the whimsical finger-tree is only present on the quilt’s label.

The study quilt is hand pieced, appliquéd and quilted. While I might have at first romantically thought I was using the same techniques as M. M. Walker, I soon realized that the modern tools and materials I used along with the traditional techniques were making my work much easier. Piecing during a power outage reminded me how easily we take for granted even the light we work by! I continue to marvel at the inspiration quilt’s gracefulness, M. M. Walker’s excellent workmanship and the peonies’ impossibly tiny stems. Unfortunately, I have been unable to unearth more information about M. M. Walker, who may have lived in Indiana or Ohio, but hope that a viewer of this study quilt may be able to help in this area.