Monday, May 21, 2018

Learning from the experts: New York Beauty

The history of Design "X" - New York Beauty - continues to unfold
At Spring Quilt Market I met Linda Pumphrey, author of Mountain Mist Historical Quilts: 14 Mid-Century Quilts Made New (2016 / Fons & Porter). Linda is an expert on all things related to Mountain Mist and its history, and she had a couple very interesting tidbits to offer me about Design "X" - New York Beauty.

First, the inaccurate historical account accompanying the pattern did not come from the pattern designer. It came from the owner of the inspiration quilt The designer just wrote down what the family said, rather than making it all up.

The quilt, now in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, was part of an exhibition of quilts guest curated by Pumphrey at IQSCM, called "Inside the Wrapper: The True Tales of the Mountain Mist Quilt Patterns" from July 1 to October 23, 2016.

It was interesting to learn the story came from the family. We all know the game of "telephone operator" in which players stand in a line whispering a word or phrase to each other going down the line, and when the last person says it out loud, they all find out how much it changed. Family histories about quilts are often like that.

Somehow, the family that owned the quilt arrived at the outlandish story about the quilt being made in 1776. It wasn't. More likely the late 1800s, and the IQSCM circa date of 1870-1890 is spot-on. One clue is the fugitive dye, which now appears to be a greenish tan.

a 1930s Mountain Mist New York Beauty in patriotic colors
That fugitive dye was part of the second tidbit Linda Pumphrey had to offer. I always thought it was a green, making it a red, white and green quilt. She told me she tugged at the seam slightly to see if there was any of the original color remaining, and she saw blue! So, it was a red, white and blue quilt. That could be why the family thought it was from 1776. It was patriotic, red, white and blue.

So, now I wonder...given the circa date of 1870-1890 and the dye's original blue color, if the family somehow got the date confused and it was really from 1876. That date is plausible, and would make it a Centennial quilt, but the world may never know for sure. Thank you to Linda Pumphrey for the valuable clues to this complex and enigmatic traditional design.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. The way I read it, it's the pattern, not the quilt that is attributed to 1776.