Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Calimanco Quilts

Wool bedcover signed & dated Lucy Arnold, 1815

Connecticut Historical Society.

We've been talking about quilted wool quilts at the QuiltHistorySouth 
Facebook group and saw a lot of posts about 
calimanco or calamanco quilts (not the least bit Southern.)

The cataloging on this graphic design says it's pieced of "plain-woven, satin-woven and twill-woven glazed and unglazed worsted, or calamanco; plain-woven linen; plain-woven printed wool." (I bet Lynne Zacek Bassett, New England quilt expert and curator of their current exhibit, is the cataloger here.)

She goes on to say:
"Pieced quilt consisting of worsted wool top, batting, and a plain-woven wool backing. The top consists of large square, rectangular, and triangular pieces of glazed and unglazed calamanco... The worsted that forms the top is a variety of glazed and unglazed calamancos including satin-woven striped, plain-woven domestically produced, and twill-woven. One triangular piece of the top is a printed twill-woven wool. The center of the quilt has two large square pieces of red calamanco....The backing consists of plain-woven undyed linen."
The scale on this bedcover is fascinating. Imagine it on the major
bed in an 1815 New England home.
There might have been some raised Connecticut eyebrows.

Many reader were not familiar with the word calimanco  or the fabric.

Calamanco Whole Cloth Quilt signed and dated Betsey Payne, 1808
Connecticut Historical Society.
Whole cloth calimanco quilts (especially indigo blue versions)
were quite the fashion. We've seen dozens---likely to date from about
1790 to as late as 1840.
"Betsey Payne (b. 1782), probably of Lebanon, Connecticut...likely made it in anticipation of her wedding, on 7 June 1808, to Jonathan Hatch (1777-1833), also of Lebanon....Calamanco was a fine, imported woolen fabric that was used for both furnishings, such as bed coverings and upholstery, and costume items, such as petticoats and waistcoats. The backing of the quilt is a coarse, buff-colored wool that was possibly homespun."
Pieced calimanco quilts are not so common. It's all a good excuse to look at some amazing compositions.

Calimanco pieced quilt
Collection of the American Museum of Folk Art
Gift of Cyril Nelson, who first showed us some of these
knock-out graphics in his Quilt Engagement Calendars
in the 1970s.

Leimomi Oakes (Mad Sewentist) summarizes the cloth in question in this post:
"Calamanco (also spelled callimanco, calimanco, and kalamink) is a thin fabric of worsted wool yarn which could come in a number of weaves: plain, satin, damasked, and was even brocaded in floral, striped and checked designs. The surface was glazed or calendered (pressed through hot rollers)."

Wool naturally takes a shine with friction. The consensus today
is that these striking fabrics were mechanically glazed rather than
treated with an additional surface chemical. 

Calimanco quilt, Stearns family of Worcester County, Massachusetts.

 DAR Museum. 
Combines plain weave & stripes alternating plain weave and twill. 
Backed in a natural color wool blanket.

As Costume Historian and DAR Museum Textile Curator Alden O'Brien wrote on the Facebook page:
"These wholecloth wool ones are also often calimanco, that calendered wool with a slight sheen from having heated heavy metal rollers press the fibers down to give it that shine. (We often say glazed but there’s no actual substance applied to create the glaze as far as I’ve ever read.)"
Center Star, unknown maker
American Museum of Folk Art
Another gift from Cyril Nelson
These quilts are often quite large 100+ inches

The Rhode Island project documented a checkerboard in Kingston.

Lisa Erlandson Collection
Julie Silber sold this quilt to Lisa. When Julie bought it
she was told it was Ontario Canada Amish.
One can see the parallels to later solid-colored Amish wool
quilts but the fabric is calimanco.

Looking at a lot of photos helps familiarize you with calimanco but once you see it in the cloth you won't forget it. As Xenia Cord wrote: "You'd probably recognize it if you saw it 'with both hands'..."

