Stars and Comet

September, 2022

Stars and Comet

Harriet Miller Carpenter (1831-1915), Designed by Uriah Carpenter (1825-1900)

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Cotton; Hand pieced, appliqued and embroidered, hand quilted
Ardis and Robert James Collection, IQM 1997.007.0264

Stars and Comet is one of twenty known quilts made by Harriett Carpenter and her husband Uriah. The quilts were made for their grandchildren and most are embroidered with inscriptions similar to the one found on this quilt, which reads “Made and presented to E. C. H [Elsie Carpenter Hess] by Grandma Carpenter 1892.”  These Mennonite quiltmakers made a number of original designs, including state and national maps and rainbows, all with exceptional quilting.
An Expert on Quilting
A Pine Hill Lady of 79 has Few to Equal her Designs
         --Lititz Record, February 7, 1910
“That the aged Mrs. Harriet Carpenter, residing at Pine Hill, Warwick Township, who is 79 years old has few if any equals in designing and quilting patchwork is undisputed. Although of a quiet and modest disposition, with no inclination to become popular in her hobby, she has nevertheless gained quite a reputation in this line of work, not only from the taste displayed in arranging the many-colored patches in order to present an attractive appearance but also in her adeptness in handling the needle. Now she is being sought by others and prevailed upon to execute work for them. From near and far people have been coming to her home to see her beautiful work, a number recently having put in their appearance by sleighs who were entire strangers to her.”

The Mystery of Grandma Carpenter’ Rainbow Quilts
Grandma Carpenter designs were originals. Perhaps Stars and Comet was inspired by the Great Comet of 1882.  A mystery, however exists regarding four Rainbow quilts in the IQM Collection.  One is a recent gift from Grandma Carpenter’s descendants. The other three in the James Collection are attributed to Susan Frey Habecker and Mabel Mae Brubaker. Harriet Carpenter’s mother-in-law was a Habecker and both they and the Brubakers are found in the same neighborhood. The identical format – including elaborate quilting – indicates they were made from the same pattern, however to date no link has been proven.