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Molly Parsons Pratt

Pieced and Appliquéd Quilt (Sunflower Variation)
about 1840 Morven, North Carolina
calico, fondu printed and white cottons; quilted in clamshell, florals, and diagonal lines
81 x 83 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Patricia Smith Melton

In the 1840s, as gardening evolved from a pleasant pastime into a domestic cult, the stylized flowers in this floral pattern became popular design elements for quilters. Contemporary household advice manuals written for middle-class American women declared that planting and tending flower gardens contributed strongly to the development of a wide range of qualities, including taste, religious feeling, and morality—even good parenting habits.

While the appliquéd sunflowers are fashioned from a yellow calico, the sashing strips are made from an expensive cotton dress fabric, probably French, printed with beanlike shapes on a blue fondu (French for “melted”) ground. The framing and border strips are also composed of blue shaded fondu fabrics, which were popular in the 1840s.