Monday, March 18, 2013

Oriental Poppy

A copy of Rose Kretsinger's
Oriental Poppy Quilt
sold at auction recently.

Oriental Poppy by Karla's Mom, Ina Mae Carney

Karla's mom made a version of Rose Kretsinger's Oriental Poppy for a sampler pattern that Karla Menaugh and I did for our Sunflower Pattern Co-operative years ago. 

We are planning to re-do the pattern in book form so I have been doing some more research on the design.

Oriental Poppy
by Cindy Korb

Rose Kretsinger made her version in 1927 in Emporia, Kansas. In April, 1931, the Emporia Gazette  featured a story about the quilt: 

"a copy of an old pattern, which is nameless, but which Mrs. Kretsinger calls the Oriental Poppy because it is composed of poppy-like red flowers and heavy leaves. The pattern for the quilt was provided by a maid in the Kretsinger home, and has a long and romantic history. About 75 years ago a grandmother of the [Kretsinger's hired] girl stored her hope chest in her Chicago home just before her wedding. The home burned in the great Chicago fire, and only fragments of the furnishings remained in the ashes. The hope chest was destroyed, but smoldering pieces of the folded quilts it contained were preserved. The girl inherited these tattered pieces as souvenirs, and Mrs. Kretsinger was able to sketch two patterns from them." 

I've always found the Chicago Fire story a bit hard to believe, but Rose did copy patterns from old quilts, so I thought I would see if I could find any antiques with this pattern.

Mid-19th-century quilt
 from the Shelburne Museum

The basic structure is a central shape out of which grow four plants, each with a flower on a stem and a pair of leaves. There are lots of similar designs with that basic layout, several of them listed in my Encyclopedia of Applique, numbered 8.49 to 8.58 with names like Tennessee Tulip from Ruby McKim's "Patchwork Parade of States" in the early 1930s and Summer Tulips from the Nancy Cabot column in the Chicago Tribune in 1937.

Many of these tulips or other flower grow out of this fleur-d'lis-like scalloped center. Below are several blocks with the same geometry that I found in mid-19th-century samplers.

You can see that Rose's Oriental Poppy (bottom right)
 has quite a different center.
It's a floral and not a scallop shape.

Most of the blocks above are from Maryland quilts. Mary Manakee's version is top center.  I love the completely wacky leaves on the block at bottom left.

The blocks differ in the leaves as well as the flowers, but many have serrated leaves. Florence Peto showed similar leaves in one of her quilt books and called it a Thistle. The "heavy leaves" would make you think of a cactus, a thistle or an oriental poppy.  

There were so many Maryland quilts I started thinking "Baltimore Album" and I did find several versions in those classic samplers above. You can see how Rose might have interpreted the center as a flower rather than a scrolly shape.

So now I am wondering if the hired girl's burnt-up quilt might have been an applique sampler, whether from Baltimore or elsewhere. The newspaper said, "Mrs. Kretsinger was able to sketch two patterns" from the quilt. I wonder what the other one was. All this speculation probably won't wind up in the re-issued pattern book---no room---and no evidence.

You see the pattern in  places besides Baltimore. Click here to see a Preble County, Ohio sampler in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum with the block in question:

Above is a version of our Emporia Rose Sampler that Cindy Korb did from the first pattern. If you made one we'd love to see a snapshot. We are looking for examples for the book.

Drop me a note in the comments and I will get back to you.

See more about the Oriental Poppy

And check out WillyWonky's blog post here for his discovery of a pair of North Carolina quilts in the pattern above:
All the parts are there, just in different places.


  1. Barbara, you're such a tease.... how much did it sell for?

    What a gorgeous block!

  2. I don't know the price. I didn't stick around for the end.

  3. Those are beautiful quilts, have always admired the album style appliqu├ęs. Now if i could just get my brain to work with placement, I might be able to make some, someday.


  4. Had a quilt evaluated by Mary Jane Perini last week and she could not identify the pattern (ca. 1900 Missouri). She scoured your book and suggested I contact you. I have a nice photo of the quilt which I could send to you (white and blue) made by Effie Sanford. I have been searching for the name of this pattern for many years. Hope you can help. Peggy Fisher