Monday, February 8, 2021

Early Sawtooth Stars: Pieced & Appliqued


Star quilt with block embroidered
"R ???? Porter... (Perhaps it says Her Own Work)
Done in the Year 1777"
American Museum in Britain

Americans have been making patchwork quilts since the days of our break with England in the 1770s.

Among the earliest patchwork patterns is one we'd call a Sawtooth Star, a nine patch of triangles and squares.

Over at my Civil War Quilts blog we are doing a Block of the Month in 2021 featuring variations on this nine-patch star to recall the real-life family of Little Women. 
See the first post of Hands All Around: Alcotts at War here:

And join our Facebook group here

I was surprised to find how many early quilts with dates on them use the star.

1797 Hannah John
Maine quilt project

1787 Rachel Mackey, Chester County, Pennsylvania
America Hurrah Antiques

These are among the earliest of our date-inscribed quilts.
1783 Deborah Wilson
D.A.R. Museum

Deborah's patchwork is rather primitive.
Her sawtooth stars may be applique rather than pieced.

It's an easy block to piece---a good beginner block.
This one from the Porter quilt look to be pieced.

UPDATE: Lynne Bassett sends a photo of patchwork (not a bedquilt)  thought to be from the Colonial era: A paper pieced star for a hand screen (one held a small screen up to one's face to protect it from the heat of the fire) attributed to Deborah Hobart Clark of Danvers, Massachusetts who died in 1765. See the Massachusetts Quilts book.

Sophia Hooker, dated 1820
Collection Winedale, University of Texas

Star by E.L.H. dated 1839
Shelburne Museum

I have seen examples that are NOT pieced but appliqued.

Deborah Wilson may have appliqued blue triangles to a white background
in her 1783 quilt but here's another way to do it

A sketch

You take a square of chintz

You applique squares to the corners

Then you applique triangles to the edges.

And there you are.

More about early stars:


  1. Well, I guess you might do the corners that way if you have a large motif to feature, but I'm not into applique so it sounds like work to me!

  2. I absolutely love sawtooth stars and I have one of the two "Stars in a Time Warp" with me, love using it often. Looking forward to the second installment of Hands All Around! I'm making the 12 inch blocks. I'm using indigo, white, blue and white Japanese tenugui fabric, some red here and there. Thank you Barbara for all of these wonderful blog posts!