Vase-Pattern Wholecloth Quilts in the Eighteenth-Century Quaker Community


From Uncoverings 2015, Volume 36 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group


By: Baumgarten, Linda

Abstract: Because the patterns of wholecloth quilts are created by the stitching alone, photographs-and even first-hand examination-may fail to show the subtle designs sufficiently well to compare them from one piece to the other. For this study, the author analyzed sixteen wholecloth bed quilts and petticoats, all of which feature two-handled bulbous vases of symmetrically placed flowers. Line drawings created from high-resolution photographs brought into a computer-assisted-design (CAD) program allowed the researcher to easily compare details in the subtle wholecloth pieces. The line drawings, along with analysis of materials and history, reveal that the quilts and petticoats can be placed into two distinct but inter-related groups centered in the Quaker community of Philadelphia in the eighteenth century. Given the close relationship of the patterns within a variety of materials and stitching qualities, the artifacts appear to have been designed by a single individual with the intent of being quilted in the homes of numerous local women. Philadelphia Quaker schoolteacher, Ann Marsh, possibly working with her mother, Elizabeth Marsh, is suggested as the designer responsible for the quilt patterns.

Linda Baumgarten is curator of textiles and costumes at the Colonial Wil­liamsburg Foundation in Williamsburg, Virginia. She holds a MS in textile-related arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a MA in early American culture from the Winterthur Program at the University of Delaware-Newark. She is the author of Eighteenth-Century Clothing at Williamsburg (1986) and What Clothes Reveal, The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America (2002), and the co-author of Costume Close­up (1999). Most recently, she co-authored with Kimberly Smith Ivey the book, Four Centuries of Quilts, The Colonial Williamsburg Collection, published in 2014.