Friday, November 30, 2018

Stars in Her Crown: Victoria's Royal Children---Ten Week Quilt Along

Stars in Her Crown: Victoria's Royal Children
 Ten Week Quilt Along

One of my favorite things about deep, dark winter is watching Masterpiece in bed on Sunday nights (while the other TV has football). 

I've been loving the Victoria series and am looking forward to Season 3 when the children keep coming (Victoria and Albert had nine)---as do the Prime Ministers. A Quilt Along about Prime Ministers doesn't sound too promising,

Although I did find a design for one in the humor magazine Punch in 1847

A better idea: I've been reading about Victoria & Albert's offspring.

The Royal Oak (with many acorns)

Mark, Becky, Denniele, Janet Perkins & I are conspiring on a 10 week Block of the Week dedicated to the junior Royal Highnesses from Crown Princess Vicky to Baby Beatrice. I'll post it here on Saturdays beginning January 5, continuing through March 9, 2019.

Nine blocks and a border.

48" x 48" with the border
A small quilt with 12" blocks
I'll also give you a pattern each week for 8" blocks.

It will be British-looking. Inspiration includes patchwork like the George III medallion in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum:

We were inspired by the color and the look: the idea of a field of patchwork. Ours will be based on square blocks.

 The patchwork won't be so complex.

Similar quilt attributed to Jane Pizar at Cheltenham

With color derived from the 1797 Sundial quilt in the Victoria & Albert.

It's not a quilt for beginners. The best way to do it might be to piece it over paper foundations.
Each week you'll get a pattern for a triangular paper template. Repeat it 8 times for the block. You can also do template piecing with the pattern by adding seams.

The blocks look harder to piece than they are. There are no Y seams—no curved seams. The hardest part is getting the seams to meet in the middle of the block. But remember you can always applique a circle over that central seam and it will look great.


Becky Brown's stack of prints, blues, greens browns and reds

We're embracing the whole idea of a romantic Victorian look.

Denniele's will be rather delicate, lights with a blue focus.

Mark Lauer's palette is blues, browns and lilacs,
a very British look like the one below.

This antique quilt actually has a shirting print fabric with pictures of the nine royal children.

We hope you'll join us. Start thinking about fabric. As it's a small quilt you won't need a lot. For the 12" blocks I'd buy:
Background: Neutral or statement-1-1/2 yards
10 related fat quarters if you want a lot of variety
Or 5 half yards for a less scrappy look.
For the 8" blocks---Maybe 3/4 of a yard for the background.
           6 fat quarters

The first block will be posted Saturday January 5, 2019. If you subscribe to the blog by email you'll probably get an email on Sunday.

And even if you don't sew along you'll enjoy the royal gossip.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Antique Quilt Exhibits: Winter Through Spring, 2019

Pack up the kids and take in a show of antique quilts.
 Here's a list through the spring of 2019.

Arkansas, Fort Smith 
Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, Bold Improvisation: Searching for African-American Quilts, The Heffley Collection. February 1 – May 5, 2019

Buzz Saw by Docella Johnson

Arkansas, Little Rock
The Old State House Museum. A Piece of My Soul: Quilts by Black Arkansans. Years ago the late Cuesta Benberry curated this exhibit of quilts from the collection, now rehung and up through Fall, 2019.

Florida, Trenton
Florida Quilt Museum. Exhibit of Judy Kaman Grow's collection. November 28 - March, 2019.

Massachusetts, Lowell
New England Quilt Museum. Just For the Fun of It: Favorites from the Pilgrim Roy Collection .January 15 – March 30, 2019

Pennsylvania, Bedford
National Museum of the American Coverlet. Comfortable Cousins: Related Quilts & Coverlets from a Golden Age. Catalog available. Through spring, 2019.

Pennsylvania, Elizabethtown
Winters Heritage House Museum. 28th Annual Quilt Exhibit. May 1-31, 2019.

Tennessee, Nashville
Tennessee State Museum. Between the Layers: Art and Story in Tennessee Quilts.. Quilts from the collection including Rebecah Foster’s 1808 Eagle Quilt.  February 8 - May 27, 2019

Washington D.C.
DAR Museum: A Piece of Her Mind: Culture and Technology in American Quilts
March 1 - December 31, 2019

Washington, La Conner
Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, Tharpe Family Collection: Civil War Era Quilts.
January 30- April 28, 2019

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Unionville, Missouri Name Quilt

A friend found this old top in his late wife's stuff and asked me to look at it. Dorothy must have bought it in an antique store as she was quite a collector of wonderful things.

It was once a tied comforter; I can see the holes where the yarns were pulled out, probably to wash it. And it was a lot prettier at one time. It wasn't always tan and white but red and white. Red solid cottons were not reliable Turkey red although much of the embroidery thread was. The cheaper red solids faded to tan. Let's hope the woman who did all the beautiful embroidery  (it looks like one skilled hand) never saw that dramatic fading. 

