Have you ever seen this lovely piece? It's at the American Folk Art Museum, with these comments:
The Bird of Paradise Quilt Top, made during the Civil War period, is thought to be an unfinished marriage or wedding quilt. This idea is supported by the vertical rows of appliqued blocks that feature pairs of birds and other animals. In addition to these animal pairs, other symbols of union and fertility can be found on the bedcover; they include birds tending nests of eggs, flowers, and fruits. The only aberration appears in the two top blocks of the quilt top. A single female figure is appliqued onto one block, but the square next to her is nearly empty, save for the decorative leaves and flowers. Newspaper templates, including a template of a male figure, were found with this quilt top, suggesting that perhaps the quilt was never finished, and the marriage it was intended to celebrate never took place.
The quilt top also features depictions of famous nineteenth-century racehorses and of an elephant named Hanible, who had traveled throughout New York State during this period with his trainer.
Ironic -- I'd always thought of this piece as the 'Jilted Quilt Top:' that the man block was never included because he'd found someone else! It only occurred to me in the past few days that he might have died during combat in the Civil War.
What the museum calls the 'Bird of Paradise Quilt Top' has been making the rounds of applique-lovers in recent years as the 'Civil War Bride Quilt.' To my great pleasure, I found that, thanks to Threadbear, an Australian company, you can make it! Their oversized pattern is really quite reasonable, considering the complexity of the designs. Reproductionfabrics.com also sells the pattern, and an accompanying fabric kit.
There's even a blog dedicated to people working on their own copies of the quilt. (Shades of Dear Jane, indeed.) The blog's not too old, and there aren't many finished quilts pictured -- this piece is a complicated one. But well worth it.I'm not a big appliquer, but something about this quilt just sings to my soul.