Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Douglas County Bank Quilt

The Douglas County Bank Quilt
The Seamsters' Union Local #500
Lawrence, Kansas
Collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum

A member of the Seamsters' Union was scrolling through the quilts at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum website recently and came across this quilt that our sewing group made in 1987.

Developers and preservationists were at odds. The above mentioned bank, situated at the edge of a lovely Victorian neighborhood, felt they needed a giant parking lot and bulldozed a block of houses at dawn one morning before any one could protest that the historic buildings were worth saving.

We had no preservation organization and no state laws with any teeth in them to prevent such destruction. Those of us who valued the architecture in our historic town could do nothing but watch in frustration.

[These photos aren't of the neighborhood---but one crushed house looks pretty much like another crushed house.]

We did take our money out of the bank---emptying several accounts amounting to the high two figures.

The Seamsters decided we'd strike back with a quilt depicting the bank as the aesthetic villains they were.

 Our inspiration was a quilt Jean Ray Laury'd made about a California earthquake in which she silk-screened broken houses.

 One Seamster recalls:
"I remember stenciling the border caption, and I remember making and cutting up house blocks. My most vivid memory is setting it up on a quilt frame at the public library and inviting people to stitch on it until [representatives of the banking and development interests] pitched a fit and got us thrown out."

We then moved the quilting frame to a public park and spent some summer evenings quilting the bank's logo into the background. The quilt was published in Americana magazine, April 1988. We raffled it off to raise money to start a preservation organization. The lucky winner has apparently donated it to the IQSC.

The words we stencilled on the border:
Douglas County Bank Quilt. June 27, 1987, The Most Destructive Single Day in Lawrence Since Quantrill's Raid.

A depiction of Quantrill's Raid during the Civil War when the town was burned.

See our quilt at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's website by clicking here:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My New Hobby

Uh-oh. I've got a new addiction and it isn't pretty. Well it is pretty literally, but figuratively???
I've always wondered at those people who could make quilts out of one pattern piece. Dullsville.

But as I say: "Uh-Oh."

I started to make a pincushion. Download the free pattern here:

I had a charm pack of my reproduction prints from The Morris Workshop from Moda. Each 5" square was cut into quarters so I had four squares of each print 2-1/2" x 2-1/2".

I didn't use their machine method but used a glue stick to lightly glue a template behind each square. Then I folded the edges over to make a hexagon and whip-stitched them together by hand.

When I got the first ring done I was hooked.
I wondered how many rings I could get out of a charm pack.
Very soon I forgot about the Prairie Flower pincushion and started thinking medallion.

Center of an early 19th century medallion quilt from the Winterthur Museum

Reproduction of a 19th-century medallion by Bertha Stenge 1945

A soldier's quilt of wools

I needed one more light print so I got one from the first Morris reproduction line A Morris Garden.

Now I have to go out in the sleet/snow wintery mix and get more hexagon paper templates.
Once you get an outside row stitched you can take out the templates in the inside row. I can reuse them 2 or 3 times but now I need more. Way more.
Stay tuned. It could get bad.

Albert Small's hexagon mosaic quilt with the most pieces in the world, 1945

See more about Albert Small and his hexagon addiction by clicking here:

And find more inspiration by clicking to see these museum quilts:
Metropolitan Museum of Art:

International Quilt Study Center and Museum

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Modern Quilts- Style Change and Ditsies

King Solomon's Temple quilt top. Estimated date 1900-1920

How did the quilt style above, so typical of the first twenty years of the twentieth century, evolve into the quilt below, the standard in the years 1930-1950? Quilt historians looking back at the twentieth century have tended to explain those style and color differences by saying, "Change happens."

Sky Rocket. Estimated date 1930-1940

I had a feeling that fabric styles---like the mysterious coneheads of Saturday Night Live---came vaguely from France. For my book Making History: Quilts & Fabrics from 1890-1970 I began reading about fashion in Europe, a journey that took me from Paris back to Glasgow and Vienna.

Quilt style changes due to trends in technology, trade and taste. The key to taste here is the arrival of modernism, an aesthetic movement in the visual arts, literature, architecture and music.

