My great-grandmother, Sarah Margaret Smulling, was 18 years old when she made what she referred to in her diary as her “comfort” and entered it in the county fair. She brought home a blue ribbon. (still attached)
Sarah was born in 1866; she sewed and painted this coverlet c. 1884. She lived on a farm in Clark County, Missouri, near the town of Kahoka, where her older sister and brother-in-law had a millinery shop. Her sister brought home the scraps from her shop, and shared them with her younger sisters. Most evenings, after the farm chores were done, Sarah and her sisters would all gather and each would sew or decorate their “comforts” or other pieced items.
Since the girls were using scraps from a well-established and profitable shop, they had access to the finest of materials. Silks, damasks, moires, chintze, brocades, velvets, and fine cottons were all available for their use. Sarah did several appliques on this piece. The most elaborate was this orange fan.
Sarah evidently had some talent in the arts. She was the only girl in the family who actually painted on her fabric. Most of the small paintings are of the more common varieties of flowers–daisies, violets, wild roses–but she also painted several butterflies and this swan.
The quilt is done in mostly browns, neutrals, and oranges. The one thing I find amazing is the border Sarah added to her handiwork–a five inch wide swath of bright pink chintz. The fabric has suffered from lots of use and improper storage. There are quite a few worn pieces of fabric in the delicate materials. Nonetheless, I consider this one of my family’s heirlooms. Definitely wabi-sabi.
The entire set of photographs, including more close-ups of different sections of the coverlet are in this flickr set.