The Whole Story

The intricate motifs in the petticoat border of this quilt are created using an uncommon type of quilting, the half-backstitch. The diamond grid was made using running-stitch quilting.

Watch the animation to see the difference between the two quilting styles.

Can you tell which would take longer?

This animation was created by the students of the Vault team, supervised by Michael Burton, lecturer, Department of Textiles, Merchandising, and Fashion Design. This animation project was co-produced by Michael Burton and Jennifer Graham, exhibitions assistant for the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

This unusual quilt features distinctive animal and human figures combined with flowering sprigs, vines, and sailing ships. It is one of a significant regional group of textiles made in the middle of the eighteenth century in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Most of the surviving examples take the form of quilted petticoats, or skirts, intended to be visible under the open-fronts of women’s gowns. Details of the figural designs were stitched with spaced backstitches to create more accurate contours around the small-scale motifs.

The designs may be the work of a teacher in a southeastern Connecticut boarding school who drew designs for her students to quilt. Many of the motifs came from published books and drawings, some harking back to the seventeenth century, suggesting that the as-yet unknown teacher had access to pattern books or was trained in Britain late in the seventeenth century.

Click images below to enlarge these quilts and read more information about the quilts included in the exhibit.