1850 - 1875 "Chips and Whetstones" Pieced Quilt

1850 - 1875 "Chips and Whetstones" Pieced Quilt

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Names for quilt pattern blocks change over time, by region, and as variations on traditional or classical block patterns develop. For this quilt a multitude of roller-printed cottons were used to piece twenty 17-inch blocks in the “Chips and Whetstones” or “Mariner’s Compass” pattern. Floral motifs were appliqued at the corners where the blocks join. The blocks are framed by a red-ground cotton border, slightly wider on the sides than at the top and bottom. Although the border fabrics have deteriorated, the deft use of printed fabrics for the blocks provides the overall eye-catching quality of this quilt design.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
place made
United States
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
overall: 95 in x 78 in; 241 cm x 198 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Josie E. Newcomb Burton
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Textiles
Domestic Furnishings
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Where does the name "Chips and Whetstones" come from? What does it mean? Thanks!
The name comes from an old method of tool sharpening. A "whetstone" is a round wheel of stone material that must be wet in order to sharpen a tool, such as an axe. The wheel is powered manually, like a potters wheel. The "chips" are what may come off the tool as it's being sharpened on the wheel.

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