Saturday, June 10, 2017

Triangles in a Field of Patchwork: A Clue to Regionalism?

This medallion quilt is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Not much 
is known about it, but we can make some guesses.

The border and center square are a roller-printed  pillar print. These were popular in the 1820s and '30s, so that gives us an early cutoff for date. Medallion style gives us a range of up to 1860 or so. 
The triangles as a field of patchwork are a clue to location as well as date.

Detail of the center of a Dutch quilt
 from the collection of An Moonan.

It's not just half-square triangles in a field around a center feature that's the location clue. Triangles shaded in pinwheel fashion are quite common in early quilts from the Netherlands to England to North America. It's the way the triangles are arranged and shaded, a rather subtle clue to a quilt from the east central United States, most likely Virginia or Maryland.

Rather than a pinwheel effect the triangles face one direction and have a distinct light/dark shading.

Jane Weakley Leche's medallion with a chintz center framed by a field of dark and light triangles is in the collection of the Virginia Quilt Museum. She lived in Baltimore, Maryland, where her husband was in the dry goods business.

The Virginia Quilt Museum reproduced the
fabrics in the Leche quilt several years ago.

 Mary Tayloe Lloyd Key's quilt in the collection of
the DAR Museum. 

The curators at the DAR have counted 3,876 triangles.
Mary was the widow of Francis Scott Key. Quite
a bit is known about her. She lived in Washington City and Maryland.

When you see a medallion in this distinctive style you can
guess it was not made in Maine or Georgia.

Here's one sold by Rocky Mountain Quilts.
Probably Maryland, Virginia....
Not Philadelphia.

Here's one with everything: cut out chintz, stuffed work, triangles and 
a pillar print border. 

Kelter Malce Antiques advertised it in The Clarion in 1989
and attributed it to Pennsylvania. 

When you come across a quilt like this in Massachusetts as
the Massachusetts Quilt Project did, you would have to guess
it wasn't made in Boston. 
For several reasons.

The cut-out-chintz applique is
also a clue to an origin south of Massachusetts.
See the file here:

Note the triangles in one border are set like the block
we might call Birds in the Air.

Similar to this arrangement in a quilt begun in
the 1830s in the Brooke family of  Brooke Grove, Maryland.

Bobbi Finley's interpretation of the medallion at the Art Institute.


  1. The more old quilts I see from Maryland the more I realize they are my favorite. Their sophisticated choice of fabric mixed with naïveté is very creative and inspirational. Susan Dawson's Pieced Star (1840) is another example. What beauties! Thank you for all of your research.

  2. All those triangles! Awesome quilts! Thank you. :D

  3. Thanks, Barbara, for including my quilt. I still love it even though I had a really bad time with the math drafting the patterns which gives me even more respect for these earlier quilt makers.