Friday, April 23, 2010

World's Biggest Hexagon Quilt

Gail Chalker of Gatton in Queensland, Australia, has organized the World's Biggest Hexagon quilt which was on display a few weeks ago in Brisbane.

She sent a link to information:



It will be displayed at the Gatton Quilt Show from May 11-16, 2010.

One section in progress

When I was a contributing editor at Quilters Newsletter years ago I kept track of quilt records like the largest and smallest and most pieces etc. I'll have to rummage through those files and post some information on the record setters some day.

Gail's going for the Guinness Book of World's Records.

Now some will say that the AIDS quilt is the world's biggest quilt--- do remember this is the World's Largest Hexagon Quilt.

AIDS Quilt in Washington in 1987
And also remember that the AIDS quilt is not a stitched-together, single quilted quilt. It is the World's Largest Public Art Project. If all the sections were laid end to end today it would cover six blocks.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Persian Pickles and Shawl Prints

Quilt block with a paisley print on the right,
about 1875

Ask a quilter today to give you a name for a paisley print and she might tell you it’s a Persian Pickle, a name with a supposedly long etymology— but it’s all fiction. The earliest source I found for the name is Sandra Dallas’s 1995 novel The Persian Pickle Club about a quilting group in Kansas during the Great Depression. They took their name from a bolt of paisley fabric.

I did a digital search for the words "Persian Pickle" in the Google books database of print material from the 19th century and found nothing with those two words linked together. Doing a search for references after 1900 found lots of hits but they all had to do with Dallas’s book, which is quite popular.

Here's the only 19th-century reference with the words Persian and Pickle close-by. It's from an 1874 play, called Mont Blanc: A Comedy in Three Acts by Eugène Labiche and Henry Mayhew. The reference seems to have to do with a brand of pickles and how to advertise it.

CHIRPEY," said I to myself when the brilliant idea first flashed upon me, " you're the proud inventor of a delicious new condiment—christened—after a long series of sleepless nights—' THE SHAH'S DELIGHT, or, Persian Persuasive Pickle.' But," said I, " nothing's done now-a-days, Chirpey, without advertising and puffing… Chirpey ! you be off at once and put up a poster of your delicious ' Persuasive Pickles' on the summit of Mont Blanc so that the eyes of Europe may be upon it."…. (he lets the end of the roller drop down over the chair~back, so as to expose to the audience a large coloured placard, representing the SHAH OF PERSIA seated cross-legged devouring pickles, and with the words " THE SHAH'S DELIGHT " printed in large letters underneath it.

That’s the thing about engaging fiction, like The Persian Pickle Club—
it can make you believe it’s all very real.

Wool paisley shawl, machine woven between 1860-1890

Woman in Paisley shawl about 1875

What might a 19th-century quiltmaker call a design in the tear-shaped paisley cone? The manufacturers referred to them as Cashmere prints or shawl prints, after the Cashmere shawls made in India. These hand-woven Kashmiri shawls were reproduced on mecahnical looms in Scotland, particularly in the town of Paisley, which gave its name to the design.

The scrap of fabric above is the document print for the reproduction paisley in my Moda collection called Civil War Homefront. Those little wiggly lines around the "paisley" are supposed to imitate a woven design in a printed cotton. Shawl prints were all the rage about 1860-1890.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Michelle Yeo's Reproduction Quilts

Indiana Rising Sun by Michelle Yeo

Michele from Texas introduced me to the work of another Michelle from Australia---Michelle Yeo.

Abbeville County by Michelle Yeo

You can see she is making fabulous reproductions of antique American quilts with an emphasis on tricky piecing.

California Star by Michelle Yeo
Michelle sells patterns for these quilts and many others, plus templates for some.

Wild Goose Chase by Michelle Yeo

Click here to see her catalog of patterns and templates at Michelle Yeo Quilt Designs:

All the quilt pictures are (c) 2009 Michelle Yeo.

Friday, April 9, 2010

More on Intarsia and Inlaid Applique

Quilted patchwork bed cover, England,
1690-1720, T.201-1984,
© V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria & Albert exhibit of quilts has inspired some discussion of the inlaid or intarsia technique, among the earliest types of patchwork. The quilt above has an estimated date of late-17th century to early 18th century. It is one of the oldest surviving examples of a patchwork bedcover.

