Bill’s first quilt was a masterpiece New York Beauty, but nearly 20 years after he bought it, he learned it was most likely called a Rocky Mountain Road or Crown of Thorns.

The Volckening Collection - One Pattern, Many Names

Rocky Mountain Road / Crown of Thorns / New York Beauty

Why the confusion? Quilts of either name usually share the same basic pattern: spiked quarter circles wedged in each corner of the block. These blocks form circles when they intersect, and the finest examples incorporate dense quilting, pieced sashing and cornerstones.

The earliest examples date to the mid-19th century, but the name New York Beauty was coined in 1930, when the Stearns and Foster Mountain Mist company released a pattern with that name.

During the last quarter century, the pattern experienced dramatic transformation into a massively popular art quilt element, as seen in the work of artists Karen Stone, Valori Wells, Jean Wells Keenan, and many others.

pieced quilt, maker unknown, Tennessee, c. 1860

All 41 textile examples of this pattern from the Volckening Collection are included in the catalog “Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern. A Japanese edition is also available.

To preview and order the book, click here.

One byproduct of this newfound popularity was the increased usage name New York Beauty, which was retroactively applied to quilts made before Mountain Mist coined the name. There were also variations with other names.

So, what do we call these quilts when they were made before 1930? Most people call them New York Beauties. A recent search of the Quilt Index showed as many as 18 names for the pattern. New York Beauty was, by far, the most popular name. A majority of the pre-1930 quilts that weren’t classified as New York Beauty were called Rocky Mountain Road or a derivative name. Crown of Thorns was the second most popular early name, but these days, the name is applied to a whole other pattern, which is geometric and does not include curved seams.

The Volckening Collection includes 41 examples of the pattern and its variations, including 37 quilts and four tops. The group represents more than 150 years of quilt making, and is the subject of a short documentary film, Beauty Secrets, which premiered at the NW Documentary Homegrown Docfest in August, 2009. These quilts will be exhibited at the Benton County Historical Museum in Philomath, Oregon, as part of Quilt County 2011.