Friday, July 30, 2010

Seneca Falls Star

Seneca Falls Star
by the Sew Whatevers
(Roseanne Smith, Georgann Eglinski, Barbara Brackman,
 Sarah Fayman, Carol Jones, Nicki Listerman, Janet Perkins, 
Wendy Turnbull, and Jerrye VanLeer)
Lawrence, Kansas, 2009
87" x 87"

The Sew Whatevers  reproduced a quilt from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum to raise funds for the Kaw Valley Quilters Guild.

Roseanne made the center star from fabrics Barbara and Terry Thompson designed years ago for Moda. The collection was called Seneca Falls. The fabrics echoed mid-19th century prints and the names honored leaders in the era's women's suffrage movement.
Georgann hand-appliqued the Oakleaf and Reel designs for the edge of the star. The group pieced the diamond border and Lori Kukuk machine-quilted it.
Our inspiration was a terrific mid-19th century quilt in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. Click on the link below to see the original (#1997.007.0660). It's possibly from Pennsylvania, in the James Collection, and done about 1840-1860 in indigo prints with golden yellow figures.

Our reproduction quilt will go to its new owner on September 20th. That might be YOU. Email Barb L at for information about tickets---$5 for six.
Click here for more information:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Anna Williams and Inspiration

Quilt by Anna Williams

Occasionally an artist comes across a direction-changing inspiration for her work. Anna Williams has given that gift to many contemporary quilters. She's from Louisiana, born in 1927. Her quilts are hand-pieced of small shards, worked into powerful compositions.

The American Quilters Society showed her work in 1995 and published a catalog of the exhibit, Anna Williams: Her Quilts and their Influences by Katherine Watts with Elizabeth Walker. That catalog is now out of print, but several people are encouraging the American Quilters Society to reprint it.

Read more about Anna Williams by checking this site:
Louisiana State University also gave her a show:

Among the artists who've been influenced: (Some are pictured---some require clicking)

Karen Griska 

Dorothy LeBoeuf

Nancy Crow

Deb Rowden
See her blog post about Anna

The Lazy Gal

Nifty Quilts
See her blog

Cathy Tomm

Barbara Brackman
I'm still quilting on it

Another by Deb Rowden

Kathy at Material Obsession sent a picture and a description:
This quilt, called Madness, was inspired by one that Anna Williams did and I admired. The key to Anna's were diagonal lines crossing over the vertical and horizontal pieces... This quilt came together rather quickly from my scraps over the last six years and is one of my favorites.

And a small one Deb Rowden, Terry Thompson and I did together

See this photo set:

Eileen Lovett

Anybody else?
Send pictures or links.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New England Road Trip

Feathered Star from the collection of the New England Quilt Museum

A parade entry from the Library of Congress collection

Pack the truck and fire up the GPS. Summer's a great time to go to New England and look at antique quilts.

You might want to plan your trip around some weekend events with shows of antique quilts. Maine Quilts 2010 will have a special exhibit I've Got the 19th Century Blues,  featuring antiques from the collection of Judy Roche, at their 3-day show at the Augusta Civic Center from  July 30th-August 1st. Click here:

Sunburst with eagle border from the collection of the New England Quilt Museum

The Lowell (Massachusetts) Quilt Festival will be August 12th -14th. The theme is Images: The Best of Today's Traditional and Contemporary Quilts. There will be an exhibit of 12  blue and white antiques from the Collection of the New England Quilt Museum, which is in Lowell. See the blue and white quilts above.

If you miss those weekend events there is still a lot to see. In Lowell, The New England Quilt Museum's late summer exhibit is Contemporary Broderie Perse: An Elegant Revival (see my post of July 18th). Lowell is the textile history center of the U.S. with several museums. The American Textile History Museum's exhibit is Textile Revolution: An Exploration through Space.

Appliqué Geometric Quilt by Nancy Simes Nutter Hoit Kaime,
Barnstead, New Hampshire about 1860. New Hampshire Historical Society.
Gift of Miriam and Deborah Page, in memory of Barbara Page Hutchins.

The New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord is hosting a year-long show. Pieced Together: New Hampshire Quilts and Their Stories features "Fifty quilts, patterns, and related quilt-making objects made during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries"  through January 10, 2011. Click here for information:

Crazy Quilt from the Shelburne exhibit

This season's antique quilt exhibit at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont, is Embellishments: The Art of the Crazy Quilt, through October 24. The show features 19 examples of Victorian-era crazy quilts from the collection, including the piece shown above. They are also hosting a contemporary show: Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece, an exhibit of 52 quilts, many made by caregivers or family members of victims. Click here for more information:

And see blogger Ivy Long's photos of some of the crazy quilts by clicking here:

And view a set of photos showing conservators at work on a crazy quilt by clicking here:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More on Broderie Perse

Quilters are often surprised when they see Broderie Perse applique quilts up close. You can see that the blue-gray leaves are not cut close to the outline, but cut rather loosely into the white background.
Once you see that the cutting isn't quite as close as it looks in a photograph, you realize that the technique is not all that difficult.

