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The Red Hen has not been asleep on her roost–but flurrying about with a new grand-chick.  This has made her interested in nesting in a whole new way, and she looks forward to this and other chicks pecking about the yard soon!  The Red Hen has been always interested in quilts and the arrival of the new chick in the fall reignited this passion.  She dragged out the quilting supplies and whipped up a machine made quilt and is now laboring through a hand-appliquéd and quilted crib quilt.  Hopefully this one will be ready in time for the chick to take with her to COLLEGE!

That being said, it has been a chilly winter and quilts are a lovely way to keep warm.  At this past weekend’s Big Red Barn Winter Show in Round Top, Texas she scored a lovely hand pieced and quilted Ohio quilt.

Red Hen Quality Quilts - Photo #1

When she asked the Ohio dealers, Steve Thompson and Alan Hoops, if they could tell her anything about the quilt, they laughed and said they could make something up if she needed a story.  *SIGH*  The Red Hen was only trying to ascertain if the quilt was indeed what she thought it was, not a story about a pioneer quilter using her last thread to stitch together some scraps.  Fortunately, a quilt will tell its own story if you know how to elicit it!

Red Hen Quality Quilts - PHOTO #2

And so here is the story of THIS quilt and how I know it.  The first important thing to do is:  Look At The Quilt.  Sounds simple enough, right? And it is if you know where to turn for help with the answers.  Although I have an extensive quilt based library for my own use,

Red Hen Quality Quilts - PHOTO #3

I find myself relying on three books for answering most questions:

Red Hen Quality Quilts - PHOTO #4 Dating Fabrics, A Color Guide 1800-1960 by Eileen Jahnke Trestain, published by American Quilter’s Society, Paducah, KY;  Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns compiled by Barbara Brackman and published by the American Quilter’s Society, Paducah, KY; and finally, if you can find this out of print book, The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America by Carrie A. Hall and Rose G. Kretsinger, published by Bonanza Books of New York.

Armed with good resources ask these questions of the quilt:

1)  What fabric was used?  In the case of my quilt, it is cotton.  And the blue and white printed design points to a ‘cadet blue’ popular  from about 1880-1910.  It is a softer blue than indigo and also called Dutch or German blue.  The small gingham is a blue weave in a heavier cotton, almost approximating home-spun, and again by color and style points to the 1880-1910 period of time.  The backing of this quilt is a delight and easy to identify; at first I thought it to be home-spun, but a small strip of old dark blue printing shows it to be feed-sack!  This was a thrifty quilter!   Batting can be felt to be a thin layer of cotton.

Red Hen Quality Quilts - PHOTO #5

2)  Is it hand or machine made?  By gently pulling at the seams of piecing, this quilt can be seen to be hand stitched.  Sewing machines had long been available for home use by the general public, but machines were expensive and hand quilting remained popular.                 

3)  Is it pieced or appliquéd?  This is a lovely pieced quilt, that is, no fabric was laid on top of the backgroundand then applied by hand stitching.  But a skilled quilter pieced this because all the blocks are pieced in curves!  This is a chore!

4)  What is the pattern of the quilt?  When I first bought the quilt I thought it might be Drunkard’s Trail—what I didn’t know until doing research in the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns was that this pattern has gone by many names.  It appeared first in Farm and Home magazine as a pattern in 1888, then many time under many names until Woman’s World published it between 1931 and 1933 as Drunkard’s Trail.  And, so, it is indeed a “four patch:  blocks with specific construction: with curves” as identified in this book.

Red Hen Quality Quilts - PHOTO #6

5)  What level of skill does the quilter have?  By answering questions number 3 and 4 I have the answer to this:  an experienced and skilled quilter, curved seams on every patch are for the skilled only! 

Red Hen Quality Quilts - PHOTO #7Red Hen Quality Quilts - PHOTO #8

6)  What size is it?  Remember that no matter what else the quilt may say, if it is a modern queen or king size, this is not an old quilt.  Old beds were size in our current twin and full size as well as a three-quarter size.  Mine would nicely fit a twin sized bed.

7)  What is its date based on the above answers? Again, using reference books, do an elimination process.  One always estimates dating to the nearest quarter century and to the newest fabrics used. This of course can fool everyone if a modern quilt is made from old fabrics–but there are still other more involved signs that can still help you with an accurate date.  My quilt then based on fabric, construction and pattern becomes a 4th quarter 19th century quilt.                                            

8)  Where was it found–or in this case–where is the dealer from?  Some patterns, fabrics and styles are only found in some areas of the country—this one does agree with Ohio.

Yes, these are a lot of questions–but worth the answer you receive!  Happy winter snuggles!

(With apologies to Uncle Barry who strongly dislikes discourse in the third person.)

~Red Hen