Monday, June 28, 2010

Clues in an Old Pattern

Continuing comments on the old star quilt shown in my last post:

This early quilt, which may date from 1820-1860, features interesting patchwork. The pattern is all in the sashing. The blocks are plain white, the perfect spot to show off some fancy quilted wreaths.

It's in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns (#1059) but I didn't find this pattern in any publication until 1973 when Lenice Ingram Bacon showed an antique quilt she'd purchased in Tennessee. She called it Darting Minnows. In her book American Patchwork Quilts she pictured a detail of the same design in plain red and plain white set on the diagonal.

I once owned a similar quilt in a single indigo print and plain white (a hard combination to date.) I'd guess it was first half of the 19th century. Mine had a square inside the cornerstone square. Robert Bishop in one of his books on antique quilts showed another indigo and white version set on the diagonal and called it Eight-Pointed Star---a good generic name. Bishop's version was "late 19th century."

The variations of these "Sash and Block" designs with an unpieced block were a folk pattern handed around from quilter to quilter. Nineteenth-century periodicals and pattern designers didn't publish or name them probably because the construction would be hard to show in the little black and white square diagrams the magazines used to communicate about patterns.

In the turn-of-the-last century magazines and catalogs I did find a similar pattern with shorter star points. About 1900 the Ladies' Art Company catalog sold a pattern for the quilt below named Vestibule. In 1914 the Household Journal published it as Morning Star.

Morning Star by Bobbi Finley,
a reproduction of a top from about 1900-1920

Here's a detail of the original top that Bobbi copied faithfully. I'd guess the maker saw it in the Household Journal as she colored it just as it was shown.

I love this pattern and have made it up in several of my Moda fabric collections. Here's a mock-up of the quilt in the newest line Arnold's Attic, which reproduces fabrics from about 1900, the decades of the top above. Arnold's Attic is scheduled for August delivery. The unpieced squares are cut 4-1/2" so it's a great design for a Charm pack plus.

See a  pattern for a similar 32" square wall hanging on my webpage.
Click here and scroll down to the lower right where there are Free Patterns. 


  1. The same pattern was called Darting Minnows in "Treasures from the Trunk" by Mary Bywaters Cross. In my research on this same piece, that's the only time I've seen it called Darting Minnows...but then again, it just re-emphasizes the regionalism of particular names for patterns.

  2. I would guess Mary Cross found the name in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. I wonder what the name was before 1973 when Lenice Bacon published "Darting Minnows."

  3. Darting Minnows is a more interesting name for the Eight-Pointed Star. I love seeing both these quilts together - I wonder if the block size is the same. The fringed quilt is rather large, 6 x 7 blocks with fringe on all four sides. Now I want to add this "Sash and Block" design to my long list of quilts I want to make.

  4. Morning Star is one of my all time favorite patterns. Thanks for sharing...