Monday, April 30, 2018

A Maryland Album Quilt

Back in March 2016, I wrote a post about a signature quilt I had acquired and called it “nearly” my holy grail of quilts.  It is a special quilt with beautiful Turkey red fabric appliqued in a fleur de lis pattern.  It also has lots of names and places that I’ve been able to research and trace the quilt to a church community in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.  There is still much to do with it but it will be set aside for a while as I think I have found a new, exciting project.  It is an album quilt from Maryland, dated 1843.  It is not a Baltimore album quilt in the definition I use – an album quilt made in Baltimore -- but is an early Maryland example of the Baltimore style (pre-dates the true Baltimore album quilts) and comes from an area in Baltimore county, just outside of Baltimore. 

Today I am sharing a set of pictures I took randomly of some of the quilt blocks with inscriptions of surnames that appear multiple times on the quilt.

A picture of the center block is above.  The quilt is a 25 block album quilt and it is huge, approximately 104” x 104”.  It looks like J… Musslman is embroidered in cross-stitch, along with that 1843 cross-stitched date.  Note the spelling of the last name because it appears in other places on the quilt, spelled differently.  I’d also like your opinion, if you have one, about the first initial and what I think are dots after it.  Is that a “J” do you think?  Do those look like dots to you?  Why three dots instead of just one like we would use today after an initial?  There is at least one other place where it looks like there is another first initial with several dots following it.  A detailed photo of the inscription is below.  I’d love to hear what you think.

Take note of the light pink fabric.  I’ve seen other early quilts, circa 1840 and earlier, use light blue and light pink fabrics and the pink shows up a lot in this quilt.  The block pictured below (looks like a carnation to me but I don’t know flowers) uses what I think is the same pink fabric as the center block.  The name Margaret Baker is embroidered, along with the town name of Reisterstown, in red thread using an outline stitch.  A detail photo of the inscription follows the block picture.  My friend, Debby Cooney, an expert on Baltimore album quilts, did some very quick research and found that a Margaret Baker married a Jacob Mussleman (the name was spelled with an “e” in the record she found) in Baltimore.  Their birth dates put them at marrying age right around 1843.  This is an intriguing lead.

The next bit I would like to share is of a block I am calling "Christmas Cactus."  As I said, I don't know flowers, but the applique on this block looks very much like the Christmas cactus my colleague has in the office next door to mine at work.  I also believe there are other Maryland album quilts with blocks called Christmas cactus by others.  If you are better at botany than me, please weigh in with your opinion.

This block has another embroidered name (detail photo below) that is harder to make out, mainly because the stitcher either used a neutral colored thread or the thread faded.  The last name is definitely Wooden, a name that appears elsewhere on the quilt, but the first name is a mystery.  Please leave a comment if you have any ideas.

The next photo is a stamped, not embroidered, name found on a grape block.  It, too, is a little hard to make out.  There look to be two initials in place of the first name but I am uncertain as to what they are.  The last name is definitely another version of Muselman, this time spelled with an "e" and only one "s".

I didn't take a full picture of the grape block yet, but I want to share the detail photo below because the grapes are simply amazing.  Unfortunately, the grapes on the block are in very bad shape because they were crammed with stuffing and the fabric just couldn't handle it.  But, look how small and tightly packed those bunches of grapes are.  I am going to try to do some conservation on this quilt and I plan on starting with the grapes so I don't lose the opportunity to study how they were made.

I have only studied the quilt once so far but have noted some elements that, even without the place names, suggest this is a Maryland quilt.  I'll discuss those in the next post so check back soon.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Economics and my poison green phase

Have you had "Phases" in  your quilting?  By that, I generally mean choosing certain colors or patterns such as cheddar, pink and brown, red as a neutral, or hexis, stars, log cabins...  I am currently in a poison green phase.  I love it and find myself putting it in everything.  I've seen antique quilts that will have a stray piece of poison green amidst mostly brown or other fabrics and am AMAZED at the quilter's restraint.  Of course, that tiny bit of poison green is, to me, the most striking thing in some quilts and something I endeavor to emulate.  But I can't.  I find myself saying, it needs a bit more...a bit more...just a bit more.  And then I am drunk with poison green.  Last night I saw a very charming antique quilt on Pinterest which inspired me to pilfer some hand pieced stars from another project and to even dip into my poison green stash for a whole half yard of that precious fabric.

The inspiration quilt had poison green setting squares -- one I wish I had a reproduction of, by the way -- so it gave me an excuse to use more than that stray bit.  But now, my single half yard piece of that great print will be gone which is where thinking about economics comes into this post.  See econ explanation of Scarcity below.

