Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two Quilts to be (Re)united

Quilt #1 (left) is in the IQSC Collection. Quilt #2 (right) will soon join it.
Does anybody out there recall seeing these two quilts together years ago at a Kentucky estate sale? That's the million-dollar question of the day!

Some background. Quilt #2 (pictured above right) was a Christmas gift in 2003 from my mother and father. We got it from Betsey Telford in York, Maine. I'd never seen anything like it, and thought it was a one-of-a-kind original design.

A few years later, I opened up a copy of Bob Shaw's book, "Quilts: A Living Tradition" and there was Quilt #1 (pictured above left) - same design, different borders and sashing, and missing the half-block panels seen at the bottom edge of Quilt #2. In the book, the information for Quilt #1 reads:

"Tinker's Tobacco Leaf and Tulip - Artist unknown, c. 1850. Kentucky. Cottons, hand applied and quilted, 77 1/2 x 74 in. Collection of Linda Carlson. According to Linda Carlson, who has done extensive research on the four-block form, four-block quilts originated in Pennsylvania German communities in the 1840's, about the same time that the multiple block quilt became popular. This example of the four-block form is distinguished by its unusual combination of motifs, the appliqued lightning streaks on the sashing, and the paired borders of large and small triangles."

When I discovered this quilt (Quilt #1), I searched the internet and contacted Linda Carlson. She replied, and said the quilt had been donated to the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. She recalled purchasing it from Marilyn Woodin, of Woodin Wheel Antiques in Kalona, Iowa, and said Woodin had mentioned buying it from an estate sale in Kentucky.

I got back in touch with Linda today, and she clarified the caption from the book. "My findings indicate that the large 4-block applique' quilt was more likely to have been constructed first and foremost by those of German descent," Linda said, "and secondly by Scots-Irish immigrants to Pennsylvania and the Carolinas or women influenced by the German Fraktur style of decoration."

She has noted in her study that quilters of Pennsylvania German heritage made more quilts in the 4-block style/set than their counterparts in other states, and it holds true for the four most popular 4-block patterns described in Roots, Feathers & Blooms: 4-Block Quilts Their History & Patterns, Book 1, Chapter 1, pages 107 and 112. Linda also noted that the "Tinker's" was a name added by the publishers, and it may have referred to traveling tinsmiths who created metal applique templates. The name she has for the four-block is "Kentucky Tobacco Leaf & Tulip Stencil" - so possibly "Tinker's" was generated from the word stencil.

I have already contacted Woodin, and heard back (see comments below), but thought I'd blog about it, too. The two quilts share such remarkable similarities, I am wondering if they were offered by the same estate, or if anyone else had seen the quilts together or heard about them.

My quilt will soon join Quilt #1 at the International Quilt Study Center, so the two will be together. I'm calling it a reunion, but would love to verify it. As soon as I get a little more documentation and an appraisal, I'll head to IQSC, deliver my quilt in person, and finally see the two quilts together. It is such a unique design, anyone who may have seen either quilt or both would remember something that could help us link the two.

Any clues appreciated!


  1. Heard back from Marilyn, and she didn't attend an estate sale in Kentucky, but would've bought directly from the seller. She also hadn't bid against Betsey for any quilts, so those two possibilities have been eliminated - but it's helpful to know about the details Marilyn recalled.

    So now I'm wondering if anyone recalls being offered either or both quilts for sale from a Kentucky estate.

  2. Bill, I am familiar with the pattern Tobacco Leaf in these colors. Right now, can't place where/when, but I will begin going through my notes next week. I'm sure I noted it because of the colors. I also know the linda Carlson book and example. Will let you know if I find anything/when I find anything. Glad you are donating it to the International Center. gi

  3. Hi Gaye, you may have seen it on my web site, but I took the quilt off when I decided to donate it. The one on the right (above) is mine.

    I revised the blog a little after hearing back from Marilyn and Linda. Both had illuminating comments, and I thank them.