Grand-baby Wave

By: Bennett Lee Ellsworth
North East, Pennsylvania

It has been a sentimental pleasure to replicate one-quarter of my great-grandmother’s quilt. Hand piecing the triangle points made me appreciate the challenge she enjoyed perfecting a difficult pattern, while leading the busy life of a widow before modern conveniences and good lighting. Having browsed fabric history articles for years, this project nudged me to study and retain the in-depth, purposeful reading of fabric references (muslin, feed sacks), quilt styles, and dye history. The original back is well washed feed sacks rather than the course homespun previously assumed. Since the inspiration quilt was made post-World War I, the red fabric is synthetically dyed. I acquired a bolt of red American Made Solid by Clothworks and white feed sacks from a Road to California Show vendor. The unbleached muslin is from my stash.

This pattern is old and popular with references stating 1875 to present. After studying Barbara Brackman, Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Pattern, Block #2628; Ruby McKim, 101 Patchwork Patterns; and Kansas City Star (1928) patterns; it was still “trial and error” to achieve the correct size block and “old-time set,“ McKim reference, with the precision of my ancestor. The inspiration quilt was done late in life with a large quilting stitch and my hand quilting will never accomplish the perfect twelve stitches per inch seen in her earlier masterpiece, Blue and White Ocean Wave. Having never handled feed sack fabric, the softness in my left hand made nightly quilting sessions an anticipated pleasure.

No quilts of this style are found in the Northwest Pennsylvania Quilt Documentation Project publication, Threads of Tradition. Though others must exist in that region, none were found in her home county historical society in Clarion, Pennsylvania. I will continue to seek examples as more period quilts emerge at sales and discovery days.