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Friendship quilts: One historic way to keep loved ones stitched together

October 7, 2014

Filed under Collections, Community and Domestic Life

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Friendship quilt

These quilt blocks date from the 1850s. They are assembled from white cotton background fabric appliquéd with a flower wreath pattern. A small strip of paper with the signature of each block maker remains pinned to the center of each square.

These quilt blocks were constructed from patterns traced onto an 1854 newspaper and cut by the friends of a young woman named Sally Jane Vanartsdalen, sometime before her marriage in the 1860s. Sally Jane grew up on Playwicky Farm in Bucks County, and her quilt blocks were donated in 1970 by a member of the sixth generation of the Vanartsdalen family to live at the farm.

While we have no explanation as to why the quilt was never completed, the surviving blocks stand as an excellent example of a way in which an earlier generation strove to preserve memories of friendship and times shared together.

These quilt blocks, nominated by Collections Advancement Project Curator Jennifer Gleim, are constructed from white cotton background fabric appliquéd with a flower wreath pattern. A small strip of paper with the signature from each block maker remains pinned to the center of each square.

The blocks were intended to become a friendship or autograph quilt. Once all the pieces were stitched together, the makers’ signatures would have been embroidered, providing the recipient with a tangible – and useful – reminder of the shared relationship. At a time when it was possible that a newly married woman might move many miles away from her family and friends, such a quilt would certainly evoke fond memories of distant loved ones.

 

About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.