I have an economizing problem with two colors of reproduction prints:  poison green and Turkey red.  This is because the current reproduction fabric manufacturers don't make these fabrics in what I deem to be the "right" shades.  Green is a bit easier because they can stray into the yellow-green and blue-green ranges and still make good greens.  The "right" Turkey red appears to be harder to produce.  What I don't know is, is it actually harder to produce or do these manufacturers not agree with which red is the right red?  So, scarcity has resulted in 1) me making a doll-size quilt instead of a larger one because I don't have any more of that green and 2) me actually managing to put just a smidgen of Turkey red into the quilt because I'm even more parsimonious with that color than the poison green.

My fear of running out of poison green and Turkey red is resulting in me making more scrap quilts with smaller and smaller pieces so I can stretch my precious fabrics.  Here is a pile of little quilt tops (yes, there is one there from 2015 - it was actually made on Jan. 1, 2015) that are waiting for hand quilting.  Making a lot of very scrappy little quilts can make a huge mess as demonstrated by this picture of just a portion of my cutting table.  I should probably call it my scrap display table.

Back to my econ lesson.  The chart above illustrates options our fabric manufacturers have with regard to reducing the scarcity of Turkey red and poison green.  I know they can do it because I used to hoard cheddar (also a neutral) and now it's very available.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Still stitching...

I've been stitching nearly every day but it's on the same project so I don't have anything in the way of results to share yet.  Instead, let's focus on the process.  Personally, I love a peek inside others' supply boxes and am very attached to my own little box of tools so I thought I'd open it up for you.

I am working with a group of very talented stitchers to make a reproduction of a friend's antique album style quilt.  I mentioned it in my last post.  Well, you know how these group projects can go - life happens and volunteers get distracted - so the organizers might wind up sewing more than they thought they would.  For now, I've got all four border to stitch and I'm still on the first one!

This is my applique supply box.  All my current applique projects are a variation of red and green so thread inventory is pretty simple.  The box is the Tupperware sandwich box and everything I need fits perfectly inside.

My applique method of choice is back basting.  I know it isn't for everyone but it works for me.  I like to use a high contrast thread color and am fond of the Mettler cotton 30 weight thread.  It leaves a big enough hole that it sort of perforates the fabric which makes it turn right along the basted line.  Once a piece is basted I clip the curves and every other stitch and pull them out as I turn the fabric under and stitch along the edge.

This project only has five different shapes so I cut squares and rectangles in advance which makes the basting part pretty fast and the project very portable.  I take it everywhere with me these days.

Here is a portion of my border that is partially basted and partially stitched.  When doing repetitive work I like to have a system.  For this project, I baste 8 leaves one night and then stitch them down the next night.  Then I add a stem, flower and center to enjoy a color other than green.

Here is my seemingly endless border.  Doesn't red and green play well together? 

I'd love to see inside your little tool box and hear how you organize your stitching.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

I'm stitching

Worcester Beauty - A Maryland Album Quilt Block C-1
Stitched by Taryn Faulkner

  I'm stitching as fast as I can which, unfortunately, is still pretty slow.  This is block C-1 from a pattern called Worcester Beauty-A Maryland Album Quilt.  It is an almost exact reproduction of a quilt in the collection of the DAR Museum (link to quilt images here) and was part of the extraordinary Eye on Elegance exhibition from a couple of years ago.  Debby Cooney is the owner and gave permission to the AQSG Maryland seminar committee to pattern her quilt as a fundraiser.  In addition, some committee members and talented Baltimore Applique Society members are stitching the quilt (by hand!!) which will then be quilted (again, by hand!!) and either raffled or auctioned to help raise more funds for AQSG.  This is my contribution and I'm down to the last large red flower.  I think I might have to fix the yellow vase on the right, too.  The stems underneath are a bit bulky.  Hopefully, it will straighten out when washed and pressed.

If you are interested in the pattern, it can be purchased for $40 (plus $4.50  mailing in U.S. - check for overseas postage amount).  Contact  I have more pictures to share in the coming days!

Original Maryland Album Quilt - Private Collection

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Elegant Geometry Exhibit - Taft Museum of Art - Post 1

Medallion quilt from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Seen at the Elegant Geometry exhibit at the Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio

I like to give myself presents.  After all, I know exactly what I want and I don't judge my own quilt obsession.  In fact, I think it is perfectly normal.  You do, too.  That's what I like so much about you.

