Sunday, August 30, 2020

String Quilts: Regionalism

String Quilt by Mary Dean of Franklin County, North Carolina
North Carolina project & the Quilt Index.

Those of us who look at a lot of quilts would agree that string quilts are Southern style.

Mahulda Jane Smith Gates, Louisiana project.

No information
Even if we have no information on them we see these patterns composed of strips of random widths, lengths and angles as a regional design.
I decided to look at the Quilt Index for string quilt designs and see if I could find any clues to regionalism. One of the first quilts that pops up if you do a search for "string" is this one, surprisingly from Alberta, Canada (hits are presented in alphabetic order --- sort of---by projects. This one: Alberta.)

Alberta is NOT South, but they recorded the provenance of the quilt, a top quilted later by someone who found it in Canada but knew the maker of the top was from Kentucky and had been born in Alabama. Way South of Alberta.

What about string quilts in Connecticut?

Here's one recorded in the Connecticut project.
But is this a string quilt?

Are we going to be fussy about the definition and say a string quilt is pieced of irregularly shaped strips? Yep.  This quilt is a strip quilt; all the strips seem to be the same width.

It was harder to find a string quilt in New York. This is a silk strip quilt.

While I was working on this post Southern quilt collector Teddy Pruett noted on the QuiltHistoryFacebook page that Pennsylvania expert Barb Garrett had noted "There are quite a few in PA but they are made with very regular strips not actually random strings."  

How they do it in southeastern Pennsylvania

Ruth Eubanks, North Carolina Project
How they do it in North Carolina.


Dora Webber in Louisiana

Now I am stacking the deck here with quilts that contrast. I have irregular-shaped strips in Massachusetts and regular strips in Tennessee.

But that contrast between regular and irregular strips
is a good regional clue.

And I couldn't find one quilt I'd consider a string quilt in the first 15 pages of New York project quilts.

Unless you count this one from Harriet DeFrate Hotaling 
from Greene County, New York.

Well, I'm calling it a crazy quilt and I doubt there is much regional difference in crazy quilts
from Seattle to Seacaucus to Savannah.


  1. Now days that will not be the norm, since Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville blog, is encouraging quilters all over the world to use up those scraps of strings we have. Present day quilts will be hard to identify where they came from.

  2. My first reaction on seeing the last quilt was that it was metaphor for 2020. But I suppose a lot of crazy quilts could evoke the same.

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