A March 2015 visit to the DAR Museum in Washington D.C. for the spectacular Eye on Elegance exhibit and symposium led us to create this study quilt. We chose to focus on block A1 of the spectacular Mary Simon-Style Baltimore Album Quilt (BAQ) Top, dated 1846.
Current research suggests our inspiration quilt may have been a sampling of different blocks for which pre-cut and basted blocks were available for purchase, which may explain why it was backed but not quilted. Mary Simon, previously identified as the designer of the quilt, can be positively identified from diary entries only as producing cut and basted squares for purchase.
To date, four design styles of BAQs have been identified. The central block of our inspiration quilt is identified as Design Style I, displaying the most elaborate and complex designs. We chose the challenge of reproducing the intricate basket design and surrounding pieced borders using today’s technique of fusible machine applique and machine piecing.
Fabric selection was meticulous and deliberate. We carefully chose accurate reproductions of the strong reds, blues, and golds of the dramatic original. As the earlier technique of chintz appliqué found its way into many BAQs, some of our motifs were cut from chintz. By using a single block from the inspiration quilt as the center medallion, we were able to design borders that incorporated appliqué and the elaborate chintz border fabric typical of the era.
The diagonal grid quilting pattern in the center medallion and the quilting for the borders are appropriate to the period. The act of hand quilting allowed us to fondle and admire the design and fabrics used in this study quilt, feeling the same joy early quilt makers must have felt when creating their own beautiful works of art.