Sunday, October 10, 2010

1842 Hexagons - Excavation Complete!

1842 Hexagons: restoration removed, exposing turkey red hexagons
The excavation is complete! One week ago, this 1842 Hexagons quilt looked very different. All the red hexagons were covered with tan fabric from a very old restoration. The restoration fabric was originally red, but had faded to a light tan color. Intended to cover up the shattered turkey red fabric, the restoration probably looked pretty good when it was first done. The underside of the tan fabric is much darker than the top side - still faded, but more of a ruddy brownish red.
Turkey red hidden by faded restoration fabric
It was fun to see this quilt come to life as bits of the tan fabric were removed. Took a couple evenings just sitting by the television picking at stitches. As each patch came off, I felt closer to the maker and the original vision. The quilt is wonderfully patriotic in its combination of colors, and the reappearance of the red confirmed it.
Before (left), and after (right). What a transformation!!
One of my American Quilt Study Group friends, Jan Thomas, saw this quilt and was intrigued by the birds in the borders. According to Jan, the eagles and the two birds facing away from each other are motifs seen in Pennsylvania coverlet designs. She scanned some images and sent them to me. Very interesting! Jan will also take a look at the thread used for the restoration under her microscope, and will try to determine the age of the thread. How cool is that?
Eagle design from a Pennsylvania coverlet, courtesy of Jan Thomas
The theory about a possible Pennsylvania connection intrigues me. My family spent many years living in Moorestown, New Jersey - just across the river from Philadelphia. I could see this quilt fitting in with the decor in colonial Pennsylvania, maybe even Philadelphia. It's not a shy quilt, it's a bold one, possibly a "city mouse" as I like to say.

What do you think about the transformation? Do you think the quilt could be from Pennsylvania?


  1. Beautiful - really beautiful!
    I bet it was nervewracking unpicking near that delicate fabric - you have done a great job.
    I loved the photo of the quilt half beige and half red. Did you have any second thoughts along the way?:)
    Sorry, I don't know anything about Pennsylvanian quilts.

  2. Hi Alice, I never had a second thought, although it was important to take some pictures along the way and save all the material and as much of the thread as I could. I wasn't too nervous about picking the stitches. There isn't much more that could happen to the red, but I did discover the red was actually a polka dot, with white dots. Very cool!

  3. Hi Bill, Just found your blog via Lori from Humble Quilts. I DO like the hexagons, liberated from their drab tan, how fresh it looks in comparison. I would never have associated red, white and blue quilts with Pennsylvania, tho' my knowledge is limited. Love the variety of birds in the applique border. MC was a very special quilter!

  4. I'll have to thank Lori. She's great, and was really helpful when we were documenting quilts in Sisters! I also thought the quilt looked much more fresh with the tan removed, almost as if it had been washed.

  5. I love the "new" quilt!! I don't know anything about the eagles, but I adore the applique border as it makes it a bit more unique for a hexagon quilt.

  6. I've been going through quilt books looking for a border like this one, but haven't found any yet. If anyone happens to come across anything like it, please let me know!!