Mary Elizabeth Beardslee Durkee and and Martha L. Durkee Blakeslee
Birmingham, Oakland County, Michigan
68" x 77"
Cotton with cotton filling
MSU Museum Accession 1999:12.3
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan
State University Museum
The family dry goods store would have offered the perfect opportunity
for Mary and Martha to collect the printed fabrics found in this design
they called "Ohio Star," also known as "Evening Star"
or "Sawtooth Star." Among the most distinctive fabrics of this
period were madder browns in a variety of stripes and other geometric
prints. Madder is a plant whose root can be used as a dye. Depending on
the mordant used, madder can produce shades of purple, pink, red, orange,
or brown. The resulting madder colors often have a coppery tone. The quilt
provides examples of many styles of madder prints. Several of the stars
are set against double-pink prints created by printing multiple layers
of color over one another to create a textured surface that has the appearance
of a solid from a distance. Double pinks were popular throughout the second
half of the nineteenth century.
Upon close examination, we see that one of the stars in this quilt has
a set of points facing in the wrong direction. A popular story within
quilting mythology tells of quiltmakers who leave a deliberate mistake
in a quilt to show that one is not perfect. Without asking the makers,
however, there is no way to prove that the story applies to this quilt.
By Mary Worrall, excerpted from American
Quilts from Michigan State University Museum.