June 26, 2014

Schoolhouse Quilt


This Schoolhouse quilt has the kind of lovely and graphic look that for many people simply means "American quilt."

This poor old thing was is pretty bad shape, especially the lower row and edge.  I did both repair patching on the worst places, and a goodly amount of conservation backing and stitching where rips and tears were less dense.  You can see both in this photo:

In the following photo, taken with flash rather than the natural lighting up there in the first photo, the patch fabric contrasts more clearly with the original fabric.  You can see the new bottom border and the places that were patched on the blocks.  The top border is also new fabric.

Finding good patching fabrics was kind of surprising.  This may have originally been an actual red and actual white quilt, but now it surely is more of a rust and tan.  Check out the fabric comparisons below. The red is the great fabric I found that usually goes perfectly with late 18th and early 19th century reds.  You can see how well that fabric worked when I repaired a fun redwork Peter Pan quilt.

Here's how I supported and stitched the rips.  

The fabric you can see inside the rip is the backing of the quilt.  This quilt has no batting.

I cut a rectangle of the rust fabric to slip inside the tear and give support to the old fabric.  The corners are rounded to help them not buckle while the inset is being slipped inside the tear.  (This ended up being a bit too long, and I cut it a bit off one of the short ends while I was working.)

I use a small, dull poker to help put the inset underneath and smooth it out, a flat toothpick for example.  The fabric is very weak and brittle, so this part has to be done very slowly and carefully.  

Here's the stitching in progress.  I use a herringbone stitch.  Be sure the stitches go into the inset so the tension isn't borne by the weak, old fabric.  Keep the knots in the new fabric, again to protect the old fabric from further tearing.  If you're working on a quilt with batting, you can do this technique just the same, and your stitches can go down into the batting as well.

Here's the finished repair.

Here's another variation of the schoolhouse block, this one used just once in a quilt celebrating America and her institutions.  The story of this entire quilt is at a previous post.

June 18, 2014

Glowing Pineapple Quilt

This is a lovely silk Pineapple quilt.  There are lots of wonderful colors, still bright and clear.  This quilt definitely puts to rest the view of antique fabrics as drab and basically brown!  In the 1700s and 1800s, the pineapple was often used as a symbol of hospitality.  I've also sometimes heard this pattern called Windmill.

It's super large - about 81" x 92".  Older quilts, meaning earlier on in the 19th century, are sometimes quite large because they were made for very high bedframe with trundle beds stored underneath.

Most of the fabrics are silk, with a few velvets in the mix.  They are in pretty good condition.  All I did for the quilt was to vacuum it to clear out old dust and freshen it up.  Visit this post for instructions for vacuuming quilts.


Here and there are a few plaids and stripes, and there is one pale blue brocade that was used several times in the center diamonds.

People are often surprised that the eye-searing yellow-green in the lefthand block was a 19th century color - but it was.

The olive green in the righthand block is one of the velvets. As far as I'm concerned, there is no fabric so gloriously soft as a silk velvet!

Here's a multi-colored stripe.  Can you imagine a dress made of this fabric?  It would certainly "make a statement" upon entering the room.

I like the black and white stripe in the top center block.  It adds another bit of op art-like complexity to the pieced pattern.  The top lefthand block has a large, blue and white, gingham-style plaid.

You can see how the fabric choices really vary the look of this pattern.  Sometimes the pineapples are emphasized, sometimes the concentric octagons.  It's a matter of value more than of hue.

I'm enjoying thinking of this quilt being made by a dressmaker.  I don't think that just one woman would have owned as many dresses are are represented here.  

The back is a gorgeous paisley stripe.  The large stripe is about 4" wide.

The fabric is stiff and woven with thicker threads.  I don't know what this kind of fabric is called.  Anyone who has info, please comment.

The family story about this quilt is not solidly documented, but goes like this:  

The quilt was probably purchased in New Orleans by the many-times-great-grandmother of the current owner.  Her name was Jenny Love Fawcett.  She was married to Captain James Fawcett.  Captain Fawcett and his brother ran a coal mining and distribution company in West Virginia which they called King of Black Diamonds.  The coal was shipped downriver, eventually reaching New Orleans.  Captain and Mrs. Fawcett's trip could very well have been a business trip, but also could have been their honeymoon.  No one knows now for sure.  The trip to New Orleans was likely in the 1870s or 80s.  I think this date is born up well by the colors of the fabrics and the paisley print on the back.  

I really, really enjoy taking in these wonderful quilts and hearing the family stories that have been handed down with them.  Very entertaining, indeed!  
















