Eastern Shore Quilt Study Group
The Eastern Shore Quilt Study Group met last Wednesday in Dover, DE
to see the quilts from the collections of the Delaware State Museums.
From 10 in the morning until almost 4 p.m. the curator, Ann Horsey,
evoked a constant chorus of Oh-h-hs and Ah-h-hs by producing one
treasure after another from storage. We had decided on a chronological
approach starting with the 18th century quilted petticoats; we packed it
in at 1860. It was a day in "Quilt Nirvana."
The first petticoat was a creamy Marseilles silk, part of a large
collection of textiles donated by the Loockerman family. There is strong
provenance for many of the items we saw. A second petticoat from the
same family was seafoam green lined in brilliant watermelon pink tammy
(defined by Florence Montgomery as lightweight, plain weave worsted,
often glazed). The Quaker McKinley family petticoat (3rd quarter 28th
century) was seafoam silk lined with indigo tammy. A salmon colored silk
petticoat had a bright yellow lining. The silk petticoats all displayed
elaborate botanical designs. Finally there was a late 19th century black
silk quilted petticoat (vastly different from its exuberant
The first quilt we looked at, donated by the Lookerman family (c.
1870) was made from two seafoam silk petticoats; the back was pieced in
indigo and pink tammy. It is quilted with silk thread and has a wool
batt. It was fascinating to see how neatly the pocket openings were
stitched together. A wholecloth copperplate toile (America Presenting at
the Altar of Liberty, c. 1780) featuring heroes of the American
Revolution is a local favorite because it includes a portrait of John
Dickinson whose plantation is one of the "must see" locations
around Dover. Dickinson represented Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in
1776, but did not vote for or sign the Declaration of
An amazing quilt from the Quaker Richardson family is pieced of
6" squares of various pale silks (ecru, gray, green, ivory) and
contains quilted motifs of animals: beaver, rat, birds, cows, fish. It
is a beautifully sophisticated piece. At the other end of the spectrum
but, perhaps, even more fascinating is a homespun/woven coverlet c.
1800. It is patched of many different fabrics from which the ordinary
clothes of the day were made and roughly quilted. The 18th century loom
on which the fabrics were woven in Petersburg, DE is now in use at the
Dickinson Plantation; the docent who demonstrates on that loom was part
of our group. The first patchwork quilt we looked at was a Star signed
and dated in cross stitch Catharine Collins 1806. A surprising number of
the quits were signed.
One of the great thing about seeing lots of quilts from a single area
(keep in mind that Delaware is a VERY small state, only three counties)
is that you can look for stylistic similarities. It would seem that
Delaware women often chose not to border their quilts; they favored on
point sets often without sashing. A Sunflower quilt made by the mother
of DE governor Jason Ponder is signed 1822. A Compass from Camden, DE
dated 1840 has many elaborate initials in stuffed quilting; it is pieced
in a single turkey red with a sample swag border and great
A glorious Delectable Mountains made in 1845 by Mary Carpenter of
Lewes contains an incredible variety of prints in brown, buff and ombre
blues. 6" Lemoyne Stars (pink, brown, pistachio green, fondue blue,
plaids) alternate with a red and blue floral motif on a striped buff
background on Mary Loffland's 1843 quilt. A Nine-Patch variation made c.
1840 by Angelica Cowgill appears to have been quilted from the back. A
Turkey Tracks signature quilt from Felton has the pattern done in white
(with the corners of the design appliquéd rather than pieced) on a
variety of backgrounds (a kind of negative image--very effective).
There was more, but I have promises to keep. The group was in rare
form that day. There were spirited arguments and good natured disputes.
I learned a lot; I always have a good time when we challenge each other.
I wish you all could have been with us.