Of course, SOME people like M.L.D, above, cut her florals and stems very closely in 1853. This makes it harder to cut, manage and sew.

The peacock's feet and perch are cut
freely from the white background.

The secret to making Broderie Perse relatively simple is to match the background color of both the chintz floral and the background fabric carefully.

That's easy when both backgrounds are white.

But it's not always easy to find matching backgrounds. See the blobby shape on the left which was a tan ground chintz. It just didn't work. If she was going to use a darker background she should have cut carefully around each rose as the quilter below did.

It looks like the backgrounds for her florals were brown so she had to snip close to the flower and do a lot more work.

Here's another antique quilt with leaves and flowers apparently cut from a dark background. The seamstress used a blanket or button-hole stitch to secure the applique, a relatively common technique.

The Sarah Morrell album quilt, which alternates pieced blocks and Broderie Perse blocks
Di Ford has done patterns for a reproduction from this mid-1840 quilt. Two bloggers from the Netherlands are posting their progress. Click on their blogs to see more of the process:

And see this Secret Sewing Sisterhood blog:

Traditional Broderie Perse is harder today because large-scale florals with white backgrounds are rare.
The lack of white background chintzes may be why the technique fell out of favor after the Civil War, when chintzes gained a "chintzy" reputation. But it is still possible to match backgrounds. Just forget white.

"Ohio Autumn" from my Moda collection Arnold's Attic

When planning to do Broderie Perse, pick out the large-scale floral, then find a color match for the background. Arnold's Attic has close color matches in small-scale prints for the shades in the large leaf print.

Occasionally designers do you a huge favor and give you a large-scale floral with a fancy background pattern PLUS yardage of the same fancy background pattern, as Kaye England did several years ago. Judy Severson made great use of Kaye's two prints---chintz print and matching background in this Broderie Perse quilt below.

See more about Judy's broderie perse quilts at a post I did earlier this year. Click here:

One of the best ways to do contemporary Broderie Perse is to focus on black. Black-ground chintzes are easy to find today (although they were NEVER a traditional print style because blacks for cotton were not practical until about 1890.)

Roseanne Smith is making a Broderie Perse on black quilt. Here's a block with flowers cut out and arranged on a new background. She's ready to needleturn applique it.

Here's her leftovers. You can see she could cut general shapes because her blacks match so closely.

Here's one of her finished blocks.

This little quilt by Sujata Shah makes the most of matching blacks. That's just a strip of black-ground floral stitched above the vase. See Sujata's blog by clicking here:

Logs and Leaves by Bobbi Finley
Bobby appliqued leaves cut from a dark ground print to her dark log cabin blocks.

If you've been doing Broderie Perse I'd love to see photos---in progress or finished.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Document & Reproduction: Arnold's Attic

Brown and bronze combinations,
 reproductions from Arnold's Attic from Moda.
The prints reproduce style from the 1880-1910 period.

Choosing colors for a reproduction fabric collection involves copying the shades that old dyes created.
Arnold's Attic echoes fabrics that Arnold inherited from his Aunt Alice, who collected prints over 100 years ago.

Browns combined with blues, pinks and khaki shades.
Color inspiration for Arnold's Attic.

The dyes that created these brown prints were synthetic, created in test tubes, rather than the older natural dyes like madder and quercitron that also dyed cotton shades of brown.

A few prints from 1880-1910 from my collection

It's not the individual colors that were so innovative in the 1880's but the color combinations.

The new dyes allowed the designers to easily put khaki greens, salmon pinks and brick reds side-by-side  like the document print above.

Aunt Alice seems to have loved the new shades. Many prints in the bronzey greens and browns have survived in the boxes in Arnold's attic. One of the most innovative combinations was steel blue with earth-tone greens and reds.

I've tried to recreate that color combination in the Arnold's Attic collection. I called the blue Alice blue after Arnold's aunt. (The original Alice blue was named for President Theodore Roosevelt's daughter.)

Ohio Autumn print from Arnold's Attic in Alice blue.

