Thursday, November 12, 2020

Catherine Tompkins's Basket Quilt & Chintz

Looking through the Quilts of Virginia book I came across this medallion with a story.
In the center the initials C T for Catherine Tompkins (?-1820), Virginia.
Private Collection.
Catherine lived in King & Queen County between the York and the Rappahanock Rivers in the Middle Peninsula, not far from Richmond. 

It's a busy quilt with pieced stars, appliqued ovals and that central cut out chintz basket framed with triangles and dots.

The pieced design is an early version of a popular star with many published names.

Rolling Star from the Ladies Art Company about 1890

A few years ago the late and sorely missed Di  Ford did a pattern
she called "Oh Dear! Mrs. Tompkins."

Some call it the Burnt Quilt because the original was burned in a fire in the late 19th century protecting a family member from the flames. It still has a hole and scorch marks.

Pattern in Di's book Primarily Quilts (1).
She used a rectangular panel as the central image.

Too bad we don't have any reproductions of the original basket chintz, which was quite common
in the 1820s and '30s in the U.S.
At least it must have been since we find so many surviving examples.

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has a scrap: Dark brown background, an applied blotch ground. The color palette is what was called "drab," a combination of yellow, olive and browns.

Diane Miller found this piece framed in Massachusetts,
brown and green---no yellow.

The Winterthur Museum's is similar but has pink in it. You can see here the yardage features two fruit baskets, one with a scrolly edge and the other, the one in the the Tompkins quilt with a tightly woven edge. Both baskets have melons, rather well drawn.

The brown ground looks applied later to a roller print with good detail.
The blue was also added later. Standards for color registration were fairly low.

These all look to have been imported from the same English mill,
printed maybe 1810-1830, imported perhaps ten to twenty years later.

The Cooper-Hewitt has just a scrap of the basket.with a scroll.
A light brown ground with several colors in the figures.
The print also came as a monochrome, a well-drawn blue from the Winterthur's collection.
Madder red/brown monochrome in a whole cloth quilt.
An added blue ground to a madder red roller print. That makes seven color ways.

 It's tough to see the colors accurately in Catherine's basket but it may be an eighth colorway.

Bunny Jordan notes how similar Catherine's basket is to the very popular fruit panel, which Merikay Waldvogel has identified in nearly 60 American quilts.
And then there is this 20th century reproduction---or should I say interpretation.

Popular as the chintz print was Catherine Tompkins's is the only patchwork quilt I find in my files using it.


  1. Wow! Great quilts. I loved the view of it on the bed--those really large star borders really shine when you see them in the deep drop around the sides of the bed. Makes me want to make one!

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