Friday, January 26, 2018

Show & Tell

"Woodland Chromatics" 1984, by Libby Lehman
When you belong to a quilt guild, one of the highlights of each meeting is Show & Tell. I like to bring antique and vintage quilts to share, but I brought a much more recent quilt to the last guild meeting. It was made in 1984 by Libby Lehman. She called it "Woodland Chromatics" and inscribed it with ink and embroidery.

Libby Lehman
The audience collectively gasped when they heard the name Libby Lehman. I was delighted so many people there knew her name. There were others who never heard of her before. They would learn about Libby for the first time by seeing her magnificent, modern quilt.

A more recent photo of Libby
A few years ago, Libby suffered from a brain aneurysm followed by a stroke. Last year, several of her quilts came up for auction, the proceeds designated to offset her medical expenses. When I saw her "Woodland Chromatics" quilt from 1984, I fell in love. I had to have it.

"Woodland Chromatics" 1984 by Libby Lehman, photo by Matthew Stovall
"Woodland Chromatics" was one of the earliest quilts in the auction that revealed Libby's true potential as a master quiltmaker. It foreshadowed the quilts of the 21st century. Here are some detail photos showing the fresh colors and playful hand quilting.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Sorting Ceremony

This year I am having my own Sorting Ceremony...with quilts!
The sorting ceremony is among the most anticipated annual events in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. This year I am doing my own sorting ceremony with quilts, coverlets and other textiles. Which ones will I keep? Which ones will I sell? Where will each one go?

1830s coverlet on sale at Antique Alley in Portland

Some things are for sale in my booth at Antique Alley in Portland. Others are just coming out of storage. It's nice to have a fresh perspective when I see something I haven't seen for a while.

1970s Cathedral Windows, SOLD!

I love everything in the sell pile, but can't keep it all. Recently I sold a very nice crocheted work and a Cathedral Windows quilt. I'm happy they went to good homes, even though I'll miss them.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Strawberries? or Cardoons?

Quiltmakers love botanical motifs, even if they are not the best botanists. The applique design in this mid-19th century quilt is uncommon, but I have seen it before. The first time was in 2011, when Lynn Miller visited a local quilt study group meeting in Portland with one she found during her summer vacation in Washington.

Lynn Miller's quilt, found in Washington state in 2011

After seeing Lynn's quilt, I learned Barbara Brackman blogged about the motif in 2010 when Terry Clothier Thompson released a reproduction pattern called "Strawberry Patch" based on an antique quilt in Thompson's collection.

Barbara Brackman blogged about this motif in 2010

Brackman's blog included a reference to an image in Hall and Kretsinger's "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America" Plate XXXIV, page 167. In the book, the quilt is called a "Strawberry Quilt" and the caption includes some provenance.

According to the book, the quilt was made in 1876 as a wedding gift for Mrs. Augusta Wehrman from her mother-in-law. The quilt I purchased was made approximately a quarter century earlier. I wonder if Mrs. Wehrman's mother-in-law saw the motif in an older quilt, replicated it and started calling it a strawberry because that's what it looked like to her. I also wonder if the maker actually intended it to represent a strawberry.
Applique quilt, c. 1850, United States
After asking around, I discovered I wasn't the only person who did not believe this motif represented a strawberry. Another quilt in my collection, dated 1868 and inscribed with the name Hannah J. Swin has strawberries, and they actually look like strawberries.

detail, strawberry applique from an 1868 quilt made by Hannah J. Swin, NJ
When I brought the 1850s applique quilt to the Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting for show & tell in December, I mentioned how I did not believe the motif was a strawberry. Someone in the audience thought it could be an artichoke. That idea got me thinking...and looking.

I believe it could be a cardoon. What is a cardoon? It is a type of thistle, cousin of the artichoke. Cardoons were commonly found in colonial American gardens, according to a 2009 article published by The Atlantic, "Cardoons: The Farm's Mystery Vegetable" by Anastatia Curley (The Atlantic, July 20, 2009). Click here to read the article.

Costa Vicentina 4
Cardoons in bloom. Photo: Lusitana/Wikimedia Commons
Curley offers one possible reason why the botanical applique motif in my quilt is such a mystery. 

"A little research reveals that while cardoons were a common sight in colonial Americans' vegetable gardens, for reasons no one seems able to explain they've fallen out of favor since then," said Curley. "They're still fairly common in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, but they are harder to find in the U.S."

While searching, I pulled up many photos of artichokes, thistles and cardoons. The mystery applique motifs resembled these plants much more than strawberries. It made sense when I thought more about the quilt. The large scale of the appliqué suggests a plant much larger than a strawberry.

So, do you think the applique motif is a strawberry, a cardoon or something else? Please feel free to comment in the comments section (below).

Friday, January 5, 2018

Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century

Another new book arrived yesterday, and my collection is once again represented. The book is called "Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century" (2017, C&T/Stash Books) by The Modern Quilt Guild (Riane Menardi, Alissa Haight Carlton and Heather Grant).

The book is about modern quiltmaking, but my quilt appears in the beginning, along with other quilts representing modern quiltmaking influences.

QuiltCon 2015, "Modern Materials: Quilts of the 1970s"
The vintage 1970s quilt came from an eBay seller in Georgia, and it was part of my special exhibit, "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas. It also appeared in QuiltCon Magazine. 

QuiltCon Magazine 2015
The hexagonal design called "Woven Pattern" was made some time in the middle to late 1970s. It was made with a variety of polyester double knit fabrics and tied with multicolored yarn.

It was a pleasure to see so many friends in the book, and an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence ascollectors Roderick Kiracofe and Marjorie Childress. Thank you to The Modern Quilt Guild for including me in the book. I hope everyone will enjoy it.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

"Why Wedges?"

The wedge-shaped patch was popularized in the Victorian period,
coinciding with the rise of the American garment industry.
"Why Wedges?" is the question Christina Cameli asks at the beginning of her new book, "Wedge Quilt Workshop" (2017 C&T/Stash Books). After impulsively buying a wedge ruler at the local quilt shop, Christina was drawn to the wonderful wedge shape and made her first wedge quilt. When she was writing her new book, she asked me about antique and vintage quilts with wedges.

MacMillan Family Quilt (detail), c. 1865, Kentucky
Although wedge shaped patches do turn up in earlier quilts, such as the 1860s MacMillan Family Quilt from Monroe County, Kentucky, the wedge-shaped patch was popularized in the Victorian period, coinciding with the rise of the American garment industry. When wedge-shaped cutaway scraps were available, quiltmakers used them. Around this time, fan motifs made of wedges appeared in crazy quilts, and in quilts with repeating fan blocks.

Fans, wools, unknown maker, Maine, c. 1900
Wedges appeared in block designs as well as improvisational patchwork. One of my favorite examples is a blue and white quilt top, formerly part of my collection and now in the collection of Marjorie Childress in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I'm a fan of fans...and wedges. Here are a few more favorites from my collection. All of them were made between the 1920s and 1970s.
c. 1920
c. 1920
c. 1920
c. 1940
c. 1950
c. 1960
c. 1960
c. 1960
c. 1960
c. 1970
c. 1970
c. 1970