Sunday, July 3, 2022

South Carolina Chintz Quilt

South Carolina quilt

The Six Know It Alls have a Facebook group 

Dawn showed us this quilt which she saw on a visit to a friend's house telling us, "It is done in what was called broderie perse applique, where a larger design piece is cut from a fabric and then hand appliqued to make a new design on plain fabric." The owner was looking for an appropriate museum for this South Carolina quilt and readers were glad to give her ideas. 

The floral's ivory background matches the shade of the body of the quilt top
so well that the appliquer could cut rather loosely around the
floral images.

We also gave her some ideas about the quilt itself expanding on her knowledge that it was Broderie Perse and from South Carolina. I thought I'd summarize the information and expand further. Dawn noticed right away the quilt's quality and showed us large photos, which I was able to blow up to show details.

We have here a cut-out chintz applique quilt (a style we tend to call Broderie Perse or Persian Embroidery). Florals are arranged medallion style with a central image framed by eight repeated large florals in the corners and at the north/south axes. The large florals seem to be cut from the same chintz.

I didn't recognize the print so I went to Terry Terrell's and Deborah Kraak's remarkable website Flowers On Chintz and looked at their index to red or pink florals. The main flower seems to be a popular subject, a Double Anemone (Anemone coronaria). I didn't see the exact print.

Nor did I find the print from which this central ring of small scrolls was cut.
My first guess---a furniture panel---but Merikay Waldvogel has her own
extensive index to panels for chair covers, etc in chintz and she didn't recognize it either.

Charleston Museum Collection

We all certainly recognize the style as the English-printed floral chintzes that were imported in great quantities to the coastal United States 1820-1850. We also recognize the quilt's style as typical of Southern chintz quilts from about 1825 to 1860---medallion sets of florals framed with striped furniture chintzes.
Charleston Museum Collection
The Museum has quite a few similar quilts, these two with central
florals cut from furniture panels rather than from repeat chintzes of scattered florals.
They are displaying their chintz quilts till December this year:

The border is a single piece of furniture-scale fabric, a stripe
alternating a scroll background with a moiré ground.

The quilting is rather utilitarian, an all-over pattern of parallel diagonal lines framing
squares full of double shells that goes across the applique motifs.

The backing looks to be a coarse cotton or linen
and on it is a stamped name "H.? A. Smith," who may have been
the quilt's owner. The stamped name is typical of the mid-19th century.
(Great to have a name---too bad the name is Smith so any genealogical work
might find far too many Smiths in South Carolina.)

From Dawn's photos the quilt looks to be in good condition with no fabric loss or significant stains on the top. The back is stained, possibly from contact with the paper in which it has been stored. The family told her that the quilt had been restored at the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian does NOT do repair or restoration work for the public, but perhaps a conservator recommended by museum staff worked on the quilt.

As far as a date: Merikay and I spent quite a bit of time examining chintz panel quilts and did a blog for a year or so on the topic in 2018 & 2019. One of our conclusions based on date-inscribed examples was that the style lasted from about 1825 to 1855. 

We also came to the conclusion that these Southern chintz appliques were purchased by plantation families as finished quilts or finished unquilted bedspreads in Southern commercial centers.

The quilt in question like many others shows an economy of  handwork, requiring little stitching time. Placement and composition of the elegant chintzes in a good deal of white space is the signature style. The more we looked the more we saw a professional hand.

Dawn thought there were two other quilts in the family inheritance. What a treasure trove.
And we will remind you: Show Us Your Quilts. The Know-It-Alls love to discuss quilts---hence our name.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Southern Spin: Block #4 Farmer's Fancy


Southern Spin: Block #4 
Farmer's Fancy by Denniele Bohannon

The Virginia project found many examples of this complex design
and were often told that the name was Farmer's Fancy....

A vernacular name not published before their book.
Another name they heard: Farmer's Delight.

The sketch on the cover of Robertson's 1948 book
showed a little extra piecing in the center circle.

The Block:

Farmer's Fancy by Becky Brown

See more pattern history at these posts:



Becky Collis's first four blocks

Don't forget to check in at our SouthernSpinQuilt Facebook
group to see what the intrepid piecers are up to.

Sunday, June 26, 2022



West Virginia Project
Eleanor Lough (1844-1924)

Bryan Ruppert's Facebook page

Crib quilt from the New York project

D.A.R. Museum

Jeffrey Evans Auction

Stella Rubin's inventory

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Theorem Paintings & Applique


Quilt seen in the North Carolina project. We'd guess Baltimore

It's always hard for us to imagine where quiltmakers 170 years ago got their patterns.

Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's artist daughter 
showing a needlework pattern to her sister, mid 19th century.
We have no trouble going back to the 1970s and the 1950s---
20th-century patterns are not a mystery. Commercial networks provided
more patterns than you could make in a lifetime.

1829 instructions telling us to buy patterns at any "fancy-shop."

But before inexpensively-produced illustrations published in large editions we are hazy about patterns and tend to think each quiltmaker was the artist who drew the pattern as well as stitched the applique. And we are wrong.

See a post on earlier methods of sharing patterns here:

Block in a Baltimore quilt from Stella Rubin's inventory

Many quiltmakers who produced the complex applique we see in Baltimore album quilts in the 1840s &'50s were quite experienced with using patterns through a fashion for what was called theorem painting.

Theorem painting of a fruit bowl

Fruit was common imagery in a sort of "paint by numbers" trend where various stencils are built up into a composition. A theorem is a mathematical statement built on layers of facts; perhaps the
name theorem painting means art based on layers of stencils.

Block from a Baltimore quilt pictured in Elly Sienkiewicz's Paper Cuts & Plenty

1820s theorem painting from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
collection at Colonial Williamsburg

Theorem painting was taught by many, offering refinement to a lady's attributes. 

Taught in art classes such as those of William Haydon
in Philadelphia in 1835...

and by seamstresses and milliners such as Miss E. Wilson in Wilmington,
Delaware in 1829.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller collection, Colonial Williamsburg

Surviving theorems make one wonder if these anonymous painters
took classes from the same teacher or had the same paper patterns.

Collection American Museum of Folk Art
(I flipped one of these to make them go the same direction.)

1833: "Theorem painting has come into disrepute, on account of the bad success of many persons."

Theorem from Linda Rose Antiques

A paragraph from my Encyclopedia of Applique book:

Today's artists do theorem reproduction paintings---something to look for if you can't afford an 1830s artwork.