Sunday, October 29, 2023

Mary Ball Washington's Blue & White Quilt


Metropolitan Museum Collection
Mid-18th century, India

Above, the type of blue and white print one might see in an early-18th century quilt owned by a wealthy American colonist. I have no photos of either cotton textiles or quilts dating to the early 1700s; most surviving 18th-century textiles here tend to be mid-18th-century or later. But we do have one account.

In 1720 Mary Montague Ball Hewes of Northumberland County, Virginia wrote her will, leaving bedding to her youngest daughter Mary Ball who was 13 years old.

"Item. I give and bequeath unto my said Daughter Mary Ball sufficient furniture for the bed her father Joseph Ball left her, vizt: One suit of good curtains and fallens [valence?], one Rugg, one Quilt, one pair Blankets."

Young Mary's father Joseph Ball (1649-1711) died when she was a small child, leaving her the bed furnishings that her mother again willed to her.

This early-18th-century quilt, although not described, was not patchwork but more likely a whole cloth quilt of silk, wool or perhaps cotton. It may be the same quilt that Mary Ball Washington left in her own 1788 will written the year before she died.

Mary Ball Washington (1708-1789)
George Washington's mother

"I give to my son, General George Washington....my best bed, bedstead, and Virginia cloth curtains (the same that stand in my best bedroom), my quilted blue-and white quilt, and my best dressing glass."

We assume that the description blue-and white means a whole cloth bedcover of an indigo cotton print, a popular luxury item. Was it the quilt Mary had owned since her father died nearly 80 years ago? More likely a later quilt from the years when Indian indigoes were more common in the colonies.

Mid-18th-century imported indigo print

George apparently did not pick up the blue and white quilt (he was a busy man.) Younger sister Betty Washington Lewis wrote him a letter the year after Mary's death reminding him of "several articles in my possession, that was left to you by my Mother which has never been sent for."

George's sister Elizabeth (Betty) Washington Lewis (1733-1797)
By John Wolleston, about 1750
Collection of Mount Vernon

Perhaps the quilt was among these "mementos of parental affection," as George called them. If he did not want the heirlooms Betty would be glad to keep them herself. "They can be of little or no service to you, and of very great to me, I will thank you for them...."

We don't know what that blue and white quilt looked like, but a couple of the Washington museums include a reproduction in the bedrooms.

Mary Washington House Museum
Fredericksburg, Virginia

 In 1772 George bought his mother a house in Fredericksburg, Virginia in which she spent her last 17 years living close to Betty Lewis's home Kenmore.

An interior shot at the Mary Washington house shows
a room with bedhangings, curtains and a wholecloth blue and white quilt
of a toile, a copperplate print using a technique developed in the mid-18th century.

Another Washington museum at Ferry Farm near Betty's Kenmore features a replica of the house where she and George grew up. Curator Meghan Budinger explained the process of dressing the "best bed."

"We were lucky enough to locate a blue and white printed cotton, reproduced from a mid-18th century French pattern by Chelsea Textiles in New York. The original version was block printed, but also used wax or paste in the resist method. The result was a detailed repeated floral pattern that also had the rounded edges of resist dying. It was perfect for our uses. The fabric was quilted onto filler and backing, and the entire quilt was cut in a T-shape, to fit around the bedposts of the Washington “best bed”, creating a fitted look which was also typical of the time. Visitors to the Washington house can now see Mary’s favorite blues on display in her bedchamber."

The best bed at Ferry Farm

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Phoebe's Favorite: Links to Dogtooth Applique Patterns

Blocks 1-4 by Jeanne Arnieri

The Block of the Month at Material Culture in 2023-2024 is Pheobe's Favorite: Dogtooth Applique.

Here are links to posts with 9 free patterns for this traditional applique
technique in which you slash and turn points rather than using a template.

Becky Brown's Block #2 showing 5 finished, pointy edges and 3
before the fabric is slashed to make the points.

Denniele Bohannon is stitching her points using
templates---the more common applique style. Each month you
get patterns for both techniques.

We have a Facebook group where you can share your progress. It's an open group. You don't have to join.

And you can buy the set of patterns here in my Etsy shop---32 pages for $12. Do note there's an error in there ---the blocks finish to 18-1/2" not 18".

Click on the links below to see the nine free patterns posted on the first day of each month beginning July 1, 2023

The Introduction:

#1 Sunflower by Becky Brown

#2 Bouquet by Elsie Ridgley

#3 Mexicali Rose by Denniele Bohannon

#4 Floral Vase by Jeanne Arnieri

#5 Tobacco Leaf by Becky Brown

#6 Princess Feather by Elsie Ridgley


#7 Pineapple by Denniele Bohannon

#8 Eagle by Becky Brown


#9 Cochise County by Elsie Ridgley


Denniele Bohannon
All nine blocks and a border beginning

Becky Brown plans to applique a dogtooth triangle border
around the nine blocks and turn that on point.

