A Teacher in 1876 Handcrafted This Quilt to Help Teach Astronomy to Her Class

Solar System Quilt by Ellen Harding Baker

Ellen Harding Baker's “Solar System Quilt” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

For many teachers, their job is more than just covering the syllabus—they often go beyond the basic requirements, dedicating time and energy to inspire their pupils as much as possible. One teacher of this caliber of commitment to education was Ellen Harding Baker, an American astronomer from the 19th century who is famous for one particularly crafty education method. She is rumored to have spent 7 years embroidering the entire solar system onto a quilt, which she then used as a visual aid during her lectures.

Completed in 1876, the large, 89 × 106 inch Solar System Quilt was made from black woolen fabric and embellished with colorful wool-fabric appliqué, wool braid, as well as wool and silk embroidery. Similar to the solar system illustrations in astronomy books of the time, it features the sun at the center, the eight planets of our solar system, as well as the asteroid belt and a myriad of stitched stars. Earth's Moon, the Galilean moons of Jupiter, as well as a number of moons for Saturn, Neptune, and Uranus are included as small embroidered dots, and Saturn's rings feature as yellow fabric appliqué. A large comet in the upper left corner is also included, perhaps representing Halley's comet, which had last been seen in 1835.

Baker’s Solar System Quilt is now held at The Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Though it's not currently on view, its significance lives on.

In 1876, American astronomer and teacher Ellen Harding Baker created a handcrafted quilt to use as a teaching aid in her lectures.

Solar System Quilt by Ellen Harding Baker

Ellen Harding Baker (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The incredible Solar System Quilt features each element of the planetary system, beautifully embroidered in wool and silk.

Ellen Harding Baker's “Solar System Quilt” (detail) (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Ellen Harding Baker's “Solar System Quilt” (detail) (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

h/t: [Open Culture]

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Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.
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