June 9, 2014

Scrappy Bow Tie Quilt


Here's a 1950s era Bow Tie quilt.  I'm getting in a lot of quilts from the 50s and 60s now.  I guess that's a data point on the longevity of cotton fabrics.  The colors are still quite bright and happy.

There were a couple of fabrics that had really fallen apart, like this solid brown.  

I basted the frayed edges down so they wouldn't poof up the patches, and then patched over them and requilted.  The techniques for the patching can be found on the Amazing Stars post.  The quilting is a style sometimes called Baptist Fan.  The background I've heard on the origins of this pattern is that the concentric arcs make for very easy frame quilting.  The needle can always move in the same direction, and the arm can stay comfortably at the same extension.  The quilter doesn't ever need to bend and twist herself around.  


The quilt dates to the 1950s/1960s era, maybe at the end of the 50s and heading into the 60s. I'm not sure I could actually date it that closely, but that is my sense of it.  Here are some of the fabrics.  You can see a fair amount of turquoise, which was a popular color in 50s fabrics, and also some olive-y green.  You can also see several fabrics with the print style that I like to call "men's pajama prints"- geometrically organized designs.

Here, the block on the right has both a blue and daisy print which to me harkens back to the 40s and an orange and purple floral which looks forward to the 60s.  This is gut feeling fabric dating.


Here are two really fun prints:  

A William Tell apple print.  (You can see this in place up above, next to the brown bow tie in the repair photos.)

 A kitchen utensil print.

And on the back, there is a bold red and white hibiscus print.

At any rate, this is a fun quilt, very typical I'd say of the fabrics and styles of the 1950s decade.  It's a very cozy, quilt-y quilt.

June 4, 2014

Ancient Roman Mosaics

My friend Shauna recently spent several weeks in France.  Amongst her wonderful travelogue of photos, this one really caught my eye.

Shauna is an author, historian, and scientist, so she eagerly did some further research for me on these mosaics.  You can meet Shauna on her website which showcases her books and has a fun blog with lots of info on her wide-ranging interests.  There are links to an interview in which you can learn lots more about her and her work.  And in this interview, Shauna talks about the amount of in-depth research she does to create such detailed and believable settings for her historical fiction.  Reading her work pleases my archeologically-trained mind no end!

And now, back to the floor, a stone mosaic.  It is now displayed on a wall a the Musee Gallo Romain Perigueux.  It was probably created in the first century AD, when the area was occupied by the Roman Empire, so it is around 2000 years old.  It's made from tiny square-ish bits of stone.  The colors are those of the local geology, possibly with the addition of stones that were obtained along the extensive trade routes of the empire.  It was possibly discovered around 1900 by someone named de Gaubert, but the stories around that are not at all clear.

Le Blog d'Isis has a photo showing a wider view of the floor as it is installed at the museum, and gives a sense of its size.

Shauna said she was amazed that such smooth curves could be made out of these little bits of stone.

Here's what amazed me:  There can always be inspiration for pieced quilt patterns in tiled and parquet floors and other architectural detailing, and that is always fun.  But here, in just one photo, are several patterns that are known, loved, and named in American quiltmaking.

I see:  Ohio Star, Flying Geese, Kaleidoscope, and Lafayette's Orange Peel.  How cool is that!

Shauna found two collections of mosaic images on Wikimedia (overlapping in content somewhat but not entirely) that show many more Roman mosaics in France - here and here.

Here are some quilt-y highlights.  Check back to the Wikimedia pages if you want info on where these mosaics are located and other photo details.

Another floor in which I see Clamshell, Trip Around The World, something akin to an off-center Log Cabin, and something akin to either Pickle Dish or Double Wedding Ring.

Here is Baby Blocks, complete with a cable "quilted" border.  This close-up view also shows the mosaic technique very nicely.
photo by Remi Mathis


Another Double Wedding Ring type of design:
photo by Jack Ma

Here is Snowball:
photo by Finoskov

Here is Garden Maze (on the right), which is my favorite style of fancy sashing, by the way:
photo by Finoskov
Also, this mosaic uses the swastika design, which is an ancient, as you can see, and a widely used design that was adopted by the Nazis, not created by them.

And here, for those of you who love lots of intricate quilting, is a medallion with fantastic sawtooth and cable borders.  How about that double cable effect on the innermost border?  Very cool.

I suppose one could say that given the structure of geometry, finding the same patterns in two sources, even so different in materials and so far separated in time, is not all that surprising.  But it surely is fun!


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