Alabama Department of Archives and History
Carpenter’s Wheel, ca. 1870s
Catherine Johnston Roberts
Catherine Johnston Roberts’ Carpenter’s Wheel, late 1870s, demonstrates that illusionism was an element of nineteenth-century quilt making as much as it was in the twentieth century. The juxtaposition of the three colors of diamond shapes—brown, black, and cream—create the optical illusion of three-dimensional snowflakes, connected by a string of two black diamond shapes. In the voids the quilter has sewn an equally elaborate design of iris in vases. The stitching itself creates texture by following the outline of the design, creating “stuffed” shapes, as well as tiny stitches creating a textured ground.
According to family tradition, Catherine Johnston Roberts (1845-1922) and her daughter Mollie (1868-1904) created the Carpenter’s Wheel quilt sometime in the 1870s. Catherine was born in Clay County, and married John J. Roberts in 1867. Between 1868 and 1879, the couple had five children and relocated to Calhoun County.
Back to quilt pair.