Tuesday, December 6, 2016

more polyester love

pieced quilt, polyester, unknown maker, North Carolina, c. 1970, 62" x 81"
This playful polyester quilt came from an eBay seller in Asheville, North Carolina. According to the item description, it was made by a woman in Madison County, the western mountains of North Carolina. I sent a note to the seller asking if we could retrieve more information, and she sent a link to the obituary of the maker, Peggy Davis Harmon (1943-2016).


The pattern has many names, such as Snowball, Windmill Design, Pinwheel, and my personal favorite from the Kansas City Star, Love in a Tangle. By the 1970s, around the time the quilt was made, it could've had dozens of names.

#1499 in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns
These designs may be found in my favorite resource for block identification,  Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, #1498 and #1499, in the "Four Patch with Curves" section. There is also a note with the two designs: 1499 and 1498 are identical if set all-over. Each block has 24 patches, and the blocks cleverly mingle to create several secondary designs.


A closer look at the fabrics shows why polyester is such a fascinating, versatile material. Woven, printed and embossed designs offered an endless variety of options. Ultimately, these fabrics infused scrap quiltmaking with dynamic new combinations of color, pattern and texture. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Special Announcement


Happy Monday! Today, I have a special announcement. Apologies in advance for not having more details, but it's exciting news, so I just had to share.


If you've read my blog, even occasionally, you may have noticed I love polyester quilts. I have collected them for several years, and I've got a pretty good collection of them now.



Polyester quilts were part of my first article about the quilts of the 1970s, published in 2013 in American Quilter Magazine.


Around the same time, Generation Q Magazine named me one of the Double-Knit Twins, along with fellow collector and quiltmaker Victoria Findlay Wolfe. We are proud of the moniker. Growing up, Victoria slept under family-made polyester quilts in Minnesota.


Last year, I published a feature article in Quilters Newsletter Magazine, and a research article in Blanket Statements, newsletter of the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG). It was the first time polyester was the subject of a research article published by AQSG.

QuiltCon 2015
"Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" at Benton County Museum
Last year, I also had a special exhibit at QuiltCon in Austin, Texas, and the debut museum exhibition of 1970s quilts at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon. The flurry of polyester left a few connoisseurs scratching their heads, but we were seeing the quilts of the revival for the first time in a new context. I thought it was pretty thrilling.

By now, you may be wondering about that special announcement I had, so I'll stop stringing you along. Last week, I received a phone call from one of the curators at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was an invitation to exhibit polyester quilts at the museum.


The International Quilt Study Center & Museum is a bucket list destination for quilt lovers. It is a state-of-the-art facility with beautiful, spacious galleries. They have a variety of outstanding exhibitions each year.



I visited the museum in 2012 when the American Quilt Study Group Seminar was in Lincoln. The facility is top notch, as is the staff. So impressed!


Happily, I accepted the invitation to exhibit at the museum, and I'm excited we will be exhibiting polyester quilts. It will be an incredibly vibrant, dynamic exhibition, and a fresh look at quilts from the 1970s quilt revival. The exhibition will be in the summer, 2017. Stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

America's Earliest Quilts: Necessity Not the Mother of Invention

blue resist detail c. 1760
When it comes to America's earliest quilts and coverlets, necessity was not the mother of invention.  Quiltmaking required time and resources. Quilts were elegant objects made by affluent families, and decorative sewing was a skill developed in finishing schools by refined young women.

wholecloth quilt, c. 1790, New England
In the colonial period, before many mills were up and running in America, fabric was mostly imported and heavily taxed. Quilts and other decorative bedcovers were among the furnishings in well appointed homes. They were included in dowry chests and listed in estate records.

parchwork quilt, c. 1800, Rhode Island
Quilts, counterpanes, canopes, bed curtains, valences and bed rugs were all part of the bedroom decor in wealthy, colonial households. Fancy bedcovers included stuffed work, appliqué, embroidery and later, geometric patchwork. 

2012 "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner" exhibition at Colonial Williamsburg
Many of the surviving examples from the period were made with fabrics purchased new. The counterpanes of Achsah Goodwin Wilkins were made with repurposed fabrics, but the fabrics were fresh off the boat and fresh off the bolt.

an elegant Achsah Goodwin Wilkins counterpane, c. 1820s
Colonial Williamsburg has a superb example in its collection. The counterpane, one of four known to still exist, was exhibited in a 2012 exhibition called "Quilts in the Baltimore Manner" at Colonial Williamsburg. It retains much of its original color and the chintz still has a glossy sheen.

