I am fortunate to be a volunteer at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose, California. I chose my historic quilt from their collection as a way to raise awareness of the museum, and to honor all they do in the arts community.
The indigo blue and white combination in this quilt was a popular style well into the late 19th century. Like so many historic quilts, this Cherry Basket quilt has an unknown maker. I was intrigued, not by the basket blocks, but by the border the quilter chose to use. It is a set of half-square triangles arranged in a zigzag that reminded me of the Ocean Waves pattern. The basket blocks are set on point with alternate solid white squares. Crosshatch quilting is used in the baskets and the white squares are quilted with feathers. The quilt is hand quilted and pieced, with fold over binding attached by machine.
I chose to make my quilt using modern methods of machine piecing and quilting. The difficulty for me was trying to recreate the border. I had never done a quilt without a pattern to follow, and getting everything to the correct scale for the baskets was difficult at best. Lots of experimentation finally led me to modify the outer border, but I maintained the arrangement of the original baskets.
My research for this project has shown that the use of baskets in quilts and coverlets has long been a common theme. From wholecloth, to broderie perse, to medallion, to framed medallion; from urn style to baskets with or without handles or flowers, this motif has a strong place in quilting. Women of every age have used items from their daily surroundings to bring meaning and beauty into their stitch work.