Monday, June 30, 2014

Glasgow: An Aesthetic Disaster

On May 23rd fire damaged an important landmark of the Scottish Arts & Crafts movement.

Photo from 2008 by Mark Mulligan

 The Mackintosh building of the Glasgow School of Art burned at the end of the term. The building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, was constructed between 1897 and 1909.

The Mackintosh Library was severely damaged.

See past photos of the building collected at this site:

Funds for restoration are being raised.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Stars Simplified: BlockBase #3735

pieced of toile, chintz and linen

I've been sorting my digital files of stars and found some
pretty complicated patterns, which derive from this basic
star pieced of eight diamonds
#3735 in BlockBase

I thought I'd go back to the basics in the stars based on diamonds.

The star pieced of 8 diamonds is similar to the nine-patch star 

#2138 looks much the same but has no Y-seams.

It's often hard to tell if the star is pieced of 8 diamonds
or a nine-patch star. In the detail above this one
seems to be the nine-patch or sawtooth star.

G/W/T/ 1795
Made in what is now West Virginia

See more about this quilt at the Quilt Index

Both versions of the variable star go back to
the 18th century. The medallion quilt dated
1795 has the eight-diamond stars in the borders.

As does this medallion dated 1806
in the collection of the Delaware Historical Society.

Clarissa D. Moore 1837
Collection of Old Sturbridge Village

 Clarissa Moore (1820-1912), of Eastford, Connecticut, pieced this quilt at the age of 17.  

Her variation (#3735b) alternating diamonds in different
shades was quite popular.
She did stenciling in the white spaces behind the stars.

See more about this pieced and stenciled quilt here:

In BlockBase, my digital index of patterns for PC's, I show 5 shading variations: a to e. If you want to look it up by number in BlockBase be sure to type in the a, b, etc.

The popular pattern has many published names although the names were published long after these early examples I am showing here. The oldest names are fairly generic. In 1894 the Ohio Farmer called it Star.

Names from my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns in book format.

About the same time the Ladies Art Company called it Eight Pointed Star

The women who made these early chintz versions
may have had a more poetic name for the design
but we have no records of pattern + name until
the end of the 19th century

Collection of the American Museum in Bath

Once in Susan Parrish's collection

I tend to save pictures of the busy versions with chintz alternate blocks because they really appeal to me, but some early-19th-century examples focused on the patchwork instead of the prints creating a simpler look.

The white plain areas were a good spot for heavy quilting.

A scrappy version mid-19th century?

The pattern remained popular as style changed
after the 1850s

reflecting new fashions in fabric
and the more graphic look of calico-scale fabrics contrasted with white.

Perhaps from the first quarter of the 20th century
done in the checks and plaids popular then.

36 star blocks 12" on point = 102" square

Froncie Quinn has done a Hoopla pattern for the Clarissa D. Moore quilt, which would look quite nice in the fabric from my Ladies's Album repro line for Moda.

with the Love's Token Print in Red rose (#8280-20) for the
alternate blocks.

The Hoopla pattern includes the stenciling that Clarissa did too.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Ladies' Album: Inked Signatures

Found this unattributed picture on Pinterest but Marty claims it:
Marty Vint, www.MartyQuilts.com

Maria Fulford signed her cut-out chintz album block 
with the date "Sep. 1845" and a Bible verse. 
It looks like she inked a series of tiny dots rather than strokes.

My Ladies' Album reproduction fabric line celebrates the quilt style trend for ink inscriptions that  developed about 1840. Was it taste or new technology that influenced the fad?

When I wrote Clues in the Calico my guide to dating antique quilts in 1979, I dated the invention of a non-corrosive inks specifically for textiles to the mid-1830s, based on advertising claims made in the 1890s for Payson’s Indelible Ink.

Payson's from Northampton, Massachusetts, marketed their product as “the oldest and best ink for marking linen, silk and cotton with a common pen without preparation. Payson’s has been a household word for over 65 years."

 I went on to credit non-corrosive ink as contributing “to the fad for autograph quilts, which developed soon after Payson’s was invented.” 

I have since changed my mind, primarily due to a 1992 article in AQSG's Uncoverings by textile scientist Dr. Margaret T. Ordoñez who gave quilt historians necessary insight into chemical processes in old inks. (Margaret T. Ordonez's "Ink Damage on Nineteenth-Century Cotton Signature Quilts," Uncoverings, Volume 13)

The large dark areas here are holes in the cotton caused by the ink.

Ordoñez’s research into ink composition indicates that there is no such clear-cut date for non-corrosive, commercial inks. She notes “the search for permanent inks that did not damage paper and fabric was ongoing throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.” 

An old recipe for nutgall or iron gall ink.

Before the mid-19th century, most permanent inks for paper or fabric were made from nutgalls (small growths in oak trees caused by gall wasps depositing their eggs) combined with water and ferrous sulfate. A plant gum was often added. 

The ink appeared pale brown when initially applied, but a chemical reaction, an oxidation, darkened the color and turned it permanent over time, usually just a few days. Varied recipes, particularly the proportions of nutgall and iron, could result in ink that changed again over time to a rusty brown.

Ink on the 19th-century quilts Ordoñez studied appeared to be shades of yellowish-brown or reddish brown to black. The acids in these “iron gallotannate” inks and the continuing oxidation have a tendency to rot cellulosic fabrics, linen and cotton, something Ordoñez noted with her microscope and that quilt collectors too often see with the naked eye. 

The ink also corrodes silk. This one said Centennial Year.

The ink was just as corrosive to paper. 

This album quilt has a signature along the bottom
that shows the bleeding we see in paper and cloth.

It would appear that the nut gall and iron inks were generally homemade according to widely available recipes. Ordoñez also describes a second type of traditional ink, an India ink or permanent carbon ink. The carbon inks, made with lampblack and other soot, also could be formulated by an amateur chemist at home. Both types were manufactured for sale.

Another problem with the nut gall inks is they fade from light.
Whenever I buy an inked quilt I photograph the signatures immediately
because I have had them completely disappear over time.

My whole cause-and-effect argument about a change in ink chemistry in the 1830s affecting the look of American quilts in the early 1840s seems very dubious in light of the evidence. There isn't much difference between the ink being used in 1640, 1840 or 1880.

See a tutorial on making nut gall ink from the Rhode Island School of Design site: