Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hexagons Again

Hexagon patchwork from about 1830 with the papers and the basting still in them.

Susan wants to know:

Are quilts with paper templates “quilted”? Are they stitched---quilted through the layers? Are they quilted around the pieces? Are they tied or are they just backed and unquilted? It seems they would need to be held together some how especially with the added weight of the paper. I guess some women removed the paper but it seems most I’ve seen are unfinished.

It depends.

In England, 19th-century quiltmakers (note I didn't say quilters) often left the papers in and they finished off the edges to make what we might call a summer spread---an unquilted top.

Early 19th century British medallion

See more about it at: http://www.oldfashionedstuff.co.uk/id12.html
In America, 19th-century quiltmakers sometimes removed the papers and quilted the piece. And sometimes they didn't.

Early 19th-century, quilted hexagon medallion
See more about this terrific quilted version at Betsy Telford-Goodwin's web site:

The later in the century,  the more likely the hexagon quilts were to have been quilted and to have been pieced with a running stitch rather than to have been pieced over papers with a whip stitch.

Detail of a quilt top in the 1890s or so, probably pieced in conventional running stitch

After 1880 or so the idea of using the paper templates behind the hexagons became so-o-o-o-19th-century and most quiltmakers stitched their hexagons together using the standard running stitch without any papers. And quilted or tied them.

Quilted hexagon quilt from 1860-1890

Some hexagon quilts from recent online auctions

This one from the late 19th century is made of wools, silks, blends, etc.
It looks pretty heavy, yet it's quilted close to the seam with a tiny red stitch.

When the hexagon idea became a new fad in the 1930s, nobody used paper and they quilted their Grandmother's Flower Gardens.

Grandmother's Flower Garden from the 1930s.
Quilters usually quilted around each hexagon.

See a rather fancy 30's version by clicking here:

This British medallion with appliqued rosettes was shown at Houston's Quilt Festival last fall. It's not quilted at all, as far as I can tell.
Susi at Susi's Quilts found it online and was inspired to make a reproduction. I had seen it the year before in an online British auction. See more Houston pictures at Virginia Cole's Galloping Pony blog.

Watch Susi's progress here:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

More Inspiration from Rose Kretsinger

Oriental Poppy by Rose Kretsinger, about 1930.
Collection of the Spencer Museum of Art.

Rose and daugher Mary about 1915

I have a pattern for the Oriental Poppy that I drew up for a class I taught a few years ago. Here I am holding blocks by Denniele Bohannon and Gloria Clark.
Below is Gloria's in progress.
She's working on the border.

Oriental Poppy by Gloria Clark

Rose's had simple swag and flower border.
Charlotte Jane Whitehill who lived in Emporia also made one from Rose's pattern
 but she used a different border, a double scallop.

Oriental Poppy by Charlotte Whitehill, about 1930.
Collection of the Denver Art Museum.

I decided to make one and update the colors
Oriental Poppy by Barbara Brackman and Pam Mayfield.
I hand appliqued it and Pam added the sawtooth border and machine quilted it.
I did not do the reverse applique.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Log Cabin- How Old is the Name?

Log Cabin, set in a variation of the barn raising, late 19th century.
All quilts from Laura Fisher.

Scrappy Bee had a question in January:
I think many people made log cabin quilts, partly because the are easy to do and you can play with colors and settings. Was the block called Log Cabin from the start?

Detail of the quilt above, a remarkably simple block in a complex set.
The floral prints are delaine (wool-cotton combination fabrics).

It's hard to know what 19th century people named their quilts. So few written records mention a quilt by name. Fair records, for example, listed numerous prize winners with generic names like "silk quilt", "patch-work quilt cover," and "cradle quilts." But we are lucky here because we do see fair records mentioning the "log quilt" pattern, also called "log cabin". The pattern was so popular in the 1870-1900 period that fairs opened categories specifically for log cabin quilts.

Cotton Log Cabin in Courthouse Steps set on point, about 1875

Virginia Gunn found that Log Cabins received a commendation by name at the Ohio State Fair in 1863 (the pattern seems to have developed about that time) and again in 1868. In June of 1866, an Iowa diarist known only as "Abbie" wrote that she "went to town, bought Delaine [wool blend] for my log cabin." On the last day of July she "wrote a letter to Sis and worked on my log cabin."

Straight Furrow set, about 1900

Log Cabin seems to be the standard name, but the 1889 Ladies' Art Company pattern catalog called it the "Log Patch". The British authors of an 1882 needlework manual noted that the design and technique were "well known in Canada under the name 'Loghouse Quilting' but only lately introduced in England.…This patchwork is more commonly known as 'Canadian patchwork'." English names also include "Egyptian" or "Mummy Pattern", referring to mummy wrappings of dark and light strips in a similar design.

Display of Egyptian cat mummies at the British Museum.
Is that cat on the left wrapped in a log cabin design or what!

Unusual set

Courthouse Steps Set 
So in answer to your question: We can assume quilters called the block log cabin. The names of the set variations are the standards we use today but their sources haven't been studied.

Zig-Zag set, about 1900

It's one of my favorites and dealer Laura Fisher's too. She often sends me photos of terrific log cabins, the source of the pictures here. Browse her inventory:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Applique Tutorials

McCordsville, quilt top by Barbara Brackman,
inspired by the work of Susan McCord.

