Appraising art quilts can be very challenging because the techniques and the materials used in them are constantly changing and evolving. One of the ways that I keep current is to take classes from successful art quilters. I was privileged to take a class from Norma Riehm on fabric layering techniques. She provided us with kits in several different color ways which included everything but our sewing machines. Each quilt was beautiful and despite having the same things in each kit, each of the quilts made during the class looked different.
This was the first time I worked with Angelina fibers, roving, yarn, silk flowers, beads, and crystals–all together in one piece. Norma discussed the sources for her materials and impressed me with her bargain hunting ability! I am sure that I will be checking out garage sales for art supplies once the weather gets warmer.
We started with a typical quilt sandwich and then layered fibers and flowers onto it, finishing with a layer of tulle. The next step was to quilt it. In future works I might try using some wool batting because it has the ability showcase quilting well. I loved adding crystals to the piece with the hot fix crystals and the aid of a pin. Norma then taught us how to bead so that the beads would be shown off to the best advantage and so that they would be securely attached.
The biggest takeaway from the class for me was her attention both to the craftsmanship and to the artistry of each piece.
It’s fall here in the Upper Midwest, the trees are all turning magnificent colors and the weather is beginning to cool. It is also quilt show season, before winter driving becomes an issue. Here are my top five reasons to go to quilt shows:
To see amazing quilts, such as this stunning Best of Show, AQS Des Moines 2016 (plus many additional ribbons) quilt by Bethanne Nemesh. It is a whole cloth quilt with an Art Deco inspired peacock design as it’s central motif and beautiful feathers. The quality of the machine quilting was excellent. I particularly noticed that despite the heavy quilting the motifs stood out from the back fill. In addition she used ‘advanced’ edging techniques such as covered beaded piping and tiny scalloped edging.
To discover new gadgets, such as how my Gammill Dealer attaches a tablet to her longarm.
To get inspiration and ideas for my own quilting projects–how to fill up negative space. I liked how Judy Mercer Tescher used block design along with back fills to complete the stars in her quilt Stars and Sparks.
To take classes–I took a class with Judy Woodworth, an amazing quilter, about back fills. I can hardly wait to try some ideas and practice in my studio. I won the class demo with Judy’s stitching. I love those little feather blooms.
To meet old friends and new friends. I always have fun going through a show with friends because they see things I don’t notice. It’s also fun to meet new friends–sit at a table with someone or on a chair next to someone and ask about their quilts.
I have always loved the artist, Paul Klee, so when Alida invited me to join the Art with Fabric Blog Hop, I jumped at the chance. Alida asked us to choose ‘a’ work of art to inspire our textile creations. I couldn’t choose just one!!
Instead, I chose two pieces by Paul Klee:
The first is titled, “Landscape with Yellow Birds,” and the second is “Fire in the Evening Sky.”(Museum of Modern Art, New York). Of course, one can’t have two without three so I found a poem on Jill Berry Design‘s blog which really spoke to me about hope.
LANDSCAPE WITH YELLOW BIRDS
Shuntaro Tanikawa (1931-Â Â Â )
there are birds
so there is sky
there is sky
so there are balloons
there are balloons
so children are running
children are running
so there is laughter
there is laughter
so there is sadness
so there is prayer
and ground for kneeling
there is ground
so water is flowing
and there’s today and tomorrow
there is a yellow bird
so with all colors forms and movements
there is the world
Paul Klee’s ‘Fire in the Evening Sky’ inspired me to construct my landscape with horizontal lines. Our beautiful sunsets over the Mississippi river this summer gave me a color scheme. My birds are drawn from the ‘Birds in Air” block:
I inserted triangle birds into my landscape–red, for the cardinals which visit my yard, and a yellow bird to add color and hope.
I chose a quilting design which also used horizontal lines and triangles. In addition, I drew yellow and red birds with big stitch hand quilting. Finally, I added some random big stitch quilting lines to add spark and interest.
I used pearl cotton thread and a chenille needle to do my ‘big stitches’. I also used a thimble–which, in my opinion, is necessary when doing any type of hand quilting.
I look all over for inspiration for my own quilting. I found this amazing piece when visiting the nearby town of Winona, Minnesota. I love the way that the borders and center are different, yet all are related to one another. Notice the graceful curves and organic shapes.
Who is this amazing quiltmaker??
Perhaps this photo will give you a clue:
Yes, it is the embossed tin ceiling of the Winona Art Center. Tin ceilings were popular in buildings beginning in 1880s as an economical way to decorate a room’s ‘fifth’ wall. Many historic buildings still exist with their tin intact. Don’t forget to look up for design inspiration!!
I sometimes see quilts with rounded corners come across my appraisal table. The gently curved bound corner is as tricky to sew as a mitered corner. I tried curved corners on my ‘We Support You’ quilt which you can read about here.
