If you collect American folk art, early textiles or figural quilts, this eye-catching piece may be for you. A twelve patch/crazy quilt variation, it’s designed with twelve large squares arranged in three rows of four on a field of fine union blue wool.
Each square features feather stitched pieces embellished with embroidered figures, including a well-dressed man and woman; a whimsical bird (chicken?); a dragon-like creature; and other examples of fanciful flora and fauna. As with so many crazy quilts, this one is made of various fabrics from early paisleys to plaids to wool and cotton solids and prints.
As seen in the photos show, the quilt is in excellent overall condition, with moderate loss to some of the feather stitching and a few tiny, hard-to-spot patches on the field of blue wool. I’ve also spotted two small holes on the wool (see photos) that reveal a bit of blue and white ticking underneath. The quilt is hand pieces on the bias and backed with claret colored heavy sateen that’s folded over the front of the quilt to form a machine-stitched boarder. Finished size is 88” X 69”.
The work of an unknown maker, the quilt was collected in Michigan’s Three Rivers area. From 1830 to the early 1860s this region was the terminus for many former slaves who found their way to freedom via Michigan’s underground railroad. Today the area is dotted with African American farming communities, and we can speculate that this quilt — which probably dates from the 1890s to 1910 — is the work of one of those descendents. But there’s no way to know for sure.