Wednesday, June 30, 2010

And She Made Quilts

Pine Tree, about 1940,
 by Myrtis Henderson Eubanks, Aztec, New Mexico

Connie J. Nordstom has published a new book documenting the quilts in one county in Northern New Mexico. And She Made Quilts: The Women of San Juan County, New Mexico
gathers the information from quilt documentation days and interviews held in 2007 and 2008.

About 1940

In the best tradition of using material culture (surviving objects) to help us understand our history, Connie uses the quilts to tell the story of the people, the economics, the geography and the cultures of the area. We learn about the quilts but we also learn about living in a rural community through hard times and good. We hear about a woman who kept a bullsnake in the kitchen as the solution to her mouse problem, immigrants who came to Farmington by driving their wagon along the frozen river and many women whose grandchildren recall them as "Hard workers."

"...And she made quilts."

Saturday July 3rd Connie will be signing books at Farmington's  E3 Children’s Museum & Science Center from 11 to 1 during the Ice Cream Social.  Sounds like a perfect day to visit Farmington.

Autograph quilt, 1933
by members of the Scattergood Club
Farmington, New Mexico
Women's social groups such as the Country Helpful Club
and the Scattergood Club were an important part of rural life in mid-20th century America.

Like the quilts, Connie's book is a labor of love. The author's admiration for her neighbors plus her affection for local history and the spectacular landscape shine through. She's published the book herself. You can order a copy by emailing her:
or ask your quilt shop or bookstore owner to email her.

...And She Made Quilts: The Women of San Juan County, New Mexico, Their Stories and Quilts 1890-1950 is published by Casaconseula Publications, Farmington, NM. The ISBN number is 978-0615-30377-2. The 162 page book retails for $29.90

Monday, June 28, 2010

Clues in an Old Pattern

Continuing comments on the old star quilt shown in my last post:

This early quilt, which may date from 1820-1860, features interesting patchwork. The pattern is all in the sashing. The blocks are plain white, the perfect spot to show off some fancy quilted wreaths.

It's in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns (#1059) but I didn't find this pattern in any publication until 1973 when Lenice Ingram Bacon showed an antique quilt she'd purchased in Tennessee. She called it Darting Minnows. In her book American Patchwork Quilts she pictured a detail of the same design in plain red and plain white set on the diagonal.

I once owned a similar quilt in a single indigo print and plain white (a hard combination to date.) I'd guess it was first half of the 19th century. Mine had a square inside the cornerstone square. Robert Bishop in one of his books on antique quilts showed another indigo and white version set on the diagonal and called it Eight-Pointed Star---a good generic name. Bishop's version was "late 19th century."

The variations of these "Sash and Block" designs with an unpieced block were a folk pattern handed around from quilter to quilter. Nineteenth-century periodicals and pattern designers didn't publish or name them probably because the construction would be hard to show in the little black and white square diagrams the magazines used to communicate about patterns.

In the turn-of-the-last century magazines and catalogs I did find a similar pattern with shorter star points. About 1900 the Ladies' Art Company catalog sold a pattern for the quilt below named Vestibule. In 1914 the Household Journal published it as Morning Star.

Morning Star by Bobbi Finley,
a reproduction of a top from about 1900-1920

Here's a detail of the original top that Bobbi copied faithfully. I'd guess the maker saw it in the Household Journal as she colored it just as it was shown.

I love this pattern and have made it up in several of my Moda fabric collections. Here's a mock-up of the quilt in the newest line Arnold's Attic, which reproduces fabrics from about 1900, the decades of the top above. Arnold's Attic is scheduled for August delivery. The unpieced squares are cut 4-1/2" so it's a great design for a Charm pack plus.

See a  pattern for a similar 32" square wall hanging on my webpage.
Click here and scroll down to the lower right where there are Free Patterns. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Clues in an Old Quilt

Becky writes from Virginia:  
Yesterday a friend blew me away with an OLD quilt she recently got from her sister. There is NO history - only that her sister's Mother-in-law was an antique dealer (many years ago). Seeing and touching quilts like these always makes me hold my breath while I try to absorb as much of it as I can. And I ALWAYS wish the maker had signed and dated her work. I got my camera for some really quick pictures.

