Centennial Baskets

Centennial Baskets

“Maker Unknown” is indicated in the accession file of my inspiration quilt, which is owned by the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado. While we often see those words describing who made an antique quilt, I wanted to see what clues the maker left in her quilt that might tell me something about her and her times. Let’s explore those clues.

There’s a centennial print in the sashing. This fabric, along with the madders and centennial green fabric help date my inspiration quilt to the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century. The donor records at the museum also indicate that the quilt was purchased at an auction in Chester, PA. Was the maker one of the nearly ten million people who attended the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia?
The quilt is machine quilted in the ditch. This clue indicates to me that the maker was progressive….she had a sewing machine! The 1876 Centennial Exposition demonstrated the industrial growth of the nation; the lady of the house no longer had to sew and quilt by hand to provide for her household and family.

It is a crib quilt. With industrialization came a changing role for family members, with a child’s economic role lessened for urban middle class families. Children were now comforted, as signified by having a warm quilt made for them. Baskets, common household items, were depicted in nineteenth-century quilts. Basket designs progressed from motifs on palampores to broderie perse baskets, then to appliquéd ones and finally to pieced ones. It wasn’t until the 20th century that crib quilts depicted juvenile themes.

I may not know the name of the woman who made my inspiration quilt, but I know something about her. Although smaller in overall dimensions, I otherwise tried to stay true to my inspiration quilt.