Friday, August 31, 2012

Two Snake Trail Fans Quilts

I have this pile of quilts that I like to think of as the "should I stay or should I go" pile. Every so often I go through it, and some days I think I should sell the whole pile. Other days I can't bear to part with any of them. This Snake Trail Fans quilt was in the pile. It came from an eBay seller in Tennessee, who thought it was from New England. The seller also thought it had been made between 1850 and 1870, so it's hard to say what the seller really knew.

I think it's an early 20th century Southern "utility" quilt, although my friend Teddy Pruett says it's better than that. The colors might suggest it's late 19th century, but the size, construction, and quilting may indicate otherwise. It is 64" x 74", echo quilted in rows separated by 1/2" to 3/4", and the fan fabrics all have a sheen, as if they were glazed. These fabrics also have stripes, like ticking, and the back is flannel. There is a decorative feather stitch running along the edges of the fans. It looks like it was done with a machine because it is anchored to an even running stitch. Very unusual!

There is another pile of quilts in the same storage space, and it's quilts that are unquestionably keepers, but I don't always know what I'm doing with them. One of these is another Snake Trail Fans, made in the last quarter of the 19th century in the Eastern United States, possibly Pennsylvania.

I call this quilt a keeper for several reasons. First, it came to me from Shelly Zegart's personal collection and was once displayed in her New York apartment, as pictured in an article published in Country Living Magazine.

The quilt was offered in an eBay benefit auction for the Alliance for American Quilts, and I always felt I'd gotten a bargain. Recently, it was examined by an appraiser for the first time, and I'm waiting to find out just how much of a bargain I got.

People go nuts over this quilt. I love everything about it, and you could say it has all the bells and whistles. It has fine, challis fabrics, an eye-catching combination of colors, wonderful embroidery, and is clearly informed by the Pennsylvania German decorative and folk arts. And just as I said about the silk Diamonds in yesterday's blog, this quilt is iconic.

Both quilts are truly amazing, but it's probably a little selfish to keep two when one would suffice. So I'm selling the one with the black background and all the echo quilting. There are already three people who've expressed an interest in it, so I'm sure it'll find a good home soon!


  1. When I was learning to embroider by my Girl Scout Leader(think early 70's) she stitched a line using the sewing machine and taught me to count the stitches to keep my embroidery stitches and even size...looked a lot like your first quilt! (I also agree with Teddy that this is no utility quilt!)

    1. Perhaps it's a special quilt made by someone who usually made utility quilts? It's got similar signs of construction...

  2. Several months ago, I found the book "Country Living, Making & Displaying Quilts" by Sarah Hoggett in a used book store. The second Snake Trail Fan, what the books calls Embroidered Fan Hanging, is in it. I bought this book mostly because of that quilt! Since I like to hand embroider, I especially like the stitching on it. Thanks for showing it today!

    1. Thank you for mentioning the book. I didn't know about it, but it's on my Amazon wish list now. :)