Making a Living Making Quilts: A Historical Perspective

Friday, November 2, 2018

Patterns---Truly Ephemeral

Princesses Louise & Helena, Queen Victoria's daughters
with needlework and a pattern about 1865

Over the years I've collected many vintage needlework patterns. I have quite a few 20th-century patchwork designs like this collection, cut from cereal boxes and magazine pages.

I also save photos I find in online auctions, sometimes because the sheer
homemade quality of them is so charming.

More valuable are 19th-century patterns like this set in the American Museum of Folk Art,
 passed on with the quilt top known as the Bird of Paradise.

Plate 76 from Ruth Finley's 

Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them

Finley's Connecticut family the Ebrights had a set of "quilting patterns" made of "mill net." I imagine these are cut from a stiffened cloth.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has this survivor from 1828, a newspaper pattern for patchwork. We have to classify patterns cut from scrap paper as among the most fleeting of needlework tools.

DAR Museum
Gift of Anne Ely Wain, Harrisburg Chapter DAR

The DAR Museum recently was given this family heirloom,
"Figure of a Quilt marked for Mrs. Joanna Nichols
October 5th, 1792"

It appears to be a design for a quilted border drawn by a professional quilt marker, probably for a quilted petticoat rather than a bedquilt.

The DAR Museum also owns this piece of unfinished needlework, a net collar with the paper pattern still attached. The pattern is drawn on several layers of paper from an account book, "conveniently leaving the heading Bath, Maine 1833 on one scrap," as Curator Alden O'Brien writes me. You can see the steps in creating a fancy collar from a piece of plain netting.

Alden sent pictures of a third pattern.This one looks to be for patchwork similar to Caesar's Crown.

From an online auction

Needlework patterns are the kind of thing that gets tossed at an auction, but a Pennsylvania
dealer found these inside a sewing box....

A package of patterns and papers with many hand-drawn designs, probably
for lace work as in the collar above. I was the high bidder last year.
 But there's more.

Patchwork patterns cut from a German-language newspaper

They belonged to Lucy Ann Loch Hallman, born November 14, 1844
 in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Lucy Ann's box contained quilting patterns, patchwork patterns and pieces
for applique.

Maybe something that looked like this?
Caesar's Crown again?

"Lucy Ann Loch." Dates include 1861 and 1862.

One of my treasures


  1. What a wonderful collection. Wish there was more to share though.

  2. It's so exciting to see Joanna's design on your blog 226 years after it was sketched!

  3. superbe blog ,des trésors à conserver

  4. Anne---Thanks to your family for preserving it and you to donating it!