Thursday, April 30, 2009

Clues in the Calico

For years my first book on dating antique quilts, Clues in the Calico, has been out of print and fetching prices over $100 on the used book market, making me wish I had several hundred copies to sell. I have exactly two copies. But of course if I'd had several hundred copies to sell it wouldn't have been so hard to find and the price would have been less.

But now, you can have a copy for $19.95. C&T Publishing has created a digital version that you can download. It's exactly the same as the 1989 version, but it's a file you can print if you want to or save on your computer. I am buying one to save to a file because then I can do digital searches. If I want to know more about, say medallion quilts, I can search by the word "medallion" and find every mention.

Read more about it by clicking here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Serpentine Stripe

I just watched the BBC production Byron and found this trivia site for people like me who immediately forget the actress's name and the plot but NEVER forget a costume. I was sure I'd seen the dress that evil Augusta Leigh was wearing and---of course---it was Mrs. Bennet's!!! The brown serpentine stripe was equally fetching on seductive sisters or silly mothers. The photo features a reproduction serpentine stripe in brown that Terry Thompson and I did for Moda several years ago. The wiggly stripe is quite similar to the fabric in the dress.

Check out this site for costume connections---Who wore what.

Which begs the question…
Why doesn't the BBC go out and buy new reproduction fabric and make new costumes? The dresses in the period dramas seem to get around more than the Chico's jackets in my sewing group.

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Medallions

Here' is Pam Crooks' medallion top for her friends' challenge using the Uwa reproduction fabric, the same challenge that inspired Cindy Vermillion Hamilton's quilt. I think the fabric in question is Pam's border here.

Yesterday's post elicited several questions and comments, among them:

Do you have [medallions] in your collection? Can you give us a little history about medallions?

I have two antique medallion quilts but they are not the greatest. I do have a lot of photos of reproduction medallions. I've been collecting snapshots to post in the gallery of my e-Club for C&T, which this year deals with early quilts especially medallions. Check it out at

As far as a history of medallions. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 2 in that club:
"Early quilts often have a central design focus, a setting style Americans tend to call medallion quilt and the British call framed quilt or frame quilt. The terms seem to date only as early as the twentieth-century, possibly established in 1929 by quilt historian Ruth Finley who described a quilt with a tree-of-life center as a "framed medallion" in her book Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them.

Although women working after 1840 were likely to use a block format, earlier quiltmakers preferred the medallion set. On my website I maintain a list of eighteenth-century quilts with the date actually on them. (See it by clicking here: Of the 14 quilts in which I could identify a set or style 11 were constructed with a central focus (about 80%). Of quilts date-inscribed in the 1840s I found the opposite; 80% were block-style, a dramatic style shift in the century's first decades."

....And as Homer Simpson would say "Doh!" I didn't realize that if you clicked on the pictures here they get larger! So click on Pam's quilt. Wish I had a better photo.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Paducah Prize Winner

To England and Back, Cindy Vermillion Hamilton, Pagosa Springs, CO

Penny Tucker sent me an email to announce that Cindy Vermillion Hamilton won first prize at the American Quilters Society show in Paducah this week under the category of Handmade Quilts with a medallion quilt she made for a fabric challenge Penny organized last year. The quilts were to be medallions and use a certain amount of a Uwa reproduction print.

Here's a snapshot of Cindy's top being shown at AQSG last October. Her quilt is completely handmade down to the binding. To see a better shot of it quilted go to
and scroll down about halfway to the category "Handmade Quilts: Hand". Click on "1st". You can click on all the winners on that page.

Congratulations to Cindy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Tile Quilt

This tile quilt by Ann Burgess features her own marbleized fabrics.
A question from yesterday's post:
Is the term "tile quilt" a historical reference or one being used to categorize a style?
It's both a style and a technique, I guess, and as far as the historical reference---quilt historians have been calling them tile quilts for a few decades. We will have to wait for the book Bobbi Finley and Carol Jones are working on to know more about the history. One old term was "Stonewall Quilt". The technique is applique but what makes it different from most applique is that the background shows through only in small lines between the appliqued patches.

Monday, April 20, 2009

More Tile Quilts

This tile quilt by Carol Jones is another that will be featured at the Kaw Valley Quilters Guild show. Tile quilts resemble the stained glass technique in which a piece of bias is appliqued between patches, but the technique here is different. The white lines are actually the background showing through. The bird shape is appliqued about 1/4" of an inch away from the blue Japanese fabric revealing the background.

