Friday, August 19, 2011

Beauty Secrets: Mellow Beauty

In late October, 2009, I bought a quilt that came at the beginning of a flood of great quilts. It was this 1880s "mellow" beauty from Texas. The quilt was found by Julie Silber and Jean Demeter of The Quilt Complex. When I spotted it on their web site, I bought it on the spot. They called it a "mellow" beauty because it's the pattern most commonly known as New York Beauty, and the faded colors give it a wonderfully pleasant effect.

2011 NW Quilters Show, Portland Expo Center
If someone said the quilt design came from a published pattern, I'd believe them. It has structure, symmetry, and a head-turning combination of colors. The traditional Rocky Mountain Road or Crown of Thorns quilt was most often made with solid green and red on plain white - sometimes with touches of other color like cheddar orange. This Texas quilt also has solid fabrics, but the lush blue and ruddy, faded brown are uncommon. The yellowy cheddar orange adds to the handsome, earthy color scheme. 

Even though the colors are the result of time and fading, I feel like it's a happy accident. Condition is certainly an issue for a lot of people who collect, but my approach to collecting New York Beauties has been fairly inclusive. You don't see them often. For a while, I just bought every one I saw, and tried to make sense of it later. Chronologically ordering the collection for "Beauty Secrets" is how I've begun making heads or tails of the whole thing.

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. I read through the catalog today...great job. Love the photos and the layout!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it! Fun project, for sure. :)

  3. Hello, I stumbled onto your site while doing research on antique New York Beauty quilts. I just bought one in teal, rusty brown, and white. I'm dating it to the late 1800's. It's a rare color combination, as is your mellow beauty. I enjoyed your site.