Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mystery of an On-Point Beauty

Crown of Thorns / Rocky Mountain Road, c. 1910
"It's not Mountain Mist. It's earlier," I thought, looking at the quilt fresh out of the box from an eBay seller in St. Louis. The mystery quilt has four full blocks set on point, surrounded by half blocks around the edges, but there are more points than the Mountain Mist pattern - and the points are longer and thinner. "Hmmmmm," I thought. "This must be a clue."

Mountain Mist New York Beauty, c. 1930
The Mountain Mist pattern included a suggestion to use burnt orange and yellow on white. For a more traditional looking quilt, the pattern offered a red, white, and blue combination as an alternative. Even though the Mountain Mist quilt was made in red, white and blue, there are a few things about this quilt that don't conform to the Mountain Mist quilt and pattern. 

The mystery quilt has red quarter circles with 15 points, blue sashing with 20 points on each side, and single-colored 15-pointed stars as cornerstones, each within a circle in a square. The Mountain Mist quilt pictured above, which seems to be a slight variation on the original published pattern, has two-colored quarter circles with 15 points, sashing with 14 points on each side, and two-colored, eight-pointed stars constructed of diamonds as the cornerstones. The intersecting blocks form circles. In my mystery quilt, that form is more in the shape of a rounded square. 


My curiosity led me to the Quilt Index, where I saw similar quilts that were documented as pattern #1077 in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. All roads seem to lead back to this brilliant resource. Recently, I started to learn more about published pattern sources referenced by Brackman, and it's been a revelation in the study of the pattern most widely known as New York Beauty. As I match published patterns with the quilts I've collected, it has helped me begin to piece together the history of the New York Beauty. Now, when I see quilts with shared characteristics, I think published pattern.

The illustration of pattern #1077 looks like the Mountain Mist quilt, but there are two other sources listed: Crown of Thorns and Rocky Mountain Road by Hall. "Hall?" I asked myself. Still relatively a noob when it comes to scholarly quilt study, I'd seen references to Hall in Brackman's book, but I hadn't ever asked myself what, or who Hall was. I felt a little stupid, but also full of delight. Would the Hall patterns be the missing link between the late 19th century quilts and the 1930 Mountain Mist quilts?

Hall, as it turns out, is Carrie Hall, who published hundreds of quilt patterns in the early 20th century. I found a book by Bettina Havig, called "Carrie Hall Blocks: Over 800 Historical Patterns from the College of the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas." Of course, I ordered a copy! Can't wait for it to arrive, but until it does I'm wondering if the Hall patterns will verify my ideas about the mystery quilt. I think it may be Hall, and I can't wait to find out if it's really true. 

For me, the discovery of Carrie Hall represents a potential link between the old-school Rocky Mountain Road / Crown of Thorn quilts and the 1930 Mountain Mist New York Beauty. It's a link I'd been missing, but the mystery of an on-point beauty led me there. Was Hall a source for Mountain Mist? What was Hall's source? Will one of the Hall Patterns have the same number of points, same dimensions and same characteristics as this mystery on-point beauty? We'll soon find out!


  1. I am enjoying learning with you. Excuse me while I ride on your shirt tails. It's fascinating.

  2. I'm just glad there's something to learn. It will be good to include some information with the quilts when they're hanging in a museum, especially since so many are from unknown makers.

  3. Oh Lord, WW, now there's TWO of us!!! Of course, I'm on a different pattern---with the Whigs Defeat, which is, I believe, a close cousin of Richmond Beauty (re NEW YORK BEAUTY: why not use that term when it is historically accurate---post Mountain Mist maybe?).

    You need to order THE Carrie Hall---"The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt." Many Easterners sneer at all these Midwestern folks who kept alive and still keep alive the pattern information and research. I personally glory in their work. Carrie Hall, Ms. Kretsinger----my first guides beyond what I'd seen with my own eyes. When BBrackman appeared on the scene, I thought the Resurrection was at hand.

    In my early twenties (that would be back in 1340), I literally spent hours poring over the first pages of Kretsinger & Hall's "Romance of..." B&W pics of the blocks and their names. I still have memorized the captions below the quilts, found in the second section. I don't think I would have been able to hang with the study of quilts had I not had this book---or I would have taken a very different path (Hmmm: maybe MADE more quilts myself! What an odd idea.)

    So glad to see this. Bless you.

  4. beautiful quilts, the New York Beauty has always intrigued me and intimidated me. After seeing your posts on this quilt I am very tempted to make one of my own.. Of course it will have to be in red, green and cheddar :) my favorite color combo! Would love to find a pattern that is a reproduction of an antique quilt.
    I am learning a lot from your blog, keep it up!

  5. Kathie - Glad you're enjoying the blog. If I can learn a little something about the Electric Quilt 7 program, I may include one or two patterns in the catalog for my show. Preferably the early, unpublished patterns - LOL. We'll see. I have a lot of grandiose ideas. Sometimes I even get some of 'em done. :)

    Gaye - Thank you for the recommendation. I have ordered the book, so now I'll have two resources, and I'll take any other recommendations you've got regarding books that'll help me piece together the history of published patterns. It's turning out to be an important tangent because of the way the world has adopted New York Beauty as the name of this quilt. The Quilt Index has several examples of quilts that were retroactively called New York Beauties. Unintended revisionist history, and somehow due to the impact of Mountain Mist and the effectiveness of their romanticized "historical" anecdotes published with the patterns. All this amazing scholarship over the last couple decades makes me glad Oregon is doing its doc project in 2010 rather than 1990. You'll probably laugh when you hear this, but I now have 26 examples of the "New York Beauty" pattern in my collection, but not one made from the Mountain Mist pattern. I grabbed the photo of the orange, yellow and white quilt from a dealer who'd had one for sale...but alas, it was already sold!

    One other tidbit- Betsey Telford has a Whig's Defeat quilt on her web site. She's had it for sale for years, and I considered buying it when I first met her about ten years ago, because I thought it related to the one red, white, and green "NYB" I had at the time. Have you seen the quilt?

  6. Hello:
    I am going to be teaching a workshop based on the Mountain Mist New York Beauty quilt at the Benton County Museum on October 1st. Please check out their website for more info.
    Eilene Cross