I love when something considered women’s arts (for lack of a better term) is used to subvert those stereotypes in an unexpected way. It’s even better when the woman in question did so well over a hundred years ago!

Sarah Baker’s Solar System quilt, 1876 (image from Wikipedia)

This quilt really caught my fancy – and it’s for science! A teacher, Sarah Baker, completed it in 1876 to use as an Astronomy teaching aid. And it’s beautiful! The level of hand work is really stunning. I’m not a huge fan of quilts generally as physical objects (through the stories that go with some of them can definitely sway me), but this one is stunning on its own visual merit with it’s starting black background and delicate contrasting hand stitching. It even depicts, most likely, Halley’s Comet, which was a huge topic of conversation when I was a kid in 1986 (maybe around the same age as Sarah’s students) and could be visible a second time in my life (next sighting should be 2061).

The quilt is rather large at 89″ x 106″ and is made of a wool top section with appliques, silk and wool embroidery threads, wool braid and cotton back. It took 7 years to complete!

You can read more about Sarah and the quilt on Wikipedia. The quilt is currently in the Smithsonian collection.

If you’re interested in historic quilts for science, Sarah’s was not an anomaly. Such quilts were entered into country and state fair completions and likely adorned other classroom walls. Thought perhaps not with quite as much style! There are also modern art/science quilts.