Friday, August 31, 2018

English Applique #2: Unconfined Applique in Prussian Blue

Quilt #1
The last post discussed the techniques and style in this quilt
with a date of 1867 or 1869 and the name Mary Eliza
Trowbridge or Crowbridge in the IQSCM collection.

I have a small photo file of  similar quilts, some attributed to England. 
Some are now in the U.S. but I would imagine they are also of English origin.

Quilt #2. In the U.S.
Private Collection.

Here is one about which little is known. It's unquilted patchwork with an appliqued alphabet and the
date 1845.

Same color palette as Mary Eliza's with many Prussian blue prints
in applique that appears to be secured with cross stitch.

Similar patterns: Simple animals such as dogs, birds and horses plus
human figures. Note the pitcher.

Quilt #3
Another pitcher among humans and animals.
You may be familiar with this piece as it's in the collection
of the Victoria & Albert Museum and has been well publicized.
Kaffe Fassett published a pattern.

The V&A caption for T.86-1957 indicates they know little about it. In 1957 Mrs. E. A. Hunt of Wrotham, Kent donated it on behalf of the West Kent Federation of Women's Institute.

Here's a link to their cataloguing information:

Perhaps the women at the West Kent WI, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, could tell us more about Mrs. Hunt and the quilt. Somebody run right over there.

Quilt #4 below is in the collection of the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.

Quilt with a border of marching soldiers
Shelburne Museum

Florence Peto, the collector who found this quilt, was sure it was an American Civil War souvenir, but I find that hard to believe. It looks English to me in style and is more likely to be commemorating the English Crimean War of the 1850s.

I bet the female figure in the center is Florence Nightingale,
the famous nurse, the Lady with the Lamp of the Crimean War.

In this layered photo the lighter Shelburne's Florence Nightingale figure is compared
to two female figures in the IQSC piece.

Read a post I wrote about the Shelburne's quilt here:

When we looked at Mary Eliza's quilt at IQSCM we noted the cataloging information indicated it was from Wisconsin. This may indeed be true but I doubt it was made in Wisconsin. We considered the possibilities: 
  • Mary was from England and made the quilt in Wisconsin. 
  • Mary's mother was from England and taught Mary to make an English style applique in Wisconsin. 
Upon reflection and finding such similar pieces I have to think Mary made the quilt in England (if indeed she made the quilt---it just might have been her quilt) . Details of aesthetics in style and techniques do not easily cross an ocean so intact.

Tomorrow: More related quilts.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

English Applique #1: A Distinctive Style

A few months ago at the Covered In Blue event at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Nebraska we spent some time examining this quilt.

It's #2009.039.0002 from the James Collection.

The quilt caused quite a flurry of speculation in our small group.

There is an inked name and date on the reverse
Mary Eliza ???
May? 27? 1867 or 1869

[Wish Mary had printed.]

Over the years this name has been interpreted as
Eliza or Ellen
Trowbridge, Crowbridge or Crownbridge.

I'm going for Mary Eliza Crowbridge or Trowbridge as Crownbridge doesn't seem to be a personal name although there is a Welsh town by the name.

Some of us look at construction, some at fabric, some at style or pattern and some at overall visual impact. This quilt had something for all to discuss. We noted the applique construction. Each piece was secured with a cross stitch.

See the file on this quilt at the IQSCM database here:

Border leaves from Mary's quilt

English applique

You often see this applique technique in British quilts, rarely in American applique. Sometimes the fabric is left raw edge, sometimes turned under. UPDATE: In the comments Abelian says it is a herringbone stitch; it's a decorative kind of stitch, something you don't see used much in American quilts until the crazy quilt era of the 1880s.

Here's another likely English applique with a red cross stitch, from Garth's Auction. 
A small rectangular piece.

Mary's quilt
We were there to look at fabrics, in particular blues. And we saw plenty of blue and buff prints dyed with Prussian blue here. These tend to have been popular in the U.S. from about 1840 to 1860, with maybe a broader range of 1830-1870 in England, which fits the inked 186? date.

