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                     ALPHABETS FOR THE ALPHA COLLECTOR         
                          Rare Alphabet Quilt Discoveries Come to Market
Alphabet quilts are one of the hardest to find, most eye catching categories of antique quilt collecting. Over the years FISHER HERITAGE has found some exceptional discoveries that defy the traditional alphabet format. Now it's time to see them enter public and private collections.
Probably the the majority of the letters in most known antique alphabet quilts were formed by tracing the oak tag stencils bought mail order from the Ladies Art Company since the late 19th century (10 cents for one; 25 cents for three.) Then they were arrayed in the traditional alphabet format starting with the A in the upper left corner, then in rows across or down through to the  Z. Because there are 26 alphabet letters which work out into an uneven number of blocks for rows,  to expand the block numbers so the rows and finished quilt come out evenly vertically and horizontally, the maker might add other blocks with her monogram, the date, stars or other symbols or designs.
Among Laura Fisher's atypical discoveries are alphabets in which the letters were pieced in reverse; were set out in vertical rather than horizontal rows, were placed from upper right to lower left on the quilt surface, or were cut out by hand rather than using commercial stencils. Quilts with lettering were fashioned before the stencils  were sold, becoming prominent during the last quarter of the 19th century. Rare examples with pieced lettering that 'say' things - usually bible verses - were made earlier.
Why would some letters be backwards? Possibly the maker did not realize which side of the fabric to lay the stencil on, so that when the quilt top was sewn together the finished letters faced forward showing the fabric's reverse side instead. Possibly the maker was dyslexic or had limited education so could not make the letters fotm correctly. Or perhaps the maker was an immigrant, non English speaking, from a nation where the alphabet is written differently, say from right to left in horizontal or vertical rows
Unique configurations of the alphabet I have been fortunate to find are several in which the alphabet appears - but not necessarily in alphabetical order!:
* an alphabet of black letters on white, cut free hand and formatted vertically starting with the A in the upper right corner, concluding at the Y (no Z here) in the lower left corner.
* a classic straightforward alphabet with letters made using stencils from the Ladies Art Company; to make the rows come out 5 x 6, the maker added the date 1966 in the four blocks following the alphabet
* letters that seem to have been embroidered or cross stitched, but actually were pieced of the tiniest red cotton squares less than half inch to form the alphabet, plus three additional letters for a moogram. Examples pieced like this are rare, some earliest ones seen in museums
* a rustic alphabet of hand shaped letters set in a narrow grid as are some other examples in the collection. This one is unusual in that it is not cotton but is made from the felted woolens of undergarments from the turn of the 20th century. It was collected from an Amish home, which may account for the resemblance of the letter shapes to the Germanic letters used by that sect
* Bottoms up - another unique example in which the alphabet reads differently for sure - from the lower left corner it continues in serpentine rows up and and up to the Z at the upper right corner. To make the block numbers work outilt for a quilt, the maker inserted four blocks to record the date 1901 as the centerpiece of the composition. The letters here are hand pieced too.

And check this website for quilts with words and signatures aplenty; these inscribed quilts are a special interest.
Contact us for additional photos and information on these and other alphabet quilts in inventory. 
To make an appointment in advance to see them, email or telephone 917/797-1260, 



  • A TRAPUNTO WHITEWORK  so-called BRIDAL QUILT of extraordinary workmanship, one of several superbly quilted
    early 19th century examples


  • Trip Around the World pattern

    TRIP AROUND THE WORLD PIECED QUILT chose from several with different colors, solids or prints, so modern looking
    though dating from early 20th century or before


  • Eagle border, 1842

    dated 1842 Eagles border, Hearts Medallions,


( (May 7,2018) 

There's still time to send something personal to the British-American couple soon to marry (in addition to a charitable contribution they suggest). How about an antique quilt, a jacquard coverlet, a textile or a hooked rug that has an English-American connection, to underscore their union? 

An antique textile's visual appeal and historic back story, having originated during the 19th or 20th century, makes such a choice a meaningful gift for this or for any modern couple. 

In the case of Laura Fisher's FISHER HERITAGE gallery (by appointment in New York), it would continue a tradition of providing an antique American gift for English royalty that began with Prince Charles. He chose as a wedding gift a jacquard coverlet with a political inscription block about American Independence related to the time of his favorite king, George III (and at same time chose a Princess Feather quilt for Diana, and a Whig Rose quilt for another lady (Camilla, oh my my!).  Years later Wills and Kate received wedding and baby gifts from clients of Laura Fisher's shop also.

An antique 10' long shawl in a Scottish tartan or in authentic paisley, is lovely both to drape or to wear. Either type is familiar adorning royalty in myriad English period portraits.

How about choosing from mid-19th century jacquard double weave coverlets created by British weavers who emigrated to New York State, settled in New Britain, and developed their trade here? Their superb quality woven output, some 170 years later, remains in excellent condition and much admired. 

Among the many geometric, floral and pictorial hooked rugs fashioned often in the Canadian east coast and maritime provinces, an apt example for the couple might be the bold crown that had been created for the first North American visit of Queen Elizabeth. 

In addition to American quilts, Fisher also carries English quilts, English ‘Marseilles’ white woven bedspreads, and hand knit bedspreads beloved by Englishwomen. .

Other choices include:

* a Lady of the Lake c. 1875 pieced quilt embellished with applique hearts

* an unusual pictorial silk quilt made with English tobacco premiums of famous actresses of the era

* several choices of the Trip Around the World pattern in which small squares are orchestrated in concentric colorways 

* several choices among Grandmother's Flower Garden pieced quilts, a favorite in the 1930s, including a lovely pastel Amish example, an homage to the Queen and Prince Charles

* and the most unique, extraordinary gift, made by a British sailor from military uniforms that depicts the Commonwealth countries to which he sailed, with pictorial medallions, thousands of tiny pieces, and a border of tiny flowers showing the seasons. Has been published and exhibited.

Please consult the website for myriad possibilities, then email or phone for help with your choice. International shipping will be arranged

Laura Fisher
cell: 917/797-1260



History Refused to Die: Highlights from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Gift

At The Met Fifth Avenue
MAY 22–SEPTEMBER 23, 2018


 Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

Exhibition Catalogue

Nearly sixty remarkable artworks and insightful texts illustrate the significance of contemporary Black artists working in the southeastern U.S.

Exhibition Overview

This exhibition will present thirty paintings, sculptures, drawings, and quilts by self-taught contemporary African American artists to celebrate the 2014 gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art of works of art from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. The artists represented by this generous donation all hail from the American South.

History Refused to Die will feature the mixed-media art of Thornton Dial (1928–2016)—whose monumental assemblage from 2004 provides the exhibition's title—and a selection of the renowned quilts from Gee's Bend, Alabama, by quilters such as Annie Mae Young (1928–2012), Lucy Mingo (born 1931), Loretta Pettway (born 1942), and additional members of the extended Pettway family. Among other accomplished artists to be featured are Nellie Mae Rowe (1900–1982), Lonnie Holley (born 1950), and Ronald Lockett (1965–1988).

Remarkably diverse in media and technique, the works in this exhibition nonetheless suggest their makers' cultural and aesthetic kinship through the use of found and repurposed materials. Their subjects are likewise varied, rooted in personal history and experience, regional identity—particularly common legacies of slavery and post-Reconstruction histories of oppression under the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws—in addition to national and international events.



                                               AT FISHER HERITAGE

The golds, reds, and burnished earth tones we exult about in the landscape appear also in graphic pieced quilts, hooked rugs, and woven coverlets of the 19th century. Laura Fisher's FISHER HERITAGE collects a bounty of them annually to enrich that season.  

Many of the quilts originated in Pennsylvania Mennonite communities; they exhibit bold solid colors and often are found in untouched, never used condition thanks to the esteem with which their makers' families cherished them.  

Leafy motifs - a favorite of mine in rugs - came in a seemingly endless variety of antique hooked examples originating from northern New England.

And beyond the classic indigo coloration in antique woven coverlets are attractive overshot and jacquards in warm and unusual autumnal tones.

So come see a different and visually compelling seasonal bounty in the American textiles at FISHER HERITAGE.



Almost as a welcome to the neighborhood, the Edward Thorp Gallery invited me to curate its exhibition TEXTILES: American Quilts & Coverlets . 19th & 20th Century. This is the first time in decades that a fine arts gallery in NYC is presenting antique quilts as the art form they are. On view are about two dozen distinctive quilts chosen for their visual impact and technical skill, with their historic component a bonus for viewers.

The selling exhibition was on view from April 25 through June 7th, Tuesday through Saturday from 11 to 6. Contact me at 917/797-1260. for details.


We just moved to a warehouse in Chelsea! After being midtown East Side for years, we are now in an appointment-required location in Chelsea, the terrific art gallery district. We are on Eleventh Avenue one block from the High Line Park entrance at 26th Street, and also one block in from the Hudson River. An appointment is absolutely necessary, so please call 917/797-1260 a day or two in advance so we can plan to greet you downtown.


American Quilts from the Terasaki Collection, at the Herbert Johnson Art Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

June 12 - August 26, 2012

Quilt with Harvest Sun Pattern, American, nineteenth or early twentieth century, cotton, pieced. Collection of Etsuko Terasaki. Photo credit: David O. Brown, courtesy of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University.

This exhibition features twenty-one American quilts from the private collection of Etsuko Terasaki, a former professor of Japanese literature and theatre at Cornell University, whose fascination with color and design dates back to her childhood in Japan. Nearly forty years ago, Terasaki saw her first American quilt and soon after became an avid collector. With an eye for quality in design and craftsmanship, she built a stellar collection that at one time included nearly 300 quilts. The exhibition includes highlights from that collection, featuring pieced quilts made in America in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Sophisticated in design, these quilts testify to the timeless human impulse to create order and beauty in our surroundings, with whatever resources available, for utility and for pure visual pleasure.

The exhibition was organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. The exhibition was curated by Cathy Rosa Klimaszewski, Associate Director for Programs / Harriett Ames Charitable Trust Curator of Education.