Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Potts Palooza—Part Two

Last week, in Part One of our Potts Palooza, we showed you the Potts blocks that we made for our Block of the Month class, which will focus on embellishing appliqué with embroidery stitches. Today, I (Teri) will tell you a bit of the story of Margaret Potts and her quilt. At last week's Baltimore Appliqué Society (BAS) meeting, we were excited to welcome Priscilla Miller Hart, the great-grandaughter of Margaret Potts. Priscilla told us what she knew of the quilt's story.

Priscilla shared that Margaret began making the quilt when she was 18, presumably for her hope chest. She made fourteen of the 85 blocks in the quilt; the rest were made by family members (including two brothers,) neighbors, and friends—all of whom were Quakers. Margaret's family lived on a farm, north of York, Pennsylvania. It is surmised that the fabrics in the quilt were scraps from clothing, with fabric likely purchased from Philadelphia. The quilt—which is entirely hand-pieced, appliquéd, and quilted—was made in 1851-1858.

Margaret Potts with her husband
Pins indicate the blocks made by Margaret herself.

One of the tales I found most fascinating told of a time during the Civil War: the family buried the quilt in a copper kettle in the woods, where it remained for about two weeks. Evidently, they knew how valuable this quilt was to have thought to hide it when troops were in their area. Good thing for us that they did, for we can still enjoy its beauty today. And, of course, Margaret still had it in her hope chest when she married, though her husband only lived for a few years after they were wedded.

When Priscilla's father gave her the quilt, she had no idea how valuable it was. Her father had shared that he remembered seeing the quilt on Margaret's bed only on special occasions. When she received it, Priscilla kept it carefully folded in a pillow case in a cedar chest. She said at one point the quilt had to be frozen, to deal with a bug issue. Clearly, the quilt has been well loved and preserved, for it is still in pristine condition. Today, you can see it at the Winterthur Museum, where it currently is on display. So many of us can now benefit from Priscilla's generous donation of this quilted treasure.

Part of our celebration of Margaret Potts included sharing the blocks that members of the BAS had stitched. I believe that Priscilla was touched by the interest given to her great-grandmother's quilt, and she seemed to really enjoy the number of people who have continued the legacy of this heirloom by stitching its patterns. Here are some of the highlights from the evening.

Margo Cramer—one of the women who drafted the patterns—has been working on re-creating this quilt for some time. Having seen the quilt very closely, she is striving to replicate it with all its details, including the inked inscriptions.

One of Margo's exquisite blocks

Another of Margo's blocks

Two people brought in four-block quilts made a few years ago for a BAS auction. What a difference color choices make in a quilt!

By Colleen Hughes

By Linda Bobo

Blocks made by Polly Mello

More blocks by Colleen Hughes, in a different colorway

Vera Hall's group quilt top made with Potts patterns

The President's Quilt, with blocks made by 49 members of BAS for Past President Marcia Gratton.
How fun to see so many different interpretations of one block pattern!
Don't you just love the way she set them into her quilt top?
I thought it might be fun to compare some of the same blocks made by different people. Take a look:

I made this version of the block with batiks. As with the block you saw in last week's post,
I used a star stitch for the center, but it is much smaller. I also gathered the bud on this one.

Kara's version in batiks, using cast-on and pistil stitches in the center


Even when stitched in the same general colors, fabric choices can make such a difference in the final look of the block. The same holds true of design choices like flower construction: stitching a whole flower unit or individual petals. The variety of flower centers was such fun to explore!

I love this background fabric. How cute is the fussy-cut bird in the center of the flower on the left?

Again, fabric choice makes quite a difference. 

It was such an honor to hear Priscilla Miller Hart tell the story of this incredible quilt. It means so much that she has done all she can to preserve its history and to share the stories this treasure can tell. As quilters, I'm sure we all hope that our descendants will cherish the value of our work and act in a similar fashion. Thank you, Priscilla, for giving all of us the opportunity to appreciate your great-grandmother's quilt, and even re-create it with our own unique flavors!

If you would like to try your hand at some of these blocks, you can purchase the pattern at Or you could join the BAS (we have members near and far), and get one of the blocks in your newsletter every month—free! 

Have a happy, healthy, stitchy New Year!

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