March 12, 2013

October 22, 2008 Bowmansville quilts

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Country Living,◦Vintage — sharon @ 6:23 pm

Bowmansville is a small town in Lancaster County, just over the border from Berks. Though it’s close to many other centers of PA German culture, including Amish settlements, for some reason it’s developed its own characteristic style in quilts. Bowmansville starWhat they have in common is that they employ a large number of small square patches to create a larger-scale design. The best known of these is the so-called Bowmansville Star, with a large eight-pointed central star, formed completely of diagonal rows of small square pieces set on a field of rows of contrasting pieces, the whole surrounded by a variety of different border treatments. In the only examples of pictures we found available, two Bowmansville stars show different borders, one a zigzag or dogtooth pattern, the other a zigzag with alternating lights and darks creating more of a sawtooth pattern.

Bowmansville star
Once you’ve seen the Bowmansville star, it is easily recognized. But not every quilter in Bowmansville preferred the star pattern. Also found among the typical Bowmansville repertoire are variations of the Philadelphia pavement or mosaic style, Bowmansville crib consisting of a number of juxtaposed areas of concentric diagonal rows of squares.
The one shown at left, a crib quilt, recently set a record for crib quilts at auction, selling for $25,000+. Apparently this one uses strips of fabric instead of squares in the border treatment, but the idea and scale are still the same.

Another example of this style is this full-sized quilt that I found on eBay, which uses only small squares, including all the border areas.

Bowmansville quilt

I happen to be lucky enough to have one of these quilts in my own collection.
Bowmansville quilt

This one dates from c.1920, but includes mostly fabrics from the turn of the century. One of the charming features is that each of the small squares in the center of a larger square is fussy-cut from one of two different fabrics, centering a flower blossom.
Bowmansville quilt
Bowmansville quilt

Again, it’s easy to see why this regional style might have developed; that is, these quilts do seem to cause a quilter some inspiration. Indeed, several of my friends have been so intrigued with this style that they’ve decided to make reproductions for themselves.

I continue to be intrigued by regional styles in quilts; certainly, Pennsylvania German quilts as a whole have their own style, but within this broad category are many sub-styles. The Lancaster County Amish quilts are recognizably distinct from quilts fashioned in other Amish communities. Certain other groups or areas had their own particular fabric choices, patterns or designs. But most intriguing of all are these insular examples, from one town or county, such as the Bowmansville quilts or the applique quilts I featured here earlier. There are probably many, many such designs, and I hope to learn of more and possibly present them here.

1 Comment »

  1. 1.Your blog makes me really homesick. The fall is my favorite time in Reading. It is so beautiful. And these quilts are so lovely and inspirational!

    Comment by Nanette — October 31, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

    2.Hi, Nanette!

    This is really a wonderful time of year here in Berks County – my daughter’s in Salt Lake City (though she works in L.A. and is probably selling her house in SLC) and misses it, too!

    I’ve added your blog to my blogroll.

    Comment by Sharon — October 31, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

    Comment by sharon — March 12, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment