Through the Eye of the Needle

Barbara, Ruth, and Susan admiring the Feathered Star quilt

Last month, Huguenot Street welcomed two quilt experts Barbara Garrett from Coventryville, Pennsylvania and her assistant Ruth O’Connell from Allentown, Pennsylvania. They looked at a variety of quilts from our collection and were able to estimate dates for several of our quilts, as well as provide us with valuable information about the fabric, patterns, and stitches. The favorite of the day was an Album Quilt that had been given as a gift to the minister, Ephraim Deyoe, and his wife sometime around 1850. Ephraim was the pastor of the Lutheran Ministry in Ramsey, New Jersey, and the quilt was presumably given to him at his retirement. Each block was made by a different woman of his parish, with their signatures either stitched or inked on their block. The blocks are appliquéd and feature everything from pineapples and pears, to birds and deer; one even has an embroidered fish.

Another quilt that has an interesting story behind it is a friendship quilt made by the family of Charles Bruyn Hasbrouck, former resident of the building presently used by the Eltinge Library in New Paltz, New York. A recent discovery revealed that we had two nearly identical quilts in our collection. They had been donated by different people, almost 60 years apart. Both have identical borders consisting of winding vines and red apples. Inked in the middle of each block is a name, and three quarters of these names are found on both quilts. Even though they have the same pattern, fabric, and similar stitching, Barbara could not definitively say that they had been made by the same person since there are differences between the quilts as well. Therefore, it remains a mystery as to whether these quilts were made by the same person, or not.

A third quilt that is completely different from the first two quilts mentioned is a colorful, log cabin style quilt made in the 1930s/40s. The quilt has both dark and light colored fabrics, so Barbara mentioned the fact that 1930s fabric was lighter in color for the most part, while dark fabrics were popular in the 40s and 50s. She also commented that even though some of the fabric used in the quilt is probably leftover from house dresses, most of the fabric used in the quilt was most likely bought from a store. During the 30s/40s department stores like Sears were mass producing clothing, and had a lot of leftover scraps. As a result, they began to sell bags of cutaway scraps for quilters to use.

The fifteen or so quilts that we shared with Barbara and Ruth are just a small sampling of our wonderful quilt collection. We hope in the future to offer special programs and tours geared towards quilters. If you are interested in seeing a few more of the quilts in our collection check out our online exhibit ‘Mary Ann Thorne Chadeayne’s Legacy‘. Let us know your thoughts!

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