You know she isn't going to leave those corners empty.

Two good sources for how-to's on slashed and turned Dogtooth borders:
Elly Sienkiewicz's Beloved Baltimore Album Quilts
Jeana Kimball's The Quilter's Ultimate Visual Guide.

Or sash them and do a Dogtooth Star in the cornerstones.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Late Medallion Quilt from Marie R. Suhr


This medallion attributed to Marie Rucksdaeschel Suhr (1875-1968) of Staplehurst, Seward County, Nebraska, thought to date from the mid 1890s is an intriguing example of a style format
not in much favor at the end of the 19th century.

Applique of any kind was not popular in 1890s Nebraska according to Pat Cox Crews's analysis of style in the Nebraska project. Contrast 1870 with 1890. Applique in medallions????

The date the owner provided coincides with Marie Louise Johanna Elizabeth Rucksdaeschel's marriage to Franz Heinrich Christian Suhr (1865-1943.) The 20-year-old Marie may have finished this quilt about the time of her marriage before she began raising 12 children as a farm wife near Staplehurst.

The date seems quite plausible as the greens have the cloudy
loss of color one sees in the new synthetic greens at the time.

But the flair of the design is unusual for time and place.

Both Franz & Marie (Mary) were born in the United States to parents who emigrated from the German states. The 1930 census finds them with their three youngest children still at home.

People of German descent (and probably German-speakers) composed 10% of Seward County in 1910.
Like many German-speakers Seward Countians were persecuted for using their language during the first World War from about 1914 to 1920.

No amount of patriotic show could quiet the haters who banned their books and language.

A second quilt top is also attributed to Marie Suhr, brought to the Nebraska quilt days by another owner

It's hard to see these two pieces as the work of one woman, but twelve children require a good deal of bedding. We are glad to see that Marie's medallion has remained in such good condition despite the kids.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Mystery Pattern: Carousel


I cannot believe this great design is NOT in my Encyclopedia of
Pieced Quilt Patterns---or BlockBase, the digitized version.

Five years ago Lori Nicholas Frank posted a circa 1950 example on Quilts Vintage & Antique.
"OK, I give up! Does anyone know this pattern name?"

Nobody has commented with a name.
I've been looking for the published source ever since but no luck.
I give up too.

So I drew it up in BlockBase & Electric Quilt 8

It looks very mid-century what with the prints, the scrappy look and
the clever repeat.

I'll give it a number BlockBase# 2676.5

And name it Carousel as it goes around and round and you don't have to flip any pieces.

Two sheets for a 12" Finished Block
All templates, all curves.

You know it had to be a published pattern....

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Quilts at Boston's Mechanical Association Fairs


Is that a quilt hanging in the balcony during the 1878 Fair put on
 by the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association?

The new United States of America established Mechanic Associations to promote domestic industry and donate to charitable causes. Boston's association, begun in 1795, hosted fairs over the years showcasing American manufacturing. Hoping to attract a female audience the exhibits also included home crafts done by women.

1847 Advertising

Detroit Institute of the Arts

Early fairs were held in Faneuil Hall, Boston's primary public space.

Winning women's work in the 1837 fair.

Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams (1775-1852)

Former First Lady Mrs. John Quincy Adams showed a handsome bedquilt deserving a diploma.

Some years a temporary iron bridge was constructed between two neighboring halls.

The association built their own display space after the Civil War.

Mechanic Hall

A few months after the Civil War ended the 10th fair showed several quilts.

Mrs. F.V. Bell contributed a "Union bed-quilt---a magnificent article,---in which the National shield, composed of pieces of red, white and blue cloth, is inclosed in a circle of stars of red and white. On the outer edge of this circle is still another of blue stars."

Sarah Peters of Cambridgeport showed a cotton quilt of 25 squares "with ornaments of Turkey red... elaborately wrought."

Miss A. Bennett of Lawrence entered a quilt with a dark ground, "bordered by a delicate blue fringe. A beautiful star, encircled in squares of patchwork, adorned with different colored pieces in the form of sprays and twigs, forms the principal device of the article." We can assume this is a Star of Bethlehem or what was called in Boston a Rising Sun.
See a post here on similar quilts:

Miss Bennett's quilt may have looked something like this.

It must have been an impressive show.