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?

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