My special gift this year was a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, to see the Elegant Geometry quilt exhibit at the Taft Museum of Art.  If you are a long-time aficionado of antique quilt study you might have seen this exhibit at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, of which these quilts are part of their collection.  There was also a catalog that went along with the first exhibit but those are all gone now.  I have one but never saw the first exhibit.  I guess you can say I "read the book but didn't see the movie."  Unlike most books, however, the visual version is far superior.

This exhibit blew me away.  The museum is gorgeous and the staff were the nicest museum staff I've ever encountered.  I could do a whole post on them but I didn't take their pictures.  I thought it would be weird.  As I was saying, it was a great venue and the quilts were breathtaking.  It also passed the all-time measure of what makes a good exhibit...they allowed photos.  Hooray!  After all, if you can't post it on Facebook, did it really happen?  I took 262 pictures so this will have to be a multi-post topic for the blog.  

Medallion quilt detail - crossed laurel leaf block in Turkey red solid and green print.

I'm going to start with a Maryland quilt.  At least the info card says it is possibly Baltimore origin.  I have to agree.  When I first saw the quilt I immediately thought it was from my area.  That crossed laurel leaf border was very popular - as a quilt in itself and as a block in Baltimore album quilts - in Baltimore in the 1840s-1850s.  I personally haven't seen it used as just a border and that is something that raises questions and makes this quilt extra interesting.

Center medallion detail - mosaic patchwork style c. 1830s

The style of the center of the quilt is called mosaic patchwork by the museum and quilt researchers.  I doubt the pieces were called "hexies" back then and "Grandmother's Flower Garden" is a name from the 1930s.  Po-tay-toe/Po-tah-toe for me because I'm only talking to me.  Guess it matters more if you want to talk quilts with the experts.  Anyway, the style and fabrics of the medallion part of the quilt were popular a decade or two earlier than the red and green applique border.  The museum's educated guess is that the center was constructed earlier and someone - same or different quilter - may have finished it in the 1840s or 1850s with blocks and fabrics that were more popular at that time.

Detail of applique branches and broderie perse flowers

I find the corners of the center medallion interesting.  I consider them an applique rendition of arborescent chintz.  In case you are not already aware, arborescent chintz comes from the Tree of Life motif and is a fabric with printed (often thick) gnarly tree branches.  It was popular in the 1830s.  These applique branches are not very rough and gnarly but the width of the main branch is reminiscent of the thick arborescent branches.  The large broderie perse flowers are also reminiscent of the flowers that appear on arborescent chintzes.

This is an example of arborescent chintz from a quilt dated 1837.  Seen on eBay.

The medallion style of the quilt would have been more popular in the 1830s time period than the 1850s.  It appears the quilt was started as a medallion because there is a center mosaic pattern set on point and framed with the applique corners.  For those familiar with quilts from this era, can't you just see more broderie perse and perhaps some simple pieced blocks framing the center or an applique Turkey red dog tooth border?  It was, in fact, finished as a medallion quilt which might indicate a quilt completed in the earlier part of the 1840s-50s estimated time period since medallions were being made but their popularity was waning.  The center and borders don't "go" as well as those constructed with coordinating fabrics might but the result is still very striking and definitely gets antique quilt lovers thinking about it. 

Gratuitous antique fabric picture #1

Gratuitous antique fabric picture #2

I added these extra pictures because who doesn't want more antique fabric photos?  It's also interesting to note that you can still see the pencil quilt marking in the lower picture.  I highly doubt this quilt was ever washed because many of the chintzes still have their glaze.  I you want to learn more about the quercitron yellow fabric in the top photo, see a blog post on by Barbara Brackman here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Start small

Lily block with hand appliqued triangles and squares on the white corners.

I've been thinking about getting back to blogging because there is a direct correlation between the time and effort I put into my own sewing and my number of blog posts.  If you look at the last post, you will see that I haven't written anything since November 2016.  And there were only a handful of posts for the years before that.  I blame Facebook.  And Instagram.  Especially Instagram.  So many of my blogging buddies have abandoned their writing for the instant gratification of a Facebook and Instagram post.  I have to admit, I l-o-v-e the pictures.  But there is something in the blogging that involves thinking things through that gets me away from mindless scrolling and back to productive sewing.  But it is overwhelming to just pick up where I left off, especially since my sewing is still nearly non-existent.  So, I will start small...some easy information on something that someone else stitched.

Detail of signature - Aaron H Huntzberg

This block is my very favorite pieced block (with a bit of applique if you look closely) of all time.  There are several reasons I won't go into now - that's for another post.  This is just a single block that my friend Julie very graciously pointed out to me at a vendor's booth during the recent AQSG seminar.  She is a good friend indeed because she wanted it for herself but knew I would be sad to miss it so she gave me first dibs - and I took it immediately!

