Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: July 1984 Volume 22 Number 3, Pages 111–116

Notes and Comments : Quilting the Past

Barbara Fry

Page 111


Quilting the Past: the Valley Forge Quilters

After ten years of quilting and producing fifty finished quilts, the Valley Forge Quilters consider themselves most fortunate in the opportunities they have had to restore or carry to completion hand work done by women long ago.

While all new quilts presented to our quilters are met with a flurry of excitement and a calling out of suggestions and opinions, a particular rush of affection greets a quilt top that has the dignity of age attached to the usual attributes of a hand-made quilt.

Even at first glance, such a quilt has a story to tell. A dark Amish nine patch quilt from early in the century, a baby's quilt worn outthree decades ago, an incomplete embroidered top found in a rag bag - each is remarkably representative of its own time.

Each one also comes with a unique set of problems to be solved.

The baby!s quilt, for example, was worn out in the backing and in the sashing, but the individually designed patches of embroidered muslin were all retained. Most of the patches needed embroidery repairs. One picture had completely disappeared, but the design was apparent when the patch was held to the light and the needle holes were visible enough for a clear drawing. A great grandchild of the maker now has the quilt his grandfather used as an infant.

Page 112

Amish Nine-Patch Pattern, c. 1900; Sketches by the author

The old Amish nine patch quilt is still on our list of quilts to do. The centers of the nine patch blocks are of a red that will bleed, so they all must be removed, washed, and sewn back in - or perhaps the decision will be to use new red cloth, if the bleeding is excessive.

The unfinished embroidered quilt top found in a rag bag was of a lovely soft ecru sateen, worked in a rose pearl cotton seemingly unavailable - until a member's sister found some in Maine! This quilt proved to have some elegant quilting patterns, and has moved from the rag bag to become a family heirloom.

Our greatest challenge was a quilt that came to us from a non-quilter from another state. The pieces were small, triangular and octagonal shaped, forming an overall pattern of stars. Some materials were fragile, some were quite sturdy, but all of the stitching needed reinforcement. And one side of the quilt was six inches longer than its opposite side. On top of these problems, the owner asked us if we could make it a little longer and a little wider! After we determined that a border would help pull the quilt into some kind of adequate shape, a resourceful member of our group found a tiny print of field flowers with a background that blended with the feed bag material making up much of the background for the stars. For months we passed the quilt around among members, who strengthened and straightened it; and one day it was finally ready for the frame, a glow with country charm.

Some of the excitement in working on old needlework comes with searching out the age of the cloth or patterns used. Some particularly attractive Sunbonnet Girl blocks were traced to an issue of Country Gentleman magazine of 1932. To decide how to piece these blocks took some study of the Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Bill quilts of the '30's. The choice was to use a triple sashing of one inch strips that culminated in a three-inch nine patch at the corners of the blocks.

While we were working on this quilt, a friend brought to us another fifty year old quilt top. It also had a triple sashing, but with an interesting variation, with a Dresden Plate pattern at the corners. The strips were pieced with the strong color in the middle of the three stripes, and in each corner of each block was a tiny Dresden Plate.

Page 113

TRIPLE SASHING (upper) Nine-Patch corners (lower) Dresden Plate corners

Some of our aged tops were so well done that no change or repair work's necessary. They have waited patiently, in cupboards or closets, for as much as a hundred years, until someone was ready to finish them,

One such charmer was an Anvil Patch pattern in brown on firm, clean white. The browns were In many variations, matching and blending ina very satisfying manner.

Anvil Pattern, c. 1890

A Rob Peter to Pay Paul type top from the '30's was also elegant and strong. The blues and yellows were clear on the white background. Our only problem with this quilt was to find the name for the pattern, an unusual balance of curved and straight lines. Finally one of our members found the pattern in a magazine, under the name of Pontiac Star.

A delicacy of color often comes in the quilts of fifty and sixty years ago. One quilt had particularly lovely Eight Point Star blocks, finished beautifully with alternating blocks of pale green. Another delicate looking quilt of this period was done in a lavender cross stitch, and a third is a nine patch that alternates pink and white blocks with a white block. The blocks in this quilt are very small for a full-sized quilt, but most appropriate for the colors used.

Page 114

Triangle Pattern, c. 1930

Of course, other quilts from the same period were quite bright. One of our members was fortunate to complete a quilt her mother had pieced from scraps from school dresses her daughters wore, a loving reminder of childhood's hand-made clothes, a bright attractive quilt pieced entirely in triangles.

