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.

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