Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Early Virginia Quilt

Rusty sent me photos of a quilt made by a long-ago family member. You may have seen this quilt displayed at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum a year or two ago.

 It is great to see photos with closeups, so thanks to him for sending and letting me post them.

Under the central vase is embroidered in counted cross-stitch:
“Sally Lee Camden her bed quilt”

Sally didn't put a date on it but we can guess it is a late-18th or early-19th century quilt. Genealogy work has discovered a Sally Lee Camden born in 1777 (or possibly 1785) in Amherst County, Virginia. Her parents were William and Sybell Dent Camden. She married Peter Dent in 1807 and changed her name to Sally Dent, so we can guess that the quilt was made before 1807. Sally died about 1850 in Bedford County, Virginia.

We have so few surviving quilts from 1800 that it is a wonderful piece of history despite it's worn condition. We can describe it as an embroidered and pieced medallion quilt, made from linen (behind the embroidery) and cotton prints. The prints look to be primarily blue and brown, probably printed with indigo and madder dyes.

Blue yarn embroidery on linen

The brown prints are quite worn. Many natural brown dyes were very hard on the yarn fibers and abrasion over the years deteriorates the fabric. These simple prints might be American prints rather than sophisticated European manufactured goods we'd see in chintz quilts being made at the same time.

The quilting is close lines with some cording

A similar appliqued linen quilt, also thought to be from Virginia.

This one, dated 1812, is from an online auction.
The close quilting, similar floral bouquet and vase and limited color schemes are typical of the few surviving quilts from the era.

Another medallion from an online auction
This one is dated 1804 and uses the same simple blue and brown cotton prints.

Rusty's quilt was found in an attic of an old log cabin, put there by someone who thought it was too worn to use anymore but too old to throw away. It's now over 200 years old, an early American survivor.


  1. What a treasure to have. I posted one I got from my grandfather and did find similar ones from the 1920's, so I am assuming that is what I have. Would love to have you look at it, it is on my blog now.


  2. Wow! This is amazing to read and see!
    Thank you!

  3. Lovely, all of them. Thank you.

  4. Thanks for sharing. I love to hear each snippet of quilt history.

  5. It's always exciting to see an Old Survivor. The close-ups really let us "see" it. Thank you, Rusty for rescueing Sally Lee's quilt. This is a true treasure and a real survivor!

  6. Hello Barbara,

    Thanks for sharing my special family quilt. It just doesn't seem right owning such a special piece of history and not sharing it.

    Next stop for the quilt is International Quilt Study Center & Museum University of Nebraska. I'm curious as to their take about the quilt. After I do this I will share it with you.

    I'm very impressed with your web page and the number of folks that visit your site.

    Barbara I do own one other quilt that my great grandmother made from flour sacks that dates to the @ 1870's when she return to Virginia one last time if you would like some j-pegs of it.

    All the best,

    Rusty from Virginia and now over in Colorado.

  7. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful piece of workmanship!

  8. I loved reading about this old quilt. What a wonderful piece of history!