Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Few Feathered Stars: Dated Examples

Quilt dated 1838 in the quilting
from my collection.
The blocks are on point.

Here's the block.
The quilt was found in Kansas.

Fabrics are indigo blue, a few browns and a pink on white.
There is an interesting lack of symmetry in the color placement.

You often see this color combination in quilts before
1840, simple dyes, simple prints.

The Spencer Museum of Art has a worn example
with the same kind of random color. I don't think
the colors have changed over time. These quilters
pieced blues to browns and pinks.

Here's a similar quilt from Delaware with a little more order

Susannah Miller
Collection of the Winterthur Museum
Estimated date 1845-1848

Center of Susannah Miller's medallion, 
which has stuffed quilting and fringed edge.

The feathered star seems to combine two standard patterns from the time, an eight-pointed star and a sawtooth triangle with serrated edges...

Similar to this quilt by another Miller, sold at auction recently...
Dated 1816.

The same basic border triangles are seen in Amelia Lauck's quilts
dated 1822

and 1823
This Lauck quilt is in the collection of the DAR Museum.

This strip quilt from Jeffrey S. Evans auctions is
anonymous but I imagine I am not the only one
who sees Amelia Lauck's style in it.

Evans is located in Virginia.

Another anonymous feathered star plus sawtooth triangles available at Stella Rubin.

She dates this Pennsylvania quilt to about 1860.

Below are date-inscribed feathered stars from my 19th century files. First: the 1840s:

Quilt dated 1846 from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
The basic pattern in buff and Prussian blue print.

Same year, 1846, in another fashionable fabric of the era:
Turkey red.
This is from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A year later, 1847, in an indigo blue print from
the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
Apparently two-color feathered stars (simple versions) were hot in the mid-1840s.

Feathered star block in an early sampler album found in the New Jersey
quilt project: Blocks dated 1842-1849

There was a lot of experimentation and individualization in the 1840s and '50s and some quilters improvised on the pattern.

Quilt dated 1847 by Sarah LaFever. 
Collection of the Huguenot Street Museum in New Paltz, New York.
Sarah added applique to the standard star. See more of the quilt at Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville blog:

Block from quilt dated 1849 found in the Illinois quilt project
(more about this 2-color star in another post).

Two from the 1850s:
Quilt dated 1856 by Sarah Burbridge---following her own muse.

Quilt dated 1857
from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
This variation never became a common pattern either.

One from the 1860s:

Center of a quilt by Hulda Harrington, dated 1868,
Shown at the Adirondack Museum in 2009.

Hulda's scrappy composition.

Two From the 1870s:

Center of a medallion by Gertrude Knappenberger,
dated 1876
Gertrude's Centennial medallion was as imaginative as her feathered star center.
See the whole quilt at the family site:

Quilt dated 1877 by Ann Frazee

One from the 1880s:
Quilt dated 1888
from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

And three from the 1890s.
Quilt from Barry County, Missouri dated 1894.
It's probably lost a lot of color.

Quilt dated 1896 from Sharon Yenter's collection.
Pictured in Marsha McCloskey's Christmas Quilts.
This complex variation, now tan and red,
was probably blue or green with red.

Quilt dated 1899
from Fourth Corner Gallery

What can we learn from these date-inscribed examples?
1) The pattern was a favorite from 1840 on.
2) Quilters liked to add their own variations but it started out fairly simple.
3) The pattern appeared as early as the 1830s.


  1. What beauties, great post. Love some of those variations! Makes me want to make another feathered star.

  2. To think of the many labor intensive chores these quilters did each and every day! And yet they took the time to make detailed quilts.

    I often wonder how many beautiful quilts from that era we will never see, because they have' lived out' their lives as quilts.

    We have sewing machine etc and still can find it hard to hand piece and quilt. Something has been lost in our modern world.

    Thanks for the wonderful photos Barbara

  3. Julie---dont forget even middle class people had servants.

  4. Sarah Burbridge's quilt is a stunner!! Just amazing - love it!