While I was at a local auction house, this quilt came up for sale. There was no provenance available. At first glance, the quilt intrigued me, as I couldn’t quite recall the block pattern. I realized later the pattern was Bread Basket. The maker of this quilt, however, did not use a second color to complete her basket. Instead, she chose to use the background fabric in its place, thereby altering the pattern until it is almost unrecognizable as a basket.
In my research, I found the focus fabric to be a black novelty or neon print, mostly used, according to Barbara Brackman, from 1890-1920. I double-checked this with Barbara personally to make sure this quilt could be a nineteenth-century quilt, and, thankfully, she had several close examples.
I wanted to represent the original quilt as best I could, but I also wanted to show the casual onlooker what a complete Bread Basket normally looks like. Since I enjoy making miniatures, I added the full mini-baskets and used machine quilting to accentuate the “half empty” baskets in the center.
While I worked and quilted, I wondered if the maker of this unusual quilt was in her early years, just beginning to quilt. Was her personal basket half full; was she looking forward to a future husband and filling her basket with a family or was she in her later years? Was her basket half empty? Had she suffered great losses in her life? Was her husband taken early or had she suffered the inconsolable loss of a child, never to find her basket full again?
Studying this quilt has touched my heart in many ways and made me think of all my own joys and terrible losses. It makes me consider, “Is my basket half empty or half full?”