Friday, May 25, 2018

Coming Soon: 1970s Dresden Plate

This wildly colorful 1970s Dresden Plate quilt is something special.
Dresden Plate is an applique block pattern that became popular around the early 20th century, particularly in the 1930s. It is not a rare pattern by any stretch of the imagination. It is in fact one of the most popular 20th century quilt patterns, along with Double Wedding Ring and Grandmother's Flower Garden.

Several years ago, when I was doing photography for the statewide quilt documentation project here in Oregon we saw so many Dresden Plates, I almost wished I would never see another one.

Last night, I was glad I never really made that wish. I was looking around on eBay to pass the time before picking up my girlfriend from work, and discovered this wildly colorful, 1970s Dresden Plate quilt.

If it took more than five seconds to hit the "Buy It Now" button, I'd be surprised. This quilt is a head-turner. I wanted it the moment I saw it.

Dresden Plates are usually made of scrappy fabrics in a variety of mostly pastel colors and prints on a white background. If you search eBay and other places for Dresden Plates, you'll see a lot of them.

This example is a little outside the box. It was made during another prolific period in American quiltmaking-- the 1970s-- but rather than white, each block has a bright color as the background fabric.

Using colors in the background makes the quilt very lively. It's an eye dazzler. That's why I stopped in my tracks when I saw it.

The quilt includes a lot of handwork, such as hand quilted circles running through the intersecting points of each group of four blocks, and blanket stitching around the perimeter of each appliqued plate.

The wild use of color is very 1970s. I love seeing lime green, bright orange, royal blue and hot pink together.

The maker of the quilt must have had a lot of fun making it. No two blocks are the same, and that's part of the reason why it stands out.

I do not have a lot of Dresden Plate quilts in my collection. Years ago, when eBay first started and I was looking at thousands of images of quilts each day, Dresden Plates seemed like they were a dime a dozen.

I was looking for things that were much more unusual, rather than the same quilt thousands of people made.

The quilt is 74" x 88" and is coming from a seller in Florida. Looks like it is in very good condition. I can't wait to see it in person!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Eighteenth Century Fabrics

This fanciful copperplate-printed floral fabric is from the late 18th century.
It is certainly something to crow about when you've got an object with fabrics seen in "Printed Textiles: English and American Cottons and Linens, 1700-1850" by Florence Montgomery. The seminal textile history book, first published in 1970 by the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum was revised by Winterthur curator Linda Eaton and re-released four years ago.

I have copies of both editions in my library, but it is not often that I get to use them to learn about quilts in my collection.

Yesterday a new acquisition arrived. It is a quilt found in Connecticut with fabrics from the 1770s and 1780s. The quilt is blue and white, now yellowed from age, and it has large pieces of figural, copperplate printed toile with chinoiserie imagery.

The print appears in Florence Montgomery's book, in a quilt on page 266 (figure 275).

Plate 275, page 266, Florence Montgomery's book

The description reads as follows:

"Chinoiserie scenes and pagodas, center of a quilt with two late-eighteenth-century, block printed polychrome floral borders. Center: Plate-printed in red at Bromley Hall, 1760-1775. Paper impression inscribed "Pagoda."
Edwards and Darly's New Book of Chinese Designs, London, 1754, provided the designer with most of the vignettes. "Pagoda" may have appeared first about 1760, but this fabric, with blue threads in the selvedges, was probably printed after 1774. The pattern is known printed in blue, and at least one copy of it was made."

Plate 75, page 193 of Linda Eaton's revised edition of the book

A colorplate showing the print in red and white appears in Linda Eaton's revised edition of the book, plate 75, page 193. The description includes some of the original text from Montgomery, but there is additional information about the print:

"Mary and Matthew Darly were important artists, engravers, and printsellers in London; George Edwards was a well-known artist and ornithographer who entered into a partnership with Darly to produce their design book. This fabric serves as the central panel of a quilt made between 1790 and 1825 from older fabrics. This cloth was probably once part of a set of bed hangings. Although the selvedges cannot be seen, an almost identical piece in the Winterthur collection has blue threads in the selvedges."


Printed at Bromley Hall; about 1775
Selvedge width greater than 27 inches
(quilted), probably blue threads
Design repeat 32 7/8 inches
1961.1759c Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont

The other print in the quilt is a fanciful floral along the upper left and upper center edge of the quilt. It appears in Montgomery's book, Plate XXIV on page 227 and Figure 240 on page 247. It is described as Exotic flowers. Plate-printed in blue, 1775-1785. A bedspread of this pattern printed in brown was acquired by the Museum from Mary Means Huber, who inherited it from the Bradley family of North Haven, Connecticut.

It also appears in Eaton's revised edition of the book as colorplate 110 on page 212, with the following additional information:

"Plate-printed furniture with a design of exotic flowers, feathers and pineapples. The fanciful designer used peacock feathers for leaves and included stars in the petals of some of the flowers. A bedcover with this design printed in purple (now brown) is also in the Winterthur collection.


