Monday, April 12, 2021

New Addition-BlockBasePlus: Whirling Star


We added dozens of new/old patterns to the new Encyclopedia
of Pieced Quilt Patterns and the new BlockBase+
Here's one.

Someone counted and there are 4,264 pieced patterns you can print out any size you want them. Available for Windows 10 & MAC systems.

"Whirling Star" came from the designers at the Alice Brooks/Laura Wheeler
syndicated pattern company. Here the copyright holder is Household Arts. 

The older versions of my indexes were short on Alice Brooks designs. I hadn't seen many but a few friends told me the lack was a serious omission so I got on it and found quite a few to include in the latest editions.

I was lucky enough to buy a scrapbook with many clippings from the Alice Brooks column in the 1930s. And Newspapers.com became a great source for finding the clipping online and the date. The
Whirling Star was published in 1940 (see the copyright date on the pattern.) 

Merikay Waldvogel is the authority on Ms. Brooks, and I give her
a hard time by photoshopping the mysterious designer as the evil Mrs. Danvers.
The unknown designers DID generate some tough-to-piece

But today we laugh in the face of difficult piecing. Especially if we have a good pattern.

Which of course we do now that it's in BlockBase+

This could be easily paper pieced for the whirling parts. 
The hardest part would be doing the Y seams to connect those to
the center square (and that is not really hard.)

One of the great new features in BlockBase+ is that you can not only print the pattern
on your printer but you can export it as a PDF if you want to store it digitally or send it. In the past I always did a screen save and then saved it ---many keystrokes. PDF easier.

I enjoy making the patterns for my various blogs though, so I still import a screen share of the pattern to Photoshop and then add and subtract things, which I did below. Good practice in the new Photoshop and my new computer too.
Print it out on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet of paper 4 for each block.

BlockBase+ has another new feature with QUILT LAYOUT down towards the bottom right. You get several ideas and I liked the On-Point layout the program generated.

I thought I'd recolor it so I went to my EQ8 program and under 
Block Library I searched BlockBase+ and imported #3162.5.
I dropped it into an On Point Layout and tried different shading & coloring.
(Note: You have to load a free update of EQ8 to get these programs to coordinate but its easy enough to do.)

This will keep me entertained all afternoon.
My theory on computer programs: Work at least an
hour a day every day for a month and you will get
good enough to enjoy it.

One problem with these complex Alice Brooks designs is that the quiltmaking audience of the 1940s just didn't want to tackle them and that must be why I have no finished examples of Whirling Star to show you (not even some wacky orphan block.) Have you ever seen one made up?

I think this is from Western Ontario Canada.
UPDATE: Hours after I posted this I found one. 

The people at Electric Quilt (who did all this amazing work) have a series on the new features in BlockBase+.

Christine shows you how to use the seven sample quilts layouts here:

Here's the first page of comparisons between old & new.
See the whole thing here:

Friday, April 9, 2021

Cut-Throat Competition in Kentucky #4: Embroidery Teachers?


Here's a masterpiece quilt from Julie Silber Quilts.
She sold it awhile ago; found it in California.
Silk template patchwork bordered with skilled floral embroidery.

She has no information about the maker or the region but me being a Know-It-All guesses it's a Kentucky quilt. As we have seen over
the past few days there is a certain style....

Elizabeth Helm Walker Stone, Madison County, Kentucky
 Winterthur Collection

Winterthur 2008.0023

The style appears about 1850, the year Elizabeth dated this quilt...

One eye-catching characteristic is the elaborate floral embroidery, usually done on a black
silk background.

Collection of the D.A.R. Museum

Style continues into the last years of the century as
in this one dated 1876 by Arkansas Katherine Shely Fretzlen (Fritzlen).

Katherine lived in Nicholasville, Jefferson    Jessamine County, Kentucky

Kentucky style persisted in the silk Crazy Quilt years 1880-1900,
adapted to the national fad.

Crazy quilt by Leviann (Levina/Levian) Gist Webb (1831-1899)
New Castle, Henry County, Kentucky
Collection of the Filson Historical Society

Unknown maker, two sided Crazy quilt with corded edge & tassels,
looks Kentucky.

International Quilt Museum
from the James Collection, perhaps Indiana
(across the Ohio River from Kentucky)

The difference between these crazies and most is the use of large areas of
filled embroidery rather than the outline embroidery  
usually a crazy style characteristic.

Far more typical outline embroidery in the animals here.
Crazy quilts featured new embroidery fashions---
outline and linear, seam-covering patterns.
Less work, less skill.

Collection of the Smithsonian

Lida Finnel Allin's embroidery is old fashioned.
See more at this post:

I began wondering about this style when I noticed a few similar quilts in 

Mary Ann Hall Fletcher, Missouri project

Hockaday Smithsonian collection

Did these Missourians with Kentucky roots go
to school in Kentucky and learn some ornamental needlework?

Another Tumbling Blocks, this one in the collection
of the Brooklyn Museum. Attributed to a woman with
the wonderful name of Victoria Regina Royall Broadhead,
who was a Missourian.

Unusual embroidery but typical cording and tassels.

I have guessed that the common thread in these exceptional quilts is a needlework teacher with high standards, good teaching methods and pleasing patterns. Some of the needlewomen (competitors and otherwise) mentioned in the past few days were proud of their attendance at local female academies, mentioned in biographies and obituaries, where they would have learned ornamental arts and fine sewing.

1843 sheet music
The Nazareth Academy, run by the Sister of Charity
in Bardstown, had quite a reputation.
I hoped I might find one common school but there were dozens and in fact Kentucky & Tennessee are reported to have boasted the most female seminaries of any of the states mid-19th-century. Kentucky also claims the oldest female institution (Paris, 1806.) As with any “first” that account is dubious. However, claims like that reflect the state's pride in the schools.

Covington, Kentucky, across the Ohio from Cincinnati
had 10,000 people in 1850.

Discussing the many Catholic academies a 19th-century Kentucky historian described female schools "in which young ladies are taught not only the elements of English education, but also the varied accomplishments which fit them for the most refined society."
With female seminaries common in small towns like Harrodsburg and Bardstown competition for students may have been fierce and the needlework teacher(s) bragged upon---but no names come up.

Harrodsburg Female Academy, Mercer County
The town had about 2,500 people in 1850 and at least two female schools.

1861 advertisement

A couple of the competitive embroiderers attended
Daughters College in Harrodsburg.
It seems more likely that it was the system of girls’ boarding schools that encouraged the style, rather than one individual school or teacher. This is the work that defined a sophisticated Kentucky school girl (even if she came from Missouri) and the elaborate silk template quilt seems to have been a standard there while Kentuckians ignored the national fad for appliqued or pieced cotton album quilts in the 1840-1860 period--- style in short supply in Kentucky.

 Funk Seminary School
Oldham County Historical Society
LaGrange in Oldham County near Louisville
had about 7,000 people in 1890 when this photo was taken

Unknown source with corded edge & tassels, must be Kentucky---
could be Missouri.

Louise Tiemann thinks that's Oscar Wilde
in his velvet suit there. (She's the Oscar expert.)

There definitely seems to be a Kentucky style of embroidery that extended into the crazy quilt era.

Even when the quilt is found in another state
like this one from the Florida project...

Made, the family said, by Sallie Pinnick of
Columbia, Kentucky

That would be Sallie Murrel Garnett Penick (1866-1955)
She married in Kentucky in 1887, perhaps the occasion for all that embroidery.

And that's it on Kentucky embroidery. (For now.) 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Cut-Throat Competition in Kentucky #3 More Embroiderers of Note


Show quilt by Eliza Hoskins Farris
Kentucky Historical Society

We've been looking at some extraordinary embroidered quilts from the late
19th-century, all of them from Kentucky, which prided itself on this type of work.

Details of Eliza's quilt

Eliza Hoskins Farris (1821-1912) 
Towards the end of her long life.

Yesterday we looked at competitor Carrie Stagg's fair entries. Eliza was one of her rivals at the 1886 state fair, down at the bottom of the page:

Mrs. J. W. Farris of Garrard County, Kentucky who
won with a display of  quilts.  I assume this meant she showed more than one. The crazy quilt is
the only quilt found so far attributed to Eliza. We'd like to see the others.

I bet one was a quilt she'd won $25 with at the 1852 state fair. It wouldn't have been a crazy quilt at that early date but perhaps an embroidered silk mosaic for which Kentucky had a reputation...

like this Kentucky-attributed silk hexagon from an online auction.

Or this one which has no information but is an example of a combination of silk
mosaic patchwork and elaborate filled embroidery typical of Kentucky show stoppers.

The 1852 reference to her silk quilt spells her name wrong. The one below gets it right.

That must have been some quilt.
Another of the group might have been her Henry Clay quilt
shown at a Kentucky festival in 1936.

Like several other Kentuckians Eliza made a Henry Clay memorial quilt. Her silk quilt pictured the Kentucky politician's birthplace and home in Lexington. Whereabouts today unknown.

From her 1912 obituary: "Her quilts were veritable works of art and were shown at Danville, Lexington, St. Louis and other county and State Fairs..."

A few style characteristics link these surviving Kentucky masterpieces. One is the extravagant embroidery in the border, often a floral. Another is a corded edge, sometime with hanging tassels like Eliza's above. 

Quilt attributed to Mary Redmon Parish (1847-1904),
Cynthiana, Kentucky
Sold at a Jeffrey Evans auction a few years ago.

The linear vine of florals (passion flowers?) looks to be stitched
in wool yarns. The black and white corded edge goes around all four sides.

The fabrics may be both wool and silk
and combinations.

Another style characteristic is a quilted backing that
is a separate piece, most likely a commercial
quilted silk meant for coat linings.

Mary Susan "Molly" Redmon Parish does not seem to have won any prizes with this quilt---at least any easily found in the Kentucky papers. She was married in 1869 to William Asbury Parish at her foster mother's home in Cynthiana and this may have been her wedding quilt.
The Kentucky Historical Society owns a hexagon star with tassels
attributed to Mary Haydon Elgin Stewart

Strong competition often encourages extraordinary efforts.

That common edge and back treatment makes me wonder if one could
take one's silk top to a professional for finishing. Was there a shop in
say Lexington or Harrodsburg where they'd add pre-quilted backing and a corded edge?