Monday, March 30, 2015

Ten Most Amazing Discoveries

one of my ten most amazing discoveries, now part of a museum collection
The other night I was catching up with a friend from college. We had kept in touch loosely over the years, but the last time was probably six years ago. Like most other people, she had no previous knowledge of my interest in quilts and was surprised by it. There is no way to explain the whole quilt thing in a quick, late-nite Facebook chat, so I shared a few of the quilts. Later, I thought it would be fun to do a blog post about the incredible objects I have discovered, so without further delay, here are ten of my most amazing discoveries.

the second of two Willow Tree Quilts, c. 1815
10) The Willow Tree Quilts: These two incredible all-white, stuffed work quilts from the first quarter of the 19th century share the same central motif, a large weeping willow tree. The two quilts came up at auction almost a year apart, but they were from one collector who got both quilts from one dealer. Both quilts were auctioned by Skinner. I wrote about the first quilt in a guest blog for "Why Quilts Matter, History, Art & Politics" where you can read all about it.

the "Start the Car" quilt, c. 1860
9) Floral Six-Block Appliqué: In April 2014, I walked into an antique shop in the Sellwood district of Portland expecting the usual-- no quilts I would consider buying. When I saw this masterpiece Civil War era, six-block floral appliqué quilt folded up in a nook close to the floor, I could not believe my eyes. "Start the car" is what you say to antique shopping accomplices whenever you find a phenomenal bargain and want to make a quick getaway. To read more about it, click here.

Tile Blocks c. 1975, Louisiana
8) Tile Blocks: Three years into collecting 1970s quilts, I found the most monumental example of polyester patchwork I have ever seen. This polyester top came from an eBay seller in Louisiana. I bought it in October 2013, and later had it backed for display. It has appeared in Quilters Newsletter and Patchwork Professional (Germany), and was exhibited at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Tilton Family Quilt, c. 1840, Burlington County, NJ
7) The Tilton Family Quilt: This spectacular quilt from Burlington County, New Jersey has over 7000 pieces and a piped, 1/16th-inch edge finish. I found it on eBay around 2008 or 2009. The name Araminta Tilton is stamped on the reverse side in all four corners. She is thought to be the owner of the quilt but probably not the maker. My family lived in Burlington County for many years, and it was wonderful to find a quilt from the area.

pieced quilt, c. 1870, Virginia
6) 1870s pieced quilt from Virginia: This quilt was not a bargain, but it was also worth a lot more than I paid for it. I found it on eBay from a seller in Virginia in 2004, and it is one of the best quilts I have ever found on eBay. A stunning example of precision piecing, in excellent condition, with pencil markings still visible; the zigzag borders are very unusual. It is one of 70 quilts in my new book.

pieced quilt, c. 1800, Rhode Island

5) c. 1800 Rhode Island pieced quilt: In March 2011, the sniper bid heard round the world went down on eBay, when this extraordinary quilt jumped from under $800 to over $5000 in the last ten seconds of the auction. I meant business, and it was worth every cent. It was a once-in-a-lifetime find, among the very earliest American pieced quilts. To read more about it, click here.

4) "Wild Thing": In 2010 I discovered my first 1970s quilt. Less than five years later, I have more than 100 of the 1970s quilts, and the collection has gained a lot of attention of late. This quilt traveled to Ireland for a special exhibit at the International Quilt Festival of Ireland, and was also exhibited at QuiltCon 2015. To read more about the quilt, click here.

"Night Flight" by Andrea Balosky, 1982
3) Night Flight: In 2010, a woman came to the Oregon Quilt Project booth at Sisters wanting to find a home for a very special quilt. The quilt was Night Flight, which was included in Quilt National 1983, and the woman was Andrea Balosky, known as Andrea Leong Scadden when she made the quilt. After learning more about Andrea and her quilts, I curated my first exhibition of her quilts at Latimer Quilt & Textile Center. Currently I have nine of her quilts and some "studio droppings" in my collection. To read more, click here.

Bible Story by Lucy Mingo, Gee's Bend, Alabama  1979
2) Bible Story by Lucy Mingo: From the moment I first saw The Quilts of Gee's Bend at the Whitney in 2002, I wanted a Gee's Bend quilt. In 2010, I had my opportunity, and what an extraordinary story it was. To read more about it, click here.

a national treasure, now part of the collection at the DAR Museum
1) Chintz Medallion by Achsah Goodwin Wilkins: On September 12th, 2012, I received an auction alert about a "Broderie Perse Bedspread" at Skinner, just after visiting with a friend and saying how much I wanted to find an example of chintz appliqué. I quickly signed up to bid on the auction, which was already in progress, and less than an hour later the lot came up. I won the auction, and hoped it would be something good. It turned out to be a national treasure. To read more about it click here.

So, these are ten of my most amazing discoveries. I've had good luck with quilts, maybe "an eye" for them, and was always intrigued by them. It's funny to think of the time when nobody knew about the quilts. It really wasn't that long ago.


  1. The Tile Blocks quilt just makes me happy. Thanks for sharing these.

  2. An eye for them is an understatement! You are a savant!

  3. It's fun hearing not just the stories of the quilt, but how you acquired them as well! You built quite a collection of 70s quilts in just 5 years- intentional, or just turned out that way because of your taste really like that time period?

  4. I love that Willow Tree Quilt in all its intricate simplicity.

  5. Oh, wow, those really old ones are AMAZING! Just incredible to have those in such great shape and color (or lack thereof--the white is beautiful!).

  6. These are all beautiful in unique and very different ways!

  7. Hands down the all white one. Beautiful and not fussy.

  8. This post has taken an age to read, it is like old home week and a revisit to the original blogs and sub-blogs has been delightful. Thanks for putting together "the List".