Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Quilts in Little Women

Here's Laura Dern playing Marmee in the recent Little Women.

Looks good for the early 1860s in Massachusetts, a period woven coverlet in indigo and madder,
painted walls, a theorem for decoration. Those are awfully fluffy pillows but that's a minor detail. The costumer won an Academy Award for the garments.

Looking around for some stills.

Is that a cat made out of an old crazy quilt in Amy's room?

I'm afraid so. Crazy quilts after 1880;
old crazy quilts cut up to make cats?

Okay the quilts are all wrong. The strip comforter with ties above looks
early 20th century. Several movie goers with good eyes noted glimpses
of post 1880-crazy quilts.

On the chair on the right, a quilt made out of a piece of cheater cloth.
And what is that on the wall! William Morris wallpaper.

Cheater cloth, mid 1880s.

William Morris style wallpaper. This is Pimpernel
designed in 1876.

So why don't they ask somebody like moi to advise them on accuracy? Actually I have worked as a historical adviser on a movie set in the 1860s. They went with William Morris wallpaper too.

The set designer and production designer are going for a look that is going to sell. They seem to love lavish layers of late Victorian textiles. Movies are entertainment, not house museums.

1854 The New Bonnet, Francis William Edmonds.

True Civil War interiors are rather austere, particularly for people as poor and as ascetic as the Alcott/March family.

1857 Time to Go by Edmonds.

White wash the walls say I. Put up a clock shelf and throw a few rag rugs on the floor.
But whitewashed walls just don't make it.
A movie is not a museum. It's entertainment.

And so is nitpicking. If you are going to have pattern 
remember that in the 1860s repetitious spotty designs were all the rage.
The half drop, diagonal repeat.

Which is why the complex repeat of William Morris paper was so novel twenty years later.

And set designers love it so.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Newspaper Friendship Quilt Exchanges

Mrs. Clara Stewart, San Francisco, 1925

A valuable set of blocks recently sold in an online auction.
How valuable is a set of badly embroidered friendship blocks?

Mrs. Florence Weber, Kansas City MISSOURI, 1925
The pattern is a variation of BlockBase #1803, Greek Cross,
also Sister's Choice

I didn't check what they sold for but I was impressed to see them.
Not only are they valuable for being dated 1924 & 1925, showing
us what was fashionable in the middle twenties:  Solids.

Blues, and a few light prints

Mrs. Ellis Wainwright, Richmond, Mo, 1925

Each block is signed, some are dated and some have the maker's home town.

Ida Stern, Richmond, MO 1924
Amelia Wardle, Universal, Ind., 1925

The blocks were found in a Missouri antique shop and I'd guess the original block collector lived in Richmond, MO. But how did she know people as far afield as Indiana and California? Perhaps they subscribed to the same periodical?

Needlework or Exchange columns in a city and farm newspapers published requests for quilt square exchanges. Readers might choose a pattern and ask "Sisters" to trade blocks with them making a "State Quilt" or a "Globe" quilt collected from penpals reading the Boston Globe.

The Globe in 1902 was in the midst of a quilt craze for Globe squares, according to Vinette:
 "If I get one more afternoon at Globe squares I shall be able to pay my debts in the 'square' line."

Blocks dated 1915 from various illegible places 

National magazines like Hearth & Home published reader requests:
"I am making a friendship quilt and shall be very pleased to receive pieced blocks of calico or gingham, any pattern, 12 x 12 inches..." C. Horsell, Palmyra, Missouri, 1906

Vickery's Fireside Visitor 1900

Gertie Daum of Labette, Kansas also wanted 12" blocks.
Like others she also asked for a piece of fabric with reader's name and state or territory on it.
She may have intended to make the wool squares into a pieced block or a crazy quilt. 

I have been looking for the product of these exchanges for years---blocks or a quilt with place names from a wide geographical area. But they are hard to find. For some reason no one ever inscribed something like "My Hearth & Home quilt traded with sisters for all the States" on their quilt.

