Friday, September 30, 2022

Southern Spin #7 Brave Sunflower


Brave Sunflower by Denniele Bohannon

Last month's Sunflower with 9 petals was just practice for this month's with 16.

The block (#3480) was published several times in the Kansas City Star, once as A Brave Sunflower. Did that mean you had to be brave to try it?

Oklahoma Sunburst, published in 1934
Print on an 8-1/2" x 11" sheet. See the inch square for scale.

The pattern dates back to the 1830s. It seems that quiltmakers all over the small United States showed off their skills with sunflower variations but after 1870 or so Southern seamstresses continued to challenge themselves, while Northerners went on to other styles. The one above dated 1885 according to the Texas project.

Mid-20th-century.  15 petals.

Mid 19th---9 petals
Saw this one for sale at the New England Quilt Museum shop
a few weeks ago. Northern Spin.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Pearlie Caddell's Intriguing Quilt


64" x 54"
Here is a bad photo of a small quilt from an old eBay listing. I found
it while looking for Alabama quilts from Worthpoint, a website that collects old
auction photos.

The seller knew something about it, writing that it was a:
"1930 African American Christmas Quilt... from the South Alabama estate of Pearlie Caddell--the only Christmas Quilt I have ever acquired from an African American estate…..12 blocks. The first is "Behold" and their family names embroidered. All embroidery work was done in brown. ….Pearlie married Ludie Caddell they had several children."

We can check each of the facts presented:

1) 1930. Really no way to date this quilt from the photo; the prints aren't too visible, BUT the rather limited colors (gray, brown, red and wine-red on white) are not the more vibrant colors seen in typical 1930s quilts. Could it be earlier? Or later?

2) African-American. Pearlie Wilson Caddell was indeed African-American. See her biographical information below.

3) Christmas quilt.---I'm not buying that. Biblical quilt might be a better term as it includes what looks to be a crucifixion scene.
Anyone interested in quilt history might be struck by the resemblance of one block to a block in the  Harriet Powers quilt in the Smithsonian. Georgian Powers exhibited her pictorial quilts at fairs, this one as early as 1886. Might Caddell have seen it?

4) Maker Pearlie Caddell. There are many Pearl Caddells in Alabama genealogy but here's one married to Ludie: 

The 1930 census recorded Ludie Caddles (?), a 32-year-old Black farmer living in Hale County with wife Pearl. In 1930 they had 2 sons and 3 daughters from 10-years-old down to 1. Pearl was 33, born about 1897 in Alabama. Ola Belle listed as 10 here was actually born in 1903 according to her wedding record in 1936 when she was 19, so the numbers are suspect. Ola's mother was listed as Pearl Wilson Caddell on that marriage record from Family Search. Ludie Jr.'s Social Security Death Index record indicates he lived from 1921 to 1965, indicating that his age of 9 here was accurate.

Hale County highlighted here. 
Georgia to the east.

They likely lived near Havana, Alabama in Hale County between Tuscaloosa---about 30 miles north--- and 60 miles north of Boykin, what's called Gees Bend today---famous in terms of 20th-century quilts.

 Harriet Powers quilt, 1880s
National Museum of American History

Pearlie Wilson Caddell was of a younger generation than Harriet Powers (1837-1910). The Powers quilt shown, one of her two surviving Biblical quilts, dates from before Pearlie's birth.

Text for the listing indicates the seller had bought several quilts from Pearlie's estate but I couldn't find any others.

The listing:


A curious coincidence?

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Fans: Myth, Style and Dates


Nothing makes a Quilt History Know-It-All more indignant than a myth repeated.

See the Six Know It Alls discuss Quilt Myths in this episode:

And myths repeated:
"Handed down from colonial days the Friendship Fan...."
From the Laura Wheeler syndicate in the 1930-1970 period.

Just how old is the fan pattern? Accuquilt asked me to do a short history of their new 
Grandmother's Fan cutting die a while ago. 
Short history! Don't get me started.

The earliest published pattern found so far is 1885 in
Peterson's Magazine
Was Jane Weaver recording what she saw going on in needlework
or inventing a trend?

1882-1883, Nebraska's Sheldon Museum 
Anne Elizabeth Bascom North (1844-1923) Shoreham, Vermont

I went through the date-inscribed quilt files and the above is the earliest dated fan quilt I've found---more than a century after the Colonial period, which one can consider closed in 1776 when we declared our independence.

1886 Colonial Williamsburg
Anna Eliza Blackwell Clark, Maryland

The fan seems to have developed as a more controlled version of the Crazy quilt that became a nationwide fad in the early 1880s. Fans made good use of the same silk factory cutaways and offered many opportunities for the embroidery so popular after 1880.


The style had rather strict rules: silks and mixed fabrics, beginning in the 1880s 
when silk scraps were inexpensively available.
1893, Kentucky, National Museum of American History
The 1890s may have been the highpoint of the embroidered fan.

1894, Ima Frank Ritchie, Virginia
Also stitched of wools, lavished with the same kinds
of embroidery.

Black backgrounds a design necessity

Ethel, 1897

Silk became scarce as world politics shut down Chinese imports. And the lavish embroidery lost some of the lavishness.

1898 in wools

1901-1902 West Virginia Project

After the turn of the 20th century we note a change in fabrics: Cottons---prints and woven pattern.
Yet embellished with embroidery.

1903 Columbia, Pennsylvania

1903, West Virginia project

Cretonnes and other cotton prints---embroidery and background
 according to the old aesthetic.
What about a new aesthetic?

A glimpse....
Tan probably once green or blue.

1905, Four fans make a wheel.

 This arrangement became increasing popular in the oughts.

1901, Alida Shave.
Fan has been forgotten, it's a wheel.

And then we go back to the Anna Tuels quilt in the Wadsworth
Athenaeum Collection, but it's not a fan; it's a wheel.


1906 Mary Alma Turner, 8 years old

1910, Della Van Houghton Chase, Burlington, Michigan Project

Tradition persists.


1906-1911 Arizona Project.
3 spokes per fan.

1912, Lizzie Miller, born about 1844, 
may have thought the style cutting-edge modern.

1912 sampler of embroidered style

About this time Joseph Doyle & Company published a pattern
for "Grandmother's Fan," alluding to the old-fashionedness of the design.
In 1910 your grandma might have made one 25 years ago.

Doyle sold silk remnants, a continuation of grandmother's
sense of style.

1913 fan with a fancier edge, requiring applique

1918--- a throwback.
Did she see these as butterflies?

1929, pastels in fashion, wools appliqued to a crazy background.

Finally, a new aesthetic. Pastels prints and plains, modern embroidery style
and is that the new packaged bias tape finishing out each fan/plate?

1932-1933 Oklahoma

And yet....in velvets

1949, Joan Marx  
The new aesthetic. A love of prints---no embroidery necessary.
Fans like this were among the most popular designs in the mid-20th-century
but apparently few were date-inscribed.

Violet Moore Higgins illustration
A medieval princess?

Remember: Fans are NOT a Colonial pattern.
Or medieval.
Fanciful tales.