1899 Lydia Finnell's "Star Quilt"


Lydia Pearl Finnell may have made this parlor throw for her trousseau. It exemplifies the fancy needlework techniques popular in the late 19th century. Motifs and designs that appear on the throw can be compared with patterns that appear in needlework manuals of the period. The patterns consisted of simple outline drawings, which allowed the user to enhance them to the best of their abilities. Lydia’s talents and schooling are reflected in her elaborate and well-executed interpretations. Highly decorated items, such as this, were often placed in the parlor to display the maker’s needlework skills.

Eighty-two patches of fabric make up this extensively adorned parlor throw. The central irregular patches are framed by an eight-pointed star made of 2-3/8" strips of black silk pile, giving it the name “Star Quilt.” Each patch is decorated with flora (e.g., pansies, sumac, thistle, etc.) or fauna (e.g., frogs, chicks, swans, owls, etc.) motifs. Ruching, and satin, French knot, plush and outline embroidery stitches are among those techniques used to embellish the parlor throw. The competent use of the plush stitch is evident on many of the motifs. This stitch produces loops that are later cut, combed, and sculpted with scissors to give a three dimensional effect to each motif. The lining is red wool embroidered with small daisy motifs. A braid attached to the 2-7/8” border of black silk pile completes the quilt.

Lydia Pearl Finnell was born March 3, 1867, to William and Sarah Irvine Finnell in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. At the age of three, she was sent to live with her Aunt Lize (Eliza Finnell Terhune) and Uncle Boley (William Terhune). They taught her the social graces as well as housekeeping skills, cooking, animal husbandry, and some rudimentary doctoring skills. At the age of 14 or 15 she attended Daughters College in Harrodsburg, where she received an excellent education for the time. This included plain and fancy needlework and the fine arts of canvas and china painting.

Lydia married Bushrod Allin (1871-1942) of Harrodsburg on November 8, 1899. Bushrod and Lydia did not have any children, but raised Mary Forsythe Finnell, the daughter of Lydia's brother Charles Handy Finnell. Lydia died March 31, 1949 and is buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery, Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Lydia’s “Star Quilt” is a unique example of extraordinary design and needlework skills, truly a “star” in the Collection.

Date Made: 1880-1899

Maker: Finnell, Lydia Pearl

Location: Currently not on view

Subject: Quilting


See more items in: Home and Community Life: Textiles, Art, Textiles, Domestic Furnishings, Quilts


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Becky and John W. Grigsby

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1996.0381.01Accession Number: 1996.0381Catalog Number: 1996.0381.01

Object Name: bedcover, crazy-patch and embroideredquilt

Physical Description: fabric, silk pile on cotton ground, wool, cotton (overall material)thread, cotton, silk (overall material)filling, cotton (overall material)Measurements: overall: 72 in x 74 in; 183 cm x 187 cm

Guid: http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/ng49ca746b3-4a59-704b-e053-15f76fa0b4fa

Record Id: nmah_1336857

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