Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Show Off Piecing: Whig Rose

A pieced block with appliqued leaves.

Tennessee quilt historian Bets Ramsey has pointed out a group of floral patterns that look to be appliqued, but on close inspection reveal pieced seams. The block above shows the best clue to a pieced rose---the diagonal seams that extend from the corner of the block to the buds.

That seam is easier to see in a block rather than a quilted piece.
These roses, often called The Whig Rose, are numbered 14.6 in my Encyclopedia of Applique (but the catch is many are not appliqued.)

 You find them from about 1840 into the twentieth century.

I own this fragment of a top that looks to be 20th-century. Her pattern wasn't too good or her sewing skills were not up to it. The puckers did not quilt out.

I tried drafting a pattern in Electric Quilt but so far I have only attempted the central rose, something Ruth Finley called a Foundation Rose in her 1929 book Old Patchwork Quilts.

I hand pieced this drawing the seam lines on the fabric back from the templates---a very old-fashioned idea. Here's what I learned---don't put stripes in the center! I also learned the pattern works. Maybe I will redraw it and try deeper curves. And add buds.

It's hard to believe how complex some of these pieced roses were. The buds often had appliqued parts added to them, but some of them are all pieced---buds, leaves and all.

Some were pieced into a circle and then the circle pieced inside a square

I found several in the Quilt Index from the Quilts of Tennessee project (see below for links) but it's hard to see from those 30-year-old pictures how much is piecing and how much is applique.

There is often embroidery---I added a little digital embroidery and buds to my  sketch. The 19th-century seamstresses might cover the seam with embroidery and add thorns and rose hairs to the bud.

I did some photo manipulating of this Tennessee example to show the embroidery.

Here's a well-used example from the West Virginia project.They seemed to think it necessary to cover the seam with stitches. I'd be showing off my piecing, thank you.

A top from Marie Miller's online store

Donna Skvarla owns one of the best examples I've seen of this show-off piecing. You don't often see prints used.

And speaking of showing off---this one has a green strip inserted in the seam line. That's not embroidery.

In the Tennessee study of nineteenth-century quilts, Bets and Merikay Waldvogel examined 1,425 quilts, of which 64 were classified as rose patterns. Of those, twelve (almost 20%) were pieced or pieced and applique combined. That percentage is high enough to tell us that any rose quilt we come across should be examined to see if there is piecing in what we assume to be an applique design. See more about Bets's article at the bottom of the page.

This summer I thought I'd post occasionally about Show-Off Piecing. You may be inspired to try it.

Mary K. Clark, 1854

Here is an EXTREME example of the Whig Rose idea from Fort Walla Walla's collection.

Below are Quilt Index links to several Tennessee roses that may have piecing:

Bets Ramsey, "Roses Real and Imaginary: Nineteenth Century Botanical Quilts of the Mid-South," is in Uncoverings 1986,Volume 07 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group. The volume is out of print but you can read it online in the wonderful Quilt Index. Click here:
Read it and send them a donation.


  1. Yet another skill to add to my list of things to try. What a great idea they had for those of us who prefer piecing.

  2. I LIKE your stripes in the center! Came out looking like a pinwheel! Love it.

  3. You've inspired me to take a second look at my Carrie Hall Sampler (in progress, ever so slowly). Maybe a little embroidered embellishments are in order! THanks

  4. You are right--most people would glance and say those roses are appliqued. Thanks for the clue to look closer.

  5. Fascinating! From afar, one would certainly think most of these were appliqued. It's amazing what a closer study of these quilts reveals. I love combination of pieced center and the fancy appliqued border on the Fort Walla Walla quilt...at least it APPEARS to be appliqued! :)

  6. It is amazing to see the appliqué that they did with poor lighting and supplies on hand. I really like Donna's version with the prints.


  7. Fascinating! Are you saying just the rose center scallopy parts are pieced (with background) and the buds are appliqued over the segment seams? Or are the buds somehow pieced in? If so, I can't figure it out. Please show us how when you do it.

  8. The buds are pieced into the background too. In several of the examples I show there is no applique at all.

  9. I keep coming back to look at these - such amazing piecing.

    Wouldn't it be fun to see the backside of the piecing.

  10. After visiting the Quilts exhibition at the V&A a couple of years ago, I needed to do a year number and chose to do it by inset paper piecing, which worked well and was an interesting learning experience. I will send a picture if I can work out how.