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Quilted wonders.

I would love to share a photo of a work that might interest enthusiasts of telescopes and quilts alike: my quilt of the U.S. Naval Observatory's 26-inch Alvan Clark refractor at the old Foggy Bottom site in Washington, D.C.

The USNO's 26-inch Great Equatorial Telescope, the world's largest refractor for more than a decade, saw first light on November 20,1873. Made by Alvan Clark & Sons of Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, the telescope has had a distinguished career. It was with this instrument that Asaph Hall discovered the two moons of Mars in August 1877. In 1893 the telescope was relocated from Foggy Bottom to its present site on Washington's Observatory Hill. It is still in use for measuring double stars and positions of moons of the outer planets.


The inspiration for my quilt was an old engraving from a newspaper story celebrating the work of the telescope. The engraving shows Superintendent Rear Admiral Benjamin F. Sands (standing) and astronomer Simon Newcomb in the dome with the brand new telescope in late fall of 1873.

The quilt took me a year to make! It is machine pieced and appliqued, and machine quilted. I used many reproduction 19th-century fabrics to give a period feel. The tube of the telescope and the astronomers' garments are shaded by fabrics with stars.

I took the quilt to Stellafane last summer and entered it in the homemade telescope competition. It took first place in the category of Telescopes-Mechanical/ Special- Other.

Sara J. Schechner

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Schechner, Sarah J.
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Apr 1, 2010
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