Friday, November 15, 2019

Twins: Mariner's Compass & Princess Feather

Illustration by Olga Heese Bogart for the cover of
Needlecraft/Home Arts magazine in July, 1939.
The quilt alternates a mariner's compass with a princess feather block.

The artist was possibly inspired by this quilt in  Florence Peto's book the same year.  Peto called it Princess Feather and Sunburst. "The bold design and excellent workmanship on the quilt were influential in its awards of three New Jersey state prizes."

Peto's photo features this quilt on the cover of a Newark
Museum publication in 1973.

Attributed to Catherine Ann Fitzgerald of New Jersey.
Gift of Vivian Boylan Gordon of Nutley, New Jersey in 1926 .
 Gordon was Catherine Fitzgerald's granddaughter and her
mother was another Catherine Ann Fitzgerald married to a Gordon.

The 1948 museum catalog copy, which tells us the donor's grandmother and her sisters made the quilt. "From 1861-63 Mrs. Fitzgerald lived at 343 Washington Street. Her Husband, Joshua Fitzgerald was in business in Newark from 1838 until his death in 1856."

The museum displayed the quilt about 8 years ago 
and Barbara Schaffer took some great photos.

Looks like Turkey red feathers, perhaps appliqued in white sashing or 
over block seam lines.

Floral vine border (cut from the same Turkey red print?)
The red seems to have faded a bit over the past 40 years but it's still
a spectacular quilt.

Notice how the feather grows out of the border.

Rose Wilder Lane showed it and gave a pattern in her 1963 Woman's Day Book of American Needlework calling it "Prince's Feather and Rising Star (also known as Princess Feather or Ostrich Plume and Rising Sun)."

The quilt is unusual but not unique. 

A twin

From Tom Woodard & Blanche Greenstein's inventory, pictured
in the 1980 Quilt Engagement Calendar.
Almost identical but instead of red a blue print.

When one is superimposed over the other the comparison is striking.

Perhaps each of the sisters made a quilt in the pattern.

Catherine Ann Boylan Fitzgerald (1809-1863) had two sisters: Maria Brownlee Boylan Doremus and Osee Melinda Boylan Fitzgerald, all daughters of Aaron Boylan of Newark. Osee's son James Fitzgerald was a well-documented Methodist bishop. The Fitzgeralds seem to have been in the varnish business.

Catherine's grave:

From the Pat and Arlen Christ Collection

The idea of a four-armed feather between pieced circles:

The same idea but not so showy.
From New Jersey and Barbara Schaffer's New Jersey Pinterest board

With all those patterns and photos in the mid-20th century I am surprised I have so few copies of the Fitzgerald quilt in the picture files. 

Jane Hall of Raleigh, North Carolina, 2006
Jane won the state prize in the Land's End Quilt Contest in 2006.

Jane said she thought the quilt in the Woman's Day book was "the most beautiful thing I'd seen!"
 "I had to draft the compasses and the large applique Princess Feathers. I found a large floral print with a dark blue background and selected coordinating prints for it. I wanted a variety of prints, predominantly dark and similar to the old prints (although the original was done in reds)...Several friends pieced a block for the quilt as part of a group. "

Mary Chalmers, Wilmar, Minnesota, 2006 
from the Minnesota project and the Quilt Index.

Mary's label says she used the Woman's Day pattern. (It's a great pattern but if you are looking for the pattern in the used book market you want the Woman's Day box of patterns. The patterns are not actually in the book.)

And here's Barb Vedder's 2012 quilt, obviously inspired by it:

Barb Vedder's 2012 quilt

Better color here. She won first prize in hand quilting
a few years ago at the New England Quilt Festival.

1866 dress of Catherine Boylan Fitzgerald's, 
also given by her granddaughter to the Newark Museum.

See Barbara Schaffer's post here:


  1. What an amazing quilt pattern! Not just one, but 2 difficult ones in the same quilt!!

  2. The superimposure is amazing! The quilts are super!

  3. These stories are so interesting and the Fitzgerald quilt is amazing. Love the feather coming out of the border. Thank you for sharing this today.

  4. Thanks, Barbara, I really enjoyed seeing the Newark Museum quilt again. It's one of my favorites! Barb Vedder's quilt is a masterpiece with all those tiny stuffed berries!

  5. What an amazing combo of blocks.

  6. Twins and their descendants! I seem to recall that the RWL book and pattern combo were Book of the Month Club selections. I got them early in my needleworking days and pored over the history and the designs. (I wonder how accurate her history was, considering all the research in the nearly 50 years since.)

  7. Oh, my, so beautiful! Thank you for this post. Very inspiring!

  8. What a great article on the quilt from the Newark Museum.
    I did in fact use it for inspiration for my version.

  9. Love the way you describe all that, It shows the amount of effort you put into it. Teosyal by Meso Pro

  10. My first view of the quilt was from Rose Wilder Lane and Woman's Day ... next found photos from Newark Museum and then found Jane Hall's photos. I was hooked ! I drafted a feather pattern based on Woman's Day and Jane Hall's patterns and I think the indented edge of their feathers are more shallow. Not until I bought the museum catalog that you've included did I realize that the feathers are so deeply inset. Well, I'm 2/3 the way through and loving every minute of it... and for the life of me I'd like to meet those two sisters and ask how the heck they accomplished that 180 years ago.