Bill Volckening's Collection, also from Rhode Island

Twentieth-century curators tended to call these all wool quilts Linsey Woolsey or Linsey quilts but a basic definition of linsey is a combination weave of linen and wool or cotton and wool.

Linsey Woolsey usually includes wool dyed in the yarn and undyed linen or cotton. Because wool and the cellulosic fibers linen & cotton take dye so differently, the contrast is easily seen in the weave. Linsey quilts tend to date from about 1870 to 1920---a completely different style from the South rather than from New England.

Florence Mellowes Montgomery (1914-1998)
in the late 1940s, Yale University

Winterthur curator Florence Montgomery did a lot to change the terminology on bedcovers erroneously described as Linsey Woolsey to the more accurate calimanco. There are other words as textile terms are not consistent, particularly over time, but calimanco seems to be the standard today. She spelled it with an "i".

Collection of the Henry Ford Museum

Rhode Island Historical Society
Attributed to Lavina Welch Leavitt Staples (1808-1882), 
Auburn, Maine by her granddaughter Sarah in 1958.

This star quilt in the collection of the New England Quilt
Museum is pieced of different wool weaves.

Another in their collection, attributed to an ancestor of
Sarah Frances Stephens of Pembroke, New Hampshire,
perhaps Hannah Ann Head Stevens (1824-1896) who
lived in Pembroke.

The Indiana Project saw this one they thought was Linsey-Woolsey?; 
the photo is not good but the format
and quilting indicate calimanco style. The notes on color:
Brown/red/bright green and once a brighter pink.

Collection of the American Museum of Folk Art
Gift of Cyril Nelson
You can imagine why Cy Nelson collected these in the 1970s---
too modern for words.

Once belonged to Foster & Muriel McCarl 
of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, who associated

with Cy Nelson & Robert Bishop.

We know more about the collectors than the makers.

American Museum of Folk Art
Nelson gift. 

 Occasionally one comes across a bedquilt that was once the more common
calimanco petticoat. Out-of-fashion but too good to throw away.

Wool quilt from our Douglas County (Kansas) Historical Society,
recycled blue skirt filled in with pink calimanco.

What is the date on these? 
Lynne Z Bassett in Massachusetts Quilts: Our Commonwealth estimates mid 18th century as an early date.

Calimanco was quite the fashion for petticoats even among servants. Runaway Margaret McClenny had on a "light colour'd Calimanco Quilt" (a quilted petticoat) when she ran away in 1738.

The end of the style: Joyce Gross owned an indigo whole cloth calimanco bedquilt with the date 1839 quilted in as I recall. That seems late but 1840 really marks a big change in quilt style in general, so it may be that old-fashioned housekeepers or seamstresses were still making them that late before the explosion of interest in block style cotton quilts.

W.P.A. artist Julie Brush painted a watercolor of
a museum collection petticoat in the late 1930s.
Silk or calimanco?

Women of a certain class everywhere in the European world were wearing lustrous calimanco quilted petticoats in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

About 1750, British National Trust
Portrait by Arthur Devis of Englishwoman Mary Cawthorne Unwin
 in a silk robe à la Français
---too much European decadence for a New Englander?

Yet calimanco bedquilts seem to be a New England/New York regionalism.  Did women outside New England transfer the idea of calendered wool to bedcovers? The French and British might wear a skirt with an open front revealing a silk underskirt, the robe à la Français, but was wool more suited to the New England climate and taste? Or the regional quality of these as New England and New York quilts might simply be due to the availability of  British calimancoes---shipped into Massachusetts and New York, rather than Charleston or Baltimore.

And to compound all the questions---do recall that bedquilts and quilted petticoats were often the product of professional textile workers, men and women who marked, quilted and assembled them.

The professional stitcher might be the norm; the amateur at home the exception.

Old Sturbridge Village Collection
Calimanco and worsted bedquilt made of a recycled petticoat

Read Lynne Z. Bassett's essay on wool whole-cloth bedquilts in Kimberly Wulfert's blog post by clicking here:

And everything you ever need to know about quilted petticoats:

Friday, July 24, 2020

Early Quilt in Indiana?