The period from the 1920's to the 1940's is the most likely source for old quilt tops or blocks now. Handwork older than tnat is becoming rare, very expensive, and hard to find. Home drawers and closets have proved to be a better source of materials for us than antique shows, where such work is usually very costly unless it is of unfortunate color choice or material.

But whatever the source, quilting the handwork of the past adds a real challenge and adventure to quilting. (Barbara Fry)


Club Visits St. Peter's Church

In April the History Club held its meeting at the Church of St. Peter in the Great Valley, where Libby Rumrill reviewed briefly the history of the Church (see the April 1979 and January 1984 issues of the Quarterly), and showed some of the memorabilia and artifacts of the Church. Among them were the Church's first folio Bible and English Prayer Book, sent to the Rev. William Currie by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Lands (and after several requests by Parson Currie!), and an eighteenth century communion service.

The visit also included a tour of the churchyard, conducted by Mr. Tony Morris, who pointed out some of the earlier graves, including several of those of early vestrymen. In the churchyard are also the graves of fourteen known soldiers of the Revolutionary War, in addition to a plot along the west wall with the remains, in unmarked graves, of British and American soldiers who died during the Battle of Paoli. The west wall, incidentally, was built just before the Revolution, in 1770, by John Gronow, a vestryman from 1748 to 1776.

Page 115


Another Comment on Memory Devices

One of Bob Goshorn's former classmates - his name is Bode Todd and he now lives in Leonia, N.J. - saw the January issue of the Quarterly, Afterwards, he wrote:

"I was particularly amused by the article on mnemonics. I recall my father, a Michigan farm boy, ending the ditty about the months this way:
'February hath twenty-eight in store,
And leap-year gives it one day more.' ...

"And I'd have added an S to HOP in the one for the cranial nerves, because I believe the Finn and German were having a beer-drinking contest - 'vied at hops'."

Somewhere we also came across an acronym - HOMES - to remember the Great Lakes: Lake Huron, Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Superior.


Former Conestoga Coach in State Sports Hall of Fame

In May Bill Paolantonio, football coach at Conestoga High School from 1955 to 1972, was inducted into the Delaware County chapter of Pennsylvania's State Sports Hall of Fame. During the eighteen years "Mr. Pal" was the coach, the Pioneers won 14-7 games, lost only 34-, and tied 7.

Paolantonio played football at Radnor High School and Elon College in North Carolina, and after graduation from Elon played professionally "for a brief period for the Charlotte Clippers and Greensboro Patriots." He started his coaching career at North Conventry High School before coming to Tredyffrin-Easttown and Conestoga.

Commenting on his years as a teacher and coach, Mr. Pal observed, "I was lucky to have the greatest kids around. Athletes or non-athletes, I would go to work in the morning looking forward to seeing these people. And I still do!"


Devon Station to Become a Restaurant?

William Bater, a Devon developer, has reportedly entered into a lease arrangement with Amtrak to convert the one-hundred year old Devon railroad station into a restaurant. His plan, he announced, is "to restore the building to its 18th century look" and to establish "a country inn atmosphere, which is really needed along the Main Line". He also plans to build a 32-unit motel on the property, adjacent to the station.

Page 116

The present red-brick Devon station building was built in 1884, when a larger station was needed to accommodate the many guests of the new and fashionable Devon Inn. At the same time gardens and walks were laid out around the station grounds, and the station was connected with the Inn by a boardwalk, eight feet wide, lined with a row of shade trees planted down either side of the walk. (It is now Devon Boulevard.)

The station master at the new station in the spring of 1884 was William Reed Lewis, who lived with his family in the upper floor of the building. He left the position in January 1887 when he resigned to accept appointment by President Grover Cleveland to be the U.S. Consul to Tangiers, Morocco.

The project will next be reviewed by the Easttown Township Zoning Board upon proper application.


Paoli Attorney Heads State Bar Association

When Albert P. Massey Jr., a resident of Tredyffrin Township, took office as president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in May, he became its youngest president since the First World War, and the third youngest since the Association was formed in 1895. (The second youngest was Philander C. Knox, who also lived in Tredyffrin.)

An attorney with the Paoli firm of Lentz, Riley, Cantor, Kilgore and Massey, the new president is also past president of the Chester County Bar Association and a former chairman of the Chester County Republican Committee.


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