Her Turkey red stitching is still bright red.
She used a white thread for the center of each block, which doesn't show up now on the tan.

Because I am trying to spend time everyday lately learning the computer program Electric Quilt 8 I thought I should draw the top up as it once was: Bright red and white. The original had 15 spokes, my EQ8 drawing has 16 as I modified a pieced BlockBase sunflower by importing the drawing into EQ8. I could have lopped the tops off each red point as in the original, but I didn't.

The original has 25 blocks set side by side, each finishing
to about 15" with a 3" red border (once red border.)

I couldn't find a place or a date but there are many, many names, organized for the most part in families. I would guess people paid a dime or a quarter to have their names embroidered, probably as a fund raiser for a church or other local project.

My guess on date is between 1880 and 1920 as that's when red and white quilts and name quilts were popular, and that, unfortunately, was when red fabrics faded so badly while mills experimented with new cheaper synthetic dyes. I had a lot of clues to where and when. There were some unusual names. I've been showing you the Clapper family block and someone was named Jet Clapper. There's a Cecil Crumpacker, Julia Brasfield and Orinda Eddy.

It didn't take long to find these people in Unionville, Missouri,
up by the Iowa border.

1200 citizens of Unionville in 1893

Comstock Brasfield Merc Co

 Brasfield family members were sheep farmers and ran a furniture store and undertaking
establishment (a common combination:furniture and undertaking---not sheep and undertaking.)

Several of the women included their ages. You may be able to read above that Margaret Downing added she was 73. You apparently had to be over 70 to brag about your age. Sixty did not make it. Sarah Hagler said she was 74. I found her grave, which said she was born in 1825.  A little addition and I figured out that the embroidery was done in 1899.

Unionville looks like it was a prosperous little town about 1900.

I drew up a pattern in EQ8.
I couldn't find a pattern named Unionville and since it is such a good name...

25 of these 15" blocks  plus a 3" border will give you a 
Unionville quilt 75" square.

You could modify the pattern for foundation piecing by adding some lines.

Print this pattern out 8-1/2" x 11" and add seams to the templates
for conventional piecing.

Do test your reds before you cut them.

I mentioned Julia Brasfield. Ten years after the quilt was made she
wrote a note to the American Sheep Breeder magazine, a touching
little tribute to her husband. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Queen Victoria's Quilts: Lost in Translation

Queen Victoria, watercolor, 1838 
Alfred Edward Chalon 
Collection of the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

This first portrait of the new Queen includes her workbag and needlework in her lap.

Embroidery on silk?

And here she is at the end of her very long reign with something similar, probably in the form of a lap robe. Most of these pictures of the Queen are in the Royal Collection Trust, an incredible collection of images.

Needlework was a life-long pastime. After her eldest daughter's first child the Queen sent her "a little cushion for your back when you are on your sofa, every stitch of which I have worked myself with the English colours...." Berlin work, or needlepoint, perhaps.

When daughter Alice gave birth to her first son in 1868 she wrote to her mother.
"I am on my sofa in my sitting-room with all your dear photos, &c., around me, and your pretty quilt over me."
In January, 1859 she made a bedcover for her first grandchild, telling mother-to-be Princess Victoria she had been working on it
"since September---and which (with the exception of the marking and joining the long stripes) I have done every stitch of myself. You know that Mama has very little time and that I can only work after dinner when we have no visitors, therefore it was longer about than it otherwise would have been, but it gave me such pleasure that I am quite grieved to have finished it. Many doubted I should get it ready in time."
 This sounds like a quilted piece to me---what with the marking, but....

In best Victorian fashion, her hands were rarely idle.
The overfed dog is Dacko. (The German word for dachshund was
Dackel at the time.)

Many references have been published about Queen Victoria making quilts and for years I looked for some patchwork or quilted items attributed to her hand. But now I realize the semantic problem: The quilts the Queen made were knitted or crocheted--- Americans today might call them knitted blankets, throws or afghans, while British reporters and the Queen and her family called them quilts.

One needle or two? Knitting or crochet?

Throughout her reign Victoria was a knitter and did crochetwork. When her children were young she knit stockings for them, according to a woman who saw her at work on an 1845 visit to Prussia. In January, 1871 she wrote daughter Vicky to tell son-in-law, "Dear Fritz I have just croche'd him a comforter which it gave me much pleasure to do." 

The Netley Hospital

The Queen's knitting and crocheting was often charity work. The royal public relations office made much of her gifts to veterans' hospitals, particularly the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley in Southampton, built according to her direction after the Crimean War. In 1883 an American medical journal noted that the Queen had given "five large Berlin-wool quilts," confusing terminology, but now I'd guess the quilts were knitted from high quality German wools. Victoria made one, Princess Beatrice, her youngest daughter, made another and three were knitted by her ladies although the queen enlarged each with a border.

