4 patch diamond quilt


Provenance (n) the place of origin or earliest known history of something. From the French provenir, “to come from”.

Have you every come across an antique quilt and wondered about the person who made it? Midweek, I am sitting cosy under this lovely.

4 patch Diamonds
4 patch Diamonds


It is an antique top I purchased last spring from a quilt appraiser who also collects them. It was estimated to be made around 1890, though some of the fabrics are dated back back to the 1850s. It would have probably been for a single bed, being about 60″ x 85″ (152cm x 214cm ).  The information from the appraiser included:

It is thought to be made up of scraps of fabric probably swapped between friends. This was commonplace in the 1880s when calico was plentiful and the dyes became fast. The pink gingham became very popular and plentiful in America from the mid 19th century.

The sewing machine had been distributed in the tens of millions by the time the top was made but the maker needed considerable technical skill to keep the work straight. The top itself has not been washed and some of the fabric is new and the sizing (starch or stiffening agent) is still present. Some of the patched pieces date back to the 1850’s.

While the work was purchased in California it probably originated on the East Coast of the US and came west with the great migration.

I was drawn to the sweet pink gingham as much as the unusual layout.

4 patch diamonds
Before basting

I’m hand quilting it simply, around the perimeter of the pink diamonds, with 28wt Aurifil (N°2310) and I’m thinking of doing Baptist fan in the border. It is so relaxing to sit and stitch for an evening while sitting around with the family. When I’m working on it, my mind wanders about the piecer. Was she a young wife moving to the West of America, being given sweet diamond shapes from her friends to stitch when she had a spare moment? Not that there would have many of those but she obviously had access to a sewing machine so that would’ve made the job faster. Most of the points are intact and well executed and there is no thinning or wearing of the fabric so it must have been stored away after completion.

4 patch diamond quilt
Closer look at the quilting in the gingham diamonds

I love the fact that it’s probably 100 years old and I’m able to connect to the past through thread. There is no urgency to finish it quickly. In fact, the more time I can spend with it, the closer I feel to the original maker. 

4 patch diamond quilt
Reaching across time with thread


I’d say, together, we’re making history come alive. 🙂

Happy quilting!

Hearts 1st Sig White-sm



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15 thoughts on “Provenance

  1. Sally says:

    I love old quilts and that’s such a beautiful one. It feels very sad that it was never finished and enjoyed and treasured at the time, sad but happy at the same time now that it’s come to you.

  2. Allison says:

    Such a beautiful quilt. It’s so fun to get a up close and personal glimpse of quilting history.

    At guild meeting this week, a guild member gave a presentation about restoring, finishing, fixing antique quilts just like this. I love that these quilts are still loved.

  3. Kathy says:

    Oh my, what a wonderful project! I recently visited a quilt museum that had a wonderful exhibit displaying very modern and very old quilts together. It was really quite impressive to see the work (in all the centuries!) as well as the consistent themes. Hand quilting seems like such a relaxing, productive activity; I must put it on my “skills to learn” list!

  4. Lorna McMahon says:

    Oh, Elita! This is such an amazing find! I was BIG into genealogy prior to being bitten by the quilting bug and I understand your pondering the maker of that gorgeous top. I love your chosen method of hand quilting. This will be a show piece when completed! Thanks sew much for sharing this treasure!

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