Thursday, December 8, 2016

reading "the bible"

Barbara Brackman's "Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns" is the bible of patchwork identification.

"The Giant Dahlia Quilt" c. 1935
When I was looking for information about Hubert ver Mehren's "The Giant Dahlia Quilt" design, the pattern and four other ver Mehren medallions were in the book.

The numbers next to the illustrations corresponded with information on the facing page.

Most people who use the book are satisfied to simply locate a pattern and a name, especially when using the book for quilt documentation. The "References" section toward the end of the book is most enlightening.

In the References section, Brackman tracks the publications where pattern names appeared, providing a sense of the origins. Pattern names were largely a product of the quilt industry in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Home Art Studios of Des Moines, Iowa, was the source of the ver Mehren designs. It was one of many businesses offering publications with quilt patterns.

Sometimes the illustrations lead to multiple sources, and in those cases it is good to have references, particularly if the quilt seems to be from the period of the publication.

Recently, I bought a 1970s polyester quilt, and wanted to figure out the pattern name, but wasn't even sure which sections would be considered the blocks. The names from early publications were from the 1920s and 1930s, giving me a sense of what it could be called. 

There were most likely other sources of the design by the 1970s, and other names. So, the information about the pattern as it relates to the polyester quilt might get an asterisk. It is the traditional name, or more precisely, one of the earliest published pattern names.

an 1860s quilt, later called New York Beauty, a 1930s name
When it comes to quilts made before 1900, we need to remember the book tracks pattern names from their earliest publication dates. The book does not presume to designate what quiltmaker would've called those quilts originally. 

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