The curve is easy to accomplish with the aid of a binding cut on the bias. The bias tape should lay flat with no puckers and the corner shouldn’t pull the corner of the quilt toward the front or back. I also would recommend curving your corners if you want to use the binding attachment on your sewing machine.
According to Barbara Brackman there are not many quilts made prior to the 20th century with bias binding, yet there are many examples of curved corners. I wondered if the number of curved corners in the 20th century increased as a result of the use of bias binding, so I went to the Quilt Index to find out. The Quilt Index has a huge database of many quilts from all time periods. We can thank the many volunteers who have collected pictures and information through state documentation projects, museums, and collections. In addition the many organizations who have funded this massive project. It is a wonderful resource for both information and inspiration; and a great place to browse through on a lazy summer afternoon!
19th century quilts from online auctions with rounded corners.
I started my quest by doing a search on ’rounded corners’. The results came back with close to 900 quilts! Since I wanted to compare the trends between 10 year periods of time, I removed those quilts with no dates, no images, and duplicates from the search results. I also deleted from the search the quilts with shaped edges, i.e. scalloped, jagged, zig-zags, notched; and the quilts which were not shaped like a rectangle or square, i.e. octagons and circles. Removing those quilts from my search results brought the number of quilts with rounded corners down to approximately 500. I was very surprised by the small proportion of quilts in the index which have rounded corners. I guess I’m in the minority who think that rounded corners are easier to sew!!!
Next, I compared the percentage of quilts with rounded corners across the decades to the total number of quilts from those decades. I expected the percentage of quilts with rounded corners to increase in the 20th century because using bias binding became more common. I know that I’ve seen more quilts from the 1930’s with rounded corners, but I think that is because I’ve seen more quilts from that period of time.
In the chart above, notice how the number of quilts entered into the Quilt Index varies a great deal by decade. You can see the peaks of the 1880/90, 1920/30, and the 1970/80 quilt revivals. According to the chart above, the percentage of quilts with rounded corners entered into the Quilt Index has not changed over time. We may think that rounded corners increase in the twentieth century simply because we see more quilts from that period of time. I did find that there were more scalloped, zig zag, and jagged quilts from the 20th century.
20th century quilts from online auctions with rounded corners.
I’ve run across certain blogs that say that rounded corners in an antique quilt are an indication that the quilt is from the southern United States. I did a ‘quick and dirty’ look through the Quilt Index and found that there did not appear to be a relationship between rounded corners and region where the quilt was made. However, the search form does not allow a specific search for ‘location made’ and ’rounded corners’, so I searched through the entire index using ’rounded corners state’. This method appeared to be working until I got to Michigan…a great number of quilts have ‘Michigan’ in their records because that is where the Quilt Index is housed–University of Michigan. My curiosity was frustrated! I would be interested to know if anyone has further insight and evidence into regional differences and rounded corners.
In the meantime, I’m thinking up future searches of the Quilt Index and many more hours looking at beautiful quilts.
For the last many years Bonnie Hunter does a mystery quilt starting right after Thanksgiving and ending at Christmas. I’ve wanted to play along for several years, but this year I did it! I kept up, mostly, until the last week when we welcomed out of town guests (my parents); my washing machine died; I discovered that my 1/4″ seam allowance wasn’t correct; and I needed fabric for the borders and backing. Once the holidays were over, I took out the seams which were incorrect and found a black fabric with a hint of sparkle for the border. Allietare! means to rejoice and I’m thrilled to add this quilt to my collection. Bonnie’s directions were very clear, even down to which direction to press seams, and I didn’t have any bulky seam intersections, which can be difficult for the longarm to go through.
Bonnie’s inspiration photos for the quilt and its color scheme which I mostly followed, were from her trip to Italy. I also took a trip to Italy (as a student), so I chose my memories of the marble in churches and cathedrals as my inspiration for the fabric in the quilt. Many of the fabrics have a bit of metallic shine or luster like the beautiful mosaics I saw. I was so impressed and surprised by the spectacular cathedral in Sienna, Italy, that I still remember it today, many years later. The unique multicolored stonework, inside and out, was a great inspiration for this quilt–it kept me sewing through frustration (at myself) and it inspired me to be accurate and thoughtful in my design choices.. The fabric in the quilt is almost entirely from my stash, and with the exception of the black border. (Un)fortunately, my stash still is too large–I will just have to make more quilts!!
Although I love to custom quilt my own quilts (and clients’ quilts too!). I decided that I wanted to try to do an edge to edge design, but arrange the designs so that it would look like a whole-cloth design. I really liked the Twisted Plumage design by Naomi Hynes. The quilting lets the piecing take a starring role when viewing the quilt top, but the quilting certainly becomes the main event on the back of the quilt.
I finished the outside edge of the quilt with a wavy edge and bound it with a bias binding.
