Quilt (Princess Feather Pattern)

Diamond, crossed-diagonals pattern ground; wavy-feather pattern border with green and red zig-zag banding sewn to center unit; Princess-feather appliqué in red and green cotton. Four pieces of sprig-printed yellow cotton are the reverse.

Artist/maker unknown, American

Made in Pennsylvania, United States, North and Central America


Cotton plain weave with cotton appliqué; intersecting diagonal and feather quilting

7 feet 9 inches × 7 feet 7 inches (236.2 × 231.1 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with the Edgar Viguers Seeler Fund, 1967

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Additional information:
  • PublicationNineteenth-Century Appliqu� Quilts

    The intricacy and fine detailing of this quilt illustrate the value many Pennsylvania German women placed on the quilting of their bedcoverings. In some communities, professional quilters of particularly high skills were hired and paid by the hour or by the number of spools of thread used. The skill and quality of the quilting in this example suggest the work of such a professional needleworker.

    The overall intersecting diagonal pattern of the background quilting was a common Pennsylvania German motif, although few examples show the regularity and fineness of stitching seen here. The undulating quilted feather design of the border, which was also popular in the nineteenth century, was probably laid out using a tin quilting pattern that was dusted with chalk and repeatedly pressed end to end to mark the fabric. In contrast to the regular pattern of the background, the quilting on the appliqués follows their basic forms, thereby accentuating their shapes.

    The feather-like pattern of the quilted and appliqué designs, known as the princess feather or the Prince of Wales feather, is a traditional Enjglish decorative motif adapted in America by both English and Germanic quiltmakers. The regularity in the shape of the appliqué elements suggests that a template was used in their cutting. The eight-pointed star and tulips are frequently found in Pennsylvania German quilts, as is the stylized oak leaf seen in the center medallion, which is composed of all three motifs. The second inner border, formed here by a reciprocal band of triangles, likewise seems to have been a popular design element that was often used to divide and define the various fields of pattern and motif on the face of a quilt.

    Pennsylvania German appliqué quilts often have a colored rather than a white background, with orange-yellow fabrics similar to that seen here found frequently. The alternating placement of vivid, contrasting colors, particularly greens and reds, as used in this quilt, was another favorite visual device in Pennsylvania German quilts, and typifies the Pennsylvania Germans' love of color and active patterning that is evident in many of their decorative arts. Jack L. Lindsey, from Nineteenth-Century Appliqué Quilts, Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), p. 32.