Becky's got a good eye. Several clues made her think this quilt was really old. (In the quilt business I guess we say anything older than 1840 is REALLY OLD.) One clue to a pre-1860 quilt is the fringed edge. In my book Clues in the Calico I said this on page 121:
Fringe is another early edge treatment and one that correlates well with a specific period of time. Of 20 fringed quilts in the database [of 1000 date-inscribed quilts] 19 were dated 1860 or earlier, indicating that fringe (especially a white fringe----knitted, knotted, woven or crocheted) is a strong clue to a pre-Civil War quilt.

The fabric doesn't give us much information. Plain white cotton offers no clues. The blue print with the white floral sprig could be an indigo print, a dye used over such a long time period that it offers no clues. But the blue and buff stripe is helpful. It may be colored with the Prussian blue dye process developed about 1815. Buff and blue prints were quite popular in the 1840s and 1850s in the U.S. but they were available earlier.

Read more about Prussian blue in the sample copy of my digital newsletter The Quilt Detective by clicking here:

When we are dating old quilts we use comparative dating, that is we compare the fabric in question to similar fabrics we have seen before. The blue strip is so unusual I have very few similar fabrics in my memory bank.

The quilting pattern doesn't offer too many clues. Double lines in a grid as in the blue floral are indicative of the 19th century, but we knew that any way. The closeness of the parallel lines in the striped border is a weak clue to the 19th century too. 20th-century quilters tended to use wider spaces between their lines.

Using the Prussian blue/buff stripe, the heavy quilting and the fringe as our best evidence, I would guess 1820 as an early date and 1860 as the latest date.

It may be older and date to about 1800-1860.  I wish I had more examples of that blue and buff print for comparison.

More about clues in the pattern in the next post.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Unknown Pattern

Years ago a friend bought this quilt, a pattern I couldn't find published anywhere. It's related to a Pickle Dish with similar arcs pieced of triangles (or almost triangles). But it has a completely different geometric structure, like a clamshell or fan quilting design.

Pickle Dish

See more about Pickle Dish on my June 14th post.

And click here at the Quilt Index to see a great Pickle Dish in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of History.

The quilt in the unknown pattern looks to be about 1880-1920 by the way the greens are fading from the light. Those fugitive green dyes tend to be after 1880. In the lower right hand corner some one has patched an area with a piece of 1930's Nile green. The chrome orange (what we call cheddar) is also fading and splotched, color loss often caused by washing.

The pattern doesn't appear in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. For years I figured the quilt was a one-of-a-kind design but recently I found two more in online auctions.

This one looks to have been chrome orange and fugitive green too, although arranged in the opposite fashion. The dyes are really faded here, probably a combination of hard washing and too much sunshine.

Again this one looks to be 1880-1920 by the dyes.

Here's a later version---by the mixture of bright colors with white I'd guess after 1930.

And I noticed one in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. Click here to see it:
They call it Sunrise.

So what's the deal on this clamshell with triangles?

  • Is it a pattern published in a source obscure enough we pattern collectors haven't yet come across it?

  • Or is it a regional  pattern passed from hand to hand and never published?

I'd bet it's Southern. Quilt historians working with regional Southern patterns like Rocky Mountain, Whig's Defeat and Pine Burr have noted the prevalence of arcs and strips pieced of spiky triangles and diamonds in post-Civil-War Southern quilts.

Whig's Defeat, about 1880-1920.

There have to be more clamshell quilts out there.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I've been spending a lot of time looking at pineapple quilts lately.

They appeared after log cabin quilts in the 1870s and they are a form of log cabin, sometimes with red centers, like some log cabins have.

They were usually pieced over a fabric foundation.

Cotton or silk or wool---they often had spectacular graphics

Some are made of miniscule strips.

The design continued into the 20th century. Here are some two-color examples.
Other published names include Windmill Blades and Maltese Cross.

Well, almost two color.

I printed out some 4" patterns from my BlockBase computer program (any pattern, any size, you know!)

I'm experimenting with shading and color.

Pineapple Slushy before the border
4" Blocks

Gala Madrid before the border
6" Blocks

I cannot imagine how they did this before someone invented paper piecing with the pattern actually printed on the paper.

Electric Quilt software is now available in a new version EQ7, and BlockBase works with all of the EQ incarnations.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Whitework, Stuffed Work and Corded Quilting

Hearts & Flowers
Terri Doyle, Gilbert, Arizona

Machine quilter Terri Doyle won first place in the Whole Cloth Traditional category at the May Machine Quilters' Showcase in Kansas City for this whitework, wholecloth quilt. It's machine quilted, adapted from hand quilting patterns drawn by Elise Campbell.

The pictures are a little gray but the masterful quilting shows up.

