Monday, February 24, 2020

Rocky Mountain Sashing: Rules & Rule Breakers

Pattern called Rocky Mountain, Crown of Thorns and New York Beauty, 
among other names, from Darwin Bearley's inventory of antique quilts

This classic Southern pattern is a complex design consisting of three or four main components. The block is a pieced fan, here with single rows of spiky points.

See a post on varieties of pieced fans:
These blocks rarely have seams in the center.

But the pattern is more than the block. 
Without patchwork sashing it's just a Setting Sun or an Indian Summer.

Virginia Catherine Sears, Texas project
Is it a Rocky Mountain with this strip sash?

Online auction from a Tennessee estate
Or is it the combination of pieced block and pieced sash that creates the pattern?

The most common sashing pattern is a triple strip.
Center unpieced, top and bottom pieced of spiky triangles.

Lined up (mostly) to create an interesting zig zag.

Shading varies but most typically is a single colored design on a white background.

An exception: Here's a dramatic late-19th-century example from Julie Silber's inventory
with variegated spiky triangles and triple strips between the triangles.

It isn't until you see an exception to the rules that you realize there are rules.
Hey! Those triangles should be all the same color!

Ella Miller Williams, made in Kentucky
Texas project.

Five plain strips!

Regulation pattern.

Elizabeth Crosby Wright,Hemblen County, Tennessee
from the Tennessee project & the Quilt Index

Elizabeth got the shading WRONG! She reversed it. Crazy woman!

She's not alone.

Now you might think you'd never make one of these because you
worry about your points being pointed. But apparently, pointy points
were not a necessity. There's a whole subclass of blunt-pointed versions,
mostly late in the 19th century and into the 20th.

Truncated triangles.

Bill Volckening's collection

Hedwig Fertsch Buske, Texas project, 1930s
So blunt they become rectangles.

Bingham family, Tennessee

Down to the basics.
I think Bill owns many of these.

The pattern wasn't commercially published until Mountain Mist started distributing their New York Beauty in 1930. Blunted points.

Capper's Weekly followed in March, 1931 for "Springtime in the Rockies,"
which also included blunt points (and an interesting edge treatment.)

Bill has found several made from that pattern after 1930.
These published patterns may have been a license for truncated triangles.

Cindy Rennels's Inventory

Another variation is sashing with the two rows of triangles forming a diamond,
no center strip. In this mid-19th c (?) example it's hard to see if the
diamonds are two separate strips.

Stella Rubin's Inventory

But in this mid-20th-c four block the close-ups show the green
shapes are actually pieced as diamonds.

As they seem to be in this mid-19th version from Sandra Starley's collection.

Kentucky quilt from the Minnesota Project
Sold on ebay later.

Occasionally one comes across diamonds set the long way.

It's a pleasure to see the variation within the basic structure, something often found in Southern quilts. Set up some rules and then break them.

Mountain Mist pattern
Short cut in the sash


  1. I wondered why some quilts look so similar but were made differently and I thought it was lack of memory. Like they visited the family from "far away" and were introduced to friends or older relatives still and they spotted this amazing quilt. After a week or two of visiting, they are back home and try to reproduce the amazing quilt but can't remember exactly what it looked like. Blame the lack of cell phones, haha! Anyway. After reading this article, I am rethinking my logic. Great post. Thanks for sharing. ;^)

  2. Hmmm, name of quilt Springtime In the Rockies... came out around the same time as the movie with Janette McDonald!