Official Nebraska Government Website Nebraska State Historical Society

Quilts A to Z

The Nebraska State Historical Society and
the International Quilt Study Center present

Quilts A to Z

Introduction

Welcome to Quilts A to Z!  an enjoyable overview of quilting terms and techniques, a brief examination of the multitude of quilt patterns and their even more numerous names, and a revolving exhibit of fabulous quilts from the collections of the Nebraska State Historical Society and the International Quilt Study Center.

This exhibit is arranged alphabetically by pattern name, and each section features definitions of a few quilting terms. In selecting the quilts for this exhibit we chose ones that have rarely (if ever) been exhibited. Some of the patterns were easily identifiable, while others proved more difficult. As quilt historian Judy Anne Johnson Breneman said, "Rarely does a quilt pattern have just one name and often a quilt name is given to more than one quilt pattern." Whether or not you agree with the pattern names assigned to the quilts in this exhibit, we hope you will enjoy viewing them and that you will learn a little more about quilts and quilting . . . A to Z!

 Quilts A to D


Album

Alternate name: Snowflake
Rebecca Unthank Boone Harvey, probably Indiana
Circa 1855
84" x 80"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mrs. Gladys Pickering & Elmer Harvey,
9915-1

Album and friendship quilts, which feature signatures sewn or written onto the quilt top, emerged in the 1840s as a result of the autograph album craze, as well as the invention of permanent ink in the 1830s. Rebecca Unthank Boone Harvey, the donor's great-grandmother, may have made this quilt when she was bedfast with back trouble. Rebecca was born in 1824, married Henry B. Harvey, and died in 1875. This quilt contains handwritten, inked signatures and, according to the donor, the names are Boone family descendants. The quilt was given to the donor by her uncle, Elmer Harvey, in 1975.


Amish Shadow Quilt

Alternate pattern name: Shadows
Maker unknown
Date Unknown
67" x 63"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Meda Knapp,
8631-1

This quilt belonged to Mrs. Anna Holliet Knapp, the donor's mother-in-law, who received it from her mother. Anna Knapp was born in 1876 and married Robert Knapp around 1893. This quilt was one of Anna's prized possessions.

Appliqué: A process in which small pieces of fabric are sewn onto larger pieces of fabric by hand or machine. Appliqué, the French word for "apply," is commonly referred to in earlier publications as "laid work."

Album Quilt: A quilt assembled from individual blocks, each designed and/or executed by a different person. Album blocks are appliquéd, pieced (or both), and frequently stitched into a quilt by a group for presentation to a public figure or to commemorate a special occasion. In the past, blocks were often signed and dated by the maker in India ink or embroidery. Today, special markers are available for signing.

Amish Quilt: Quilts done in the style of the Amish that usually feature solid materials in deep hues, geometric patterns, and extensive decorative quilting.


Baskets

Ethel King Bates, Omaha
1920-1940
80 .5" x 72"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Beverly Dorwick,
11137-1

This typical basket pattern may have developed from the earlier method of quilting known as Broderie Perse, from the French for "Persian Embroidery." Broderie Perse quilts feature motifs cut from printed chintz that are then arranged and appliquéd onto a solid fabric. Baskets were popular motifs in these quilts and the pieced basket pattern may have been adapted from them. The earliest dated pieced basket quilt is from 1855. Ethel King Bates, the donor's maternal grandmother, made this basket quilt for Marjorie Bates, her daughter and the donor's aunt.

Backing: The fabric used as the bottom layer of the quilt sandwich.

Batting: The filling in a quilt or the middle layer of the quilt sandwich. Batting may be of cotton, wool, or polyester.


Bear's Paw

Attributed to Clara Bontranger, probably Holmes County, Ohio
1874
81" x 68"
International Quilt Study Center, Ardis and Robert James Collection,
1997.007.0340

The genesis of the Bear's Paw pattern is seen in the saw tooth designs found in early American quilts, most commonly as borders. This design is the building block of numerous patterns from the Bear's Paw to the Feathered Star and Delectable Mountains.

Binding: A strip of fabric used to cover the raw edges of the quilt sandwich.

Broderie Perse: From the French for "Persian Embroidery." An appliqué cut from a printed fabric. This type of appliqué was common in early American quilting using Chintz fabrics.


Broken Dishes

Ethel King Bates, Omaha
Circa 1930
83" x 77 1/2"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Beverly Dorwick,
11137-3

Ethel King Bates of Omaha, the donor's maternal grandmother, made this well-used quilt.

Calico: Any cotton fabric with small repeated print designs, commonly floral.

Charm Quilt: A piecework quilt, usually one-patch, made from many different fabrics, with no two identical.

Cheater's Cloth (or Cheater's Panel): A piece of fabric printed to look like a pieced or appliquéd quilt top. It can then be sandwiched, and quilted just as a standard pieced quilt. An early example of cheater's cloth, this time for a crazy quilt, was found in the 1927-1928 Montgomery Ward Fall-Winter catalog.



Cherry Basket

Fannie Scheafer Lightner, Pennsylvania
Pre-1887
97" x 93"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mrs. William Fleming,
8911-1

Fannie Scheafer Lightner, the donor's grandmother, made this basket quilt in Perry County, Pennsylvania, sometime before 1887.

Chintz: A cotton fabric, often with large, predominantly floral prints, which has been treated so the surface is shiny, or has a sheen to it. Chintz was quite popular in the Civil War era.