See a traditional tile quilt made by Hattie Burdick about 1876. It's in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and you can see it by clicking here:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Quilt Show

The garage sale is over. I have somewhat fewer items and more money to shop for more.

Next on the to-do-list is the Kaw Valley Quilters' Guild annual show, which will be at the fairgrounds in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday and Sunday, April 25th and 26th. You can find more information about the show here:

We often feature areas of quilts with a theme. One of this year's themes will be Tile Quilts, an old-fashioned technique related to the crazy quilt. Carol Jones and Bobbi Finley are working on a book about using the traditional technique to create contemporary quilts. Wendy Turnbull's A Bird for All Seasons is one of the featured quilts. The book will be out in 2010.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sixties Fabric

I'm surprised at how much fabric I have like this in plastic tubs labeled "Recent Past." I imagine I have a stack taller than I. I am going to save one small scrap, a repeat of each, and sell the rest at the garage sale---if things work out. These prints have a lot in common, sort of a sketchy, watercolor look that must have been popular in the 1960s. I love the paisley translated into sketchy, artistic lines with blobs of color.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Between the Mattress & the Springs

Here's a quilt that's going in the garage sale. Don't all email at once and tell me you want it.

It was once a terrific quilt. I'd guess it's from about 1880-1910---a late applique. The date is based on circumstantial evidence, rather weak clues:
1) Red & white quilts tend to be from about 1880-1910
2) It's small---single bed size and smaller beds were popular about 1880-1920.
3) The triple sashing was popular in the 1870-1910 era.

It's unusual in that it's white applique on a red background. Usually it's the other way around because the Turkey red fabric cost more than the white. Red on white fleur-de-lis patterns were popular in the mid 19th-century. This one is late.

Which is why I took it when someone offered it. I wanted to put it in the last book on twentieth century quilts but there was no room---and let's face it. It doesn't photograph that well.

Why is this quilt such a MESS? Turkey red has a tendency to rot from abrasion but this is an extreme example. When I teach classes students sometimes tell me that people used to keep an unwanted quilt between the mattress and the springs. In old beds the exposed metal springs would rust and stain the mattress. And others told me, the bed is quieter with a quilt between the mattress and the springs.

I did a search in Google Books and found a 1918 Red Cross book advising that "a thick comforter or even many layers of newspaper should be placed between the mattress and the springs" if an invalid's mattress was too thin to provide comfort or warmth.

So I am guessing that someone's comfort, mattress or privacy was more valuable to her than this quilt was. Too bad, because it should have been a keeper. But I am not keeping it. The photos will do.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Document & Reproduction: "Pemberley"

The document print is the original print on which a reproduction is based. I based the "Pemberley" reproduction print in my Hartfield collection for Moda on a well-washed old curtain I bought in an antique store.

It's hard to know the age of the original (at top in the photo). I don't know if the greens in the leaves had faded or they were never there. It may be from the late -19th century, but if it is it looks like a copy of a late-18th-century print. With its pinks and purples, so popular in English quilts at the time, I thought it looked very much like a print typical of Jane Austen's youth.
I added some pin dots to the background, adding what was called a fancy ground, although not too fancy. I was copying a style popular in late-18th-century wood-block prints. I wanted the floral bouquets to look as if they were printed by woodblock with metal pins or wires inserted in the wood to give some texture to the ground. That background pin dot was called picotage. Today we print with screens rather than woodblocks but the reproduction has the feel of an old wood-block print.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Morris Workshop

Strike-offs in the colorway "Wardle's Sky-Blue"

My next collection of reproduction fabric for Moda, called The Morris Workshop, is based on designs by English artist William Morris and his colleagues. The prints were designed by Morris himself with two from his major design partner John Henry Dearle. Dearle began as an assistant when he was a boy and took over the firm's art direction after Morris's death in 1896.

Sales reps are showing the collection to quilt shop owners now and the yardage should be in stores in July. Click on this link to Moda to see the individual pieces.

The fabric shown is what those in the fabric trade call strike-offs, the proofs. These are snippets of the prints in various colorways (color variations). The prints in the pictures are those I picked out of a larger group of possibilities. I should remember to photograph the ones I didn't pick---it's interesting to see how some things just don't work. But I think these work really well and reflect the Morris aesthetic.

I named the colorway, a pale indigo shade, after Thomas Wardle (1831-1909), the dyer who collaborated with Morris for many years. You can digitally leaf through some Wardle pattern books in the collection of the Whitworth Art Gallery of the University of Manchester by clicking here. If you love Morris and Morris-style fabrics this is a real treat.