Printed in Britain; about 1780
Selvedge width 27 1/2 inches, blue threads
Design repeat 34 1/8 inches
1969.3241 Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont

The recent acquisition from Connecticut is not in the best condition. It is backed in wool, and the fabric is worn away in places. The quilt's value is really in what it can teach us, and it's amazing what we can learn when we have resources as great as Montgomery's and Eaton's books.

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.

Spring Quilt Market

Big trade shows and conventions are not my cup of tea. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. When people started talking about Spring Quilt Market in Portland a few months ago, I really couldn't be bothered with the whole idea.

A picnic with my girlfriend, Linda, at the beach, sprawled out on a vintage polyester quilt wearing nothing but sunscreen and a smile sounded like a much better idea. That was the plan, but the beach forecast didn't look great and it seemed like a lot of out-of-town friends would be visiting. So, I changed my mind and made a last-minute request for a credential badge.

Thankfully, my request was granted and the unplanned, four-day whirlwind tour of the quilt industry began. I was still ambivalent and had no official business at the event, but there were plenty of potential opportunities. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and there are tens of millions of quiltmakers in the United States, so it's kind of a big deal.

Spring Quilt Market may generate some new opportunities, but I am not exactly in hot pursuit of more work at this stage of the game. I'm much more focused on home life, being in love, and the simple things like a home cooked, candlelight dinner for two.

It is wonderful to live here in Portland, the City of Roses; but if there's no time to stop and smell the roses, why be here at all? There's a lot more to be said about the whole Quilt Market experience, but I will simply say it was great to see friends and I hope everyone had a wonderful visit. Safe travels, and I will look forward to the next time we can all be together.

Friday, May 18, 2018

#HelloPMQG & Friends

Elizabeth Hartman is one of the talented locals at 2018 Portland Quilt Market
The 2018 Spring Quilt Market is underway at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, and several talented locals are in the house!

Violet's booth is also OMGgorgeous!

Portland Modern Quilt Guild is well represented with stunning exhibits by Elizabeth Hartman and Violet Craft.

Oh Dear by Christine Yi, a fellow member of Portland Modern Quilt Guild
Christine Yi has a quilt is on display, as one of the big winners from last year's Quilt Festival in Houston.

"Fireweed" by Jean Wells Keenan

Valori and Jean Wells from Sisters are also there. Jean is in the winners' circle exhibit, and Valori has a wonderful exhibit showcasing her new line of fabrics and patterns.

I absolutely adore Valori Wells.
We caught part of Valori's schoolhouse yesterday, and enjoyed learning more about the fabulous new collection. We loved hearing about her "Trip Around the World" quilt, which includes all the fabrics she ever designed-- 40 collections over a 20-year period. Amazing!

This Trip Around the World includes every fabric Valori ever designed.
I was delighted to see Christina Cameli's new eco bags, coming soon from C&T Publishing. They previewed the bags during a C&T schoolhouse yesterday, but we got to touch them today. Hello Gorgeous!

The bags are made of recycled plastic, and I can't wait to buy them. Coincidentally, C&T/Stash Books is the publisher of my second book, "Modern Roots" and the soon-to-be-released free motion quilting book co-authored with Mandy Leins.

Linda and I hadn't been to a Quilt Market before, but I'd been to Festival a couple years ago when I was exhibiting at the Texas Quilt Museum. Yesterday, we got to visit with Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O'Bryant Puentes in the VIP Suite, and we ran into industry superstars around every corner.

It was fun trying to explain who they all are and what they do, but my mind was fried by the mid-afternoon. Mostly, I was proud of the local peeps --- #HelloPMQG -- and happy to see friends from near and far.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Diagonal Grids in Hawaiian Scrap Quilts


Recently I noticed something intriguing about Hawaiian scrap quilts. Many of them incorporate diagonal grids as design elements.

These diagonal grids are often secondary designs created with string-pieced blocks, typically foundation pieced in diagonal strips on a cloth foundation.

The blocks are directionally alternated to create diagonal grids, diamond or windowpane designs.

Using a cloth foundation is a practical solution when working with unwieldy, bias-cut strips and garment fabrics made with a variety of fiber types.

Sometimes the grids are made of geometric units, such as squares and triangles. Four-Patch and Broken Dish blocks appear frequently. 

It is interesting to see the variety of elements quiltmakers would use to create a diagonal grid, but it also makes me wonder. Is the diagonal grid a prevalent design element in Hawaiian decorative arts?

If so, where did the diagonal grid originate? Why did it resonate so powerfully with Hawaiian quiltmakers?

I looked for diagonal grids in kapa cloth designs but didn't find enough examples to make a definitive statement. It is worthy of further investigation.

Other home furnishings such as woven lauhala grass baskets and floor mats include diagonal grids.

Diagonal grids also appear in pineapples, especially graphic design renditions of pineapples.

Some of my favorite quilts include square blocks with diagonal piecework, creating an overall diagonal grid.

There are also several quilts with Economy Blocks, or squares within squares made with pieced triangles and squares. I love the play between square and diagonal grids in these quilts.

One of my absolute favorites is a quilt that just arrived last week, with diagonal black sashing framing squares pieced with triangles, or Broken Dish blocks.

I will think about this one as I search for more ideas related to the use of diagonal grids in Hawaiian decorative arts.