Fashion illustration, a hand-colored pochoir,
featuring clothing design by Fench couturier Paul Poiret (1879-1944).
The illustration by George Lepape is--- like the outfit--- a small masterpiece of modernism.

 It's hard to imagine how innovative and up-to-date
this Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt appeared in the 1930s when it was new.

Many dismiss the "Thirties Quilt" as rather dull, referring to the bright prints with their minimalistic flowers as apron fabric or housedress prints. But there was a time when these "ditsy" prints were the height of sophistication.

Kit for a minimalist applique floral. Estimated date 1940-1960. 
The appliqued flower design and the floral prints are both what we could call ditsies. Ditsy is a term in the fabric industry for a small figured print with an image that suggests a floral. Ditsy has negative connotations (dumb or inconsequential might be synonyms) but 75 to a hundred years ago a minimalistic floral was IT.

Poster by Viennese designer Koloman Moser (1868-1918), an influential modernist.

Below: Ditsy floral appliqued and embroidered to a dish towel, estimated date 1930-1945

Another Poirot/Lepape collaboration, 1913. 
"Hobble skirt" design with tunic of ditsy flowers by the King of Fashion,
illustration by Georges Lepape (1887-1971)

Model in a dress by Paquin. Photo from the Library of Congress.
Lepape's illustrations made modern fashion
 more graceful than it appeared in real life.
Note the ditsy roses on her hat.

Reproduction prints by American Jane for Moda. 
Flowers composed of simple shapes capture the fashionable mid-century look.

Eveline Foland's design for a Sunbonnet Sue pattern
in the Kansas City Star featured a ditsy floral.

See an online exhibit from the Metropolitan Museum of Art about the King of Fashion, Paul Poiret:
On this page, scroll down to the bottom and click on past exhibitions and then see the search box for exhibits by department. Click and pick the menu item for Costume Institute and then click on the Poiret show. Or just do a web search for King Fashion Poiret.
See more about Viennese modern textile design at the Textile Museum's online exhibit:

Read more about modernism and American quilts in my book Making History.
Click here:
Scroll down to the bottom of the page. Click on the "Search Inside Google Preview" icon. Do a search for the word Poiret. Click next.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Missed Holidays

I completely missed National Polka Dot Day which would have cheered up my January if I'd known about it beforehand.

It's not National Just Dot Day. It celebrates Polka Dots---which are circles set in a regular half drop repeat.

This quilt technically isn't it.

The baseball bat probably counts.

So next January 22nd I'll dress appropriately.

I also missed Hari-Kuyo, a centuries old Japanese celebration of the needle. Kimono makers bring their broken needles to the temple on February 8th and place them in blocks of tofu.

Nancy Halpern arranged a Hari-Kuyo festival last February for our quilt retreat.
We had to post a sign, however, in case of overenthusiastic vegans at the cocktail party.

The electric cords represent some broken sewing machines.

Read more about Hari-Kuyo, the Japanese Needle Festival, by clicking here.


Mark it on your calendar for February 8th next year and save all your needles that have given up the ghost for the cause.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cheddar Cheese and Crackers

Detail of Lori's old "Cheddar Cheese and Crackers."

The pattern was published in the early 20th century in Comfort magazine as Irish Chain.

Lori at the blog Humble Quilts drafted a doll quilt, a copy of an antique she called "Cheddar Cheese and Crackers." She invited web friends to make one and then posted a set of links to all the participants' quilts. It's a great reproduction and a clever way to network using a system called MckLinky.

Click here to see the results:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Several traditional applique patterns contain hearts. Below are a few reproductions.
The first: by Karla Menaugh
Feathered Heart
Below: Deb Rowden
Topeka Rose

Below: Barbara Brackman
Wreath of Hearts

Below: Another of Karla's
Heart to Heart
And here are some pieced heart designs---mostly  from the 1930s and '40s. I typed the words "Heart" & "Valentine" in my BlockBase program and these four were among those that came up.

Hearts & Gizzards
from Ruth Finley

Valentine Quilt from the Kansas City Star 1934

Bride's Quilt from Laura Wheeler newspaper pattern

Hearts & Rings from Quilters Newsletter 1976