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Durkee-Blakeslee-Quarton-Hoard Family Quilt Collection

Star and Block
Martha Durkee Blakeslee
Birmingham, Oakland County, Michigan
c.1885
64" x 78"
Cotton with cotton filling
MSU Museum Accession 1999:12.9
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan State University Museum

This quilt includes several features common to utility quilts dating to the end of the nineteenth century - the use of simple quilting patterns and large blocks made of simple geometric patterns. Many of the quilts made by Martha Blakeslee reflect these trends. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, many quilt patterns were, for the first time, widely available in published sources. Likewise, fabrics could be purchased through mail-order catalogs such as Sears Roebuck & Company and Montgomery Wards.

The fabrics of this period were typically in a darker palette and include blacks, deep reds, and cadet blues. Common prints including stripes, plaids, and checks were used in the "Star and Block" quilt. The backing is pieced of a collection of eight and one half-inch squares. Many of the fabrics used in the back do not appear in the quilt top and thus offers further evidence of popular fabrics of the period.

The "Star and Block" quilt also reflects the popularity of the sewing machine. The "square in a square" cornerstones of the quilt are not pieced units. Instead, the squares are of red-and-white striped fabric are machine appliquéd with straight stitches to the background. The six-pointed stars, rather than pieced together from diamond shapes, were each cut from a single piece of fabric and then pieced into the background fabric.

By Mary Worrall, excerpted from American Quilts from Michigan State University.


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