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.  https://www.pickledishstore.com/productDetail.php?PID=1090

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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Indigo Prints: Resist and Discharged Figures

Julie in Tennessee sent me blocks removed from an old comforter cover. She'd received them from a friend who was a member of the Shields family of Cades Cove, Tennessee. The pattern is one I haven't seen.
The blocks look to be from 1890-1920 when indigo prints were relatively inexpensive and very popular with quiltmakers. They show typical indigo coloring with a dyed blue background and white figures, style dictated by indigo's chemistry. Indigo will not color if it is exposed to oxygen, so simply applying indigo to a wood block or copper plate does not work because the dye binds with the oxygen in the air.

Here's a date-inscribed quilt from an online auction with indigo blue as the ground and white figures in the print. It's a typical early 20th-century factory printed indigo.

Printers traditionally print white figures on indigo grounds in a reserve or resist process (also called batik) by applying wax or a resist paste in a pattern on the fabric and then dipping it in the indigo dye vat. When the paste is removed a white on blue design appears. Another technique developed about 1800 involves dyeing the fabric blue in the indigo vat and then printing a discharge paste to bleach out the figures. The prints in the Cades Cove blocks and Aunt Celia's quilt are probably done in a sophisticated variation of the discharge technique (although the pattern design is rather unsophisticated).
The indigo resist process has been used by artisans all over the world. Pennsylvania historian Trish Herr has been collecting early indigo resist prints from the Germanic people there. These are hand printed rather than factory printed.

And Japanese printers still dye in traditional fashion.

This quilt is called Japanese Coins, made by Georgann Eglinski from Japanese fabrics, 2009.

Printers figured out ways to reverse the figure/ground appearance in indigos. The earliest technique was the labor-intensive process of applying resist paste to the background and leaving the figures to absorb the dye. These indigo resist prints are sometimes called China blue prints because they look like a piece of porcelain.

Elizabeth Richardson Collection. Western Kentucky University Library

Above: a scrap of old indigo resist with blue figure and white ground from quilt historian Florence Peto's collection. She gave it to collector Elizabeth Richardson several decades ago. Recently, quilts, correspondence, and scrapbooks belonging to Elizabeth Richardson were donated to the Western Kentucky University Library. The note says "Very old blue-on-white resist print. F. Peto. For your collection. Happy Easter!"

Here are some reproduction fabrics imitating China-blue style with blue figures on white grounds.

A sofa upholstered in indigo-resist reproduction from Ikea

To see more reproductions do a websearch for the words: fabric indigo resist.

To see more about the quilt collection at Western Kentucky University click here for their online exhibit

And see how indigo yarn is dyed in a recent dyeing workshop in the Navajo nation by clicking here:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Reproduction Quilt Bloggers

A few weeks ago I asked for suggestions for reproduction quilt blogs. Readers came up with many, particularly in Europe. I spent a lot of time scrolling; learned a lot, even if I couldn't always read the language. I now know how to enlarge a photo in html code and how to make a whoopee pie, a New England delicacy I didn't even know existed until last summer.

Here is the list:

One of the Mary Mannakee blocks from Deb's "Needles, Sticks & Hooks" blog

Deb's working on several series quilts including the Mary Mannakee quilt. To see what the Mary Mannakee quilt looks like (it's a signed album quilt in the collection of the Museum of the Daughters of the American Revolution) do an images web search for the three words Mary Mannakee quilt. Everybody's doing it.
Buy a pattern at the gift shop at the Museum of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Laurie at a Yankee Quilter:

Vicki and Jan: "Quilt Buds Share a Blog"

Jan in Chicago:

Lori in Oregon:


Priscilla's Workshop:
Here's a gallery of her reproductions. She's just finished the Bird of Paradise (Civil War Bride) quilt.

Reproduction from Embruns et Petit Points
 Mamifluer's Embruns et Petit Points:
See her posts on an Exposition de copies d'anciens in May 2009 (My translation: A Show of copies of old things)(?)

String quilt from Quiltfuchs
From Germany

From the Netherlands