CENTRAL — The home of Cindy Blair in Central has added its fourth quilt block to the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail.
The name of the pattern is Irish Chain, a much loved pattern that has several variations. The most common are the Single Irish Chain and the Double Irish Chain.
Current documentation on Irish Chain indicates that it was developed in America in the early 1800s. Quilt historian Barbara Brackman states that 1814 is the earliest known date for this pattern.
“Dated examples appear consistently across the decades, indicating the design’s popularity throughout the 19th and 20th centuries,” Brackman said.
The quilt will be mounted on the upper doors of the workshop/studio of Ben Wingert, currently a garage under transformation at the Blair-Wingert residence.
Wingert’s grandmother, 93-year-old Elizabeth Miller of Chambersburg, Pa., is the quilter. She still lives on the family farm in a “doty house.” An Amish tradition, the doty house is designed for the care of older relatives who need medical attention or can no longer live independently.
The Double Irish Chain quilt would have been made by a group of Mennonite women for Elizabeth’s daughter (Ben’s mother), Rhoda Miller Wingert, for her dowry. Five to 10 women would gather together at the home to complete a quilt of this size. Several quilts were made for each daughter or granddaughter and added to their “hope chest.”
This tradition continues in the Mennonite Community of the Old Order River Brethren today.
Local quilter and teacher Dixie Haywood says the pattern consists of alternate nine-patches and plain blocks and was apparently first published by the Mountain Mist Co., which sold quilt batting. For more than 50 years, patterns were included in rolls of batting and the patterns were sold separately since the batting patterns were “pot luck.” They started publishing patterns in 1920, but Irish Chain probably predates that, since it is such a simple design.
Blair is a dedicated volunteer with the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail and brought the idea of creating a quilt trail in the Upstate to a group of others after a driving trip up to the Ohio area. She saw quilt blocks that had been painted on barns and thought the idea a good one to honor the history and cultural traditions of the area and to expand tourism in the Upstate.
Visit www.uhqt.org for more information.