Friday, 28 February 2014

Quilt for February

This quilt mixes two collections, the Sarah Johnson quilt from the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, and the Copp quilt from Stonington, Connecticut, now in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC. 

Both lines were from RJR Fabrics in the mid-1990s, and came in multiple colourways. The Sarah Johnson line had thirty-three designs in ten prints. Six of them were from the quilt itself and the others were based on late 18th and 19th century quilts. Undulating stripes, two-tone prints, scrollwork, foliage, feathers, florals, chintz and geometrics were featured. The Copp line was based on prints and a quilt in the Copp Collection of Goods and Textiles which were donated to the Smithsonian Museum in 1890 by J.B. Copp. There were eleven prints in three colourways, featuring brocades, florals, stripes, garlands, vines, and geometrics.

The original quilts and prints have fascinating stories. Sarah Johnson was a fourteen-year old girl and quite proficient when she made the quilt in 1826. The Copp donation to the Smithsonian was the beginning of its quilt collection; amongst the textiles, clothing and furniture were three quilts. The Copp quilt is dated between 1795 and 1815.  These quilts and collections have been written about in various publications about quilting and I am indebted to issues of Quiltiques (February, May/June, and September, all from 1996) for jogging my memory.

When I made this quilt, I laid out all of the triangles on the floor and left them there for a few months. It was the best way to make sure I was happy with the balance of the prints.  There were days when I didn’t even look at them but I liked to think that I was noticing them subliminally. Because the top of the quilt is so busy, I chose a solid green backing. The outer borders are rectangles of the same prints with a knife edge. I just couldn’t get enough of them, I guess!

The quilt measures an odd 61” x 56”, and is entirely hand pieced and hand quilted.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Silk Sewing Thread

The Year 14 has been full of ups and downs thus far so I have been thrown rather off schedule in this blog. There are historic wips aplenty in the wings – I just need time to work on them.

In the meantime, I was recently given these beautiful vintage silk treads by a friend.

They probably date from around the mid-20th century and are American. They bear the name Belding Corticelli and the original price of each was 75 cents. One has never been used and I doubt I will use them, preferring to keep them as pet thread. They are certainly exquisitely smooth enough to stroke, and I love the colours.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Quilt for January (in February)

This was the first reproduction quilt I ever made, some twenty years ago. I had been quilting for a few years already, trying out all sorts of traditional patterns, reading as many books on the subject that I could find, and, of course, visiting as many places with quilts, old and new, to study them and learn about the process. Tying in with my other interests, I wanted to then move onto reproduction work which coincided with advent of the reproduction lines of museum collections. Up until then, the available prints and solids mostly had a suggestion of  “inspired by,” and the finished quilts certainly did not look like something from the past. A few them can still be found in museum rooms – well intentioned but glaringly, to the expert eye, out of context.

This little quilt is betwixt and between in that it has early random reproduction prints, and not from the same eras. The backing is a modern print. The top prints were purchased at a massive quilt show. One of the vendors had an enormous table just piled high with loose (unfolded) cuts of material. Lots and lots and lots of women were crowded around the table and in the midst of friendly jostling, handling and tossing cuts across the table as well as answering the question, “Has anyone seen more of this (this being waved way up in the air above the heads and shoulders), I found just a few scraps of the four prints in this quilt.  So little, in fact, I could only make a mini-quilt and the knife edge also had to be quite thin. I also wanted a block design which would, in some way, mimic the wings of the birds within the limited amount of materials. I don’t know if this block has a name – I just see it as a star within a star, showcasing the green floral print.

The backing is a modern two-tone green print and the batting/wadding in my pre-needled cotton filler days, is a polyester, peeled thin to create that flat look I had seen in antique quilts.

I have no idea who manufactured these prints but I love the colours in this quilt, especially the greens. I now look back on the experience of purchasing these prints and think how lucky I was to get ones that created a balance. I wish I had taken a photograph of the gold print in its entirety but in those pre-digital camera days, the photograph would have become a piece of paper and possibly, by now, lost. At any rate, this is the quilt that launched so many more of its kind, and led me into another aspect of endlessly fascinating historical textile research. As such, it will always be extra special to me.

The quilt measures roughly 20” square, and is entirely hand pieced and hand quilted.