Monday, January 24, 2011

Historical Societies are a treasure trove

The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) in Baltimore, Maryland, owns the largest collection of Baltimore Album quilts. Lucky me, I live just outside of Baltimore and had the pleasure of participating in an excellent quilt program there this past weekend. Actually, it is a two part program so I'll be back there next Saturday, too.

Phyllis Twigg Hatcher started us off with a lecture and show-and-tell of pre-1850 quilts (mostly from Maryland) from her own collection. It was heaven for a fabric lover like me. Then we took a walk through the museum's current exhibit of Maryland quilts plus some folk art and artifacts that are depicted in the album quilts. Following the tour was a slide show lecture about Baltimore monuments which were frequently depicted on the Baltimore Album quilts. We also received kits to make our own album blocks which include an inking of Baltimore's Washington Monument.

This quilt was a stunner! Called "Mathematical Star" because that is how these star quilts were listed in the records of the Maryland Agricultural Fairs, it is dated to 1835 and was likely made by Adeline Virginia Bartruff Darnall. It is one of the richest looking broderie perse quilts I've ever seen. Interestingly, I learned from Phyllis that this technique used to be called "cut-out chintz" instead of the fancier sounding broderie perse. I kind of like that straightforward descriptive title.

Above is a detail photo of the cut-out chintz work and the exquisite quilting and the photo below shows you in detail the rich colors that remain in the fabrics. .

The MdHS is rotating their quilt collection through a small, ongoing exhibition. There are only about 7 quilts currently on display but I think you can tell by these photos, it is worth visiting and savoring the selection. There were also some stunning crazy quilts that are truly examples of some Baltimore needlewomen's work of a lifetime.

Next week, we continue on beyond the Baltimore album era with more of Phyllis' collection and may include a little walking field trip to the actual Washington Monument (IF Baltimore's weather warms up to something higher than frigid).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quilt Study: Pink and Brown Stars

Join me in examining my newest antique quilt acquisition. I collect what I like without special regard to pattern, color or condition and am particularly excited by this one. It is the first antique I have that is in pink and brown. Just think, there was a quilter running around 100+ years ago who also liked stars and the pink and brown combo.

The quilt is approximately 73" x 77" and the blocks are just under 5". The binding is narrow, about 1/4", and is hand applied. Notice the one block that is three up from the bottom and three over from the left in the photo below? Oops! The Ebay seller stated that this quilt contained "a rare deliberate mistake." Excuse me? Did someone get a communication from beyond the grave? Who can really know if it was a deliberate mistake? It is quirky and quaint but who knows if it was intentional or just a boo-boo.

Here's a look at the quilting. Each plain square has that same flower pattern quilted into it. The star blocks are also quilted the same way except for the stars around the edges. Take a look at the direction of the quilting in the corner squares of star blocks below and compare it to the star blocks in the next photo.

See? The quilting in these corners below is in a different direction. All the stars in the outer perimeter have the same quilting which is very slightly different than the interior stars.

A pink star. Somebody cut off her star points. I'm just sayin...

I find a lot of antique quilts that include checks and stripes but not many reproduction lines include them. There is a little bit of this brown discoloration in this quilt but not much. I also like the shade of the background fabric. It definitely isn't snowy white. It has that soft patina that Jo Morton captures so well in her shirting fabrics.

Here's a brown star. I love this fabric. I've seen some repros that are similar to the print below but not exactly. Girlfriend needs to work on those star points.

And, another brown. Again, I've definitely seen some similar repros. This quilt has quite a few different fabrics which is one of its biggest appeals. It's a great sample of pink and brown fabrics.

There is one place where the quilt was repaired. Whoever did it was quite effective at hiding it. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see a rectangular patch (pretty much right in the center of the photo) that is hand stitched down. This is the back of the quilt.

This is the front side of the repair. The fabrics don't match too well - at least not compared to the match of the back - but she tried. The new patches are appliqued on top and were quilted through to match the original quilting.

One other acquisition is the book pictured below and what a fabulous deal it was. I bought The Quilt Engagement Calendar Treasury for less than $10, including shipping. It is packed with over 150 full page photos and a quick look revealed several that I have seen reproduced by contemporary quilters. It was so inspiring I bought another and will have the spine removed and a spiral binding put on so I can easily flip through and use it for design and color ideas. You can find used copies for as low as $1 (plus shipping which is usually around $4) on Amazon, Ebay or Abebooks.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I did not see this one coming

Last week I was pouting in my sewing room because my break from work was almost over and I had not done a lick of sewing. My mood was dark. I blamed the holidays. I blamed the family. I blamed work because I only had two weeks off instead of three. Reason counted for nothing.

