In 2005, I bought a quilt that would eventually change a lot of things for me - but I didn't realize it at the time. The quilt, a 1980s teal, red and white New York Beauty, was made in North Carolina and came from an eBay seller. When I bought it, I thought it was a lot older than it is, but then, I knew very little about dating fabrics and quilts at the time. I was still very much isolated in my quilt collecting hobby, and the only source of information was whatever I would hear along the way.
These days, it's hilarious to think I felt it was from the 1940s or 50s. Shortly after I received it, I brought it along to the Palmer Wirfs Antiques Show at the Portland Expo Center, where there is always a booth for identification and assessment of collectibles. It's a little like Antiques Roadshow. You wait in line, meet with an expert, and get a verbal assessment.
There was a lovely young lady from California named Erin who knew a lot about quilts and fabric dating, so I always waited to speak with her. When I told her what I thought I knew about the quilt, she quickly set me straight. I was a little embarrassed that it wasn't as old as I thought, but tried to look on the bright side and played it off as being my "youngest" quilt. Then I stashed it away, feeling a little foolish for having a 1980s quilt in a collection of much older quilts. It sat on a shelf for years, and nobody saw it - my mistake, my dirty little secret.
As I continued collecting, I gradually learned more about quilts and suspected this quilt was from a published pattern. I wasn't particularly thrilled about that because it pushed the quilt one step further away from being a one-of-a-kind original, but it was still a New York Beauty. Then one day something else dawned on me. In all my years of collecting, I hadn't seen any other New York Beauty quilts from that time period. That realization led to another: what I first thought of as a novice collector's mistake turned out to be quite rare and important in the context of my collection. From that point forward, I appreciated and embraced this quilt.
Earlier this year, when the photostreams from the Infinite Variety red and white quilt exhibition started to surface, I discovered another quilt made with what looks like exactly the same pattern. In my mind, it supported the idea that my quilt was made with a published pattern, but I still haven't found the source. So, if there's anyone out there who recognizes this pattern and may have leads to the source, I hope you'll let me know!
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.