See a two and a half minute slide show about the exhibit by clicking here:

Many early quilts feature areas of inlaid or intarsia applique.
See an earlier post about an exhibit just closed in Vienna with an emphasis on inlay work by clicking here:

Just what is intarsia? It's related to techniques in woodwork called parquetry, marquetry and inlay work and is done in much the same fashion, but patchworkers must add seams. Knitters also do intarsia work.

Jennifer Harris in Textiles, 5,000 Years: an International History and Illustrated Survey defined intarsia patchwork as "carefully cut segments of fabric…set into identically shaped openings cut in the ground fabric."

To clarify the differences in various patchwork techniques I drew some digital sketches. Say you want to create an image of a heart, a green heart on a white background square: 

You have many options. The most common solution today would be to lay a green heart on the white background and stitch it down. What we call applique.

We could piece it by adding seams to the background and seam allowances to all the pieces.

You might want to make a paper template for each piece and baste or glue the seam allowance around the paper, then whip stitch the pieces together. But most of us today wouldn't do this with the old-fashioned paper piecing technique.

Another applique option is reverse applique, a technique common with early 19th-century American quilters and 20th-century Kuna women in Panama for their molas, but a solution not often used today.

The patchworker of the 18th-century seems to have considered inlay applique as his or her first option.
One cuts the same shape in the white background out of the green foreground; inserts the heart in the heart-shaped hole and stitches them together.
In woodworking the carpenter cuts a heart in ebony and a heart-shaped hole in cherrywood exactly the same size. No seams, just gluing and sanding

But for fabric one has to add seams because you wouldn't want raw edges showing. People seem to have cut a paper template the size of the finished heart, added a seam allowance when cutting the green heart, and basted the edges of the green heart over the paper.
It seems to me that one would then use that basted heart as a template. Cut a piece of paper the same size as the background fabric. Draw as line around the heart. Cut a heart shape out of the paper. Use it to cut the heart-shape hole in the background fabric but add a seam allowance, which would make a smaller heart shape.
Turn that seam allowance under as you baste the white background to the paper.
Then insert the basted heart into the basted background and whip stitch them together. With perfect cutting and perfect basting they will fit perfectly.

Detail of a German piece in
a traveling exhibit about intarsia work
Some of these shapes are outlined by another piece of fabric, which is probably a way of dealing with the seam allowance problem, and another step.

Remove the papers if you get around to it.
Quilt it if you like. The piece at the top is quilted; the one below is not.

Here is a detail of a silk quilt dated 1718 that belongs to the British Quilters Guild.
See the whole quilt by clicking here:
The silk is shattering in places allowing us to see the white paper that remains almost 300 years later.

Learn more about intarsia by reading this book: Tuchintarsien in Europa

It's the 2009 catalog from a traveling exhibit from the Museum Europäischer Kulturen in Berlin. This show will be in Leeds, England at the Leeds Art Gallery from August 27, 2010 to November 1, 2010. Check it out here: http://www.leeds.gov.uk/artgallery  

And if you are not confused enough consider Charles Dickens's mid-19th-century discussion of patchwork in Household Words:

 Now, there are many kinds of artistic productions which we feel disposed to call patchwork, for alike reason : marquetry-patchwork, parquetry-patchwork, buhl-patchwork, niello-patchwork, damascene-patchwork, enamel-patchwork; and we can assure any person who has not duly thought on the matter, that these various kinds of patchwork often call forth considerable grace, taste, and delicate art.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Di Ford and Ann Daggs (Ann Dagge)

Ann Dagge, Rochester, New York, 1818. 84" x 78".
Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Patricia Smith Melton
Di Ford has a new pattern featuring her interpretation of this appliqued medallion dated 1818.
Click here to see some photos of Di's quilt:

Here's a blog featuring a work in progress

See the center of the original by clicking here
at The American Quilt

It has been published for about 20 years as the Ann Daggs quilt, but apparently the curators at the Smithsonian Insitution have re-interpreted her signature as Ann Dagge.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Centennial Prints

Every Civil War reproduction line needs a star print. My Civil War Home Front for Moda has this simple star that adds a patriotic accent in a several useful background colors.

Many of the stars in my antique fabric collection originated after the Civil War, which ended in 1865. A decade later the Centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence inspired a fair in Philadelphia and a plethora of patriotic prints. The theme in 1876 was a re-union of North and South under the Union flag and symbols such as the eagle and George Washington.

I've been collecting original and reproduction Centennial prints for years. It's a good collecting specialty because the originals are abundant and they've inspired several reproductions.

