When this study was announced I was lucky to have several basket quilts waiting to inspire me. My first step was to pick the perfect nineteenth-century basket quilt. I was looking for a pattern with strong graphic appeal that would be challenging and fun to recreate and make my own. I wanted a unique design that was unlikely to have a twin in the study. I love cheddar orange, so it is no surprise that I chose this charming orange basket quilt from southeastern Pennsylvania with a cool Sawtooth border and framed with beautiful hand quilting. What a timeless and masterful composition.
To reduce the size of the historic quilt for my study, I used half the number of blocks and scaled the blocks to half-size. Once I found the right orange, I had to decide on the blues and pinks. I like scrappy with quilts with many different fabrics and I initially shied away from the historic quilt because it had only three fabrics. I decided to use 26 fabrics (two fabrics for each basket) to add energy to the design.
I used needle-turn appliqué and machine paper piecing for the blocks and border, machine quilting to stabilize the piecing, and hand quilting to follow the original quilter’s path of feathers and hearts.
The maker of the historic quilt is unknown, but the quilt’s provenance is Pennsylvania German Mennonite from Lancaster County. At the time it was made hearts were an image of religious fervor for Mennonites. Quilt historian Anita Schorsch notes in Plain & Fancy: Country Quilts of the Pennsylvania Germans: “the heart remained an elusive motif, being subtly stitched rather than brightly patched,” “the basket spelled out domestic and spiritual abundance,” and “the Bible reminded . . . that though a basket could look empty and meaningless, as quilting motifs often did, it might ‘feed the multitudes.’” It is a good reminder to keep looking for hidden hearts and potential.