QUILTS & FABRIC: PAST & PRESENT


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Cut Throat Competition in Kentucky #2: Carrie Stagg

 

Yesterday we looked at Kentuckian Lida Finnell Allin's wool embroidered quilt
featuring plushwork swans in the center.

Plushwork---wool yarns trimmed and fluffed---is not a common technique in quilts...


but here it is again in a pair of plushwork swans in a crazy quilt
viewed on a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania episode of the Antiques Roadshow in 2012

It also has a plushwork calla lily. Callas were common on crazy quilts (a flower associated with Oscar Wilde) but not plushwork. Pittsburgh, hmmm.
Then I read the transcript. The Pennsylvanian who brought it in said his grandfather's aunt made it in Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky. Of course. Too bad we don't have her name.

This more conventional crazy quilt is not nearly as impressive
as neighbor Lida's below but some of the imagery is similar.

Lida Finnell Allin's masterpiece in the Smithsonian collection.

The appraisal quilt


 Lida Finnell attended the local girls' academy Daughters College where the family said she learned "plain and fancy needlework and the fine arts of canvas and china painting."

It may be that the anonymous maker of the other crazy quilt also attended Daughters College in Harrodsburg where she had the same fancy needlework teacher who taught plushwork embroidery and gave students a swan pattern.



Another student at the college was Carrie L. Stagg who at about 26 began entering her embroidery in local fairs. Here's she's entered pieces (not quilts) in two classes at the Central Kentucky Fair, winning in both. I haven't been able to find any pictures of Carrie's quilts but found lots about them. Above she has entered what was called Arasene work, we might call it chenille work. 

Example of chenille work

The technique was often classified with chenille and ribbon work in fair categories. Chenille is actually the French term for caterpillar---a fuzzy yarn.


The competition in St. Louis at the fair there was stiffer and Carrie did not win first in those categories in 1887. She is crossing state lines to enter fairs, something these competitors often did.

Chenille or Arasene work goldenrod

The following year we find her entering a quilt or two or more in the Central Kentucky Fair.


She won first place over 21 other entries with a silk quilt
and then first with perhaps a group "Display of quilts."

More important: In 1888 she entered a national needlework contest in New York sponsored by Canfield and won first in silk crazy quilts, news that made Godey's Lady's Book and the New York Times.

Results of the
Canfield Competitive Exhibition of Art Needlework 

The editor printed the news but she didn't think much of crazy quilts.

Unfortunately---no pictures of this quilt.

Carrie continued to enter fairs.
Here she and Lida Finnell are competing in a Lexington
Fair in 1890. See Lida's quilt above.


In 1893 they each won a prize at the Central Kentucky Fair.
We know what Lida's worsted quilt looked like but I've found
no pictures of any of Carrie Stagg's needlework.

1891 mention of her cleaning up at a fair.

She lived a long life dying at 85 in 1949.


Collection of the Filson Historical Society

Swan in a crazy quilt by Ella Bowling Umphrey of Russellville, Kentucky in
Logan County. Ella's swan is not plushwork, just filled embroidery.

As in this one attributed to Lucretia Hart Clay (1799-1852)
of Lexington, married to Senator Henry Clay.
Collection of Western Kentucky University


1 comment:

Lady Locust said...

I am just catching up here and have read through each of the three KY posts. What strikes me about these amazing quilts and the stellar talent is the thought that a single needle carrying a strand of thread (various sorts) can after so many passes create such art. Needle mastery at its finest is an understatement.
As always, thank you for sharing.