Allen Memorial Church Quilt

By: Patt Seitas
San Diego, California

The original quilt appealed to my love for bold designs and mystery. Bold red and white quilts peaked in popularity from 1880 to 1920, typically using plain white and solid Turkey red fabrics. Until the 1920s, Turkey red was one of the few colorfast and fade resistant dyes.

The mystery was in the over 800 names on the quilt, uniquely written on the white strips of the Log Cabin Pineapple design. There were too many names for a simple friendship quilt but were consistent with a fundraiser quilt intended to raise money for an organization or project. What organization and why?

I discovered it was made to benefit the Methodist Episcopal Allen Street Church, one of the earliest churches built in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. By the late 1880s, due to changes in the neighborhood and the opening of an elevated railway directly in front of the church, the congregation had diminished. They decided to sell the property and bought a former synagogue. Their plan was to convert Jews in the neighborhood to Methodism, a plan that did not succeed. The church was again sold. This quilt outlasted the Allen Street Church.

Like the original, I made this quilt as a fundraiser. My cause was the American Quilt Study Group. To fit the size limits of the Quilt Study while still allowing enough room for names, I reduced the size of the blocks from 10 to eight inches. All the names on the original had been written by just two persons, but I asked people to individually sign and donate a dollar to help fund AQSG. All but a few people agreed and many donated more. Working on this quilt was an interesting and rewarding experience.