Cactus Garden

Cactus Garden

My goal was to enter the AQSG basket quilt study. I began a search for just the right quilt and when I came upon this Cactus Basket quilt top, I knew my search was over. The quilt top was collected in Connecticut in 1998 at an estate sale and loaned to me by a friend. This quilt top is 84″ x 84″ but never quilted. It is dated circa 1865-1875.

I was so inspired by this quilter’s use of color and playfulness with the fabrics. Many of the fabrics were from old shirting and floral dress prints mixed with Chintz. I believe she was a free spirit and I would like to have known this quilt maker. She may have been a young girl or an older woman creating from her meager means.

Upon my investigation, I found some surprises. The bright colors used in the historic quilt were likely due to the aniline dyes (as opposed to vegetable dyes) derived from coal tar in late 1850s. The shirting, stripes and plaids were popular from 1860 to 1880 because Queen Victoria had her portrait painted wearing Scottish Tartans.

Constructing the quilt began by reducing the size of the blocks and the sashing. The block was reduced to 6 1/2″ and the sashing to 2 1/2″ finished size. After playing with the placement of thirteen blocks, I decided to place three rows pointing to the top and four blocks facing to the sides, this made it more visually interesting.

While making this quilt, I tried to use similar fabrics and colors as the original, seeking out vintage fabrics. It was a pleasant experience and I believe that I have captured the essence of this historic quilt.