Saturday, December 4, 2010

Be Still My Heart

I feel the love whenever I see this hearts applique block
Today I'm sharing just one block, along with some memories about the Album with Lyre Medallion quilt. The block is all about the hearts, and when I look at it I feel the love that went into this wonderful work of art. The block is in the third row, second from the left, and includes 36 individual hearts plus four heart shapes branching out from the center piece of applique.

The hearts around the outer edge are alternating with two colors: over-dyed green print floral and solid cheddar orange. The larger hearts inside the outer row are oxblood/burgundy, and the center piece is solid cheddar orange. Although I do not have a specific source for the design, it seems like something you might see in Pennsylvania Dutch/German painted furniture. This possible design reference brings me back to the first time I saw the quilt in November, 2001. 

Full view of the quilt, hanging in my loft.
Two months earlier, I was airborne during the terrorist attacks of September 11th, on my way to a convention in Detroit. During the flight, the pilot made an announcement, saying that we were experiencing a national emergency and all airplanes in the United States were being landed. We were somewhere near the California border, and turned around to go back to Portland. Before landing, we would circle the area to burn off some fuel in order to land more safely. When I got out of the plane, I learned what had been happening that day. The convention was cancelled, and eventually rescheduled at a new location in November. That's what brought me to Louisville, Kentucky.

Since I was going to Louisville, I contacted Shelly Zegart to see if she was available for a visit. Shelly sold me my first quilt about 12 years earlier, and we'd been in touch recently about an exhibition of quilts in New York. I was lending two quilts for the exhibition, called Heritage of Genius, which was to be displayed in three of the Durst buildings in midtown Manhattan. Luckily, Shelly had some time, and I visited with her for probably a couple hours at her home.

I had expected to see a lot of quilts that day, but we mostly just talked about quilts. Toward the end of our visit, I asked if I could see some quilts, and she led me to an upstairs guest room to show me the one quilt I would see that day. The quilt was in a box under the bed, and when she pulled it out, the quilt literally knocked me backwards a couple steps. I just about fell over. It was the Album with Lyre Medallion, and it was the most magnificent quilt I'd ever seen. The density of quilting, freshness of the fabrics, the fine binding, and the overall design just knocked my socks off. I loved the quilt!

At the time, the quilt had recently come from the estate of Sandra Mitchell, separated from its family history and misidentified as a Pennsylvania quilt from 1865. I wrote about it in my AQSG Seminar Poster Presentation. When I think about the whole story, the heart block could be one of the reasons why the quilt was identified as coming from Pennsylvania. Speaking of location origins, I wanted to add that although the quilt is attributed as having West Virginia origins, when it was made, that area of West Virginia was actually Virginia. Thank you to Barb Garrett for reminding me about this point.


  1. It is a lovely block. I would love to see a close up of the applique. With my close up it seems like there may be lots of very small stitches just catching the fabric and attaching it to the background, but I can't be sure - that is how fine the workmanship is! Also, Bill it would be lovely to see the back of the quilt, both as a whole and perhaps with one block featured, front and back. This is like a virtual show and I'm loving it! Thanks again.

  2. are giving us all a very special treat! I have never had the opportunity to study a treasure like this, and these pics give me the chance to really see it! This truly is an amazing quilt, and you are so generous to show it to us! Thank you!

    Also, don't you kindof wonder how many other amazing quilts might be sitting in someones spare room, just waiting for the chance to be seen!?! I wonder!

  3. Thank you for sharing such nice clear photos of the beautiful blocks in this quilt! It's like candy for the eyes.
    I wonder too, what the quilt is backed with? I find it curious that most books/museums never show us what's on the back?

  4. I have posted some more pictures, including a detail of the heart applique, full back view and full detail view. The quilt is backed with white cotton muslin, just like the background on the front. It is difficult to get good pictures of a plain, white back. That may be why we don't see many pictures of the backs of quilts. I do often wonder about how many other quilts are sitting in peoples' spare rooms. We don't see so many old quilts here in Oregon, but last year Mary Bywater Cross discovered a Baltimore Album quilt owned by a family here in Portland. I don't expect to find many like that during our statewide documentation project, but we do see a lot of Depression era quilts.

  5. This quilt makes my heart sing, it is absolutely beautiful thank you for sharing.