In my last several blog posts relating to quilts, I've mainly focused on our library holdings on the subject and my own adventures in quilting. However, what The Filson has in the library is only the tip of the iceberg. While I was perusing PastPerfect, I stumbled upon several listings of quilts held in our museum collection. In the coming months, I hope to spotlight a different quilt and talk a little bit about the history of the pattern and the story behind the quilters.
This month, I want to focus on The Irish Chain Quilt. According to quilt historian Barbara Brackman, an Irish chain is an overall design of squares that creates a secondary linked pattern across the quilt’s surface. One of the things that really define the Irish chain is the consistent shading across the quilt. This pattern dates back to the late 1700’s. A fun fact I came across during my research was that the Irish chain was a well-known phrase before it became associated with a quilt pattern. The term also refers to a surveying tool that was used for linear measure.
The quilt in the picture was pieced and quilted by a member of the Prather-Hardin families. Both families can be traced to Hardin and Larue counties in Kentucky. However, our story ends there for the time being. We don’t know much about the woman or women behind the quilt, only that they were referred to as Ms. Hardin and Ms. Prather. This quilt was donated to The Filson in July of 2013, and I hope that we will be able to uncover more information about its origins.
If you would like to try your hand at an Irish Chain quilt, Barbara Brackman posts an excellent tutorial on assembling the block here.