Thursday, May 9, 2013

Reverse Applique Feathers and Vines

You may have gotten a chance two years ago to see this superb quilt on display at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum. We spent a long time looking at every detail. It has a variety of techniques and designs in it. Things you don't notice in photos make it even more interesting in the cloth.
One detail is that the baskets of cut-out chintz along the edges are cut from pillar prints The lower basket itself is the capital on the pillar. 

Apparently the unknown seamstress only had a strip of that pillar print because she filled out every bouquet in the quilt by adding more flowers to the sides. The sides on each are a little lighter in color.

See the whole quilt at the IQSC website here:

The other important thing you can't see in a photo is that the blue feather or vine border is reverse applique rather than regular applique---inlay instead of onlay. This is a technique you don't often see done on such a scale. But it is a hallmark of the style of quilts attributed to Anna Catherine Markey Garnhart, which is one reason the quilt credited to Elizabeth Welch on display at the Brooklyn Museum right now is thought to have some relationship to Garnhart.

Quilt attributed to Elizabeth Welch
Brooklyn Museum.
The dark feather or vine appliqued border is done in reverse applique.

See more about the likeness in these quilts at this post:

The Plains Indian & Pioneers Historical Foundation in Oklahoma owns a quilt strongly connected to Garnhart through her heirs with a similar reverse applique vine.
In the detail you can see a slight shadow around the blue leaves, indicating there is a piece of blue fabric under the white. The white has been cut away to reveal the blue.

The technique is so impressive that I thought I'd show you some others.
The International Quilt Study Center & Museum owns THREE  with similar borders, including the one at the top of the page.

All from the Ardis & Robert James Collection.
See the feathered star quilt at the IQSC website by clicking here:
See the sampler quilt by clicking here:

The Turkey red feathers are so similar......
And quite a bit like this one from the collection of
The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

And I saw this one online and brightened it up. The bows in the corners caught my eye. I have no idea if it's reverse applique or regular old conventional applique, but you see a hint of a shadow around the green leaves, indicating darker fabric laid under the white.

I also wondered about this one, sold in 2011 at Cowan's Auctions, but they have a great photo viewing area on their site and you can see that it looks like onlaid applique rather than inlaid applique. 
See the picture here:
This is a feat of needlework whether the applique is laid on top of the white or the white is cut through to reveal the color.

Again, hard to tell the technique from a photo from an online auction.

And a very similar border from a quilt in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg, donated in 1974 by Miriam R. Le Vin. The cataloging information doesn't mention reverse applique.

I found two contemporary versions done in reverse applique---check out these Baltimore Album style quilts 
by Margaret Matthews and Kathryn Tennyson.

See a photo of Margaret's quilt here:

And a photo of Kathryn's Baltimore Album here:

I was discussing the technique with my friend Roseanne Smith who is quite a seamstress. Why would you do this vine or feather border in reverse applique? 

For one thing: it's a challenge.

I guessed maybe because your needlework teacher wanted you to try the technique. Roseanne thought maybe because you could ask someone else to draw the feathers on the border fabric. Then all the seamstress had to do was cut away the holes. Someone who was good at drawing feathers---or a professional pattern drafter---could mark it for someone who was good at reverse applique. Might be easier for the seamstress than a positive applique border like the red and green one above.

I hope you're inspired.

Look at this pair at a Copake auction in New York next week:
Are those reverse appliqued?


suzanne said...

Thank you for writing about this gorgeous quilt. I envy you for seeing it "in the fabric". I've tried to figure it out with a magnifying glass from the photo in A Flowering of Quilts, but I have two questions, (1) aren't the additions to the sides and top of the bouquets different from one another, possibly meaning they are compositions made from motifs in other fabrics, not just a strip of the same fabric? And (2) are there seams in the white fabric between each bouquet, or are the borders just long strips of chintz made for broderie perse as it came from the bolt, then embellished with the "extra" flowers and leaves? The seams I'm asking about would be in the white 'background" between the bouquets. I guess I'm thinking that either way, the pillar, vase and basic bouquet themselves are printed on the white background, not applied.

Debra Dixon said...

That is how it looks--maybe like a cheater cloth for borders.

I could certainly understand doing reverse applique-it might be easier if the top were cut away. I don't envision trying out the method to test it but an interesting discussion of the idea.

Barbara Brackman said...

1) As I recall the side additions to the flowers were different but I can't totally vouch for that. The second question about seams: I didn't notice. Sorry.

Janet said...

Oh yes, I am inspired!! I don't think I'll be trying the reverse applique though :0) Thanks for a great post!

Unknown said...

There are a lot of appliquers now doing the Dutch Treat Quilt which is all reverse applique. Gorgeous quilt when done.

WoolenSails said...

That is a beautiful quilt and a wonderful example of reverse appliqué.


Margaret said...

What a surprise to see my first (and 2nd) Baltimore Album quilt on your blog. There were 5 of us struggling together to make BA quilts without any help (no lessons). I decided to make one with a dark background and was severely criticized ("they must only be made with light backgrounds!") Then, when I said I would have both completed within the year for a local quilt show, I was told I couldn't accomplish such an endeavor. Well, that made me angry, and I set off to show "them" it could be done?!? First of all, I didn't realize that making a simple "border" was like making several more blocks. I did get my inspiration from the border you showed at the top. I absolutely love reverse applique! Word of caution--do plan ahead and mark carefully. As you can see, once you start cutting and stitching, that's it--loopy or not. You're stuck with your impulses.
Margaret Mathews

Barbara Brackman said...

Margaret---that is an impressive border---Congratulations on some great quilts.