The quilter's connection to the Irish town of Islandreagh, embroidered on this quilt, remains a mystery. Sarah Gamble, who also stitched her name and the date - May 19, 1848 - on the quilt, may have been in Ireland when she completed it, or only reminiscing about her homeland. This quilt top lacks batting and quilting, but there are no clues about why it was unfinished.
The appliqu퀌�d leaf-and-flower motif in the center resembles a Tree of Life pattern. With roots in Indian "palampores," or elaborate painted bedcovers imported to England since the 17th century, the Tree of Life grew to be a popular pattern in the United States ever since its appearance in the late 18th century. Several borders, lending an air of formality to the quilt, surround the tree and its vase. Chintz, another English import, used on one of the borders and the vase, harks back to palampores as well. Quilts were one method people used to remember their past, just as photo albums or family trees serve the same purpose more than a century later.