L. Webb of Zadock, Arkansas was collecting quilt squares from all the states. Lacking one from California she wrote an open letter to the Placer Herald in Rocklin, California in 1895. She was a bit picky:
"I want a square from every State in the United States for a friendship quilt. The square must be pieced out of silk or velvet...just eleven inches square, with your name and the name of the State worked on each square."

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bolt Labels

Bolt label from Cocheco Mills showing Grecian woman
with a bolt of cloth, 1866. Her friend seems to be the designer.
Collection of Historic New England

Bolt labels were paper records fixed to fabric telling one the manufacturer and  how many yards were on the bolt among other information. 


A few more:

We occasionally come across a fragment on a piece of patchwork.

And one more from the collection at Michigan State University---
a very familiar late 19th-century green calico.

Read more:

And see a Pinterest page on one style: Gilt embossed bolt labels:

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Love of Quilting March, April 2020

I've been writing a series of articles for the magazine Love of Quilting about recent quilt history to celebrate their 20th anniversary. In the March/April issue I have a short article comparing trends 40 years ago to what is happening today.

We've seen a couple of significant changes in techniques and design. One is the use of rotary cutters, introduced 41 years ago.
Castle Keep by Jinny Beyer, 1979-1981

Another is the shift in emphasis on the quilt block. I showed quilts by several influential people from the 1980s and how they developed secondary patterning, looking outside the square.

Colorado Log Cabin by Judy Martin, 1985

The articles are short so I get space for just a few pictures.
Here's another by Judy Martin.

Card Trick by Jeff Gutcheon, 1973 

I remember very well taking workshops from these innovators as we explored secondary patterning,  repeating seam lines but not shading. What happened when you alternated darks and lights? Shaded the lightest blocks in the center and darkest around the edges? Fragmented blocks into borders?

Goose Junction by Kimberly Sandberg

Today: The Block rules in isolation as you can see from this currently fashionable quilts patterned in the same issue.

Another by Denniele Bohannon. Pinafores & High Tea.

Bonnie Leman, editor at Quilters Newsletter Magazine, 1982
with an interconnected two-block star quilt by Judy Martin, Daisy Chain
Hard to find the star.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Ethnicity & Quilt Style 2

Woman and a string quilt variation, about 1910.

Yesterday I posted four string quilts from the Michigan project with the question: Can you tell the maker's ancestry by her style? Are the collectors correct in thinking ethnicity is obvious or is Cuesta Benberry's view (Essentially: NO WAY!)  more accurate?

(1) String quilt made in Holland, Michigan in 1982 by
Josie Lewis Shagonoby (1896-1989) 
Josie's niece said she was of Ottawa Potawatomie Native American heritage and that the fabrics were old clothes.

(2) String quilt made in Marshall, Michigan, probably about 1950 by
Lydia Short Easterly (1870-1960) & daughter Dora Easterly Freed (1890-1987)

Lydia's granddaughter described her ethnic background as Dutch and English and recalled the fabric as family clothing scraps. "Very little material was wasted, and based on the stories; neighbors and relatives often traded fabric."

(3) String quilt made in Idlewild, Michigan, 1986
by Viney Green Crawford (1912-) 

The Michigan project interviewed the quiltmaker for their exhibit and book African American Quiltmaking in Michigan. Viney said she didn't "use store-bought patterns, but instead makes them up as she goes along, putting scraps together in a way that makes a pleasing design. 'I don't make really fancy quilts, just something put together.' "

Viney Green Crawford

(4) Quilt made in Gaastra, Michigan, 1981 by 
Ruth Fuleihan Buntrock (1927- ) signed "Grandma, September, 1981."

Ruth's granddaughter (the quilt was a 3rd birthday gift) described her as of Syrian/German heritage (The family was actually from Syria but their home had become part of Lebanon). She remembered the fabrics as "Pieces of material taken from recognizable clothes or remnants of materials from which clothes were made."

"Attributed to an unknown African American quilter...early 1900s."
Perhaps a better caption would be
"String quilt, unknown quiltmaker, early 1900s"