Julie Silber and I were intrigued by the style---something you do not see American quiltmakers using. How to describe it?

I have been think of it as Unconfined Applique, shapes not confined to blocks.

Julie has been calling it Free Style Applique.

In any case you plop those shapes down wherever they fit.

Right over the seam lines (see the arrows on the left pointing to seams.)
Americans rarely do that.
More tomorrow on this quilt and the style.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Crazy Relatives

Crazy quilts are closely related to fan quilts.
Both appeared in the 1880s, lavished with embroidery.

Here are a few fantastic fans from America's golden age of silk bedcovers.

...with a few wool quilts too

And cotton...
UPDATE: In the comments Cathy says she thinks this is a recent fan. I bet she's right. The thread looks recent. Don't know where I found it.

From the New Jersey project & the Quilt Index

Many I found in online auctions or just floating around in Google pictures.

This small wool piece I had photographed years ago for Clues in the Calico.

Date-inscribed 1893, Bourbon County, Kentucky
Smithsonian Institution.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Quilt Pictures: Tossing Out Some Basic Assumptions

Woman quilting in Woodville, California, 1942
Photo by Russell Lee for the W.P.A. Farm Security Administration.

During the Great Depression and into World War II the federal government
hired photographers to record rural life in hard times.

Family in Gees Bend

From California migrant camps to chronically poor Southern rural communities in Alabama, the photographers---most of them men---did a good job of recording women's activities.

Few names were recorded and little context given. 
The seamstress is identified as Mrs. L. Smith,
Carroll County, Georgia.

Mother of a tenant farmer piecing a log cabin block, 
Maricopa County, Arizona

Dorothea Lange was one woman who worked for the project.
Her photo of a "Migrant Mother" in California is an American icon,
capturing the pain and uncertainty of life as a displaced person.

Lange also photographed this woman and a man (perhaps her son or grandson)
quilting on a Chimney Sweep quilt in migrant housing in Kern County, California.

Another iconic image is Russell Lee's photo of a homeless woman quilting
in a smoke house in Hinesville, Georgia.

When I first saw these photos I was impressed by the role of quilting in people's lives and how  women manage to keep this great folk art alive despite hardships. But I've since learned a few things. One is that the Corn & Beans quilt that the woman above is quilting in a fan pattern is cheater cloth, pre-printed yardage in a patchwork design.

Family quilting in Mississippi by Russell Lee in 1939
This fan design looks like pre-printed cloth too.

The other insight is that many of these women are part of the commercial aspect of quiltmaking. I bet many of them were sewing and quilting to earn money. This turns a lot of my own long-held basic assumptions about quiltmaking around. Folk art; schmoke art. Keeping up one's spirits during financial disasters? I don't think so. Raising money to feed the kids is more likely.

Grant County, Illinois, 1940

When you are as poor as these women seem to be
spending one's time making pretty things for the house seems like a luxury.

Marion Post Wolcott, Missouri migrants airing their bedding in a Florida campsite.

Coffee County, Alabama
By Marion Post Wolcott, a second female photographer.

Spring cleaning or advertising quilts for sale?

Carding surplus cotton for batting in Kern County, California.

Some of the quiltmakers do seem to be making quilts for their own bedding.

Green County, Georgia, 1940. Jack Delano photo.

Green County, Georgia

Particularly these tied whole cloth pieces.

Whole cloth quilt in Coffey County, Alabama

Mrs. L.L. LeCompt, Coffee County, Georgia, 1939
Marion Post Wolcott, photo.

But I'd certainly like to know more about the economics
in these quilting communities. These women are not sewing as a hobby.

Read more about my new take on my old assumptions regarding folk art versus commercial art in my blog Woman's Work: Making a Living Making Quilts.

Most of the photos above are from the Library of Congress's webpage on Farm Security Photographs. Here's a search for quilt: