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Unknown Maker

Pieced Quilt (Nine Patch)
about 1835 New England
chintzes, calicoes, and furnishing fabrics; quilted in crosshatch diagonals
110 1/4 x 105 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Patricia Smith Melton

This nine-patch quilt from New England is a textile sleuth's delight. It is composed of a variety of high-fashion cotton yard goods, most of them imported from Britain. The border is fashioned from a blue-ground, English pillar print chintz of about 1825. But through careful searching, three additional pillar prints can be identified amidst the myriad chintzes. In the upper corners, the squares of the eight-pointed stars were also cut from a costly, but very different English import—a rare, glazed copperplate toile (or picture print) from the 1780s or 1790s.

In the central element, the setting squares are made from a popular, roller-printed chintz of about 1835 depicting an exotic, long-tailed bird perched on a plate of fruit in an oak tree. It was available in different color schemes. Many of the fabrics in the nine-patches, however, are calicoes with small-scaled prints. Note how the quiltmaker carefully placed pattern blocks in diamond-shaped arrangements to draw the eye toward the center.