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Durkee-Blakeslee-Quarton-Hoard Family Quilt Collection

Ohio Star
Mary Elizabeth Beardslee Durkee and and Martha L. Durkee Blakeslee
Birmingham, Oakland County, Michigan
c.1870
68" x 77"
Cotton with cotton filling
MSU Museum Accession 1999:12.3
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan State University Museum

The family dry goods store would have offered the perfect opportunity for Mary and Martha to collect the printed fabrics found in this design they called "Ohio Star," also known as "Evening Star" or "Sawtooth Star." Among the most distinctive fabrics of this period were madder browns in a variety of stripes and other geometric prints. Madder is a plant whose root can be used as a dye. Depending on the mordant used, madder can produce shades of purple, pink, red, orange, or brown. The resulting madder colors often have a coppery tone. The quilt provides examples of many styles of madder prints. Several of the stars are set against double-pink prints created by printing multiple layers of color over one another to create a textured surface that has the appearance of a solid from a distance. Double pinks were popular throughout the second half of the nineteenth century.

Upon close examination, we see that one of the stars in this quilt has a set of points facing in the wrong direction. A popular story within quilting mythology tells of quiltmakers who leave a deliberate mistake in a quilt to show that one is not perfect. Without asking the makers, however, there is no way to prove that the story applies to this quilt.

By Mary Worrall, excerpted from American Quilts from Michigan State University Museum.


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