Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Southern Spin: Triplets & Cousins

Attributed to Christina Hays Malcom in 
Grant County, Indiana. 
Dated in the quilting May 6, 1873.
Collection of the Helen F. Spencer Museum of Art
University of Kansas

Over the years I've volunteered at the Spencer Museum where their quilt by Christina Hays Malcom is a favorite. It's in great shape, donated with several other of her quilts, supposedly never used. She died in 1878 before her family emigrated to Kansas and her only son saved his mother's quilts till his niece donated them.

Christiana wife of Wm. Malcom died Dec. 17, 1878 aged 50 years

She is buried in Marion, Indiana

That might say 58 years, as some sources say she was born in 1820. She's buried with her parents Nelson and Sarah Hays and other family members in the Puckett Cemetery on E. 200 Road.

Christina's four-block has a near twin in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. This is also an Indiana quilt, donated by Linda Giesler Carlson and Dr. John V. Carlson in their collection of four-block quilts.

Small differences include different fabrics and slightly different
applique motifs but the basic feather design with the crossed leaves
in the corners and the scallop border are the same.

And then there is a third:

This one was on Sue Garman's blog a while ago.
Different center in the feather.

There are actually many related quilts although not so closely related as the three above.

The Kentucky project found this one, labeled Princess Feather with
Oak Leaves in their book Kentucky Quilts.

It's the 15.5's in my Encyclopedia of Applique

Well, it goes on and on.
This was quite a popular design with no published source that we've yet found.

From the collection of Lynn Evans Miller

Sarah Cottrill, Dutch Camp, Gilmer County, West Virginia
From the West Virginia project and the Quilt Index
Her family called this Ocean Wave.

The West Virginia project files include several. Fawn Valentine wrote a small chapter on the pattern in West Virginia Quilts & Quiltmakers. How was the pattern shared? Still a mystery
although we can speculate. She also noted one with the name Waves of the Ocean in the
Rogers County (Arkansas) Museum collection.

Mary Gay Combs Baxter in Ritchie County, 
West Virginia when she was in her teens, dated 1895

Lina Hess Hersman, Doddridge County, West Virginia
Six arms and a streamlined feather and melon border.

Angelina Hall, Benson, West Virginia,
 thought to have been made in the 20th century.
The shapes get simpler.

Anna Ross Boseley, 1931
Gabe's Fork, Taylor County, West Virginia
Family Names Watermelon and Ocean Wave

Anna's daughter brought this quilt in to be documented. She recalled that her mother obtained the pattern by copying an old family quilt made in 1866 brought to West Virginia in 1886. Anna and her friends the Buck Run Quilters finished it.

Anna's daughter called it Watermelon
and indeed the green and red slices look like watermelon.

Anna included the basic elements although she streamlined them:
  • Four block set
  • Spinning pattern with eight arms
  • Small motif at the end of the arms
  • Leaves in block corners to form secondary pattern
  • Basic red and green color scheme, usually solid fabrics.

From an online auction. I'd guess Upland South as the region.

I think of this whirling pinwheel as a Southern pattern. Christina Hays Malcom spent much of her life in Grant County, Indiana, which is usually considered a midwestern state but Grant County was settled by people from Kentucky, Tennessee and other Southern states (and not named for a certain Union General). Marion, the county seat, still shows evidence of Southern culture.

Grant County northeast of Indianapolis

Christina herself was born in Northampton County, North Carolina in 1820 and probably came to Marion with her Hays family. One would guess that quilters in Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana shared an interest in the design and some kind of pattern exchange. 

Block found in the Nebraska project

The quilts here are just a few of  many related watermelon designs. More pictures tomorrow.

UPDATE: Debby posted this photo of a pair from the same family in Greene County, Pennsylvania, down by the West Virginia border.

See Christina Hays Malcom's quilts here:


  1. So much patience, perseverance, and talent exhibited in one post!

  2. I'm fascinated by these quilts. . .on my bucket list.

  3. Coincidentally I was just looking at Princess Feathers on Stella Rubin’s site. She has three from Pennsylvania that look very similar to each other and have eight arms like these. A different centre motive though.