1820s Achsah Goodwin Wilkins counterpane, donated to DAR Museum
Another outstanding example is in the collection of the D.A.R. Museum in Washington, D.C., and was recently on display as part of the 2014 "Eye on Elegance" exhibition.



In her essay "Eye on Elegance, Early Quilts of Maryland and Virginia" curator Alden O'Brien comments on the early traditions in American quiltmaking.

"...these bedcovers were the product of leisure time and affluence."

"Seasoned devotees of historical quilts know that the oft-repeated tale of quilting's having emerged from frugal necessity is erroneous. Yet it continues to be repeated.

"The quilts in this exhibit, representing typical designs that survive from the early 19th century, tell a different story. Constructed in intensely time-consuming techniques, from fabrics whose price per yard might exceed a servant's weekly wages, these bedcovers were the product of leisure time and affluence."
early 19th century stuffed work quilt
Today's show quilts are part of a long tradition of elegant bedcovers in America. Quiltmaking was originally an activity for people who had disposable income and leisure time. The surviving quilts point to a legacy of intricate, elaborate needlework; fancy, sophisticated objects made to be decorative and beautiful.
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Saturday, December 3, 2016

tropical vibe

Log Cabin with Hawaiian fabrics, c. 1975, California
This Log Cabin quilt came from an Etsy seller in San Luis Obispo, California. It has a wonderful, tropical vibe.


The quilt includes a scrappy variety of fabrics, and many are Hawaiian prints. Dimensions are 90" x 101" and it is tied. It has batting, and multiple shades of olive green in the background reinforce the scrappiness.


This quilt is a good example of why it could be useful to recognize a sub-catagory of Hawaiian scrap quilts-- those found outside Hawaii. The fabrics make it Hawaiian, even though it was found elsewhere.



In most cases, the examples in my collection were found in Hawaii, but there is value in looking at quilts discovered elsewhere, especially when considering the distinctions between the quilts made in the tropics and those with a tropical vibe. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Crib Quilts from Honolulu

crib quilt, mixed fabrics, unknown maker, Honolulu, Hawaii, c. 1975, 32" x 41"
Yesterday, two 1970s crib quilts from Honolulu arrived on my doorstep. These little gems are both around the same size, and appear to be made at the same time from the same stash. One is reversible.

reversible crib quilt (front and back), mixed fabrics,
unknown maker, Honolulu, Hawaii, c. 1975, 32" x 44"
reversible crib quilt (front), mixed fabrics,
unknown maker, Honolulu, Hawaii, c. 1975, 32" x 44"
reversible crib quilt (back), mixed fabrics,
unknown maker, Honolulu, Hawaii, c. 1975, 32" x 44"
Both quilts include improvisational log cabin blocks. Interestingly, the first time I'd seen improvisational log cabin blocks were in the work of Andrea Balosky of Camp Sherman, Oregon. She called them "Log Jammin'" blocks and included them in her classes back in the day. Andrea was born in Hawaii. I must remember to pick her brains about Hawaiian scrap quilts and the "Log Jammin'" blocks.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

crib quilt from Pahoa


This vibrant crib quilt came from Pahoa, Hawaii. It is 41" x 49" and is made of muumuu fabrics with simple, improvisational blocks and hot colors.




I located a few other Hawaiian scrap quilts recently. As soon as they arrive, you'll see them here.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Giant Dahlia


 "The Giant Dahlia" is one of several large medallion quilt patterns designed by Hubert ver Mehren of Des Moines, Iowa. A flawless example of this quilt just arrived, and I'm smitten.


The Iowa Button and Pleating Company, based in Des Moines, Iowa, was ver Mehren's primary business. By the mid-1920s, he sold embroidery designs on stamped textiles under the name Home Art Studios. Working with his wife, Mary Jacobs, ver Mehren eventually sold patchwork patterns, creating full-size, medallion quilt patterns and kits. 


An unknown maker made this quilt in the 1930s. It represents one of ver Mehren's most famous designs. Often imitated, The Giant Dahlia quilt has very specific, immediately recognizable characteristics such as the phenomenal art deco edge finish, completed with facing that initially looks like a knife-edge or pillow-edge finish. The beautifully mapped-out quilting is also very specific. Dimensions are 78" x 78".