Thursday, April 30, 2020

Late to the Applique Party

Quilt in traditional rose design called Democrat Rose or Rose of Sharon.
Made by Mary Odom, Bernice, Louisiana

The pattern is a classic going back to the 1840s. How old is the quilt? Dating these late appliques is difficult because they are so classic, but Mary's strip border with the nine-patch corners is a clue to a late-19th/early-20th century date. Her solid green cotton fading to tan is probably our best clue that it's not 1850s.

Looking at dated appliques between 1901 and 1920 may help us to see what was happening in the first two years of the 20th century.

1901, C Enhert?
This pink, green & yellow quilt has alternate applique blocks.

Turkey red embroidered signatures are typical of the time.
Inking rare.

It's surprising to see some classic design repeated in the new century.

1902, International Quilt Museum
Byron and Sara Rhodes Dillow Collection
1902 Eliza Wright
Hampshire County, West Virginia
West Virginia Project and the Quilt Index

1903, Cindy Rennel's inventory

Minimal shapes for florals

Appliqued of green calico. Embroidered with a red?
thread that faded.

1903 in the quilting
Minnesota project
What color was this once?

1903 Cowan's Auction.
Turkey red was still reliable---if you could find a reliably advertised Turkey red.
Fabric mills might lie.

1903, Harriet A. Jamerson Rowson, Lewis County, New York

1904, Mary Eliza Sikes, Iowa International Quilt Museum
Linda Giesler Carlson and Dr. John V. Carlson Collection

1904 Lida Butterworth Crowell, Geneva, Ohio 
Michigan project

No information on this one but bluebirds were a popular theme
at the time---unusual to see them in a quilt.

1907, online auction

1902 Frances Risser Newgard
Made in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, recorded in the Iowa Project

1908, Fourth Corner Antiques

1908 Mark French's ebay shop

Julie Silber's inventory

Grayed green might tell us it was late
but that stuffed-work quilting!

(Quilters in Sevier County, Tennessee carried on the stuffed work
traditions late---but this late?)

Minimalism in a Turkey Tracks

1912 album sampler from Ohio's Miami Valley

1916, Hattie Bell, Ohio, Arizona Project
This one is so traditional it would seem earlier. With no green
to fade and give us a dating clue we might guess 1880.


1917, Dora Branch Schrader
West Virginia project

"1917, E.M. Ma"
Found in Minnesota, from the Minnesota project

This wreath may have been related to the Red Cross
fundraising during World War I. See the corner images.

"1918, S.E.A"

Retro quilting.

1919, Mary Williams
Michigan Project

Monday, April 27, 2020

Fifties Style for Love of Quilting

Album quilt top dated 1953, Texas

I have a short article in the new issue of Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting magazine comparing quilt style in the past to quilt style "Then & Now." To celebrate their 20th anniversary this year we are going backwards in time. The May/June 2020 feature focuses on the 1950s.
"The 'Fifties Quilt' might be recalled as a low point in quilt history when enthusiasm for modern design, faith in industrial production and novel sewing machine technology combined to cast old-fashioned handwork into a dark age. Yet quilters soldiered on amid synthetic fabrics, clashing new shades and a fashion for large-scale prints rather unsuitable for precision patchwork."

You can buy the magazine at your quilt shop or order an online digital copy:

We do these short histories in two pages so I have lots of pictures that didn't fit. Here are photos of some quilts dated in the 1950s to give you an idea of the era.

One problem in working at the time was finding fabric suitable for patchwork.


The scale was too large and the color range too wide.

Each piece of fabric was a little composition in itself

Combining all those compositions into one whole was often a challenge


1957 for Mrs. Ball, a 3rd grade teacher

Dye technology improved to the point when mills could
produce any color and combine any colors into the same print.


The idea seems to have developed that any color went with any other color.

And more was better.

Probably not a bad idea.

Crossroads by Sujata Shah
An idea contemporary quiltmakers like Sujata Shah
have embraced.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Quilts in the Dutch Fork

The New Jersey quilt project came across this quilt far from its original home.

