Sunday, November 18, 2018

Past Perfect: Barb Adams

Nosegay for Mother
Designed by Barb Adams
for Blackbird Designs

This month's Past Perfect featured artist is Barb Adams of Blackbird Designs,
here in a watercolor with her partner Alma Adams.

It's hard to separate Barb's work from Alma's they think so much alike.
But I have seen the label on this quilt and it said Barb was the designer.

Last year's Quilt Market in Houston

Barb & Alma are quite a force in the quilt world and have had great influence on a resurgence of interest and skills in applique design.

Gathered Harvest from their 2017 book Fresh Picked 
is folded on the quilt rack above.

They've published many books and patterns and designed many fabric collections with their signature style. They often design two versions of a quilt, each with her own choice of fabrics.

Country Rose
I bet this is Alma's choice. She loves scalloped edges.

Evening Bloom
And I bet this is Barb's choice. The color and fabric choice is often a little edgier.

From Weekend
They formed Blackbird Designs 18 years ago in 2000, publishing pattern books with quilts, rug hooking and embroidery designs.

Fresh From the Garden, 2000

Autumn Primitive

Winter Garden from
When the Cold Wind Blows


They always win best booth at Quilt Market (and deserve it)

They met in a quilt class that Alma taught. Both live near Kansas City, Barb in Missouri, Alma in Kansas. Their partnership is a classic example of a cottage industry. They design the quilts and draw the patterns, pick the fabrics and often create them, and have hired a team of stitchers to sew up their ideas.

Leona Adams (1925-2015)
For many years Barb's mom Leona was their chief stitcher.

I love their rather Gothic take on historical pattern--in the Secret Garden tradition.

Secret Garden for their Wild Orchid fabric collection

Wild Orchid print

Their gardens are rarely manicured, more likely to go to seed in untamed fashion
with vines sprouting tendrils going off in a new direction.

Quilting in the Garden

Print from Anna's Starry Night line.

A Little Flower
You can recognize their distinctive compositions: how they situate the image inside the block.
While most traditional pattern is symmetrical, theirs often are not.

Posies in the Valley

Some of their recent stuff....

Sweet Cherry Wine for Moda

The Raven with their trademark bird.

Their other major focus is cross stitch with tons of patterns and ideas for embroidery, where they are quite a success.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Southern Quilts: Beulah Ketchie's Family Quilts

Is this not the perfect Southern quilt?

We are doing a little virtual collecting here. I found a 2014 auction at "the old homeplace of the late H. Lee & Beulah Ketchie" between Mocksville & Statesville, North Carolina. York Auction advertised "+/- 50 vintage Country Quilts" and a quilt frame. Beulah Griffith Ketchie was born in 1910, so I doubt she made many of these quilts that look to date from about 1880 to 1920.

Another perfect Southern quilt

She was married to Hubert Lee Ketchie and was a homemaker according to her obituary. Beulah died in 2002. She and H. Lee Ketchie are buried in the Society Baptist Church Cemetery.

Here's a link to the auction. Beulah & Hubert had a lot of stuff.

The Ketchie homeplace

Some of the quilts sold at the auction:

Too bad the blues faded but it is still spectacular

Horizontal grid, strong sashing and strip border

Beulah must have been the caretaker for these quilts
which look to have survived the 100 plus years well.

This is an exception---could have been made anywhere and
the blues have really held up.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Bourbon/Harrison County Fan Quilt 1893

Art collector Bert Hemphill gave this remarkable quilt to the Smithsonian's Museum of American Art in 1987.  It's even more remarkable when you look at it closely, which you can do in the online photo here:

It's attributed to Bourbon County, Kentucky, northeast of Lexington.

"Mt Carmel 
Jan 16, 1893"

Mt. Carmel Christian Church was built in 1859
The quilt is credited to Bourbon County but several of the names seem to come from Cynthiana over the line in Harrison County. The Mt. Carmel Church still stands on the Cynthiana Road with a Paris, Bourbon County address.

Like many other fundraising quilts at the time, there are many names embroidered. Most of the 110 names look to be by the same hand.

"Mrs. James Lail"
The Battle Grove Cemetery in Cynthiana, Harrison County, has 67 Lails in the records,  including three James Lails. 

This portrait of "Mary Sparks" is probably Mary Isabella Sparks Boyers (1883-1959) ten years old at the time.  Like most of her family Mary is buried in the Battle Grove Cemetery.

Several of the blocks include "dressed pictures," three-dimensional embroidery with paper faces. I thought at first that the young women of the town did their own portraits. But, following up on their names indicates some were very young girls. The pictorial faces are probably not portraits but cut from fashion or advertising prints.

