Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lazy Quilt Reporter

Quilt of many pieces, about 1935

"Mrs. M.L. Simpson, of Phillipsburg [Kansas], has recently completed a quilt with 3,711 pieces. It is claimed so far as known this beats all other records. She was about four months making it and every part of it was by hand. She is now piecing the second one."

None of the quilts pictured in this post have anything to do with the quilts mentioned in the news articles. See below for explanation.

The rare diagonal strip set, about 1900

Be wary of stories concerning the biggest, the oldest or the most. They are usually wrong--- As is the above article from 1921 about Mrs. Simpson's quilt of 3,711 pieces, which "beat all other records."

Detail of a Trip Around the World quilt
about 1900

If the reporter had done any research at all [s]he might have noticed an earlier story in the Jefferson Texas Jimplecute in 1905:

"Mrs. T. A. Harris, of Cooke county, recently completed a quilt which has 13,050 pieces in it. It required seventy-five days to do the work and fifteen spools of thread were used."

Quilt about 1880-1910, probably from Pennsylvania

Mrs. Harris did not claim to hold a record for pieces. She was perhaps just looking for a little recognition for her persistence. (Or maybe an excuse as to why she couldn't have folks over to dinner lately.)

Triangles, about 1870-1910

The Essex County, Vermont Herald noted in 1892 that:
 "Betsey Fuller, aged 83 years, has recently completed a quilt containing 13,320 different pieces."
Here we have a persistent and industrious woman pulling the "old lady card" to get her name in the paper.
Diamond four patch, about 1890

Or maybe it was her children sending a 19th-century press release to the editor. 13,000 pieces is a lot of pieces.

You might realize that my snippiness about lazy reporters comes from a 2015 persepective when I can go to the Library of Congress's newspaper website and search for the words "recently completed a quilt." In a half hour I came up with 16 references to quilting feats.

Perhaps mid-19th century?

The only reason I bring up the whole thing is to entertain you readers, and show a lot of pictures of quilts with a lot of pieces.
Triangle top, about 1870-1910. 
This took longer than 4 months. The fabrics
range over decades.

Talk about your lazy reporter.

Dealers Woodard & Greenstein sold this quilt
several decades ago

See the Library of Congress's newspaper files here:

Quilt about 1900, sold at Northeast Auctions


  1. I'm a fan of the many pieces quilt, but could never stick with it! How did they do that???

  2. 75 days to do how many pieces? Without a rotary cutter, are you kidding me? Perhaps she had 12 children who assisted. Heaven knows anyone with 12 children should be allowed to sit down and sew for awhile. Thank you for sharing the lovely photos. I always find your posts entertaining.

  3. I laughed out loud at Gypsy Quilter's comment. 13,000 pieces by hand?! Woah! That's impressive even in this day and age.

  4. Wow! These are some fantastic quilts! I say they all get a record for speed.

  5. I enjoyed this post. Thanks for the entertainment and quilt pictures :0) I love that last one!

  6. Chuckled all the way through your post, since we see the same sloppy work all over social media today. Also nodded knowingly, since I use this site with my own students, it being such a fabulous site for primary sources. It is so delicious to follow you while you make (textile) history such fun!

  7. What a fun and interesting post! Thanks!!

  8. Loved seeing all the quilts.. interesting post today.. thank you!

  9. Always love your posts and this one was great fun! Made me laugh out loud!!

  10. Love learning from all your posts, but this one made me laugh so I had to comment and say thank you!

  11. In 1921 technology was not what it is today.