This print with an eagle and a portrait of Lafayette is a reproduction printed in 1876. The original was printed when Revolutionary hero Lafayette returned to America about 1825. I've never seen the original, or even a photo of the original, but historian Xenia Cord tells me she saw a piece in a quilt at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

The document print (original) at the bottom has faded quite a bit. Above is a reproduction (more an interpetation) that Terry Thompson and I did for Climbing Jacob's Ladder for Moda in 2007. The musical notes are the tune to "Hail, Columbia"

In 2000 Judie Rothermel reproduced this print celebrating the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876. She changed the words to say "To the New Century."

A few years ago Terry Clothier Thompson did a collection of Centennial prints in red, white and blue for Moda called Libertyville.

Pat L. Nickols has a new RJR collection available soon called Waving Old Glory

She's reproduced the print in this child's dress from the Collection of the Smithsonian Institution.

Read about a quilt made of Centennial prints in the collection of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian by clicking here:

You know designer fabric collections are available only for as short time but you may be able to find a few of the older pieces at your local quilt shop, or do an online search to find them.

Friday, April 2, 2010


We get a little window into the past in dated quilts like the 1797 Sun Dial quilt on exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum right now.

See more about the quilt by clicking here:

In 1797 British and European manufactories had for decades been producing cotton calico prints, the small scale fabrics used for clothing, furnishings and quilts, so some of the fabric was domestic and some of it was probably imported from India. Although the roller printing machine was invented over a decade earlier, the majority of the prints would have been produced with traditional hand printing using wood blocks.

The Sun Dial quilt gives us an idea of the fashionable color range in the prints: lavenders and pinks from madder, blues from indigo, browns from madder, querictron and other natural dyes.
See a design for a cotton print in the collection of the Victoria and Albert by clicking here:


Who wore these prints in 1797?
1797 fashion plate featuring a striped cotton dress and a Spencer jacket

We can imagine 21-year-old Jane Austen dressed in "spotted muslin" writing at her home in the Steventon Rectory on a novel called First Impressions (later Pride & Prejudice).
In Northanger Abbey she has Mr Tilney impress Catherine Moreland with his knowledge of fashion by describing her appearance. She was wearing a "sprigged muslin robe with blue trimmings—plain black shoes—appear[ing] to much advantage." In other words, a dress of cotton printed with small leaves and sprigs of flowers.

In London Mary Wollstonecraft, pregnant with the daughter who would become Mary Godwin Shelley, might have been stitching baby clothes of cotton prints.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin 1759-1797
Her daughter Mary, who never knew her, wrote Frankenstien

Despite her belief in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the theme of the book she'd published about five years earlier, poor women like Mary Godwin remained tied to hand sewing.

The upper class shared the fashion for cotton prints.  Princess Charlotte Augusta, daughter of Prince George, was christened in February, 1797. In line for the British throne, Charlotte would have had the best of clothing with fine cotton prints considered a luxury item.

Both she and Mary Wollstonecraft would die in childbirth, altering history in small and significant ways.

Princess Charlotte 1796-1817
After her death her cousin Victoria became heir to the throne.

In America, Abigail Adams assumed the role of the wife of the President of the United States when her husband John Adams was inaugurated that year.

Abigail Smith Adams 1744-1818

In her letters she wrote about the fashion for  "muslin," which meant a better weave of cotton then than it does today. As wife of the President she tried to set a conservative style.

I wish any thing would persuade the Ladies that muslin is not a proper winter dress.
So far as example goes, I shall bring in the use of silks.
Abigail Adams, Letter to her sister, Dec. 4, 1799

And at the other end of the social scale, a girl was born to a slave in New York. Named Isabella Baumfree, she would carry on Mary Wollstonecraft's idea about human rights as Sojourner Truth.

Isabella Baumfree (Sojourner Truth) 1797-1883
As a slave Isabella may have worn some fine cotton prints cast off from older girls in the household, but the clothing of the slave was generally a coarse cotton weave called Osnaburg or "slavecloth." In the photo taken in the 1850s, many years after she bought her freedom,  her dress appears to be a fashionable stripe of a wool blend.

In my Moda collection called Hartfield, which came out last year, I tried to capture the palette of pastels and brown that was so important about 1800. Inspired by the shades in the Sun Dial quilt I included teal blues, lilacs and pink.

A quilt I saw at the Road to California show
in the Quilters' Coop booth, made from the Hartfield collection.

See more about the exhibit Quilts:1700-2010 at the Victoria and Albert Museum by clicking here: