Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bird in a Cherry Tree

Bird in a Cherry Tree
Appliqued by Klonda Holt & Edie McGinnis.
Quilted by Brenda Butcher. 2011.

This fabulous reproduction is in Edie McGinnis's new pattern book from the Kansas City Star.
Confederates in the Cornfield

The book tells the story of a guerilla raid into the Union state of Iowa during the Civil War.

Klonda and Edie named the featured quilt after the birds in the border--- a terrific example of that style of birds and berries (lotsa berries). 

See more about Edie's book and a preview by clicking here

The block is one of the fad quilts of the mid 19th century. Many examples of this design were made, usually as repeat blocks, rather than being featured in samplers.

There are variations, something you'd expect in a pattern handed around quilter to quilter. The basic characteristics are a center floral with two different motifs rotating around the center.

 One is a stem with fruit, the other a leaf or bud extending into the block's corners.

I show nine variations in my Encyclopedia of Applique on page 84. Names given to the design include Flowering Almond from Comfort magazine in the early 20th century. This is the earliest published name from a pattern source I've found. It's a name that was still used in Tennessee in the 1980s when Bets Ramsey and Merikay Waldvogel did the Tennessee Quilt Project.

I have a flowering almond bush in my yard. It puts out a lot of small flowers on a leafless branch in the spring, looking very much like those rotating arms in the quilt pattern. I found a reference to the name Flowering Almond in a letter from 1860, in which Elizabeth Nessly Myer described such a quilt that was left to her family. (Mill Creek Journal, Kay Atwood editor and publisher, Ashland, Oregon, 1987)

Other names found in print in the early 20th century are Currants & Cockscombs in Marie Webster's book Quilts (1915) and Poinsettia in Ruth Finley's Old Patchwork Quilts (1929).

And here's Sue Garman's pattern for a 56" square quilt

Once you notice this old design you find it over and over.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Unknown Pattern in an Old Photo

Photographers sometimes hung quilts and tops as backdrops for photos. This picture was offered in an online auction a few years ago, advertised as from Texas. The clothing looks early 20th century and the quilt seems to be a unique pattern although it's a lot like this basic snowball or baseball pattern.

Same shapes can be arranged in different ways.


In the variation above the quarter circles in the corners of each block are all pink and the center circle is unpieced and of various colors. 

These patterns (#1504 and 1505 in BlockBase) were given names like:
Baseball or Boston Puzzle from the Ladies' Art Company about 1900
Circle Design from Grandmother Clark in 1931
Winding Blade or Marble in the Kansas City Star in 1937 & 1934
Steeplechase or Bow & Arrows from Ruth Finley in 1929

The bow shape can also be pieced of strings,  but string quilts were not often published and named in the pattern catalogs and books.

The quilt in the photograph is string pieced.

But there is this odd stripe across the snowballs.

Here are some links to Quilt Index photos of snowball/baseball variations. One from Tennessee:
Another from Louisiana:
And one from Merry Silber's collection

I couldn't find anything like the one in the old photograph, so I've filed it away in the massive file labeled "Patterns I Can't Find Anywhere."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Northern Lily Southern Rose Block 4

Midlands Lily
by Ilyse Moore

Nineteenth-century variations on the layered triple lily
The fourth regional applique design for the Northern Lily/Southern Rose Block of the Month is a triple lily reminiscent of the applique quilts from the area cultural historians call the Midlands, which is centered in  Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio. Midlands Lily seems a good name for a pattern quite popular in the area around the time of the Civil War.

Midlands Lily by Susan Stiff
Susan used pieces from my Civil War Reunion collection with a Moda Bella Solid green.

debi schrader is making her blocks out of a 10" square Layer Cake package of the Civil War Reunion prints with a solid background from Blackbird Design's Antique Fair from Moda. (#2677-17). Click here to see more solids and prints from this collection:

This triple floral design is often interpreted as a tulip but lilies were also depicted  in profile.
Angel by Leonardo DaVinci

 Lilies have a long history of symbolic use in Christian iconography. Renaissance painters often depicted the Angel of the Annunciation handing Mary a white lily, a symbol of purity.

Angel by Botticelli

Triple arrangements of  flowers seen in profile are a staple of Germanic folk arts. Here is a Pennsylvania redware plate dated 1789 with three-lobed flowers arranged in threes, a possibly symbolic reference to the Holy Trinity. 

This shot of the digital sketch shows the colors in Susan's version better.

