Twelve Quilts of Christmas 2017 – #11

Marriage Quilt, Mary Morris, Elgin, Ontario, c. 1825, cotton and linen, 185 cm x 200 cm, from the collection of the Canadian Museum of History.

Author Ruth McKendry describes this quilt in her book Quilts and Other Bedcoverings in the Canadian Tradition: "Made by Mary Morris (at the age of fourteen) ... Mary Morris was born in 1811 with a physical handicap that prevented her from walking.  As a result, she became a skilled needlewoman at an early age.  This beautiful example of her work has been carefully preserved by relatives, and it has been suggested that the running horses and dogs expressed her yearning for freedom of movement.  The quilt is backed with handspan linen, contains little or no stuffing and is finely quilted.  This quilt was made very shortly after immigration, and European influences are visible in its making." It is said that she made it for her hope chest, but born with club-foot she never married.   It remained tucked away by her and it's subsequent owners, which is why it is in such wonderful condition. Even at such a young age she had a wonderful sense of composition and design.   Most of the elements are mirrored, except the top and bottom borders.  There she switches the position of different flowers and only the middle bird remains in the same position.  I love those subtle differences.  Her use of colours in the appliqué work reflect beautifully the colours in the borders.   The pieced outer border is precisely sized and sewn so that they resolve neatly at the end of the borders, no pieces being cut or coping strips added to make the borders fit.  The pieced inner border while precisely sewn, includes "chopped off" blocks to make it fit the overall composition. And the use of the purplish border both top and bottom adds interest and likely was to add length to fit a bed. I might hypothesize that since the quilt was made shortly after immigration and the refined nature of the design, use of fabric and colour, that the side borders of horses and hounds depicted scenes she had known in England and left behind.  Either way it is a feast for the eyes.  While I start looking at the centre vase and flower composition, my eyes keep drifting to and resting on those lovely cheddar flowers ... of course. Where are your eyes naturally drawn to in this quilt?

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