Textiles and the Triplett Sisters

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My sister has just completed her version of the Triplett Sisters 1856 Huguenot Friendship Quilt. Since she already has the original antique quilt in her collection, she wanted to make her version completely different, and she decided to add cute applique squirrels into the corners. I love squirrels and can’t help but think of the dog from the movie who is easily distracted by SQUIRREL!

It did make me wonder when squirrels first started appearing on quilts. Afterall, I’ve researched the presence of giraffes, (here is the link to that blog article) so why not squirrels? Squirrels have appeared on quilts via applique, embroidery, pieced, printed, hand painted or inked. Pick your technique and you can probably find one.

Several crazy quilts have squirrels embroidered into the quilt, but those are late 19th century. So, not the earliest use of a squirrel. The Oak Leaf quilt by Sally Conklin is a well-known version with applique squirrels in the corner and is 1840-1. (I’m a little worried about her squirrels because no acorns were included for munching.) Eliza Conklin’s almost identical version is dated 1841 and a blue version by Eleanor Robison is dated 1843. The North Carolina documentation project uncovered a red and green one of similar a style and probable date.

There are also what some have identified as a squirrel on multiple Palampores, but I don’t agree. It appears to be a mongoose. Squirrels are usually presented upright with a fluffy tail. The Smithsonian Institution National Quilt Collection has an amazing squirrel and bird quilt that is block printed 1790-1810. (Thank goodness fruit was included for sustenance!) For now, I’m listing this as the oldest known quilt with a squirrel. If you are aware of an earlier one, please let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll continue hunting for…SQUIRREL!