Monday, June 29, 2009

Game Board

One of my favorite possessions is an old checkerboard made of linoleum squares. I've looked at it every morning for twenty years and thought that would make a great quilt---just four-patches in different contrast pairs.

I finally made a little table topper out of quarter-yard cuts of greens and browns from The Morris Workshop collection. I put a free pattern for it on my webpage so click here to download it. It's towards the bottom right on the home page as "Game Board." http://www.barbarabrackman.com/

I thought I was pretty clever until I found this picture on eBay of what looks to be a double knit quilt top. Somebody else had the same idea!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Plaid Fad

Plaids are quite popular in antique quilts. Here's a picture of a top with a woven and a printed plaid, probably from 1840-1860. I thought it was Queen Victoria who popularized plaids as symbolic of Scottish tradition during her reign that began in 1837. But I recently read a book about her uncle King George IV who visited Scotland in 1822 decked out in his tailor's idea of a regional costume.

According to biographer E.A. Smith in George IV (page 201):
The "King condescendingly donned what was supposed to be Highland costume…though the Highland dress was still strictly limited to the clans of the northern and western parts of Scotland it quickly became the fashion to adopt it as a mark of Scottish national pride."

Victoria and Albert probably heated up the fad for plaid in the 1840s but George's kilt explains why there are so many plaids in quilts before Victoria's reign.

Click here for more information about the history of tartan kilts.
Disclaimer: As in all internet sources (including this one) you never know how accurate any of it is.

And more thoughts on plaid…

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thrift Shop Quilts

Zig Zag II top by Dorothy LeBoeuf, from Hawaiian shirts, batiks, linens, silks, solids.

Spool by LeeAnn Decker, 72" x 72", 100% thrift store fabric.

Housetop by Deb Rowden, 55 1/2" x 55 1/2" Recycled shirts and purchased plaids & stripes.

My friend Deb Rowden and I are obsessed with Thrift Shop Quilts. And we have a few pen pals including LeeAnn Decker and Dorothy LeBeouf. We define Thrift Shop Quilts pretty loosely. A Thrift Shop Quilt can be bought in a thrift shop. You can make one yourself out of fabrics you buy in a thrift shop, as LeeAnn often does. You can interpret a thrift shop design. Or you can just be inspired by the whole recycling idea---There are no pieces of fabric too small to save. Note Deb's quilt.
Check out Deb's website, particularly these two postings:

Her motto: "It's not trash it's found." If you make Thrift Shop Quilts or collect them, send us some photos (My email is bbrackman@sunflower.com). We'll post them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's Flag Day

Document & Reproduction: Civil War Anthem

The document print is the original print on which a reproduction is based. One of my favorite places to find old prints is in quilt tops that have been ruined by some well-meaning quilter. I don't have any regrets about taking the tops apart. The worst was a top someone had repaired with a hot melt glue gun---lots of plastic glue.

In another badly handled old top pictured here I found the flag print copied for Civil War Anthem, a Moda reproduction collection Terry Thompson and I did several years ago. The document print is in blue and white at the top. The reproduction is the monochrome print below it.

To the right is the piece I took the original print out of. Somebody in the 1960s or 1970s decided to quilt this top from the 1830-1850 era. She used a yellow wool blanket for batting and backed it with a bright blue floral calico. She fortunately gave up before shredding all the old fabrics. When the top came into my hands I removed all the quilting and tossed out the thick blanket and fading 20th-century print. I've saved the old pieces and they've been the source for several reproduction prints.

Don't forget to put out your flag today!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Lincoln Museum Quilt

Last year Gayle Curry wrote me an email saying she and her DAR group had decided to make a quilt from the pattern that Deb Rowden and I did for our book The Lincoln Museum Quilt.

 She continued:
"As you know, these things take on a life of their own and after a few phone calls we've been invited to display our quilt in Sacramento at the CALIFORNIA MUSEUM for History, Women and the Arts in conjunction with their Library of Congress exhibit honoring the anniversary of Lincoln's birthday. I've exhausted all resources in my area and checked on the internet; I'm unable to find enough fabrics. Our quilt, like yours is plaids and stripes. Do you have any idea where else to look? We're especially needing the lighter and medium fabrics." I did a web search for her and couldn't find a really good source of woven plaids and stripes in the lighter shades.

 Fabric follows fashion and wovens are not as popular now as they were three or four years ago. Well, don't tell Moda, but we told her to go to the thrift store and buy used clothing. Men's shirts, in particular, have a lot of great plaids and stripes in the lighter colors. 

 They finished the quilt. It will hang at the Museum in Sacramento for the summer. With Malice Toward None: Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibit will be up from June 24th through August 29th, 2009.

2022 Update: The book is long out of print.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Strawberry Thief

Strawberry Thief by Georgann Eglinski

William Morris, the English designer who was one of the founders of the Arts & Crafts movement, is famous for his tapestries and wallpaper patterns, intricate interpretations of his garden. The Strawberry Thief, a thrush stealing fruit, is one of his best loved. His daughter May recalled he told the gardeners not to scare away the birds as he loved to watch them enjoying their ill gotten gains.
I've simplified the image of one bird for appliqué. A pattern sheet for an 18" mini-quilt or pillow is available from Star books. Click here:

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Georgia Tulips

Tulip by LeeAnn Decker 62" x 72"

The tulip quilt with its 16-inch blocks was inspired by a quilt on the cover of Anita Zaleski Weinraub's Georgia Quilts. The cover quilt top was made by Annie Parham Howard in Morgan County in 1960.

That quilt is truly inspirational. I did the quilt below in Kaffe Fassett's stripes and Dorothy LeBoeuf did a smaller version with the checked binding. There's a pattern for mine on page 123 of my 2008 book Making History: Quilts & Fabric 1890-1970.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Document & Reproduction: Civil War Crossings

The photo shows three document prints---the design sources---for fabric in my Moda collection Civil War Crossings. The document prints are on the outside of the logo for the fabric. All are what the dyers called "madder-style prints," dyed with madder root. Using different metal salts for mordants, dyers could obtain a number of different shades of brown and red from a blackish brown to a peachy pink. They only had to dip the fabric in a single dyebath to get all those colors, one reason that madder was so popular in the mid-nineteenth century, when these cottons were probably printed.
For the reproductions on the left we toned down the white---the brightest color in the prints. Mid-nineteenth-century fashion liked a spotty print, but too many white spots can be a little distracting in a quilt. We left the highest values in for the prints on the right. A bit of regular dramatic pattern is so-o-o Civil War.

Jerrye Van Leer's Broken Crockery mini-quilt features several prints from that 2008 collection.