Ruth Worthington --- a little over two years old in winter 1893
She died at three in 1894 and is buried in the same cemetery. 

The children are seated in "Mrs. Moore's Class" --- a Sunday school class? The standing boy is James Harding Sparks, perhaps, who was about five at the time. James, buried in Cynthiana, died on a troop ship headed for Europe in World War I.

There is a strong link between the quilt and the community buried in the Cynthiana cemetery, with most of the names I've followed from Harrison County. 

Cynthiana cemetery monument to Jessie Frazer 
who died the year before the quilt was made.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Dark Ground Chintzes #5: Earliest Dates

 International Quilt Study Center & Museum #2008.040.0083

We’ve looked at an array of high-contrast dark and light ground quilts from about 1785 to
1820, among the earliest of American styles. Comparing this undated Pincushion or Orange Peel quilt from the Dillow Collection to dated quilts gives us an estimated date.

The date range begs the question concerning early quilts. Why did the style develop in the 1780s? And another: Why are there so few American patchwork cotton quilts before that time?

 Rachel Mackey, Chester County, Pennsylvania, date-inscribed 1787

I recently re-read book The Growth of the British Cotton Trade 1780-1815 by Michael M. Edwards looking for answers. The basic answer seems to be that the cottons that dictated patchwork style were unavailable before that date. Cottons from India and China had been printed for centuries and imported to Europe as luxury goods, but American patchwork style and the British printing industry are closely linked. 

Elizabeth Webster (1777-1840), Harford County, Maryland,
Date inscribed 1796. MESDA Collection.

Read more about this quilt here: 

Why no cotton quilts here before 1780? Because cotton fabric was not available. We can look at trade, technology and taste for reasons. Trade is always important as textiles have long been a basis of international economies. Revolution in North America meant no English imports until after the peace in 1783, but even had ships been sailing from England to New England there would not have been much British cotton to carry.

The technology for the cotton prints in Elizabeth's quilt developed during her lifetime, particularly in
the last thirty years of the 18th century. Cotton is difficult to spin by hand or with early mechanized machinery. Eighteenth-century cotton yarns were better for weft than warp, which is why so much mixed fabric of linen and cottons (fustian) was produced. 

Medallion quilt, collection of Connor Prairie Museum.

There were bottlenecks at every step of cotton production from field to cleaning and carding, spinning yarns and weaving cloth.

 And the raw cotton was hard to obtain; it’s a fussy plant with soil and climate determining quality.

Cradle Quilt, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Robbins family, Lexington, Massachusetts

Late-18th-century technological changes included new plant varieties from the Americas producing better yarns. British mechanization improved and patents expired, encouraging competition and further progress. Weavers became more skillful and more productive, working under new and efficient organizational structures. And textile engineers experimented with engraved rollers suited to cheaper cotton calicoes.

Cylinder printing in the 19th century

Technological changes resulted in plentiful goods resulting in changing taste. Women's gowns became simpler, suitable for lighter cotton rather than silk, wool and linen. Cheaper fabric for the gown meant more money for accessories, such as cashmere shawls and fur tippets. Cotton was easily laundered resulting in an emphasis on personal hygiene, the Beau Brummell look of starched, clean garments. And inexpensive fabrics meant a more egalitarian look across the classes.

By 1811 a British "Lady of Distinction" was called to condemn the evil of “the present leveling modes. A tradesman’s wife is now as sumptuously arrayed as a countess, and the waiting maid as gaily as her lady.”

Sheraton-style chair with a chintz seat

Decorating fashion also adapted to the novel styles with furniture prints for "calico table cloths, doyles [we spell it doilies], curtains, chair covers, bed hangings & sheetings” and, of course, patchwork bedcovers. Furniture softened with printed cottons changed the look of rooms once dominated by dark and heavy wooden pieces.

 International Quilt Study Center & Museum #2007.031.0007
Mary Campbell Ghormley Collection

Taste demanded variety and value. Printers, shippers, merchants and cotton growers made fortunes in supplying the demand.

 International Quilt Study Center & Museum #2008.040.0131 
Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Collection

So I can give up looking for American cotton patchwork before the last quarter of the 18th century and change my mind about pieces like the two below.

Connecticut quilt with embroidery from the mid 18th century
 and patchwork from the late century.
From a Cora Ginsburg catalog

Once I would have looked at the patchwork and the embroidery as being from the same time frame and considered a mid-18th-century date, but this is a case of someone incorporating an older embroidered piece into a later bedcover.
Ditto below.

From the White Family of Massachusetts. Collection of the Smithsonian

And that's the end of the posts on high-contrast quilts and dark-ground chintzes---I'm impressed with the style's popularity and how many survivors are in public collections. Just imagine how many did not survive. It must have been a real craze.