Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sanderson Star and It's Poor Cousin

Sateen Quilt photographed at Beamish Museum, 1997
On a recent post I wrote about the qualities of cotton sateen in quiltmaking and the whole time I was writing, I had a particular picture in my mind that I really wanted to post.  However, I had to find the slide and that turned out to be a bigger task than I expected.  So after going through about 400 slides, I found it and here it is!

This quilt pictured above is made with one pink sateen fabric and one green sateen, it's a two-color quilt.  When photographed straight on (as I'd seen it in book pictures), it's still a two-color quilt.  But, when the picture is taken at an angle, the light seems to reflect differently and you can see the results in the picture above.  Now it looks like it was made of two darks and two lights.  It was when I saw this picture that I realized that cotton sateen reflects light differently, depending on which direction the weave or grain of the fabric is cut and then sewn back together.

This quilt is believed to be a home-made copy of a Sanderson Star (the poor cousin) which true to it's name, has a star in the center of it.  But, the average quilter didn't have the skills to piece a Sanderson Star and this quilt has the large appliqued shapes in the center instead of the pieced star.  The Sanderson Star Quilts were designed by professional quiltmarker, Elizabeth Sanderson and the many apprentices that she trained to piece and mark quilt tops.  More on this later.

This is my Sanderson Star quilt.  It's actually made with light gold and dark gold sateens which was a fairly common color combination.  It features a pieced star in the center (all one piece) and a series of borders around the star, all filled with classic Durham style quilting patterns.  It's unknown how many of these quilt tops were produced for others to quilt because this sort of work wasn't valued at the time and the numbers weren't recorded.  I had a friend years ago who wanted to make one of these and set about figuring out how to draft the star which is made from one piece of fabric, not wedges.  My friend had a science and math background and struggled with getting a pattern to match this quilt.  Then one Sunday morning, she was sitting outside with paper and scissors.  As she folded and cut away, all of a sudden she had the star, exactly as it was on the original.  No math or science needed. 

This photo show the quiting in the borders.

This picture shows the center star which is a single piece of fabric and the classic Durham quilting patterns.

This blue combination Sanderson Star was in the collection of Beamish Museum and was one of the quilts I took pictures of in 1997 when I visited the museum with Lillian Hedley.  If you look across the top where the back side of the quilt is folded back, you can see the patterns used in the outer border.  I love the patterns on these quilts, very graceful and organic.

So, I'm going back to digging through the slides again to see what might be of interest.  I hope you enjoyed the Sanderson Stars and their poor cousin.  Enjoy.


  1. Thank you for posting these pictures of the beautiful Sanderson Star quilts. I really love this pattern and a few years ago I converted it into a wholecloth. The quilt is sold but I am sure I will use these patterns again! The "Weardale Chain" variation in the outer border is lovely and I think this will be my first choice for the next quilt.
    Andrea in Germany

  2. Wow, beautiful Sanderson star quilts! The pink and green sateen looks interesting the way it's photographed and the light playing tricks on the eye. Do you enjoy sewing sateens? Aren't they kind of slippery to work with? Thank you so much for sharing the slides, it was worth digging already! :)

  3. This is such an interesting post about the Sanderson Star pattern and cotton sateens. When you say the star is one piece of fabric do you mean it isn't pieced, and that the larger points of the Star are appliquéd?

    1. The Sanderson Star is pieced, there's no applique involved. They're one of my favorites, especially when quilted in the style of the original quilts which were pieced and marked by professional quilters who then sold the top to be quilted by the purchaser. The piecing of the star would've been a challenge for most but the women who pieced and marked the quilts were well-trained in an apprenticeship and had a high standard to meet before they were turned loose on their own.