Mary Koval’s Antique Quilts

This is my 4th post detailing the 23rd Annual European Crossroads Patchwork Meeting held in Alsace, France this September. See the other posts here: Post 1, Post 2, Post 3. This exhibit was the first I attended in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. It was held in the theatre which proved to be a stunning venue, offering the perfect backdrop for these amazing American quilts.


This exhibit was by far my favorite, and between my husband and I, we accumulated many photos of which I have put together below.

The exhibit was titled “Piece by Piece, Our Life with Quilts”. My focus for this exhibit was the hand quilting, specifically the designs used and the overall design they created. I had never before seen so many beautiful examples of hand quilting, so this was quite a learning experience.

Mary Koval is a well-known name in the world of quilting. Her love of American Quilts and Antique fabrics has resulted in a rich career which showcases her various skills. She is an expert in 18th and 19th Century fabrics which led to a career as a fabric designer, specializing in antique reproduction fabrics. She is recognized as an author, quilter, quilt appraiser and dealer.



Her collection of Antique Quilts has also led her to work with museums and other events, where she curates exhibits and lectures on various quilt topics. You can read more about her and her business, where she sells Antique American Quilts and new fabric, as well as retreats, here on her website.


Quilt history is certainly, one topic that can keep me very happy for hours, so I apologize in advance, should this post offer too many details. All quilts have a story, unfortunately, many are lost through the ages. But there are often common features, that tell their own story, even when the maker is unknown and long forgotten.

This quilt wasn’t even part of the exhibit, but instead, stood alone in the hallway. Perhaps this is why it made such an impression on me.

“Whig Rose”, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA – ca. 1870


This quilt looks like a simple botanical design, but the block has political meaning. The Whigs were a political party, during that period. I thought the denim blue background, a stunning backdrop for this beautifully appliquéd design. Can you see the beautifully hand-quilted cables, used as a border?



“Charm Quilt”, Bedford, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1870

This one you can see how they repurposed old clothing, creating a very rustic design.


Wool-Amish- “Diamond in a Square”, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, ca. 1900

Such a bold design, as is often the case with Amish quilts. I especially loved the beautiful rose design, which was hand-quilted.

“Stairway to Heaven”, Holmes County, Pennsylvania, ca. 1940


I was surprised by this very modern looking geometric design, which has such a strong visual effect.

“Center Medallion Appliqué Quilt”, Indiana, ca. 1937

I can vaguely make out the message in the center, but how beautifully done. The elephants are so detailed, they’re even smiling.


“Bicentennial Folk Art Quilt”, Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA ca. 1976

The US Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970’s that paid tribute to historical events, such as the American Revolution, that lead to the creation of the USA as an independent republic.



The main event was in the same year this quilt was made and was the 200th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The star in the middle of the quilt is the logo for the event. Many quilts like this were made in remembrance. The middle bottom block looks to be the “tree of life” block.


What I cannot believe is how the maker, I assume, wrote in blue ink on the quilt.

20170914_144037That makes me want to scream after all that work.

“Forty-Four Star American Flag”, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1891

20170914_144101What a simple, classical, design.

20170914_144238What lovely vines are quilted in the stripes!

“Uncle Sam” , Bedford, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1920


“Center Medallion Style Quilt”, New England, USA, ca. 1830$


This quilt I found so simple, but oh so beautiful. Very popular at this time, makers cut botanical arrangements from the chintz. These types of quilts were seen as status symbols due to the expensive fabrics which were probably imported from England. Botanical quilts like this also showed the importance of gardening as an acceptable past-time of women at that time. These are the muted pastel tones, I still love, from my youth.

“Eagle Folk Art Quilt”, Berkshire County, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1840


What an amazing example of an appliqué quilt. How much thought and consideration must have gone into the design of this quilt. Look at the intricate details such as the hand holding a petal here in this shot.


And how difficult it must have been to appliqué this perfect round frame around the bird in this shot.


“Rose of Sharon Variation Quilt”, New York, USA, ca. 1860

This quilt pattern was at its peak of popularity around the mid 19th century. Typical color variations were red, yellow and green. It was typically made on the occasion of a wedding and is a symbol of romantic love and the sacredness of marriage. Usually, these were valued quite highly and therefore rarely used, unless for special occasions. This pattern is also referred to as Whig Rose.


Unfortunately, you can see that the fabrics have been badly damaged.


Nevertheless, it is a beauty to behold. What a wonderful design. I especially like the tulips and of course the dense quilting.


“Album Quilt”, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1910

An Album Quilt is a type of Sampler Quilt, as each block is different.


Not the case here. This type of quilt became very popular in Baltimore, where they made their album quilts with detailed floral, animal, patriotic and fraternal designs.


They were highly fashionable, during the 1840’s and 50’s also in other states on the east coast. You can see the good quality textiles used to make this quilt.

“Sampler Quilt”, Allegeny, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1860

Using the typical red and green palate of botanical quilts, this is a stunning sampler showcasing a variety of blocks.


I especially love the symmetrical border used and its use of red sashing to make the blocks stand out even more.

“Fleur de Lis Quilt”, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1860

This quilts’ name literally means “flower of the lily” and is a symbol of a lily or lotus flower which was used by some French royalty. It developed into a type of status symbol. Other than that I wasn’t able to find out all that much about this type of quilt.


It struck me with its beautiful design and simple fabric choice, as well as astonishingly detailed hand quilting.


“Sailboat Quilt”, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, USA, 1920



“Floral Appliqué- Original Design”, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1860

This is another botanical quilt using those distinctive rich, red and green fabrics.


The quilting is quite an element in the overall design. 


“Four-Block Star Quilt”, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1870


The colors and piecing are quite striking, softened only by the magnificent hand quilting.


“Mary Jane Carr Quilt”, Columbia, Pennsylvania, USA, ca. 1840




The following quilts were on sale at this exhibit, so there are unfortunately no details. Some of them you will recognize as old time favorites.

How I love blue and white quilts…




And red and white ones too!





And then some classics…




And finishing on that rather high note…


…some further architectural gems which awaited us upstairs.


I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe learned a thing or two. However, please correct me if any of the facts are wrong. I did try to paraphrase as much as possible, but it was sometimes very difficult to sift through the details, for the quilts I was able to find information on.

What I learned from this experience, was how much inspiration you can gather at an event like this and the importance of seeing the quilts in person. Hopefully, the photos bought this home to you too.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Wishing you a great weekend!




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