Modern Snowball

By: Anita Loscalzo
Dover, Massachusetts

Struck by the graphic design of my inspiration quilt, the circa 1800 Brown & Rose Glazed Snowball (New England Quilt Museum 1989.04), my version’s subtitle could be “What’s Old is New Again.” The original bears the hallmarks of what is now called Modern quilting: a simple block setting of large solid positive and negative spaces filled with quilting. Its glazed plain weave wool top (with two borders on its upper part to denote how it would be placed on a bed) and coarsely woven wool backing with a knife-edge finish are characteristics of very early nineteenth-century New England quilts. Also common for the time are its quilting designs: a teacup pattern that encircles different floral designs in the pink snowballs and dense cross-hatching in the brown snowballs, the triangles, and borders. The pink could be cochineal-based, while the dark brown with a purple tinge probably resulted from a logwood-based recipe.

For my quilt, I chose to strip the original’s design down to the essentials by eliminating the borders that indicated its use as a bedcover. I substituted cotton fabric for the original’s wool and hand quilted simple geometric designs in the snowballs using the large stitches favored by today’s art quilters. Instead of a knife-edge finish, my version has a straight applied binding, although a knife-edge finish is used on many Modern quilts.

The donor of my inspiration quilt, Mrs. Paul Cummings, received the quilt from her grandmother, Sarah Frances Stevens Dearborn (Mrs. Joseph Henry Dearborn) of Pembroke, New Hampshire. She in turn had received it from her great-grandmother, Sally Carr Head, thought to be the maker of the quilt. Sally Carr of Chester, New Hampshire (b. 1778), married Nathaniel Head (b. 1776) in Pembroke on February 16, 1797. They had two daughters and four sons, all born in Pembroke.