Karla Menaugh's blog offers a class in fine machine applique. A recent topic is how to prepare and applique split leaves or two-tone leaves like those in the quilt above.

 The pattern is from a book that Karla, Shauna Christensen, Deb Rowden and I did several years ago called Our Favorite Quiltmakers: Susan McCord.

Thanks, Susan McCord by EuJane Taylor,
Photographed at Quilt Market a few years ago.

The Shade Garden Sampler included several applique blocks based on McCord's style.

Shade Garden Sampler by Joan Nell

Cut Glass Dish by Dorothy LeBeouf

Cut Glass Dish by Ilyse Moore

See Susan McCord's original Harrison Rose from the collection of the Henry Ford Museum and a quilted version at Wendy Sheppard's blog

See more about our book here:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Inspired by Rose Kretsinger

Orchid Wreath by Rose Good Kretsinger, 1929,
 Emporia, Kansas, collection of the Helen F. Spencer Museum of Art.

Rose Good Kretsinger created some of the most remarkable 20th-century quilts. I've been working on patterns for friends and students for several years interpreting her designs.

I am crazy about iris in all their varieties so I adapted the Orchid Wreath into an Iris Wreath.

 For her Iris Wreath Lori Kukuk used the pattern that's in my book Making History: Quilts and Fabrics from 1890-1970. She machine quilted it with her typical amazing quilting.

Ilyse Moore is working on a version on a black background.

Here's another interpetation of the Orchid Wreath using lilacs on the cover of Jennifer Chiaverini's book.

I blogged about Rose Kretsinger a few months ago and someone asked where they could read more about her. At the bottom of this posting is a bibliography of print and online sources.

Here's the blog posting about her Antique Rose quilt.

A Bibliography of Information about Rose Kretsinger

Carrie Hall and Rose Kretsinger, The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers, 1935) Read her chapter on quilting for her ideas and designs.

Some online information:



See her quilts at the Spencer Museum of Art (plus jewelry by her daughter and some of her influences)


Jonathan Gregory has studied her life extensively
Jonathan Gregory, "The Joy of Beauty: The Creative Life and Quilts of Rose Kretsinger," Uncoverings 2007 (Vol. 28) from the American Quilt Study Group. Click here to buy a copy of that issue.

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum has posted a podcast of his lecture:
"An Aesthetic Life: the Story of Quiltmaker Rose Kretsinger." Presented March 6, 2009. View it by clicking here:

I have written about her in several publications

Kansas Quilts & Quilters by Jennie Chinn et al. Chapter by Barbara Brackman---
"Emporia 1925-1950: Reflections on a Community"

Quilters Hall of Fame, Editors Merikay Waldvogel & Rosalind Webster Perry. Chapter by Barbara Brackman---"Rose Kretsinger"

Flora Botanica: Quilts from the Spencer Museum of Art by Barbara Brackman, contains short essays on two of her quilts. Read more here:

Women of Design: Quilts in the Newspaper by Barbara Brackman, contains short chapter on her. Read more here:

And read more about my book Making History with the Iris Wreath pattern by clicking here.
Scroll way down to the bottom of the page and click on the Google book preview to read the first chapter on late 19th century quilts.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Hexagon Dreams and Reality

Center of a medallion from the Missouri Historical Society

You may recall I recently began piecing hexagons over paper to see what I could make with a Charm pack of my Morris Workshop collection.

I began dreaming of medallions of fussy cut pattern.

Detail from about 1875 from the collection of Terry Thompson

About 1935 by Albert Small

But reality struck.

You can't get too far on a Charm pack if you are piecing concentric rings and worrying about shading. The numbers increase at a Malthusian rate as you go out from the center. (Don't ask me what a Malthusian rate is.)

So does the lumpiness, but that will quilt out (I always assure myself.)
I realized I would have to square up the edges and call it a mini quilt.

That wasn't as easy as I dreamed either. Resolving the edges on these things can be challenging. A lot of people advised me to just applique it down onto another piece of fabric.
(In the center of another piece of fabric!)

Hexagon from about 1840 from Copake Auctions
I could have just given up on the concentric rings and gone for random as I ran out of fabric.

The pattern used to be called Job's Troubles and now you know why.

There are a lot of unfinished hexagon projects out there.

And a lot with some interesting solutions to the problem of turning a hexagon into a rectangle.

From about 1960 from Donna Stickovich's collection

About 1910 from Keepsake Cottage

About 1940 from Larry Schwarm's collection.
Apparently she just couldn't stop adding pieces.

Marcena McNabb, Oklahoma, about 1940.
Collection of Mary Ann Anders.

Right now I will be happy with my mini.

And thanks for all the suggestions about printing my own hexagons on freezer paper, on fabric or on the cards that fall out of magazines. However, I feel that one should never advise an obsessive that he or she should be saving the cards that fall out of magazines.

Albert Small after being advised to save cards that fall out of magazines.
The quilt behind him is the one pictured above.

I still like paying somebody to measure and cut the templates for me but if I ever have another hexagon dream I'll consider the suggestions.

Here's a pattern of sorts. The numbers are the number of hexagons you need for each ring. I guess you add 6 as you go out. For the corners I did you need 24 full hexagons and for the edges ten each of hexagons cut across one way and the other. Mine measures 15-1/4 x 17-1/2" with a 2-1/2" border.