Pieced & Appliqued Quilt, estimated date 1790-1810
Children's Museum of Indianapolis
Pictured in Quilts of Indiana, page 12

Mary Stewart Carey (1859-1903)
Her branch of the Slauson/Tarkington/Stewart family
prospered in Indianapolis

This early quilt descended in the family of Indianapolis Children's Museum founder Mary Stewart Carey, born in Greensburg, Indiana, who spent most of her life in Indianapolis. At some point a label with family names was attached going back to "Martha Wood Stamson 1800" according to the Quilts of Indiana book. 

The white strip here, added later, has the inked names of 5 women in the family.

The maker is probably Martha Wood Slawson, born in 1786 in New York. She married Simeon Slawson (Slauson) April 6, 1805. They moved to a farm near the Ohio River town of Rising Sun, Switzerland County, Indiana in 1818. The family thought the quilt was made in Indiana but it's probably one of many early New York quilts. 

The Ohio River is the Southern border of Indiana

Karen writes me that I have made a geographical error. As a volunteer at the Ohio County Indiana History Museum she corrects me: "The map of Indiana included in your blog has Switzerland County incorrectly identified.The shaded county is Ohio County and Rising Sun is the county seat. Switzerland County is just south of Ohio County. When the Slawson’s arrived Ohio County did not exist. Rising Sun was in Dearborn County." 

The work seems to be rather free-form florals and a wreath
framed by nine-patches and a few appliqued X blocks.
Fabrics appear to be the indigo blues & variety of browns typical of 
circa-1800 American quilts.

Quilt's descent:
Martha Wood Slauson 1786-1866
Maria Slauson Tarkington 1806-1889      
Martha Tarkington Stewart 1836-1930
Mary Stewart Carey 1859-1938

Martha Wood Slawson's grave in Switzerland County, Indiana.
The genealogy on that site is a bit confused.

And that would be all we know except that Martha Wood Slauson's daughter Maria Slauson Tarkington wrote an "Account of her Early Life," which was included in her husband's 1899 book
Autobiography of Rev. Joseph Tarkington, One of the Pioneer Methodist Preacher of Indiana.

Portrait of Marie Slanson Tarkington (sic), 1832

Photograph of the original in the collection of 
University Libraires IUPUI
(Slauson has been a hard name to read over the centuries.)

Maria Tarkington was famous Indiana author Booth Tarkington's grandmother and he seems to have inherited a flair for writing from her. Hers is not a polished account but tells us a lot about her family, their trip from New York to the wilds of Indiana and this quilt's journey west. Martha and Simeon brought three girls (Maria, Malissa, Mahala) and she was probably pregnant with Simeon Jr.  Maria's account of Martha bringing a good deal of bedding (although she does not mention quilts specifically) is typical of westering pioneers. We can guess Martha brought the quilt and used it for years with her growing family.

Autobiography of Rev. Joseph Tarkington,1899
Page 152
Martha Wood Slauson's daughter Maria Slauson Tarkington 1806-1889  

"My father, Simeon Slauson, Sr., was from Stamford, Connecticut.....My mother [Martha Wood] was born near Ballston Springs, New York. She was at her Aunt Sally Brown's, in Orange County, New York, when my father saw and courted her [married 1805]; although I have heard that they first met at a sleighing party on North River. They bought and lived on a farm in Orange County, New York, three miles from Middleton, where we used to go to the Presbyterian Church...

My father was a cooper, and made wooden canteens for the soldiers in the War of 1812. I remember holding a light at night for him to see to make them...He did not work much on the farm; but attended to his coopering, making mostly butter firkins, meat and whisky barrels, well-buckets, etc. The farm was in Orange County, New York, twenty-five miles from Newberg, nine miles from Goshen, and three miles from Middleton.

