December 18, 2017

Reproducing an Antique Quilt

I bought this quilt years ago when I was working at an antique quilt shop.  (It was a heavenly place to spend my time, I assure you!)  Whenever the pickers would come in to sell their finds, we had the option to buy things, too.  (Heavenly and then some!)

I bought this quilt from one of those pickers.  The back fabric is in rough condition and there are some tears in the borders through all the layers.  (The faded-looking upper left corner is due to the light coming in my window, though).  Here's why I fell in love with this quilt:

1.  I love the color combination.  I love how the stars really twinkle in the night sky.

2.  I have not yet seen this exact pattern anywhere else.  I have dubbed it Starry Night.  These are 9-patch blocks with a star in each corner, set on point with alternate setting blocks.  Does anyone out there know a name for this block?  There's a similar block called Star in a Nine Patch (Brackman #1711) which has five stars in the block, one in the center position also. 

Without those center stars, the setting creates an overall pattern of interlocking circles, very like the look of a Double Wedding Ring.  Identifying an actual block becomes quite difficult!

3.  The indigo background is a print with tiny white stars, thematic in other words.

4.  The stitching is very well done.

Here's the delicate design of the back print, and some of the damage along the border.

I decided to reproduce the quilt and bought the fabrics way back in the 1980s.  I finally started to work on it a little over 2 years ago as my carry-along project.  Up until then, something about having kids kind of slowed me down, and then writing a book....  I'm really glad I bought the fabrics when I did though, because I don't know if I'd have as much luck finding them now. 

So far, I have made 7 blocks.  This is now my carry-along handwork project of choice.  It has been to Philly, Seattle, Paducah, Kalona IA, Sugar Hill NH, and Cleveland.  I also work on it around home now and then when I am somewhere that entails a lot of sitting time. 

You can see how different a modern navy is from an old faded indigo!

I am using two different double pink prints, because I have them and couldn't decide which I liked better.  This is my own addition to the design.  The four stars in each block have one using each of the pinks and two alternating the pinks.

Here are the pieces cut for my next two blocks.  Slow and steady wins the race!

November 29, 2017

Treasured Family Hierloom, part 2 The Rings Question

Most of the story of this crazy quilt is in part 1, but I wanted to separate out this question in hopes of hearing some helpful information.

There are several patches decorated with sets of interlocking circles.  The only symbolism I know of for this kind of image are the three chain links of the Odd Fellows.   

But on this quilt, we see these configurations:

The owner is wondering if there is any tradition of representing the people in various branches of the family this way.  Any ideas, anybody? 

Treasured Family Heirloom, part 1

There are many different ways to put a value on a quilt.  Sometimes, like with this one, it's the artistry and the family history that makes it a treasure.  This poor quilt has definitely seen better days.  The silks are pretty much totally shredded.  But even so, the spirit, variety, and skill in the embroideries are notable.  Add to that a wonderful family history, and the quilt becomes something to honor and stabilize as much as possible.

Here's the story as told by the quilt's current owner.

We have a very old family quilt which we were told belonged to my husband’s great-great grandmother, Mary Catherine (nee Utterback) Redman who lived in Marshall Virginia (Faquier County) in the 1800’s.

Mary Catherine was born in the 1830’s and married Tilman Redman in 1850 Faquier County, Virginia.  We believe that he and his children worked as farm hands or laborers on a large farm owned by Col. Dulany in Faquier County. The spellings of the last name have been Redman, Redmon, and now Redmond finally, as the story goes when a school teacher in Virginia told them how to spell their last name.

There are wonderful embroidery of birds and flowers. There are also: an apple, pocket watch, large horseshoe, dog, leaves, grapes and grape leaves, cat, pipe, egret bird, spider, a horse with a rider who has a horn like a fox hunt, deer, squirrel, swan, many patches with rings with differing numbers.  I would love to know the significance of the number of rings.  We know that fox hunting was popular there in that time.

We do not want to use the quilt but would like to conserve the quilt or part of it somehow as a keepsake for our 34 year old daughter whose name is also Mary Catherine Redmond.

The quilt owner and I decided that I should mostly stitch down the pieces of silk that were loose and dangling, in order to help keep the lovely embroideries from coming off altogether.  That was plenty for her budget, and also the way to avoid tampering with Mary Catherine's fabric choices and stitchery.

The beautiful blue silk backing and brown striped silk borders were in really bad shape.  The brown borders were totally fragile, losing bits practically just from my breathing!  There really wasn't much to be done short of adding all new fabric, which would have changed the historical beauty of the quilt too much.


You'll notice my stitches in many of the following photos of the embroideries.  In so many spots, it was only the embroidery that was holding the fabric shreds in place, and sometimes not even that.  I used long running stitches in some places and a large herringbone stitch in others.  I stitched into the muslin foundation fabric, which was blessedly still intact and strong.

The quilt has had some TLC before.  There were a couple of patches that had been replaced with c. 1940s rayons.  I'm a big fan of keeping old repairs in place.  They're a sure sign of a well-loved quilt.

Even though I did the simplest work, the quilt does look much happier.  Just neatening things up can be worth an awful lot!

Because of the very fragile condition, I reminded the owner to pass along a couple of safe handling hints:
When handling the quilt, take off rings and bracelets that may snag on the tears, and roll up sleeves with cuff buttons.
Pick up the quilt by sliding arms beneath it and gathering it up instead of holding just by the edges.
Safe storage will prolong its life rather than display.

I just couldn't stop myself when I was photographing the quilt!  So grab a cup of tea, have a seat, and enjoy Mary Catherine's lovely and loving needlework.  She used several techniques, and had an apt eye for nature and the world around her.  Clicking on these to enlarge them will let you really see the wonderful stitches.

She enjoyed making velvet appliqués edged with buttonhole stitching, plus embroidered detailing.

Here is some embroidery with chenille threads.

Look at the way she used her stitches to create texture, starting with the rough texture of the bark on this apple tree branch.


And even more lovely embroideries!

This pocket watch has single strand thread Roman numerals on its face.


 I love that this spider is off center, as if creepy-crawling right across the quilt.

And this elegant stag fits so perfectly on his piece of silk.

On the left is the hunter with his horn.  The thread for the horse has practically all disappeared.

I include this because it makes me smile.  I just acquired a plant that is just the same!

So, all in all, a most wonderful quilt, and so lucky to be in a family that values its history and artistry.

See the second post about this quilt for a question about one of the embroidery designs.