Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Who Was Mrs. Vigors Anyway?

Oh, how I wish I knew! I feel I am on a parallel journey with Mrs. Vigors two hundred years removed in time. I can not describe to you the emotions I have for this quilt. She, and the process of making the quilt, "own me". In August 2008, my dear online quilting friend Miriam, who lives in Australia, told me about a quilt she was making. She showed me pictures of her progress and shared the pattern she was working with to help me get started. I was so intrigued and eventually found this amazing quilt in a catalog for the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. Unfortunately, very little is known about the original quilt. Here is what I have been able to find so far:
  • The quilt is not really a quilt - it is a "counterpane". A counterpane is a quilt top with finished sides but no batting, backing, or binding. It would have been a prized possession and displayed only for decorative purposes.
  • It is assumed the maker was Mrs. Vigors who lived in Marylebone, a district of London, U.K. It is estimated she made it in 1805 - 1820. The entire quilt is hand pieced and hand appliqued. The piece measures 96 1/2 by 104 inches. The piecing was done using the English Paper Piecing technique. Evidence to support these conclusions were obtained from bits of postcards, envelopes, and lottery tickets used in the piecing, still attached to the back of the quilt.
  • Somehow the quilt made it to America and was acquire by the Shelburne Museum in the 1950s. The museum sent it to a Miss Edna Einbigler in New York City for repair and restoration. I have seen a few correspondence from Miss Einbigler to the museum. In one letter dated July 1955, she said "..the spread, or at least the workmanship on the spread seems almost too refined and classic to be Early American...." In a later letter - apparently after she had been working on the quilt for some time - dated August 1958, she said, "The work on this quilt is the finest hand stitching I have ever seen."
  • I was able to find a little information about Miss Einbigler. According to the ship's passenger list, she immigrated to America aboard the S.S. Furst Bismark on August 27, 1903. She was accompanied by her parents, Herr Rudolf and Frau Anna Einbigler.
  • I have not been able to find any information on Mrs. Vigors to date. I will continue my search and post as I find more information.
  • The quilt is made with decorator chintz fabrics which were popular in the early 1800's
My quilt! I started making my own interpretation of the quilt in August 2008. I hand pieced and hand appliqued every stitch using traditional and "self evolved" techniques. The fabrics I used are primarily from "The Old Country Charm" collection of Moda. I have added some coodinating colors and textures, especially homespuns, to add interest. I used YLI Heirloom 70 weight 100% cotton thread for the hand piecing and YLI Heirloom 100 weight 100% cotton for the applique. I used Piecemaker Milliner #12 needles for the hand piecing and Piecemaker Applique #12 needles for the applique. I used Tuscan 100% wool batting. The back is a Moda extra wide backing fabric. I will use YLI hand quilting thread and Piecemaker Betweens/Quilting #9 needles for the quilting.

I made changes to make the pattern an original design. Most significant are four Grandmother's Fans replacing the quarter circles in the center medallion. I completed my quilt top on April 8, 2009. It is now machine basted, by my dear friend Eiko who is a long arm quilter. I will begin hand quilting it in the Fall/Winter 2009. My finished quilt top measures 102 by 102 inches. I am working through the process of publishing a pattern for the quilt. I would so love to share the design and the techniques, all hand work! with other quilters. I plan to hold retreats and classes to teach the techniques once the pattern is published. Please stay tuned to my blog for more information.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope my excitement about this amazing quilt is contagious. I would love to hear from you if you are interested. My hope is to connect with other people who love antique quilts and textiles. I will be sharing my experiences and research going forward along with pictures of other quilts I have made (including my extensive UFO list!!). I also plan to share techniques I have created for quilting by hand.


  1. Judi,
    I'm so glad you ventured into Blogland! Someday I might do that too. I will check your blog daily and I expect lots of pictures and lots of tutorials! :D

    Molly in Sumner, WA

  2. Congratulations Judi!!!!

    Welcome to blogland.

    I wish you the best of luck with your retreats, classes and publications.

  3. If there is anyone I know that can uncover the secrets of Mrs. Vigor's quilt efforts, it would be you. Keep at it. Perhaps this blog will reach someone who can add to your bank of knowledge.

  4. Very nice blog - great quilt! Thanks for sharing.
    Marianne in VT

  5. I am thinking of starting Mrs Vigor's quilt. Your blog is fabulous - so helpful. I like jquilt would like to reach anyone who can add also add to your knowledge. All help is greatly appreciated.