Whitework is a traditional name for a style of needlework that sometimes features what we call trapunto quilting. Trapunto seems to be a 20th-century name for what historians call stuffed work or corded quilting. I don't think Terri adds stuffing to the motifs. She contrasts dense filler quilting with the unquilted design areas to create the pattern.

Here's a small whitework piece from the early 19th century that's stuffed and corded but not quilted.

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska is planning an exhibit and a symposium on the topic of whitework. The show Marseille: White Corded Quilting will be up from November 13 through May 8, 2011. The symposium Quilted and Corded Whitework: A Closer Look will be on April 1, 2011.

Speakers will include experts Linda Baumgarten, curator of textiles at Colonial Williamsburg and Kathryn Berenson, author of the Quilts of Provence and a new book on French whitework. 
Click here for more information:
Click here to see one of the French whitework quilts from IQSC's Berenson collection.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Strawberry Reproduction

Strawberry Garden,
 Designed by Terry Thompson, appliqued by Pam Mayfield,
 Quilted by Lori Kukuk, Lawrence, Kansas, 2010

Terry Clothier Thompson has a new applique reproduction pattern out.

Strawberry Garden is a 4-block version of an antique quilt from about 1840-1880  in her collection.

Over the years we've noticed several of these 19th-century applique extravaganzas. I looked in my Encyclopedia of Applique under Fruit and found two versions.

The Indiana State Museum owns one that is a simpler block set in a 9 blocks with no border.

Here are three more 19th-century variations

This one was offered by the Pook and Pook Auction house on line.
A somewhat similar fruit was discovered by the Oral Traditions Project in Pennsylvania,  pictured in Jeannette Lasansky's Pieced by Mother on pages 56 and 57.

And this one from Florence Peto's collection
was offered by the William Bunch Auction house.

Above is one pictured in Hall and Kretsinger's Romance of the Patchwork Quilt.

Above and below are two late 19th-century versions
 that could be classified as pineapples, except they are pink.

Find out more about Terry's pattern by clicking here:

And see a reproduction strawberry made in 1983 by Hortense Beck of Topeka, Kansas, in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum by clicking here:

See another interpretation made in 1987 by Laverne Matthews of Texas by clicking here:

And finally a giant strawberry at the Quilt Index (it could be a pomegranate)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Photography Secrets Revealed

If you like old photos and old quilts
you may have several of these vintage photos:
The baby on the quilt.

Here's a shot of Eula on a crazy quilt about 1900.

My sister found a proofsheet the other day
at a garage sale with the photo below.

At first we thought the mother was teasing the baby but then we realized it's how you get both an interesting background and a calm baby.

The proof sheet only had the side view. No front view.

But it probably looked somewhat like this.

William Robert,
 age 11 months, 18 pounds
New Mexico
about 1910

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pickle Dish

Pickle Dish from Margaret Cavigga's collection, about 1860

The Pickle Dish pattern has been in the air around here lately.

It's a lot like a Double Wedding Ring, based on arcs and a squeezed square, but the arcs are full of points.
The name Pickle Dish seems to have first been published in the Kansas City Star in 1931
(Note: they liked the name so much their quilt web page is named

A wedding ring has four-sided patches in the arcs rather than triangular pieces.
Double Wedding Rings don't appear till about 1920.

The idea of an arc and an ogee (a squeezed square) is an old pattern structure based on overlapping circles.
The Rob Peter to Pay Paul or Compass top above is from Donna Stickovich's collection.

In 1932 the Grandmother Clark pattern company called the version with pointy shapes in the arcs Indian Wedding Ring, according to my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

The Pickle Dish pattern is older than the Double Wedding Ring, dating back to the last half of the 19th century. It was quite popular in the Southern U.S. about 1880-1910. I wonder what the Southern quilters called it before the name Pickle Dish was in print.

Karen Alexander found a print in an old quilt that looks just like a Pickle Dish. By the colors---Turkey red background with blue and brown figures---I'd guess the fabric could be pre-Civil War, as could the mossy stripe next to it.

See more about this quilt at Karen's blog by clicking here:

Here are some other Pickle Dish variations from online auctions:

This one has an X in the squeezed square.

The green is fading the way synthetic green dyes did after 1880 or so.

Here's a quirky version with two kinds of green dyes one fading, one fast, again probably 1880-1920.

Notice the arcs can have diamonds or triangles.

See some more examples by going to the Quilt Index. Click here:
At the top left in the search box type the word pickle.
Several quilts will come up, mostly from the South.