Friendship quilt

Object Details

Late 19th century
silk, cotton, linen, batting
76 × 62 7/8 in. (193 × 159.7 cm)
This friendship quilt typifies Victorian-era crazy quilts whose fine fabrics exhibit rich arrays of colors and embroidered embellishments, often with floral motifs. Blooming with daisies and raspberries on the vine, a red silk border frames four vertical and five horizontal blocks pieced from velvet, corduroy, linen, and silk. Baskets of flowers continue the botanical theme in several blocks. Feather, cretan, and other embroidery stitches outline patches, while embroidered figures feature children, sailing ships, leaves, acorns, birds, a butterfly, and interlocking rings that, in pairs, suggest wedding bands and, in threes, the Trinity. Unusually, a pair of purple scissors spans two squares. Near a moon and star, daisies grow beneath the initials “M.E.T.”, which belong to Martha Etta Custalow, an African American woman born in King William, Virginia in 1870. She wed John Samuel Taylor in King William in 1887, and they settled in Hartford, Connecticut. A friendship quilt often incorporates blocks made by others, which are then assembled and presented as a keepsake, often to a friend planning to move, but also to celebrate a marriage. Perhaps this quilt was made by, for, or with the newlywed Martha Etta Taylor as she prepared to move to Hartford, where she resided until her passing in 1955. A tan twill fabric serves as the quilt’s backing.
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