Star and Block
Martha Durkee Blakeslee
Birmingham, Oakland County, Michigan
64" x 78"
Cotton with cotton filling
MSU Museum Accession 1999:12.9
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan
State University Museum
This quilt includes several features common to utility quilts dating
to the end of the nineteenth century - the use of simple quilting patterns
and large blocks made of simple geometric patterns. Many of the quilts
made by Martha Blakeslee reflect these trends. During the last quarter
of the nineteenth century, many quilt patterns were, for the first time,
widely available in published sources. Likewise, fabrics could be purchased
through mail-order catalogs such as Sears Roebuck & Company and Montgomery
The fabrics of this period were typically in a darker palette and include
blacks, deep reds, and cadet blues. Common prints including stripes, plaids,
and checks were used in the "Star and Block" quilt. The backing
is pieced of a collection of eight and one half-inch squares. Many of
the fabrics used in the back do not appear in the quilt top and thus offers
further evidence of popular fabrics of the period.
The "Star and Block" quilt also reflects the popularity of
the sewing machine. The "square in a square" cornerstones of
the quilt are not pieced units. Instead, the squares are of red-and-white
striped fabric are machine appliquéd with straight stitches to
the background. The six-pointed stars, rather than pieced together from
diamond shapes, were each cut from a single piece of fabric and then pieced
into the background fabric.
By Mary Worrall, excerpted from American
Quilts from Michigan State University.