Thursday, October 5, 2017

Calla Lilies, Tulips and Mexican Shell Flowers

Quilt from the Massachusetts Project and the Quilt Index,
private collection.

The chintz in the corners of this elegant star quilt is familiar
to fans of large-scale floral prints.
The documenters at MassQuilts noted that the "calla lily motif" appears
in several other quilts. See the white calla lily in the center part of the floral.

Callas are also called arum lilies.

I think this quilt in a private collection when
documented is now in the collection of the Shelburne Museum.
UPDATE: Anita Loscalzo writes to say the two above are indeed the same quilt and it's in her collection now.
It is very similar to a star in the Poos Collection...

with the same print in the corners. Kay Triplett calls it Calla Lily, Iris, Primrose and Parrot Tulip We thought those were iris until Terry Terrell  identified them as Mexican shell flowers. The tulip is falling out of the arrangement.

Looks like an iris but it is a Mexican shell flower.

Jeana Kimball has a block signed Elizabeth Singleton 1844

Elizabeth Dahle's star, found in the Maryland quilt project, 
 uses the print in the north/south triangles.
See a post about the print in the corners here:

The Orlofsky book Quilts In America pictured a star from the The Brooklyn Museum 
with the chintz yardage in the edges.

This may be the most popular print of all with chintz quilt makers
in the 1840s.

Notice the same floral arrangment in the top row (left of center) in this
cut-out-chintz album/sampler sold at Pook & Pook Auctions. Tulip's been
trimmed off.

An 1842 block from Burlington (New Jersey?)
signed Amanda ???. I think this may be from
Donna Stickovich's collection.

Dated 1843 - 1844
Shippensburg, Pennsylvania
IQSCM # 1997_007_0479

International Quilt Study Center & Museum owns several quilts with the print, including two with
Queen Victoria commemoratives. The one above has much of the bouquet in each of the corners. Note the Mexican shell flower is on its own in a smaller block.

The other features the full bouquet. You soon learn
to look for the meandering shell flower. It's all alone in border block.

Here's the full bouquet in the center of a medallion from a Thomaston Auction

Anna Catherine Garnhart used the calla and the tulip under
the eagle in one of her quilts in the collection of the DAR Museum.

Mary Rooker Norris had a lot of scraps that she used in her medallion, also in the DAR collection. I see the tulip and the shellflower marching along. https://eyeonelegance.dar.org/node/57

International Quilt Study Center & Museum
11 of the floral arrangments!
How many yards?

Is that the same border stripe as in the Shelburne's 
star at the top of the page?

The Victoria & Albert has a piece---but I digress.

So what did the calla and shell flower fabric look like off the bolt? As the fabric designer always asks: What was the repeat?

Victoria & Albert Museum collection
This is the only photo I've found of the yardage. It has a fancy machine ground.

 What was to the left and right?
Maybe nothing.
I realize now I've been thinking like a 21st-century fabric designer and
not a 19th-century cylinder print designer. This may be all you got: One repeat with selvages
on either side fitting onto a narrow roller machine. Perfect for drapes, valances...

Julia Lawrence Hasbrouck's diary of a day of sewing in New York City.
"Tuesday. October 19. 1840. Raining still. Sent for Miss McFarlow She cut their green merino coats for the children. G. and I wash the mantel Lamps. I mended all the stockings. Cut out two sets of valens [sic] 12 yds each from new chintz. "
Her diary is in the collection of New York's Stone Ridge Library.


  1. I had never heard of Mexican Shell Flowers, so I looked them up. https://www.gardenia.net/plant-variety/tigridia-pavonia-tiger-flower
    They're pretty and this post says they're deer and rabbit resistant. Note that another name is Jockey's Cap Lily -- which makes me think of the Drunkard's Path variation called Jockey's Cap.

  2. I planted some bulbs. They are not the showiest bloom on the block because each bulb produces one flower and they last one day. But it's a good day.

  3. During the period when this particular chintz was produced was there not an attempt by English manufacturers to undercut and ruin the American mills. Could it be possible that this pattern, along with other cotton, was being dumped on the market cheaply in unfair competion and so is found often?

  4. I've never seen an eagle and shield done quite that way. What an interesting interpretation. Thanks for sharing.

  5. A very interesting chintz fabric. I recognize a few of the flowers in this pattern that made their way into several of Anna Catharine Hummel Markey Garnhart's quilts, especially that tulip.

  6. Green Heron-- I used to think that the fabric was being "dumped" which implies an undercutting of our fabric industry but we had no chintz or calico fabric industry in 1820. It would be like someone "dumping" truffles on us to ruin our truffle industry. We don't have a truffle industry. The fabric was probably printed in England for the foreign market.

  7. At the time I read this post I was deep into the West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search book:"Echoes from the Hills, West Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers" by Fawn Valentine. She wrote of a quilt found in Berkeley County, a repeat block of purchased fabric and fringe:

    Two printed fabrics are used for patchwork, providing visual consistency typical of early repeating pieced-block quilts. The eight-point star is crafted with an ikat-look print, the colors likely derived from madder. The blue, red, and brown floral chintz with picotage details resembles the type of fabrics exported to America from England beginning in 1815, after the conclusion of the War of 1812, and continuing for over a decade, in an effort to flood the market with British goods and cripple the fledgling New England textile industry.

    Having just read this, I jumped with both feet to connect the chintz you were enlightening us about to Valentine's assertion.

  8. I don't disagree with Fawn or with you. But I am beginning to doubt the use of the word and concept of "dumping." I think it is more that English mills dominated world trade in printed cotton at the time. Their motives were probably more economic than political. American printers did complain that they couldn't undersell England in simple calicoes or woven patterns but there was no way American printers were making chintzes like the calla lily in the 1800-1840 era.

  9. Mexican shell flowers are also called tiger irises; they're in the iris family..