Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Civil War Homefront Precuts, Stripes and Chaos Theory

This pre-Civil-War top was the inspiration for colors and prints in my Civil War Homefront collection for Moda. It had been a comforter cover; was worn into holes; taken apart and then a friend bought it to use some intact patches for repairs. It looks rather pastel in this summer shot in my yard because the light is shining through it. The photo of the good parts below shows the color and the prints better.

It's rather chaotic, a look I love about early quilts where the patchwork pattern and the fabric patterns compete for your eye. I always love a good fight.

You can see it's a four patch set in strips with setting triangles of the large stripes that were so popular for women's dresses in the 1840s and '50s. The strips are offset so the large triangles form a zigzag, which you can hardly notice because the random stripes are screaming, "Look at me!"

I decided to interpret this top when my Civil War Homefront fabric arrived. I took a precut package of 2-1/2" Jellyrolls and gave my friends in my sewing group 2 or 3 strips each and told them, since it was my birthday and I got to choose a project, that I would like them to make as many nine-patches as they could out of the strips and not to worry about contrast.

Then I set the nine-patches with stripes in a fashion similar to the original top.

I thought about setting the strips right next to each other, but decided that on the chaos-to-calm scale I was of a less chaotic frame of mind than the original crazy quilter. I didn't even try to offset them to create a zigzag. That might have hurt.

This was not working. Then I recalled this antique quilt, which I found on an online auction. It had been in the back of my mind and I am glad I had the picture.

Here's a cobbled together shot of the top, which is going to the quilter this week. Five pieced strips, six unpieced paisleys. Blue triangles at the top and bottom.

On the sliding scale of chaos-to-calm it fits me fine. Those randomly cut stripes may be too chaotic for you. You could fussy cut them. I also had trouble sewing them all in the same direction, but that's part of the chaos that appeals to me.

I'm posting a free pattern on my webpage. Click here to see it:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Document & Reproduction: Printed Plaid

Carte-de-visite photo of a young woman from
 Willimantic, Connecticut, in the 1860s

Every Civil War reproduction collection needs at least one printed plaid. Plaids can be woven, that is the warps and wefts are varicolored and produce square checks and plaids. Plaids can also be printed onto plain cotton, a style quite popular in the mid 19th century. Below is one I called Sorghum Taffy from my Moda collection Civil War Homefront.

Left: the document print; right: the reproduction from
Civil War Homefront, both in madder-style shades

Tintype of sisters in matching dresses of probable printed plaid.
The narrow silhouette indicates fashion of about 1870.

Left: madder-style printed plaid from about 1840-1860; right: about 1870-1890

Left: a mid-century printed plaid; right: later in the 19th century.
Printed plaids, although more expensive to produce, offer an advantage over woven plaids. They can be printed on the diagonal, a style impossible with varicolored warps and wefts.

Woven plaid set on the bias in a top from 1840-1860
Woven plaids are hard to date. This 150-year-old plaid could have been bought at a fabric store last week.

Mid-19th-century printed  plaid (with a double pink)
Sometimes the only way to tell a printed plaid from a woven plaid is by examining the frayed edge of a swatch to see if the warps and wefts are dyed in the yarn or printed later. In this case it's hard to tell because the printed dye colored the edge yarns so well. While examining it with a magnifying glass I realized I could turn it over. A woven plaid would be identical on both sides. This is not. As Homer Simpson would say: "Doh!" Of course, examining the reverse is not possible when identifying fabric in a quilt.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rose Kretsinger Pattern

Rose Kretsinger was one of the 20th century's great quilt designers. Most of her work is in the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. I have volunteered there for years to help with the quilts. In 2008 we put a few of her quilts in an exhibit called Flora Botanica. One was her "Democrat Rose", also called the "Antique Rose", dated 1926.

I was surprised to see a pattern for Rose's rose in the January/February issue of McCall's Quilting. Rose Kretsinger's quilt is on the left, the model in McCall's on the right. Rose adapted a traditional pattern that is usually rather free and sprawling.

Traditional Democrat Rose Block

She modified it to make it formally symmetrical. Careful repetition of the flowers was one key, but the most important innovation was a sashing with two flowers appliqued in each strip, creating a circular wreath design that catches the eye.

You really can't make Rose's design in a block. You have to combine the block and the sashing. The magazine pattern shows you just how to do it.

McCall's Quilting editor and the author didn't realize the pattern was by Rose Kretsinger. They are going to give her a credit in the next issue. But now you know it's a Kretsinger design. You'd better buy the magazine as Kretsinger quilts are not often patterned. Click here for more information about it:

And click here for more information about the catalog picturing Rose's quilt, Flora Botanica: Quilts from the Spencer Museum of Art.

McCall's patterning a Rose Kretsinger quilt and not giving her credit is just karma. In the 1920s Rose redrew a McCall's Magazine pattern and didn't give them any credit. Below on the left: a McCall's pattern for an appliqued and embroidered design called "Trellis". On the right: a quilt in the collection of the Spencer Museum of Art by Ifie Arnold called "Morning Glory". Ifie was a friend of Rose's and it is likely that Rose designed this quilt for her. Ifie made a pair of them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chrome Orange

This week the topic of my subscription email newsletter The Quilt Detective is chrome orange and chrome yellow. I have a disk, courtesy of Kathy Sullivan, that features quilts with chrome orange, what we today call cheddar. Kathy gave a Roundtable Session at the American Quilt Study Group meeting in October about the topic and she generously gave each participant a disk with the quilts in question. She gave me permission to use them.

Kathy collects cheddar quilts and quilts made in North Carolina, and many of these quilts fit into both categories.

This one is calling her name.

Another thing she collects is quilts and information about quilts made in this unusual pattern found in North Carolina. This one's appliqued to chrome yellow.

Thanks to Kathy for the entertainment.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Document and Reproduction Prints: Foulards

Every Civil War reproduction collection needs a foulard or two. Above are two from my newest Moda line Civil War Homefront.

In my book America's Printed Fabrics 1770-1890 I discussed foulards:

One distinctive print style is a small isolated figure set in diagonal repeat. Figures fall in a half-drop repeat with rows aligned in staggered fashion, giving the over-all effect of a diamond grid. The figure may be a flower, leaf, paisley cone, or motif so abstract it is identified only as a mignonette (little fancy). The print style with its diagonal, neat design is also known as an Indienne, a copy of an Indian-style print. And, because these prints were so fashionable for scarves, the French word for scarf, foulard, came to mean any half-drop print of isolated small figures. In the years between 1840 and 1865, Americans craved foulards to the point that they became a standard for American clothing and quilts.

Portraits from the 1860s featuring dresses with foulard style prints

Quilt block from about 1850-1860 with a light foulard-style dot and a dark foulard-style geometric
Below are two foulard style reproductions from the Civil War Homefront collection with the original document prints.

You'll note we changed the colors a bit, toning down some of the reds. You'll also see that the originals are sharper, one advantage to the old-fashioned copper roller. Mills use screen printing today, which creates a softer edge to the figures.

For more about America's Printed Fabrics 1770-1890 check the publisher's website by clicking here and scrolling down to the bottom:

It's been translated into French too.

Below: Gretchen in Atlanta has posted a photo of a "Hidden Stars" quilt top made from a Layer Cake precut package of Civil War Homefront on her blog Stella Bella Quilts. The pattern is from Pam & Nicky Lintott's Layer Cake, Jelly Roll and Charm Quilts. She added yellow yardage for the stars to the Layer Cake's 10-inch squares. You can see how the foulard prints add a grid of pattern. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Perfect Thirties Quilt

Denniele Bohannon sends photos of the old top being quilted by the Harrisonville (MO) United Methodist Quilters. It's a postage stamp quilt with all the squares about an inch in those sweet pastels so popular in the early 1930s. According to my Encyclopedia of Pieced Patterns, variations have been published under several names, among them Rainbow Round the World and Aunt Jen's Stamp Quilt.

I've seen kits for this quilt design with each piece pre-cut and sorted into a box like a Whitman's candy sampler box, but I imagine most of these postage stamp quilts were pieced from the neighborhood scrapbag.

Clockwise from the top: Rita Benson in the blue shirt, Lee Cunningham, Alice Law, Mildred Randall, (founding member of the quilters who is 94). Not pictured Ellen Wray and Denniele who took the photo.

Denniele writes:

We meet every Monday and quilt. Usually we break for lunch and return to quilting. The money raised is given to many causes. Most recently, we were a Silver sponsor of our local Relay for Life, donated to our two local food pantries, a backpack program for school aged children in need and the Women's Life Choice Center in Harrisonville. We make an annual donation to the Festival of Sharing as well. There is usually a waiting list and it takes about a year to reach the top!

Quilts we have quilted for others have won a blue ribbon at the Missouri State Fair and at the Osceola Quilt show.