The Variable Star Quilt Top
Star Designs are one of the most numerous and splendid of all quilt patterns. If you only made quilts featuring Stars you would have many beautiful quilts.
The Variable Star quilt top is a recent purchase from my friends and quilt collectors The Donnellys. Eileen and Bernie identify this quilt as a ‘Time Span’ quilt. The Donnelly’s date this top as being stitched from Circa 1880 to 1930. A Time Span quilt is a quilt which has been made over a period of time, and in this case it is over quite a long period. The fabrics appear to be dress cottons including some fabulous shirtings, turkey reds, double pinks, a 30’s dark maroon and some pretty florals, stripes and gingham.
Dark Maroon and floral print circa 1930s
Shirtings circa 1880s
Another from the 30s.
I love the way the maker of this Variable Star quilt placed similar colours together making for a very strong focal point. This practice seems to be common in older quilts, whereas today we would place them apart.
Reds side by side
In studying and documenting this quilt Eileen has noted ‘The patchworker has essentially used the same pattern when assembling the blocks but occasionally she seems to have reversed the pieces, and also altered the centre of some blocks. She has therefore created the impression of different block patterns forming the quilt. Perhaps, as it took so long to make she made some blocks without looking at the ones already constructed and just forgot which pattern she was following.’ Many of us can relate to this.
Variation in design
Also noteworthy is the pink setting squares and bright blue sashes and borders. The Donnellys purchased this top from James Carrol through the Quilt Loft at Groton, Massachusetts, USA in 1996.
When I first saw the Variable Star top I loved it immediately. I thought it was the same block that I had used in a quilt I had recently completed. However, on returning home and placing the two together, I realised that my design is another variable.
I had long admired this quilt from the book ‘In The Beginning’ published by That Patchwork Place in the Quilt Shop Series and written by Sharon Evans Yenter. Sharon calls this quilt Constellation Star and I think it is also known as Annie’s Choice. Which ever name you prefer it is a lovely design. I drafted the pattern for rotary cutting and machine piecing. I made it a fraction smaller to make use of my collection of reproduction fat 16ths. The lattice and borders are vintage fabric that proved difficult to hand quilt, but the colour is just perfect. As my block is smaller than Yenter’s I made 36 blocks, which is the same number as in the Variable Star quilt top.
In The Beginning
Inspiration from the book
The Constellation Star Quilt is dated Circa 1910. Perhaps there are similar fabrics as in the Variable Star.
I think my Constellation Star Quilt could be described as a ‘Time Span’ Quilt as well. It contains some vintage fabrics, including shirtings. It has been inspired by an old quilt from a book that was first published in 1992. I pieced and quilted the Constellation Star during 2013 and 2014.
Finished quilt showing reproduction backing fabric
Constellation Star prior to binding
May all your Stars shine brightly,
Janette – The Plain Needlewoman