|"Green Quilt for Black Diamond"
also known as "Calico Sunflower," a Paragon Needlecraft Package, No. 01123
a quilt history article by Patricia Cummings
A beautiful calico quilt made from the Paragon pattern offered exclusively through Woman's Day Magazine, 1956. photo
taken in Maine by James Cummings, (quiltmaker unknown).
Irene Martel Sholette Designs Quilt
A beautiful pieced and appliquéd green and white quilt, originally called "Green Quilt for Black Diamond" was made by Irene
Martel Sholette (1901-1956). The design was marketed in January 1956 by Woman's Day Magazine as an "exclusive" kit
pattern, selling for $20 dollars. The name was changed to "Calico Sunflower Quilt," - PARAGON Needlecraft Package,
A full page example of the Sholette quilt is featured in Wisconsin's state documentation book, Wisconsin Quilts: Stories In
The Stitches, text by Ellen Kort; photos by Stewart Wolfe (VA: Howell Press, 2001). That quilt in was made in 1943 by for
her daughter, Joyce Sholette Herringer. Joyce remembers curling up with the quilt to keep warm on "long winter nights in
upstate New York, when I was in nursing school."
Personal Letter Reveals Details
In a personal letter to me, in 2002, Joyce reveals that she is also a quilter, and only wishes that her mother had lived long
enough to share their joint passion. Her mother owned one of the first Singer Featherweight sewing machines ever sold, as
well as "scissors, an ordinary ruler, and cardboard templates." In describing all of her own quilting supplies, fabrics, and
machines, Joyce seems to be baffled as to how her mother got by with so little. She says, "Doesn't that make one wonder?"
Information About the Quiltmaker
I had written to Joyce to ask her to tell me a little bit about her mother. This is what she said:
She was married to my wonderful Father for over thirty years. He was a Chef during the WWII years and she worked with
him. They sailed on steamships for the Columbia Transportation Company. To pass the time while on the Great Lakes
(which is where the ships were most of the time) she brought her Featherweight with her and sewed.
We are French Canadian, Roman Catholic, born in a small town in upstate New York -- Ogdensburg. Both my parents were
born there but my grandparents were born in Canada. She didn't know how to boil water when she married my Father but
she soon become one of the best cooks in town.
She further states that the quilt was made mostly on the Great Lakes...and now its home is about a block away from Lake
Love At First Sight
The first time I spotted an example of a finished quilt of this pattern, I was attending a Maine quilt show. Unfortunately, so
much time has passed now, I have no recollection of exactly where or when I saw it. I just knew that I loved the quilt!
Each block is essentially the same except that the centers have differing design treatments. I loved the sashings and how
they seemed to undulate. I also liked the symmetry to the motif in each of the four corners of every block.
Paragon Needlecraft was a New York company whose motto was "truly needlework worth making." They marketed Irene
Sholette's quilt design as "Calico sunflower." The circular motifs and interior diamond pieces are quite reminiscent of
nineteenth century quilts. With only 12 diamonds, this particular quilt would be much simpler to piece than other versions,
with similar construction.
Sholette's quilt measures 76" x 92." The paper insert cover for the Paragon Package says this:
This package contains quilt top of fine white percale, stamped for appliquéing and quilting, appliqués stamped and ready to
cut-out, on color fast Quadriga Cloth.*
Quilt shown is for double bed (cut size 90" x 103") also available for single bed (cut size 72" x 103"). SEE
EASY-TO-FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS ON REVERSE SIDE.
So, clearly, when the design was offered to the public, the size of the finished quilt was increased.
The design above was featured on the cover of the Paragon pattern
Quadriga Cloth is almost synonymous with "Ely & Walker, Dry Goods, St. Louis, MO," manufacturers, converters, and
distributors, founded in 1870. According to Lucinda Cawley, quilt historian, David Walker, co-founder of the firm, had a
son, George Herbert Walker whose daughter married Prescott Bush. Their son is President George Herbert Walker Bush,
father of our current U.S. president, George W. Bush. These historical connections are always fascinating!
The book Vintage Fabrics: Identification and Value Guide by Joan Kiplinger mentions that the Ely & Walker company
acquired Quadriga Cloth Co. in 1911. Like other cloth manufacturers, they published Cloth Sample Books, at least two of
which are known to each contain about 1500 cloth samples. These are dated 1937 and 1938, according to textile historian,
Laurette Carroll, and contain "interesting prints from the 1930s."
The company also manufactured and/or sold Quaker chintz prints. Quadriga fabric, touted to be colorfast, was a major hit
with home sewers, and would probably still be in demand, were it being produced today.
A piece of Quadriga cloth, provided by Joan Kiplinger. The cloth is soft because it has been "needle-ized" during processing.
Always More to the Story
Previously, there had been a reprint available online of an undated page from Woman's Day Magazine, probably from 1956.
In 2004, I had printed out the page to save. The one page article has two photos of the exact same quilt design, both an
antique one and the more recent quilt by Sholette. The page's headline is "Calico sunflower," (small "s" in Sunflower), by
Roxa Wright, long time needlework editor at the magazine.
She states that, "The beautiful original quilt, made with infinite care and patience in New Jersey in the mid-19th century, is
from the collection of Florence Peto.* It was recently shown in a display of Early American Quilts at the Henry Ford
Museum, Dearborn, Michigan..." No specific quilter is named as having made the original quilt that Peto collected.
*Peto was an avid quilt collector, quilt historian, and "master quilter" who wrote books about the history of quilts." The
book, New Jersey Quilts, 1777 to 1950, Contributions To An American Tradition, (Paducah, KY: American Quilter's
Society, 1992), documents New Jersey quilts, and claims Florence Peto as a "New Jerseyan by marriage." That state
documentation book further states that "her (Peto's interest in old textiles came from her familiarity with sample books
from the cotton mill her husband once owned."
Quilt Worth the Price of the Kit
Wright goes on to describe the quality of the materials in the kit and adds that for "a total cost of about $20 dollars, plus
your work, you can have a handsome heirloom for tomorrow that would cost about $400 dollars to duplicate if you bought
it," (at that time - 1950s)
There is always more than one can imagine...to any story. If we come across any other information on this beautiful quilt
pattern, we surely will share it! If anyone owns a quilt of this pattern, photos of Quadriga cloth, or Quaker chintz prints
from the Ely & Walker Co., we would love to hear from you. For questions or comments, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
©Copyright 2007. Patricia Cummings, Quilter's Muse Publications, Concord, New Hampshire. All Right Reserved.