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
2008.040.0014
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."
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