Carol Gilham Jones made a small star quilt featuring the blues and oranges. She added a solid blue to coordinate with the Alice blue prints in the collection.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Broderie Perse

Tree of Life by Barbara W. Barber, Westerly, Rhode Island
There are two Barbara Barbers in the quilt world.
The American BB specializes in Broderie Perse. 
She'll be giving a trunk show of her work at the New England Quilt Museum on Sunday, September 12.

Contemporary Broderie Perse: An Elegant Revival is now open at the New England Quilt Museum. Curator Anita B. Loscalzo has invited several quilters who practice the old-fashioned art of Broderie Perse to show thirty pieces. She's also included a few antique examples.

Detail of Nosegay by Judy Simmons

The show will be up through October 17. It travels to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah: November 19, 2010 - February 15, 2011

Broderie Perse, also called Cut-Out Chintz, is a form of applique in which an image is cut from a piece of fabric and stitched to a background.  Above, you can see how the floral has been cut from a white background and appliqued to another piece of white with a tiny stitch. We see it in the earliest American quilts. The style was almost completely replaced by conventional applique, in which the images are created in layers of plain and print fabric.

This spectacular early 19th-century example combining florals done in Broderie Perse and leaves done in conventional applique is from the Winterthur Museum's collection, on display now at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

I did a digital search in my PDF copy of Clues in the Calico to see what I said about Broderie Perse twenty years ago. I still agree with that information:

A number of American quilts and unquilted bedcovers in the technique survive that are attributed to the last quarter of the nineteenth century and at least six date-inscribed examples between 1782 and 1799 are in the literature. The technique is commonly called Broderie Perse, French for "Persian Embroidery". Caulfeild and Saward used that term in 1882 [in their book on needlework]; needlework historian Susan Burrows Swan believes it to be a late nineteenth-century name for a technique practiced earlier. Another late nineteenth-century name is Cretonne Applique [Cretonne is a synonym for chintz.] Page 102.

But now that I can search through 19th century books and magazines on Google Books I found an earlier reference to the terms in Peterson's Magazine in 1876.


We give a very beautiful pattern in Cretonne Applique, now so fashionable. Great efforts, indeed, are made to introduce novelties in fancy work. Cloth is not so much used as last year; and yet there are some pretty bands in pale blue cloth (the shade known as dead turquoise,) with trails of autumn leaves embroidered with wool and silk. The foliage is worked in a new stitch called point de riz, and the autumn leaves are shaded from deep brown to pale gray. Bands thus worked are used for bordering curtains, or for placing down the centre of a chair or an ottoman. The work called in England cretonne applique, or broderie perse, is likewise very fashionable now; but here the foundation is black satin, and the colors are subdued, Watteau figures, cupids, birds, and flowers, are cut out from cretotnnes, chintzes, applique on the black satin, and so perfectly embroidered that it is impossible to detect the cretonne figures beneath. When a man or woman is cut out of the chintz, the faces are left untouched, but the hair is worked over, the effect is extraordinary, as until the process is explained, it is marvelous how the well-painted face got there.

Mrs. Weaver could have used a little editing, but you get her drift.

Why Persian Embroidery? Broderie Perse may refer to the oriental motifs---the tree of life, the exotic birds---often used in the technique. A similar needlework classification was Broderie Anglaise (English embroidery), which is a cutwork technique done in white fabric.

I have at least two friends with quilts in Anita's exhibit. Judy Severson and Bettina Havig have been working for months to get ready, keeping their pieces rather discreetly to themselves. Can't wait to see them.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lebowski Fest

Lebowski Fest
Designed by Barbara Brackman, Appliqued by Jean Stanclift,
Quilted by Pam Mayfield, 2006
Lawrence, Kansas 46"x 46"
Courtesy of the VanHougrau Collection

My neighbor asked if we could make her a quilt for her husband. The result:
Lebowski Fest.

We had a lot of fun designing and appliqueing bowling shoes, pins and balls.

For those of you who do not know what we are talking about here:

The Big Lebowski is a movie by the Coen Brothers about
 mistaken identity, slackers, White Russians, a rug and a bowling alley.
Above, Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi and John Goodman trying to figure it all out.

At Lebowski Fests people watch the movie,
drink cocktails made of vodka and non-dairy creamer and occasionally bowl.

The quilt makes an excellent backdrop for the party. One could say it "Pulls the Room Together."

The Dude does not officially endorse this quilt.

The pattern for Lebowski Fest is in my new book, Sew Into Sports: Quilts for the Fans in Your Life.

Click here to read more about it:

While I was Photoshopping the Dude above I redesigned the quilt digitally. There are many possible ways to arrange bowling shoes, balls and pins.