DECEMBER 25, 2016
Quilt, maker unknown, c. 188-1890 19th Century, 194 cm x 194 cm, cotton, Musée McCord Museum
Another Canadian contribution to the line-up.
Those sweet white flowers are beyond delightful on this very cheery red and white quilt. I love that the quiltmaker did not line up the twelve flowers, that dance around the outer of the two centre circles, like the numbers on a clock. That would have been way too stilted! The outer four circles are not perfect circles in their shape and I love the small anomalies in her execution of the flowers. The vines undulate as they do, not in perfect unison, but still in a most harmonious fashion. It works. It is not “perfect” and it still works. A lesson for us all!
This quilt was a gift from the Canadian Guild of Crafts to the Musée McCord Museum (in Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and it is the final quilt in my gift to you in this year’s Twelve Quilts of Christmas. I have been thrilled to put this together for you all for a fifth year. I hope you have enjoyed them. Let me know which one (or ones) was your favourite?
Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
DECEMBER 24, 2016
Susan Noakes McCord. Indiana farm wife. Design genius. Extraordinary Quilter. Highly proficient needlewoman. Quilting hero.
The mid-nineteenth century saw many fine examples of quilts with exuberant bouquets in urns, usually in a four block setting. Susan McCord elevates this style with her nine blocks filled with whimsical flowers. In my books, there is no other historic quilter that matches her sense of style, originality and prolific production, particularly when you consider the scale that she often worked at (well of course you know I would be crazy over someone who was crazy over small pieces!). Independent, she defined borders her own way … all four different … thank you very much … who said they all have to be the same! And just in case you are wondering how small you can go with tiny grapes, yes those teensy grapes are individually hand appliquéd. Her signature string pieced leaves appear again in this quilt, and she goes to town with layered circle/dots on her larger flowers. Oh and that narrow pink binding … divine!
Her quilts are a testament not only to her artistic vision but to her tenacity in seeing that vision through to completion. I am in awe of her and her work. No other word will do. It is complete and utter awe.
We are so incredibly lucky to have so many of her quilts survive. Thirteen in total. The last one donated by members of her family to The Henry Ford Museum in 2012.
If you ever get the chance to see one of her quilts in person, you must. Going back to being in awe now!
DECEMBER 23, 2016
Rose of Sharon, Cirendilla Allcock, Drake’s Creek, Kentucky, c. 1860, 103″ x 77″, cotton, Private Collection/The Quilt Index
This quilt “knocks my socks off”. Where do I start?
- Those liberated borders?
- Those feathers that curl over the flowers in the border?
- The stuffed trapunto work in the quilting?
- Those leaves in the border and how they are sprinkled along the vine?
- Those wee flowers that curl out of the centre flowers?
- The colour combination?
- Those petals in the outward facing flowers in the border?
- Those petals in the outer flowers in the individual block compositions?
- Those Rose of Sharon centre flowers?
I love how the general concept of the Quilt on Day 8 has been elevated with a more complex overall composition and more detailed floral elements. Bravo Cirendilla!
With this quilt we are once again the very fortunate recipients of the enthusiasm and energy of quilt historians. This quilt was discovered during the Kentucky Quilt Project. The brain child of Bruce Mann, a Louisville quilt dealer, he envisioned a documentation project, an exhibition and a book to preserve the legacy of Kentucky quilts. Tragically he died in 1980 before the project was launched, but the efforts of Eleanor Bingham Miller, Eunice Sears, Shelly Zegart, Katy Christopherson and Dorothy West, saw that the project he envisioned was realized. The book Kentucky Quilts: 1800 – 1900 by Jonathan Holstein and John Finley records this project for posterity. The fascinating records of the project are held by the University of Louisville. Kentucky Quilts was one of the first quilt documentation/quilt history books that I collected. And it is one that I go back to again and again.
The book says it all in the caption notes for this quilt, describing it as “an almost perfect example of an American appliqué quilt …”
Thank you Bruce, Eleanor, Shelly, Eunice, Katy, Dorothy, Jonathan and John (and all the others involved in the Kentucky Quilt Project).
DECEMBER 22, 2016
As I have been looking for antique quilts to highlight this year I am again reminded of the debt we owe to quilt scholars, quilt collectors and to museums for preserving our quilting history. This quilt was collected by quilt historian Cuesta Benberry. Quoting from the Great Lakes Quilt Centre website, this is what she said:
“I purchased this unusual quilt from Dick and Suellen Meyer in Crever Couer, Missouri. With its bright antimony orange background, and four block setting (each block approximately one yard square), it bears a strong resemblance to a Pennsylvania-Dutch work.”
I whole heartedly agree with her on the resemblance. It also reminds me of candy canes! (I have Christmas brain right now!)
This quilter, like many other quilters whose work we have seen during this floral quilt celebration, was independent minded in her approach to her design. Of the centre pinwheels, one has 11 red swirls, the rest have 9, and the centre swirl motifs all finish at different diameters. The flowers are similar but not exact. These are design elements that I find charming. An unusual four block design, it is bold and engaging, drawing the eye in and around. This visual movement is partly because of the movement of the stems, but also because she employed a light hand when deciding on the size of leaves, how many of them she was going to include, as well as their placement. Her decision to have ample “negative” space in relation to the motifs keeps the quilt from being too “busy” or visually overwhelming.
Cuesta was one of the early pioneers in quilt study. What started as an eagerness in studying patterns and block names grew to her amassing a phenomenally extensive collection of quilt pattern ephemera and to ground breaking research on the history of African American quiltmaking.
You can find more about Cuesta and her work at the following links:
The Cuesta Benberry Quilt Research Collections at GLQC/MSU
Karen B. Alexander’s “Remembering Cuesta”
Articles from the New York Times
and the Washington Post
And an exhibition of her quilts is on until February 28th, 2017 at the DuSable Museum in Chicago
Thank you Cuesta! We modern day quilters are indebted to you.
DECEMBER 21, 2016
So I thought it was time for a Canadian entry into this celebration of floral quilts. I have 7 books that focus on antique Canadian quilts and I searched multiple online Canadian sources and do you know what I found out? Apparently there is an exceptionally strong representation of geometric style quilts (squares, stars, triangles, etc.) in these sources and a very low representation of floral quilts. I know we have them, but apparently at the moment they are hard to find. If you know of a collection with lots of Canadian made floral themed quilts, please let us all know in the comments below.
This lovely quilt grabbed my attention the minute I saw it! The colours are vivid, it’s ** ahem** tulips (you do remember that I said there might be another tulip quilt, don’t you!), and it has that fabulous liberated border (now that is a way to resolve not having to deal with the whole turning the corner with the vine issue). It has a thin batt and is lightly quilted, apparently in red thread.
I love it. All of it. And it is kind of neat that this quilt is now part of the collection at “the village” where I worked as a teenager and learned how to quilt!
I have to admit I am tempted to make up a block.