Compass

Alternate name: Sunburst
Amelia Phoneta Bruner Monroe, West Point, Nebraska
1935
90" x 84"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Lily B. Munroe,
4948-593

Lily Munroe donated this quilt to the Nebraska State Historical Society. Her mother, Phoneta Bruner Munroe, made it for her in 1932 when Phoneta was seventy-eight years old. It is an exact copy of another quilt made by Lily's grandmother, Amelia Brobst Bruner. Amelia's quilt, which is also in the Society's collection, was made while she lived in Pennsylvania prior to her 1856 move to Nebraska with her husband, Uriah Bruner.

Cornerstones: Squares marking the four corners of a block or quilt, the same width as the sashing.


Crazy

Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Filley, Nebraska
1893
86" x 69"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mrs. K. L. McGill,
8636-1

This fabulous crazy quilt was used as a fundraising project for the Ladies Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Filley, Nebraska, in 1893. Twenty quilt blocks were made and nineteen were embroidered with the names or initials of the maker. The twentieth block (in the center) featured the inscription for the Society and the year. Money was raised by selling the privilege of having one's name inscribed on the back of the quilt. Whoever raised the most money won the quilt. The donor's mother, Kate Williams Filley (Mrs. O. E. Filley), was the winner and received the added bonus of having to back the piece. Ingeniously, Kate typed the names of the "benefactors" onto seventeen-inch strips, and laid them so that each maker's square would be backed by her list of names. This quilt won many prizes at the Nebraska State Fair before Kate and her husband left Nebraska for Muskogee, Oklahoma, (then called Indian Territory), around 1900. It won another prize from the New State Fair Association in Muskogee before being retired from competition due to signs of wear.


Crazy

Jennie C. Furguson, Aurora, Nebraska
1870s-1890s
65" X 56"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Dora Ann Tucker,
8729-1

Jennie C. Furguson, the mother-in-law of the donor, pieced this crazy quilt in Aurora, Nebraska, in the late 1800s. The Furguson family came to Nebraska from Illinois in 1870 and was in the banking business in Aurora for three generations.

Crazy Quilt: The origin of crazy quilts may be linked to the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, where Japanese art and home furnishings were exhibited and popularized. Seeking to replicate the asymmetry found in some Japanese art, quilters and women's publications encouraged the making of crazy quilts. Although seemingly random and made from scraps, many crazy quilts were carefully planned, highly embellished, and used the finest fabrics. While crazy quilts were also constructed in plainer fashion with sturdier fabrics, the fancier quilts were not meant solely as bedcovers but as decoration or a testament to the maker's skill

Directional Borders: Borders that flow in a particular direction.

Directional Prints: Fabrics with prints that flow in a particular direction.


Double Irish Chain

Francis Gimpp, Wright City, Missouri
Circa 1904
82.5" x 76.5"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Mr. & Mrs. Thomas H. Davis (Bette Rathburn Davis),
7104-475

Francis Gimpp of Wright City, Missouri, made this Double Irish Chain quilt and it won first prize at the Saint Louis World's Fair in 1904. Mrs. Elizabeth Gaylord Rathburn of Lincoln, Nebraska, bought the quilt at that time while visiting her sister in St. Louis. She then gave it to her daughter, Bette Rathburn Davis, who donated it to the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Double Irish Chain: Did the Irish Chain quilt originate in Ireland? Perhaps. Quilt historian Barbara Brackman gives 1814 as the earliest known date of an Irish Chain quilt. However, researchers have discovered an earlier quilt from about 1805 with a similar pattern, which was brought to America from Ireland. Another theory claims that the pattern may have emerged from weaving patterns. Wherever this pattern originated, it has endured as one of America's most popular. According to Brackman's book, Clues in the Calico, "Most Irish Chain quilts are made of two blocks, one pieced in a check pattern; the other plain with squares appliquéd to the corners. With 25 checks in the pieced square, it is a Double Irish Chain; with 49, a Triple Irish Chain."


Double Wedding Ring

Bertha G. Cairns, Nebraska
Circa 1920
84" x 72"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Edmund B. Cairns,
7570-8

Although an adaptation of the older Pickle Dish and Friendship Knot designs, the Double Wedding Ring pattern on this quilt emerged in the 1920s. Mrs. Bertha G. Cairns constructed the quilt entirely by hand over a period of several years, and her family enjoyed it for many more years in Seward, Lincoln, and Omaha.


Double X

Alternate pattern names: Old Maid's Puzzle, Fox & Geese
Maker Unknown
Date Unknown
84" x 70"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: Gladys K. Dolan,
6115-33

The donor's father, Homer L. Kindred, was two years old when his family came to Nebraska from Indiana in 1868, bringing with them this lovely quilt. They settled near Omaha and later at Homer, Nebraska. Homer Kindred eventually married, took up the practice of medicine, and raised a family in Meadow Grove.


Dutch Baskets

May Walker and Minnie Goodman, Nebraska
1931
85" x 85"
Nebraska State Historical Society, Source: David D. Whitney,
6081-107

Post-World War I improvements in synthetic dye manufacturing resulted in increased production of colorfast fabrics in a broad array of colors. Light colors and pastels were very popular in the late 1920s through the 1950s, and this quilt is a good example of that trend. David Whitney, professor of zoology at the University of Nebraska, paid May Walker and Minnie Goodman one hundred dollars in 1931 to make this quilt (that's $1214.97 today!). We believe this is from a kit, as the International Quilt Study Center collection holds a quilt that is identical.

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Last updated 23 May 2007  

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