Quilt of the Month


November 2006

November 2006

Bear's Paw
Made by Clara Bontrager
Probably made in Holmes County, Ohio
Dated 1874
81" x 68"
IQSC 1997.007.0340
Ardis and Robert James Collection of Antique and Contemporary Quilts

We cannot trace the origins of this interesting pattern but we know that by the latter half of the nineteenth century it was already popular with Amish quiltmakers, who called it Bear's Paw. As with many quilt patterns, the name changed as the design passed from region to region and quilter to quilter. According to Ruth Finley, an early 20th century quilt historian, it was called Duck's Foot in the Mud by people in Long Island, who were surrounded by water fowl, and became the Hand of Friendship for Quakers living in Philadelphia. Quilters often renamed patterns to reflect the concerns and interests of their daily lives.

Clara Bontrager, who skillfully stitched "1874" in the quilting, made four bear's paws for each of the quilt's 20 blocks. Setting the blocks on point provides a lively look to the overall composition along with the high contrast among its colors. Clara chose a rich brown, deep green, and a chrome orange (so called for the dye that was used to create it). Today the color is sometimes referred to as "cheddar" based on its resemblance to the brilliant orange of cheddar cheese.