Sunday, August 30, 2020

String Quilts: Regionalism

String Quilt by Mary Dean of Franklin County, North Carolina
North Carolina project & the Quilt Index.

Those of us who look at a lot of quilts would agree that string quilts are Southern style.

Mahulda Jane Smith Gates, Louisiana project.

No information
Even if we have no information on them we see these patterns composed of strips of random widths, lengths and angles as a regional design.
I decided to look at the Quilt Index for string quilt designs and see if I could find any clues to regionalism. One of the first quilts that pops up if you do a search for "string" is this one, surprisingly from Alberta, Canada (hits are presented in alphabetic order --- sort of---by projects. This one: Alberta.)

Alberta is NOT South, but they recorded the provenance of the quilt, a top quilted later by someone who found it in Canada but knew the maker of the top was from Kentucky and had been born in Alabama. Way South of Alberta.

What about string quilts in Connecticut?

Here's one recorded in the Connecticut project.
But is this a string quilt?

Are we going to be fussy about the definition and say a string quilt is pieced of irregularly shaped strips? Yep.  This quilt is a strip quilt; all the strips seem to be the same width.

It was harder to find a string quilt in New York. This is a silk strip quilt.

While I was working on this post Southern quilt collector Teddy Pruett noted on the QuiltHistoryFacebook page that Pennsylvania expert Barb Garrett had noted "There are quite a few in PA but they are made with very regular strips not actually random strings."  

How they do it in southeastern Pennsylvania

Ruth Eubanks, North Carolina Project
How they do it in North Carolina.


Dora Webber in Louisiana

Now I am stacking the deck here with quilts that contrast. I have irregular-shaped strips in Massachusetts and regular strips in Tennessee.

But that contrast between regular and irregular strips
is a good regional clue.

And I couldn't find one quilt I'd consider a string quilt in the first 15 pages of New York project quilts.

Unless you count this one from Harriet DeFrate Hotaling 
from Greene County, New York.

Well, I'm calling it a crazy quilt and I doubt there is much regional difference in crazy quilts
from Seattle to Seacaucus to Savannah.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Happy Centennial!

100 years ago the 19th amendment to the American constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote was officially certified. Celebrate the anniversary month by printing this image onto pre-treated fabric with your ink jet printer.

It's a sketch for a non-directional repeat I did inspired by a magazine cover over a century ago showing women using yellow parasols to indicate their support for the amendment. I used another repeat for fabric you can buy at my Spoonflower shop.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Pillar Prints---Digression into Indigo Resists

Terry Terrell and I are working on an online discussion of Pillar Print chintzes for members of the American Quilt Study Group next Monday August 29th. We aren't really experts as such on that particular style but she knows a lot about floral chintzes and botany and I know a lot about printed pattern so we are combining our expertise to entertain (& enlighten?) 22 AQSG members.

We wanted it to be interactive so we have a small enrollment, already full. I'll put my slideshow up here when we get done.

In pillar prints the dominant image is vaguely architectural
in this example with somewhat human figures holding
up the column

One of our missions is to date the style---architectural prints in a stripe set featuring columns. We reviewed the literature---Peter Floud of the Victoria & Albert Museum wrote the standard histories in the 1950s & 60's and he says:

There were two spells of popularity---
1800-1808---polychrome woodblock prints
1825-1830----roller printed

A polychrome roller-printed pillar print---
Floud would date it 1825-1830 (rather narrow range?)

We each have a few actual document prints but most of our information comes from online photos. 

These multicolored roller printed fabrics are the kind we enounter in American quilts.

How are we going to tell what's woodblock-printed or roller-printed? It's hard to determine even if you have the fabric on your worktable.

See a large photo here:

I thought you might be interested in our discussion of this particular woodblock pillar print that the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (Smithsonian) has online. They have two pieces.

Their caption tells us that it is cotton and linen (mixed yarns? Fustian? asks I) and is "resist printed, indigo dyed." Their estimated date is 1750-1775, a lot earlier than Floud's dating, which he based on some dated samples in the V&A's collection. Those were multicolored and this is not so it may be the earliest pillar print we found.

We first determined that it looks like a wood block print to us too. For one thing the pillars (there are two) do not have a continuous repeat (the design idea that cylinders or rollers did so well.) Notice pillar 1 with straight flutes) is repeated once and pillar 2 with serpentine flutes is done 3 times here. Obviously the pillars were added one at a time---by some form of hand block.