We came West. I was twelve years old... [Distant cousin] Ezra came West before we did, and wrote back bragging up the country. He had some land near Hartford, back of Rising Sun, Indiana. He married, but I think his wife would not live with him. Father sold out his share of the [New York] farm to [his brother] Elihu, and had about $3,500 when we came West. We moved in the fall of 1818. We brought no furniture, and came to Pittsburg in a two-horse and a one-horse wagon. We brought featherbeds with us, and on our way to Pittsburg, at night, took our bedding into a room in a hotel or other house which was rented for the night. We never saw any one camping out until we came West. We did not know we could do so. At Pittsburg, father bought, for forty-five dollars, a “family boat,” in which we loaded our goods, wagons, and horses, to carry us down the river to Rising Sun....

Mother herself had made and moved with us thirty pairs of linen sheets, never used, and fifteen pairs for common use. She intended five pairs for each of her girls. We could have done well enough in New York, but father wanted land for his children. We could have gone from Pittsburg to Rising Sun in three weeks with our horses and wagons; by the boat we were seven weeks, the water was so low in the river. Arrived at Rising Sun, father rented a house, in which we spent the winter. [Following spring] we moved over to what was afterwards our home-place, nine miles north of Vevay,
Switzerland County, Indiana, about a mile south of what is now Bennington. After living for three years in [a borrowed] cabin, we moved into a house father had meantime built...a hewed-log house, of one large room, about twenty feet square, and a shed room on the first floor, and a room up-stairs over the large one. We had two large beds, with a trundlebed across one end of the large room, and in that room we cooked at a large fireplace; the shed and the room up-stairs were bedrooms. 

Joseph Tarkington
Photograph of the original in the collection of
University Libraires IUPUI

"My husband, Rev. Joseph Tarkington, came as a Methodist preacher on the circuit where we lived in 1830. One Sunday in the spring of 1831, as I was on horseback, riding home from [a] wedding, he rode up by my side, and asked me if I had any objections to his company, and I said I did not know as I had....We were married on September 21, 1831, as will be seen, without a long engagement, and the life of an itinerant Methodist preacher's wife may be imagined from the narrative of my husband."

Maria Slauson Tarkington probably inherited the quilt brought from New York. We can guess it was made in Orange County. Interesting early quilt and a well-told life story.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Anna Williams Quilt

Julie Silber loaned us her Anna Williams quilt for our Out of Control
exhibit at the Iowa Quilt Museum. 

The Rule that Anna broke so well was
"Some Pieces Are Too Small To Save."

This small work of art, unquilted but attached to a backing and not bound, illustrates well why there is no piece too small to save.

Deb Rowden & I were thrilled to see this in person; we'd never had the privilege of viewing one. Roseanne Smith got to sew the sleeve on it and she studied it quite closely. It is certainly not "Out of Control". There is always a set of rules to Anna's quilts. You just have to figure out what they are.

How did Anna make color that is all over the spectrum work so well?
A closeup tells us why this one is so successful: 
Black and white geometry.
Dots, stripes, plaids and checks---the fabrics attract our eye but rather than
distracting us from the color the compelling patterns act as a neutral to pull it all together.

And at a distance the look may be colorful chaos,
but studying the pattern we can see her formula for this quilt,
which I sketched in EQ8.

She string-pieced rectangles with some care for contrast.

Cut the rectangles in half diagonally, shuffled the triangles around
and inserted a strip of string-pieced fabrics cut at a different angle.

We are going to try this at home, but you know
we just don't have Anna's sense of color (or stash.)

Here's a different Anna Williams quilt with a different
pattern formula from the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Teddy Pruett was lucky enough to visit Anna Williams in Louisiana a decade or more ago and posted photos of two Anna was working on. Similar idea above of cutting a rectangle and inserting a diagonal strip---but she began with solid color rectangles.

Different formula

Anna photographed for a 2003 Rowan Quilting Magazine: "Colourful Journey".

"I always wanted to do something that other people would enjoy."
Anna Williams

See our show Out of Control: Quilts That Break the Rules at the Iowa Quilt Museum---up through October 4, 2020.