Quilled Pennsylvania German Design

A friend asked if I would quill a birthday present for her husband - I'd be delighted! He's a paper conservator by profession and has restored antique quillwork... how nice (and atypical) to quill for someone who is already so familiar with the technique. She requested a design that could be displayed with his collection of Pennsylvania German art pieces and sent this photo to serve as inspiration.


Before deciding what to quill, I set off googling Pennsylvania German and Pennsylvania Dutch (the names seem to be used interchangeably) folk art, and learned about distelfinks, stylized goldfinches that are sometimes shown with funny head feathers.

quilled distelfink and floral design in wood frame

They can be found on early fraktur, documents such as birth and baptismal records, that were lettered in a distinctive fractured script and date from the mid-1700s. (The Free Library of Philadelphia has a very nice fraktur collection.) Often colorful distelfinks were pictured on circular hex signs too, and are still painted on red barns in southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond to this day.

detail of quilled Pennsylvania German distelfink design

I decided to do a loose interpretation of a piece that is in the Pennsylvania German collection of The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, thinking that the bird would go well with the wooden ones on the chest of drawers. All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend spent quilling a traditional design... nice to step away from one's usual style every now and then!

And now let's fast forward a few hundred years... I want to show you this PANCAKE Map that Justina Yang of Fiber Lab sent as a thank you for blogging about her new line of wall art. What a great shape! Any guesses on the location?

pleat folded map of Philadelphia

It's Philadelphia, nearby and one of my favorite cities. Once the map is properly hung using the handy strings Justina placed on the back, it's sure to be a conversation starter... I can't wait to see the expressions of puzzled guests!

Ann Martin
Ann Martin

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