Some quilts we make for the fun and frolic of the present day. Some quilts we make to be handed down to following generations as heirlooms. For those quilts, the hard work involved seems a small price to pay to preserve our legacy as quilters, as each of us would like to be remembered when we leave this earth. We like to think that our fore mothers undertook the arduous practice of making an heirloom quilt as a tribute to their families and as a way of leaving their mark for the ages and the future.
Maze Quilt, c. 1850, 83-1/2 x 79-1/2", by Margaret Cabell McClelland. Courtesy of the DAR Museum
Born in 1785 and married to Thomas McClelland in 1820, Margaret Cahill McClelland constructed this labyrinth quilt in about the year 1850, when she would have been 65 years old. The intricate pattern needs strong contrasting colors so that the design is clearly evident to the viewer. We like to think that Margaret chose bright red as a way to protect the design from fading into pale oblivion, as earth tones or blues might have done over the ensuing years.
The design of the maze was based on a mosaic floor at Amiens Cathedral in France*, as noted on this Quilt Index Page. Margaret hand appliqued each of the red strips into place, in such a way that it is exactly parallel to its neighboring strip. It is this devotion to accuracy that gives this quilt such a precise, orderly geometric effect. To add visual interest and diversity, she appliqued a Greek Key border around the outside of the maze, which helps the eye transition to the lines around the outside of the quilt.
The Maze Quilt is in the permanent collection of the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum ( D.A.R.) in Washington, DC, which preserves outstanding crafts and furniture of early America. It was displayed in an exhibit titled “The D.A.R.Museum Collection: Quilts from a Young Country” at the 2008 International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas.
Are any of you planning to make or making a quilt specifically for the purpose of passing it along to your loved ones or friends? Or, are all of your quilts meant to be legacy quilts? We'd love to hear stories about any quilts that you have in mind for future generations. Please feel free to leave remarks in the Comments section below.
Image credits: The quilt image is copyrighted, and is shown with permission of the DAR Museum. *The original labyrinth pavement, which dated to 1288, was destroyed in 1825 and restored in 1894. The above photo of the Amiens Cathedral floor is from the Mt. Holyoke University website. A description of the labyrinth is at the Loyola University Medieval Studies website. A diagram of the labyrinth can be seen at Labyrinthos.