Monday, August 8, 2011

Beauty Secrets: Amazing Zig-Zag Borders

By 2005, I was buying more quilts and several of those were the "New York Beauty" pattern. The best of these was a quilt I found on eBay, which came from a seller in Virginia. The quilt had been listed around the July 4th holiday, and when the auction ended with no bids, I contacted the seller to see if it was still available. It was, and I made arrangements to buy it.

The quilt was made in Virginia in the second half of the nineteenth century, and one of the things I really liked about it was how the maker put madder red points on the green arches, a direct reference to the difficult piecework. Most of the time, the points match the arches, giving the illusion from a distance that it's one piece of fabric. I realized print fabrics were rarely seen in these quilts, and the amazing zig-zag borders on two sides made it even more unusual.

When I opened the box, the first thing I noticed was pencil marks on the white fabric where the quilting design was marked. Bonus! Note to all quiltmakers: pencil marks may be the bane of your existence, but they are thrilling to a collector of antique quilts. This quilt has been exhibited only twice - once in the 2011 Northwest Quilters Show, and now as part of my first museum exhibit.

This quilt is currently on display at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon, as part of "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" through October 1st. The exhibit is part of Quilt County, a biennial, countywide celebration of quilts. An 80-page, full-color printed catalog is available in limited numbers at the museum, and online through Blurb. To preview or purchase the catalog, click here.


  1. What a glorious quilt! Do you only get them in great condition? How for instance would you go about cleaning a quilt or some spots? Thanks

  2. Hi Nicky- The quilts I've found range in condition from mint to poor. One quilt has two large, 1-foot square chunks cut out of it. For me, anything goes, especially if it's this pattern. I've never attempted to clean any of these quilts, but there are several publications out there with tips on what to do. I have some of those, but I'm still reluctant to to try cleaning an old quilt.

  3. Did I miss something? Why are pencil marks such a wonderful find for you?

  4. I love these posts! Keep 'em coming.

  5. Liz- I love pencil marks because when they are present I know the quilt wasn't washed much, if at all.