While morosely staring around, my gaze lit upon one of my little packages from Temecula. The kit was made up of Jo Morton's Spice Chest fabrics and they are spicy. They almost smell like cinnamon. Well, they got my attention. I thought I'd just press a couple and cut a few pieces to see how they look together. Just a little taste, nothing more. Next thing I knew, I was 1/3 of the way through the top so how could I stop? I didn't want another UFO cluttering up the sewing space so I kept going. Now it is finis but I have ANOTHER little quilt top that needs quilting. At least the funk has lifted and I am ready to tackle one of the regularly scheduled projects.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Wool kit winner!

Thank you to all of you for leaving such nice comments and I really wish I had a kit for everyone. I couldn't leave it to the impersonal random number generator and I couldn't take the pressure of picking a name out of the basket myself so picking the winner was the first duty of my new graduate assistant who started work today. So, without further delay, Quilting Jeannet is the lucky quilter. You can thank Everett who completely doesn't understand what it was I asked him to do (or why).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bring on the resolutions and the stretch pants!

What are the resolutions most quilters make every year? Complete the UFO's, use up more of the stash, don't start so many new projects, don't buy so much new fabric, right? I am right there with you, but I think we should all accentuate the positive.

Most of us refer to our piles of fabric as our "stash." Jo Morton says that word has negative conotations and prefers calling her piles of fabric her "collection." Personally, I view mine as my big box of crayons. No one ever wants to use up one box of crayons and then close up shop. You need to get new crayons if you want to keep coloring. Sometimes, when you don't have a particular picture you are working on, you just want to admire how the crayons all look together.

Quilt shop owners have gotten really clever in their packaging of quilt kits and I commend them! My favorites are the kits that look like wrapped gifts. Let's be honest, many of us have significant others who just don't get this whole quilting thing. At least that's the case for me. So I never get gifts like those pictured below. And, they look so darn cute all wrapped up that I am loathe to open them. So, that's resolution number one. To use something from my stash I will open just one of my personal presents and make the darn quilt.

In 2011 my theme will be "more is better" when it comes to quilting. See the example below from an old quilt? Nothing fancy, just lines. They aren't evenly spaced, they aren't particularly straight, but they fill the space. Hasn't it been said, "the quilting makes the quilt." My problem is, instead of actually doing the quilting, I spend too much time agonizing over what is the Perfect quilting pattern when I should just quilt the bejeazus out of it and call it a day. This goes for both hand and machine quilting.

I will continue to learn about this splendid legacy we call patchwork, the techniques and stories of our quilting foremothers. The UFO pictured below is a class I taught years ago at our LQS. I used traditional blocks and some new variations and combined piecing instruction with stories about Maryland women during the civil war. 2011 is the 150th anniversary of the start of that conflict so what better time to delve more into that era - particularly the stories about women. Barbara Brackman is beginning a fabulous new civil war blog that combines history and quilting so be sure to check it out weekly. It promises to be a real treat.

The red and green quilt below is one of many UFO's that were conceived from the desire to have festive Christmas quilts. As you can see from my last post, I found a new solution. Collect red and green antique quilts. This one stalled when I realized that I didn't like the gold I was using for the stars (see the one in row 3) and I had to applique 42 of them to finish the top. In an effort to keep it simple, I am going to skip the stars, get the top machine quilted and use it as next year's tree skirt. Unless I cannot get the "kids" to give up the one I made when they were small. In that case, I will save it and make it a Christmas gift when one of my kids gives me a new son or daughter in law. That won't happen in 2011 but I am open minded and optimistic we might see some action in 2013 or 2014. My DD told me to keep those desires to myself so you did not hear it from me.

I will acknowledge that the box of crayons has gotten quite full and might be tearing a little around the edges so I need to remove a few. That's where my blog friends come in. Below are the pattern and kit from a wool applique block of the month program I joined at Temecula Quilt Co. in 2010. Well, it's months 1-11. Number 12 will arrive later this month. I am going to get real and admit that I am not going to make this quilt. I hope one of you will take on the project. Leave me a comment - nothing fancy, a simple "add my name to the basket" will do the trick. The kit includes the pattern from Lori Smith, black background fabric and wool for each block along with a photo of what it is supposed to look like when finished. It is really great.

I will pick the winner on Monday morning (January 3) when I drag my unwilling self back into work and am looking for a distraction. I am guessing that will be about 9:30 am EST. I will pop what I have in the mail next week and will send #12 along when it arrives.

wool quilt kit giveaway (front)

wool quilt kit giveaway (back)
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