Applying resist paste by wood block today in Indonesia

When trying to determine a woodblock print one looks for the registration mark, a small unobtrusive point that helped the hand applicator know where to line up the images. Is that little blue blob to the left of the fluted pillar here a registration mark?

It might look like an error but it's rather consistent.
Here's where looking at this in the cloth would be very helpful.
It seems there are 4 or 5 distinct blocks in use, 2 pillars, 2 or 3 florals.

The caption tells us the printing technique is "resist printed, indigo dyed." Looks good to us but could you get that kind of detail in the pillars using a wood-block applied resist paste?

Recent batik fabric from Asian Journey blog

We are familiar with resist printed fabrics we call batiks after an Indonesian word for the technique of printing wax onto fabric that then resists the indigo dyes applied later. One resist medium is wax and wax crackles and dye leaks under it.

The crackles become part of batik's charm.

The floral in the pillar print.

A more common medium for resist would be a paste, which does not crack. Dye does leak under it in smudges---again part of the technique's charm. Do note the tiny dots defining the leaves here. Those are formed by metal pins inserted into the wood block. The pins print the resist paste as dots, a technique called picotage. Wires might have been inserted to define the vines.

Valence with decorative trim at the top.

So is this indigo resist dyed fabric 1750-1775??? Hard to say. 
Where was it printed? Hard to say.
Amelia Peck calls them Puzzling Fabrics and they remain so.

The Cooper Hewitt's valence is dated earlier than Floud's dates and it might even be an American print done in the colonies or the new U.S.---We wish we knew more. 

There are a few experts today. See Winterthur Museum curator Linda Eaton's excellent take:

Amelia Peck, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote about indigo resist prints, below in the notes for her 2013 catalog Interwoven Globe.

Margaret OrdoƱez & Mary Gale have written about the indigo resist style:
"Eighteenth-Century Indigo-Resist Fabrics: Their Use in Quilts and Bed Hangings," AQSG's Uncoverings 25, 2004.
(Unfortunately no pictures in this online file.) Buy the book.

See this indigo-resist dyed quilt at the International Quilt Museum.

We are not going to go into such detail in our 40 minute overview of Pillar Prints but I thought you'd be interested in our digression, which is always fun for us.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Then & Now: 1900

One of my favorite tops from about 1900.
The published name is King Solomon's Temple.
Stitched about 1900 I'd guess by the fabric, pattern & style.

I have an article in the September/October 2020 issue of  Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting magazine comparing quilt style in 1900 to quilt style today. It's two pages and five pictures long. To the point. But I have a lot more photos....

Late-19th & early-20th c Turkey reds were printed
in mills in the U.S. and much cheaper than they'd been fifty years earlier
when they were imported from Europe.

Several styles were popular with quiltmakers 120 years ago---crazy quilts, wool comforters, outline embroidered red work, but my favorite are the scrappy quilts that make use of new inexpensive prints dyed with synthetics and chemically efficient versions of old vegetable dyes like indigo and Turkey red.

The dark indigo blue with white figures looked the same as it always had
but it was cheaper and you could choose from many blue & white prints.

There was a new shade of blue, a grayish, lighter blue called cadet blue in
the Sears catalogs---the blue in the lower row below.

Muriel Pesch Owen loaned me this top for Clues in the Calico

It's signed in pencil in mirror writing:
"Nov 24, 1900. Joined it and ists (sic) showering down rain."

Stitchers had new colorfast shades. Black ground prints
were novel and this wine-colored shade of red they called Claret.

It's a bit simple to say "1900" for this style of quilt---you'd really want to date them as 1890 to 1925. Quilters made many.

These are all from online auctions.

They seemed to like to buy the fabric and piece the tops rather
than quilt them as they left us many tops....

and blocks and piles of scraps.
Thank you, very much.

Women from Baldwin City, Kansas showing off the female occupations,
dressed in the inexpensive cotton clothing of the day.
Many of the scraps were clothing leftovers.

Cadet blue was colorfast (relatively) and innovative
and perfect for a housedress.

My article focuses on the red, white and blue combination
that they liked so well.

Becky Brown's 2019 top for our book
Divided Hearts: A Civil War Friendship Quilt

And we do too.

Ocean Wave by Deb Rowden, quilted by Lori Kukuk,
reproduction of a quilt ca. 1900.

I made this tree years ago for my niece.

Just a couple more from about 1900