Estimated date 1875-1900

The New Jerseyite who brought it in for documentation had inherited a group of quilts from an uncle. She attributed this one to Mrs. John Kennerly Kneice of Batesburg, South Carolina.

Similar quilt from the same group, same time period.
Attributed to her grandfather Mr. John Kennerly Kniece, Batesburg
Two of these quilts had labels on the reverse indicating they'd once
been exhibited in a museum in "Raleigh South Carolina."
Surely a typo as there is no Raleigh in South Carolina.
It's undoubtedly North Carolina.
But the rest of that label remains a mystery.

 This Capital T attributed to Mrs. John Kennaly Kneece.
Brown prints again indicate 1875-1900 period.

The transition from word of mouth during the interview to computerized information seems to have been iffy.
Nine-patch with neon black prints, grays and an
emphasis on blue rather than brown. Looks later, early 20th century.

We call these pink and green and black prints Neons today.
In the early 20th century they were "Black Novelty Prints"

Attributed to Mrs. John Kannerly Kneech
This Endless Chain is obviously later, from the color scheme and prints
1940 - 1960?

Kneice, Kneech, Kneece
What can we find out today about Mrs. K in Batesburg?

It didn't take long to find Louisa Drusilla Kneece
(That's a c at the end of Kneece)

Louisa Lowman Kneece 1834-1916
Her husband was Dr. John Kennerly Kneece (1818-1898)

The latest quilt could not have been made by Louisa
as she died in 1916, but it is likely she made the others
(even the one attributed to her husband.)

She must have married John when she was in her mid teens as her eldest child was born in 1850 when she was only about 16. She gave birth to eleven children, the last born in 1876 when she was about 42. From the quilts attributed to her we'd have to guess her quiltmaking didn't get started until that last boy was out of diapers. But it may have been more culture than time dictating her needlework choices.
When one of her sons was married the local newspaper
described the Kneeces as one of Lexington's
oldest and most prominent families. Dr. John Kennerly Kneece
was a well loved physician. Many of the Kneeces were

Batesburg a few years before Louisa died

Batesburg (now Batesburg-Leesville) is a town in two counties Lexington and Saluda (Towns straddle county lines often in South Carolina.) Louisa's Kneeces lived in Chinquapin township
in the general area of the red dot on the map. They attended church at St. Peter's Lutheran Church southeast of town and must have lived nearby.

More important to the geography is the location in the cultural region known as The Dutch Fork, settled by Germans---Deutsch Volk.  Louisa's parents were Nancy Hiller & Daniel Lohrman (changed to Lowman), both born in South Carolina.

MESDA (Museum of  Early Southern Decorative Arts)
has a family piece in their collection, a rare South Carolina
Taufschein (baptismal certificate) for Louisa's father.

Batesburg train depot, photographed a year or two before Louisa's death.

Louisa lived a long life. Born in 1834 she was of the generation that took up quiltmaking enthusiastically in the years before the Civil War. It would be great to find earlier quilts by her. But she was a woman of The Dutch Fork.

Laurel Horton analyzing quilts in the area for the South Carolina quilt project was disappointed that "Nearly all the quilts surveyed dated from the late 19th or early 20th century, none from the first half of the 19th." Louisa being so German in culture may have made her beds in completely different fashion from neighbors of British descent until later in the century.

Pennsylvania Germans began to make patchwork quilts about 1850

Like Pennsylvania Germans these Deutsch Volk probably slept under comforters of various kinds, particularly heavy "feather beds" until they adopted Anglo-American bedding style. In the case of The Dutch Fork that seems to have been about 1880 when Louisa began making quilts.

Feather-filled comforters were typically covered with
homespun linen or cotton covers (what we call duvet covers.)

Louisa's death certificate was signed by one of her family, a physician who said he'd
been caring for her for about six years as she had a "Progressive Paralysis,"
which probably meant she was not doing much quiltmaking after 1910.

Laurel Horton wrote about Dutch Fork: “Textile Traditions in South Carolina’s Dutch Fork,” in Bits and Pieces: Textile Traditions, editor Jeannette Lasansky (Lewisburg, PA: Oral Traditions, 1991), 72-79.

Louisa's Find-A-Grave file: