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 studies the quilt once so fare 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

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