Tiny blue and white 9-patch quilt: hand pieced and hand quilted.

Fortunately, we weren't both coveting this quilt.  I couldn't walk away from Stella Rubin's booth empty handed and I've been looking at this one for a long time.  This quilt has 1,034 9-patch blocks which means there are 9,306 little squares in those 9-patches.  They are all hand pieced, no assembly line piecing on a machine.  I had to put it on my hotel bed for a photo opportunity.  I think it makes the hotel very homey but I'm not really sleeping under it.

Close-up view to get an idea of the scale of the pieces in this quilt.

Here is a picture with a quarter to better get an idea of the scale.  Each 9-patch is about 1.5 inches.

View of quilting with the red binding.

This is a simple blue and white quilt (if you call it simple to piece over 9,000 half-inch pieces plus assembling them with the plain squares) but I like that the maker added a red binding.  I've heard many times..."Red is a neutral."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hand Quilting My Little Quilts

Quilting...hand or machine?  As quilters, we make decisions, have our preferences, and our biases.  These are individuals choices and when I speak about them I am strictly speaking about my own personal decisions, preferences and biases.  There is no judgment about those of others.  This is my disclaimer because I am going to talk about one of my favorite quilt things, hand quilting, and why I don't quilt my little quilts by machine.

Fine hand quilting and stuffed work - Quilt is in the collection of the DAR Museum

Before I went back to working outside the home full-time I enjoyed the luxury of having several hours a day to spend sewing and quilting.  At that time I was teaching at a local shop and machine stitching class samples in addition to my personal sewing.  Frankly, the class samples took up more of my personal time than I liked.  When I took my full-time job and experienced a substantial reduction in that personal time, I evaluated what was important to me with regard to quilting.  I stopped teaching and got rid of all my fabric that wasn't reproduction.  (Note: don't worry, I've since plugged those holes with plenty of new repro fabrics.)  I switched from making large quilts to mostly small ones that offered the chance to play with fabrics and patterns while making a quilt that I could hang on my office wall to enjoy during my time out of the house.

I need to get a ladder so I can put quilts above my white board and add another row above those on the right

Personally, I am not a fan of machine quilting on little quilts.  I think that is because it is so obvious.  Remember, this is personal taste - not right, not wrong - just my opinion.  I love the designs created by quilting but I love the subtlety of hand stitching.  I am guessing that others share my opinion but choose to machine quilt their projects in order to finish them faster...or at all.  I certainly can appreciate that.  In another moment of introspection, I decided that, going forward, I would stick to a hand-quilt-only policy for my own little quilts.  I started with some very small projects (see the tiny one pictured below) that I could complete in an evening and some very slightly bigger ones that took a couple of days.  Then I started hand quilting a larger project: Cheddar Cheese and Crackers - Humble Quilts project.  That was in 2010 and it still isn't finished.

Pinned to my bulletin board on my desk

Reflecting further, I decided to stick with my hand-quilt-only policy but to employ the tactic many, many others use:  Hire the quilter.  That's when I turned to Bellwether Dry Goods.  I've talked before about Bellwether because I love their service which ranges from simply having your quilt top marked by Dick Fries for you to do  your own hand quilting to purchasing a completed quilt.  While hiring someone to hand quilt for me isn't cheap it is definitely a good value.  I get to play with fabrics while sewing my tops and wind up with little quilts I absolutely love which I use in my house and in my office.

Dick Fries marking a quilt top before it goes to the quilter

I first fell in love with Bellwether quilts when I visited an event that used to take place near Dulles, Virginia, at the Sotterly Plantation.  I can't tell you how much I loved walking over the hill and seeing dozens of hand quilted quilts gently blowing in the breeze and folded on shelves where you got glimpses of patterns and color.  The Sotterly event featured many antique quilt dealers and the Bellwether quilts fit right in because of their vintage look and feel.  But, they smelled good!  Alas, the Sotterly show is no more so Dick and Jane Fries started holding a three-day open house event on their own property in southern Anne Arundel County, Maryland, during the first weekend in December.  This year the show is December 2-4 from 10am-4pm each day.

Details about the Bellwether Open House

In addition to seeing and being inspired by lots of great quilts, you can enjoy some delicious cookies and cider as well as the Fries' antique house.  I highly recommend it!

There is a large tent so the open house takes place rain or shine

Welcome to Bellwether Dry Goods!!
P.S.  If I ever complete another king-sized quilt for my bed it is totally going to the machine quilter.  Somehow, the stitching disappears more in the big quilts.  Or, so I tell myself.

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