Beatrice's husband reported that knitting was a regular after-dinner event, something he considered quite dull. He worked to change the evening schedule, re-introducing musicales and family theatrical events. 

 Feodora, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1807-1872)

The Queen's older sister Princess Feodora also made quilts but again I was disappointed to figure out they were not patchwork or quilted. In 1867 Feodora complained of  "rheumatism". "My hands are so bad that I cannot even knit or do crochetwork." In May, 1872,  she resumed working on a quilt for Victoria. "The quilt I worked myself for you has gone at last; it is directed to you at Buckingham Palace...I hope you will use it sometimes and think of your old sister." Feodora died a few months later.

Princess Beatrice reading the newspaper to her mother who is knitting or crocheting, 1895

Victoria Knitting Quilts for the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, 1886, by
Alexander Melville. Daughters Helena and Beatrice at left and right.
Melville painted two pictures of the scene.

Queen Victoria Knitting Quilts by Alexander Melville, 1887
Sold at Bonham's Auctions a few years ago.
In 1862 Theodore Roosevelt's family sold ticket for a benefit
"Afghan" raffle to Abraham & Mary Lincoln. The Afghan
must have looked much like this.

Visiting veterans of the Crimean War 1856
by Jerry Barrett. National Portrait Gallery


During the Crimean War, according to biographer Helen Rappaport, "The Queen and her daughters  knitted ferociously, turning out scarves, mittens and socks." They also created cardigans, front buttoning waistcoats, named after Lord Cardigan who led the Charge of the Light Brigade, and balaclavas, named for a battle, what we'd call ski masks.

During the Boer Wars at the end of the century she crocheted a few khaki
scarves for lucky soldiers with her initials and a medal.

Her monogram VRI: Victoria Queen & Empress
One sold at auction last year.

This photo was taken the same day as the one with Dacko above.

The Queen also spun at a wheel and was photographed working in 1865, an image sold as a carte-de-visite. (Is she spinning Scottish flax?) Spinning seems to have been a relaxation for the "Widow of Windsor," particularly at her home in Scotland while listening to family or ladies reading Robert Burns's poetry. She told daughter Vicky that one of the Scots at Balmoral complimented her: "Ye spin as well as any old woman in the country."

Commemorative bandana from the Centennial Exhibition

The Queen displayed her hand-spun linen napkins at America's 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

But: No Patchwork; No Quilting. After all this poking into the Queen's needlework basket I decided to design a Victoria Quilt-Along for the winter. More soon.

Bonham's also sold this dressed picture of Queen
Victoria admiring Prince Albert's portrait, a fabric collage
to celebrate their engagement by an anonymous needleworker. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Past Perfect: Barb Adams

Nosegay for Mother
Designed by Barb Adams
for Blackbird Designs

This month's Past Perfect featured artist is Barb Adams of Blackbird Designs,
here in a watercolor with her partner Alma Allen.

It's hard to separate Barb's work from Alma's they think so much alike.
But I have seen the label on this quilt and it said Barb was the designer.

Last year's Quilt Market in Houston

Barb & Alma are quite a force in the quilt world and have had great influence on a resurgence of interest and skills in applique design.

Gathered Harvest from their 2017 book Fresh Picked 
is folded on the quilt rack above.

They've published many books and patterns and designed many fabric collections with their signature style. They often design two versions of a quilt, each with her own choice of fabrics.

Country Rose
I bet this is Alma's choice. She loves scalloped edges.

Evening Bloom
And I bet this is Barb's choice. The color and fabric choice is often a little edgier.

From Weekend
They formed Blackbird Designs 18 years ago in 2000, publishing pattern books with quilts, rug hooking and embroidery designs.

Fresh From the Garden, 2000

Autumn Primitive

Winter Garden from
When the Cold Wind Blows


They always win best booth at Quilt Market (and deserve it)

They met in a quilt class that Alma taught. Both live near Kansas City, Barb in Missouri, Alma in Kansas. Their partnership is a classic example of a cottage industry. They design the quilts and draw the patterns, pick the fabrics and often create them, and have hired a team of stitchers to sew up their ideas.

Leona Adams (1925-2015)
For many years Barb's mom Leona was their chief stitcher.

I love their rather Gothic take on historical pattern--in the Secret Garden tradition.

Secret Garden for their Wild Orchid fabric collection

Wild Orchid print

Their gardens are rarely manicured, more likely to go to seed in untamed fashion
with vines sprouting tendrils going off in a new direction.

Quilting in the Garden

Print from Anna's Starry Night line.

A Little Flower
You can recognize their distinctive compositions: how they situate the image inside the block.
While most traditional pattern is symmetrical, theirs often are not.

Posies in the Valley

Some of their recent stuff....

Sweet Cherry Wine for Moda

The Raven with their trademark bird.

Their other major focus is cross stitch with tons of patterns and ideas for embroidery, where they are quite a success.