1897 - 1929 Edna Force Davis's Wool Crazy-patchwork Parlor Throw

In 1897, the year this quilt was begun, women's fashion was for long skirts as seen in the corner block of Edna Force Davis’s elaborately embroidered parlor throw. Over thirty years later in 1929, when Edna finished her project, the fashion had changed and skirts were now much shorter, as her embroidered figure on the opposite corner block indicates. In 1965 Hazel Davis, Edna’s daughter, donated her mother's wool parlor throw on which Hazel's own initials, “HLD,” appear.
Edna used wool for the many patches on this throw. She basted patches to an interlining of ticking; the edge of each patch was folded under, and joined with embroidery using wool yarns. The parlor throw was further embellished with many floral motifs. Other designs include birds, butterflies, sleeping babies, an anchor and chain, a rabbit, fans, and spider webs. Many of these were popular designs; others may have had meaning. Two motifs, an Odd Fellows symbol and a violin, were included---Edna’s husband played the violin and was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a benevolent fraternal organization.
Most of the embroidery is done with wool, mainly a soft 2-ply wool often referred to as “zephyr yarn.” Edna used satin, chain, stem, back, French knot, daisy, straight, weaving, seed, buttonhole, herringbone, and cross stitches to achieve her designs. “Edna Force Davis” is prominently embroidered in the border, completed in the 1920s, that frames the crazy-patch center. The lining is pink wool.
While many of the motifs and stitches are typical of fancy needlework of the period, Edna personalized her parlor throw with original designs, significant dates, and initials, as well as an embroidered verse. Phrases and short verses that had special meaning, such as the one below, are frequently inked or embroidered on needlework objects.
“There is so much good in the worst of us,
And so much bad in the best of us,
That it scarcely behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.”
This verse is often attributed to Edward W. Hoch (1849-1925), the seventeenth governor of Kansas, who merely printed it in the Record Marion, Kansas, of which he was editor. It appears in early 20th-century poetry books and anthologies and its origins are not known.
Edna Force was born July 27, 1871, in Hunterdon County, N. J. She married James Bennett Davis (1865-1935) of Fairfax County, Va., on February 15, 1893. They had two children, Hazel and Carl, and lived in Fairfax, Va. Edna died January 12, 1952, and is buried in the Pohick Cemetery, also in Fairfax. Her needlework skills and design sense make this crazy-patch parlor throw a unique addition to the Collection.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
Davis, Edna Force
Physical Description
fabric, wool, silk (overall material)
thread, wool, silk (overall material)
overall: 83 in x 69 in; 210 cm x 176 cm
Place Made
United States: Virginia, Fairfax County
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Family & Social Life
Odd Fellowship
Domestic Furnishings
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Miss Hazel Davis
Additional Media

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