Here's my version in the traditional Germanic folk art colors of red, green and yellow.
I stuck the leaves in where they fit.
I don't think it matters as long as the design has some balance to it. (You can see why I am glad debi, Ilyse and Susan are making these blocks too.)

This is one of nine regional applique patterns in the Block of the Month Northern Lily/Southern Rose that Moda and I are offering in the year of the Civil War Centennial.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Sewing Kit

Today is Flag Day and because this year is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War I thought I'd share this little flag sewing kit I own. The antique box is in the front, a cardboard box covered with striped silk and a little navy blue wool. You can get an idea of its size from the small scissors I added and the thimble. The reproduction box is behind it.

It may very well have been a patriotic Union knicknack, made for a soldier's knapsack or for a Ladies' Fair. I didn't notice at first that it's supposed to be a flag. The blue wool in the pincushion area has bled into the red and white striped silk, making two shades of purple rather than a patriotic stripe. And the blue field is just a rectangle until white pins representing stars are placed in the proper constellation.

The original still has its inventory of sewing tools: a thimble, glass-headed pins, a tape measure and two spools of thread, one in a tiny bag made from a purplish delaine dress fabric (to the right of the box above). A wooden spool, now empty, is stitched inside the bag. The seamstress guided her thread through a small hole in the bag, which prevented the spool from rolling away.

Here's a sketch of the reproduction with the lid closed.

Sketch with lid open
It's 4-1/2" long and 1-1/2" wide

  • Red striped fabric: About 10" x 14"
  • Blue fabric: About 2" x 4-1/2"
  • Cardboard (or substitue template plastic): About 8" x10"
  • For the pincushion part, a pinch of wool roving or other stuffing.
  • 13 white glass-headed pins

From the cardboard cut the following
  • 3 sides: 4-1/2" x 1-1/2"
  • 3 ends: 1-1/2" square
  • 1 lid: 3-1/4" x 1-1/2"
From the red stripe cut the following:
  • 3 sides 5" x 4"
  • 3 ends 4" x 2"
  • 1 lid 4" x 3-3/4"
(Be sure the stripes are going the long way so the top and sides look like a flag)

From the blue fabric cut 1 piece  1-3/4" x 4"

Covering the Cardboard
Make finished sides of the box which are then whip-stitched together by hand. You need three rectangular sides, three square ends and a rectangular lid.

Make a little pillow case for all the striped pieces, by folding each piece of fabric in half with the right sides together. Stitch along two other sides and turn inside out, insert the cardboard and then whip stitch the last side closed.

Constructing the Box

Attach three striped rectangles together with a whip stitch as shown, stitching on the inside of the seams so the stitches barely show on the outside of the box.

Add one of the end pieces, which holds the pincushion by whip stitching it to the base of the box 1-1/2" in from the left side.
Adjust that end to stand up as you turn up the sides of the box.
Add the ends of the box by whip stitching them on three sides.

Stuff the pincushion part, which is the smaller compartment on the left here, with wool roving.
Fold the blue field fabric in half and whip stitch it to the box above the stuffing.

Add the lid to the box by whip stitching one end to the right end.

Finish the Sewing Kit
Stick pins in an arrangement, a circle, a star or a square field.

You could add a piece of batting to each of the cardboard pieces to make the box a little puffier.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Birds in Applique

I've posted about cats on quilts so to be fair here are some birds found in antique applique quilts. They are found in borders as with the blue and red bird above from a quilt in the collection of the New England Quilt Museum. See the whole quilt by clicking here on this Quilt Index file

Karla Menaugh and I made a picture file of birds for our book Juniper & Mistletoe, which was really about trees, but we found several great birds in the trees.

Birds don't take much in the way of applique as in this border from a quilt dated 1842

Here's a minimalistic bird from a top about 1900

And a worn border from a mid-19th-century quilt

Birds often appeared in blocks
Especially in samplers

Scale seems to be a problem in this sampler with a giant bird in the bottom row.

Here's a lovely crib quilt with a variety of birds and bugs from an online auction.

See more by clicking on these links.

From the Quilt Index, New Jersey, probably from the 1860s, a sampler with some strange blocks and two bird blocks
Another Quilt Index photo, this one from the Connecticut Quilt Project, with some long-beaked birds towards the bottom
An Irish Chain with birds in the alternate blocks
From the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, a fairly recent quilt by Sarah Mary Taylor, #2005.060.0001
Dealer Stella Rubin has an unusual 19th century example

And for more about our book Juniper & Mistletoe click here