This late 19th-century Tumbling Blocks quilt is a showcase of the fabrics produced through advancing technologies in spinning, weaving, printing, and dyeing. With the great variety of printed cotton fabricsknown commonly as “calicos”the maker could utilize contrasting hues to dramatic effect, creating the optical illusion of the three-dimensional cube.

The top of each Tumbling Block reads as red, yet this detail image reveals a great assortment of “Turkey redsas well as chocolate browns, neons (the electric blue floral print), mourning prints (the gray and black fabrics here), and overdyed greens. Some of these colors were developed as part of the chemical revolution of aniline dyes, beginning with William Perkin’s breaththrough “mauveine” in 1856.

Pattern: 
Tumbling Blocks, detail
Maker: 
Maker unknown
Circa
1880
1900
Possibly made in
Pennsylvania
United States
82
75.5
IQSCM, Jonathan Holstein Collection
2003.003.0202