14 January, 2012

Antieke Tumbling Star Quilts

As I mentioned before, I love antique quilts!  I find lots of inspiration in them and I love to imagine what the maker(s) may have been like, what they were thinking as they worked on their creation and what inspired them to make the quilt.

Tumbling Star Quilt, c. 1890
Found in Lancaster County, PA

I have a few antique quilts that currently reside with me, some that are the topic of study for various reasons. Among them are quilts I refer to as 'Tumbling Stars'.  The quilts are made up of the same diamonds found in Tumbling Block quilts, however, the dark, medium and light fabrics are set in such a way that stars pop off the quilt when viewed from a distance.

My first, and favorite, of these Tumbling Star quilts was found in an antique shop in Lancaster County, PA.  It had been purchased at auction, however, the dealer had no additional information.  The provenance trail ran cold quickly.  
Note the 12 solid fabrics
located in the center of the quilt.

While studying my quilt more closely I realized it had an unusual feature.  Most of the quilt is made of a huge variety of late 19th century printed fabrics, however, the center star and its surrounding diamonds consist of only solid colors.  Why?  I don't know.  Do you? 

This feature made the quilt a little different than most of the Tumbling Star quilts found in books and online. That was until I visited the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, MA ("NEQM").  Their collection includes a quilt very similar to mine including the solids fabrics used in the center. (See, The New England Quilt Museum Quilts: Featuring the Story of the Mill Girls; With Instructions for Five Heirloom Quilts, by Jennifer Gilbert, published in 1999. The information given to the museum by the donor indicates the quilt originated in Lancaster County, PA.  The one obvious difference between their quilt and mine is that the NEQM quilt has a border.  A quick comparison of the two revealed that several of the same fabrics appear in both quilts. Further study is still needed to determine any other similarities and differences.  
This fabric is on the back of the quilt.
It is wrapped back to front for binding. 

When I returned home I scoured my quilt history books for more examples.  Clearly my quilt was not the anomaly I originally thought it was.  In addition to the NEQM quilt, I found one in Plain and Fancy; Country Quilts of the Pennsylvania Germans, by Anita Schorsch, published in 1992.  The caption indicates that quilt is Moravian.  This is a lead that needs to be followed!

In recent years a few additional Tumbling Star quilts have been discovered that also have solid fabrics that make up the center star.  So far there seems to be a one common denominator in that all seem to have originated in in Lancaster County, PA.  In future posts I will share more about this quilt and others in my collection.

A friend and quilt history colleague, Sandra Starley,  has joined me in this search.  You can read more about her Tumbling Star quilts at http://utahquiltappraiser.blogspot.com/2012/01/pa-tumbling-block-stars.html. We are are always looking for more of these interesting quilts.  If you have information about them or happen to know the location of more Tumbling Star quilts with solid fabrics in the center, please let me know.  Thanks!

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