Twelve Quilts of Christmas 2017 – #12

Pictorial Medallion, Jane Reagan or Jane Reazon, possibly Ontario, c. 1827, cotton, size not known, current location/collection unknown.

 

Marilyn I. Walker discusses at length this phenomenal quilt in her book Ontario Heritage Quilts.  The scope, scale and detail in this quilter's work astounds me.  She was a skilled needlewoman, had a keen eye for composition, and her use of fabric and ability to give the illusion of three dimensions and create realistic representations through "silhouetting" with fabric is remarkable.  

 

This quilt also leaves me full of questions.  What story was she telling.  Did this quilt accurately depict the different stages of her life. There are castles and battles and flocks of birds flying through the air and what appear to be gentlemen out for "The Shoot".  There is a scene of courtship (with chaperones), a room with artwork lining the walls showing a refined life, and scenes of country life including the hunt and social calls.  

 

It is the bottom quadrant that further intrigues, with what looks like a deteriorating castle and a life of leisure.  But as you get towards the lower half of that quadrant you see a  life of farming, both men and women holding implements, and a strong sense of community and camaraderie.  There is a shamrock and man playing fiddle in the bottom right corner.  Some figures are only basted on, the quilt never completed.  We are left wondering why she did not finish it.

 

We are so fortunate to know her name.  She proudly added it to the wall of frames in the upper quadrant.  Walker interprets it as Jane Reagan, but when I look at it I see the name Jane Reazon.  I wonder what the significance of 1827?  Was this a marriage quilt?

 

Look at the detail of the scissors on this table in this enlarged detail of the quilt and then look back at the quilt.  This table is to the left of the fireplace in the top quadrant.  My gosh those scissors are small!

 

Walker writes: "Jane probably brought the fabrics and threads with her when she came to Canada.  Imported fabrics and threads of this quality were not available in remote areas.  Several pieces of fabric still bear the Royal Seal of Approval on their backs.  Fabrics had to be of top quality before they were given this approval."  

 

The scenes and materials indicate she likely came from a very privileged background.  What a change it would have been to have travelled the ocean and start a new life in wilds of Canada.

 

Unfortunately the quilt had not been cared for by the time Walker came across it and it was in a severe state of rot, which is a shame.  It has such a story to tell.  Fortunately it was recorded in photographs.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this year.  It has been such a pleasure to have you stop by and to share these quilts with you.  I would love it if you would leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this year's Twelve Quilts of Christmas.  

 

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Cheers

Mary Elizabeth

 

 

 

 

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?

Twelve Quilts of Christmas 2017 – #10

Military Quilt, Corporal Thomas Noonan, Melville Island, Halifax, Nova Scotia, c. 1870, wool (no back or batt), 215 cm x 230 cm, from the collection of the Nova Scotia Museum.

Military Quilt, Corporal Thomas Noonan, Melville Island, Halifax, Nova Scotia, c. 1870, wool (no back or batt), 215 cm x 230 cm, from the collection of the Nova Scotia Museum.

 

After seeing the exhibit "War and Pieced:  The Annette Gero Collection of Quilts from Military Fabrics"  at the American Folk Art Museum this fall (it is on until January 7th and if you can't get to the museum to see it, there is a book available), I wanted to include this spectacular piece in this year's celebration.  

 

We are fortunate to know who was the maker of this quilt.  Corporal Noonan fought with the British Army during the Crimean War. This technique and quilt style has a strong British heritage and this is likely where he learned about it.  Making a quilt like this is incredibly hard work as the fabric is thick and it would take strong hands to draw a needle and thread through it.  There is no batt or back and the nature of the fabric and the technique means there is virtually no visible seam allowance.  

 

 Scott Robson and Sharon MacDonald write in their book Old Nova Scotia Quilts, "Corporal Noonan never completed his quilt.  He died on February 1, 1874, aged 38, as a result of exposure after rescuing a boy who had fallen through the ice of the North-West Arm."

 

This quilt is magnificent and sobering on many levels.  It is an honour to be able to share it here with you.

Twelve Quilts of Christmas 2017 – #9

Triple Nine Patch, Ada Maria Walfield, Mosher’s Island, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, c. 1900, cotton, 151 cm x 202 cm, from the collection of the Nova Scotia Museum.

Triple Nine Patch, Ada Maria Walfield, Mosher’s Island, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, c. 1900, cotton, 151 cm x 202 cm, from the collection of the Nova Scotia Museum.

 

Look at this sweet quilt.  If I was at the museum where it lives, you would have to frisk me on the way out ... I'd be the one wearing the lumpy oversized raincoat!

 

I know I should not covet it, but there are so many things to like about it.  The colours in this one make me sigh in deep appreciation.   Look at those two denimy-blue nine patches ... if you took those out, you would definitely miss them.    And that red in the quilt, it makes the whole thing squeal worthy!

 

The quilt has a natural divide down the middle and both sides beautifully balance the other off.  Don't you love how the pink sashing goes up and down on the left and from side to side on the right.  This treatment gives the composition lots of visual interest; your eye just keeps wandering around the quilt taking it all in.  She has also deftly used striped fabric to create movement.  

 

Sigh ...  this one is on my to make list now too!

 

 

Twelve Quilts of Christmas 2017 – #8

Mennonite Quilt of Illusion, Maker Unknown, Ontario, c. 1940, cotton, 72” x 87”, Private Collection.

Mennonite Quilt of Illusion, Maker Unknown, Ontario, c. 1940, cotton, 72” x 87”, Private Collection.

 

There is only one word for this quilt ... masterful. Okay there is another word ... stunning.  Okay, maybe one more ... mesmerizing.  

 

There is not a single mis-step in the design of this quilt.  It deserves a long session of study just to understand why the values work as well as they do together.  Careful placement of lights and darks and mediums together create a wonderful sense of depth.  And the piecing is so beautifully executed.

 

As I look at it I am reminded of how unforgiving working with solids can be. This quilter was not deterred by that.  I think she deserves a standing ovation for this one.  What about you, what do you like about this one?