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The Kitty Clark Cole Collection


Mariner's Compass
Maker unknown
c.1850
97 1/2" x 100 1/2"
Cotton
MSU Museum Accession 2001:158.2
Photo by Mary Whalen, all rights reserved by MSU Museum

The design of this quilt, a circular star with radiating points, is similar to that of compasses used by mariners, hence the name. Also known as "Sunburst" or "Sunflower," the design has long been used in patchwork; an English example dates to 1726 and American versions to ca. 1830. This quilt contains twenty-five 15-inch-square "Mariner's Compass" blocks.

An outstanding example of trapunto (a style of stuffed work and corded quilting) and intricate hand piecing, this textile features quilted designs of grapes, wreaths, tulips, roses, leaves, and other foliage. When cotton thread became less expensive and more widely available in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, quilt styles incorporating more extensive use of thread became more popular.

The quilt's donor, Kitty Clark Cole, purchased the piece in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The quilt is in mint condition, with pencil lines still visible in the places where the quilting designs are marked.

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



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