I have three inspirations for today’s blog, first I cannot help but be saddened by all of the violence and death in the news these last several months. Noticing the flag at half staff in memory of fallen citizens and police officers has become such a normal part of my day that I wonder if the flag will ever go up to the top of the flag pole again. Thinking about our nation’s mourning rituals led me to think of the black and white ‘mourning’ prints common in quilts of the 1890’s. I also recently found the black and white quilt, above, which is made almost entirely of mourning prints from about 1890. I thought that the quilt could easily be the source of inspiration for some of the contemporary quilts and fabrics I’ve recently seen in shows and online.
I am really excited to share with you some of my research regarding the 1890’s black and white fabrics and the resulting quilts. To understand why these fabrics were called mourning prints it is necessary to look back into the history of the Victorian age and the customs relating to death. In 1861, Queen Victoria’s husband died of typhoid (as it was diagnosed at the time by his doctors) or, according to some recent research, un-diagnosed Crohn’s Disease (a disease which the Victorians did not know about). After his death, the Queen fell into deep mourning. At the time mourning rituals were strictly followed and, as Queen Victoria had strongly influenced fashion prior to Prince Albert’s death, so she also influenced mourning customs and fashions after his death.
In my very unscientific poll of fashion plates found with my browser’s search engine, I found that the number of black dresses increased steadily throughout the 1860’s, a time during which there was a great deal of loss of life here in the United States due to the Civil War and several epidemics, e.g. diphtheria (1870), cholera (1866), smallpox (1860-61), typhoid (1865) and yellow fever (1855, 2000 dead, and 1878, 20,000 dead). In fact most of the men fighting in the war who died, did so, not as a result of hostile fire, but as a result of many of the diseases which ran unchecked in close and unsanitary living conditions.
The black dresses on the above fashion plates show mourning attire, the first plate was from 1866 and the second from 1885. Note that although they are black dresses , they have many of the same embellishments, laces and ruffles as the more colorful dresses beside them. The European fashion for mourning dress certainly made it across the Atlantic to the United States. For example, in 1862 Mary Todd Lincoln’s mourning dress after the death of her son William Wallace Lincoln, from typhoid, is similar to that of Queen Victoria:
Like Queen Victoria, after Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 Mary Todd Lincoln wore black for the rest of her life. Throughout the 1860’s, 1870’s, and 1880’s mourning fashions continued to become more and more complicated with additional stages to mourning and with articles of clothing required for each stage. I can only imagine how expensive it must have become for families to progress from black wool, silks, and velvet with heavy crepe veils and then to half-mourning grays and lastly purples. If a family could not afford the more expensive fabrics, they would re-work or over-dye older apparel.
In the 1890’s women’s fashion changed dramatically. Dresses lost much of the crinoline, the bustle, and the extremes of dangerous corsets (although corsets did remain). Although logwood with chromium was used as a black dye for silk and leather, most 19th century black dyes were very unstable, especially for cotton. Before a stable black dye was developed for cotton, madder or indigo was used to dye fabric as close to black as the dyer could make it, usually with toxic mordants and over-application of dye–making very, very dark blue or brown. These ‘blacks’ were subject to crocking (rubbing off), fading, and the strong mordants caused fabric to disintegrate over time. In 1890 a new black dye suitable for cotton was introduced onto the market and its use soared. Here is an advertisement for cotton sateen from the 1893 Montgomery Ward catalog:
Mourning and half-mourning became more affordable for everyone and the number of black and white calico fabrics increased. Women used these calicos for aprons (see photos below found here), shirtwaists (blouses), and dresses which could stand up to repeated washing and hard work.
Unfortunately, although the new black dye appeared to be stable, we now know otherwise: it was made with a compound containing sulfur, and, when washed, the sulfur in the dye combined with water and became sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid did not appear to cause harm to the wearer, but it is one of the reasons why we see this type of fabric disintegrating in the places where it was printed with black.
The black and white (with a little tan) quilt is made with blocks named St. Paul, published by Hearth and Home, according Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. The magazine was printed between 1895 and 1930. I love how the blocks are arranged in the quilt to create a secondary lattice pattern which helps the eye move around the quilt. The fabrics are typical of mourning prints, and I don’t believe the quilt was washed frequently because all of the fabrics are intact with little to no signs of disintegration. Here are some other examples of mourning prints:
If you feel inspired to make a black and white quilt, I’ve collected a very partial and somewhat random assortment of fabric collections below:
Dot and Dash, Riley Blake
Ink Modern Background, Zen Chic, Fat Quarter Shop
Black and White, 10″ squares, Keepsake Quilting
Modern Backgrounds, Moda
Black and White, Cotton and Steel
I couldn’t resist showing you this eerie shot of the quilt. Today we have scorching temperatures and very high humidity, when we went outside to take the photos the lens of my camera fogged up. I did not notice until after I took this shot.
I’m going to think of this as my ‘ghost’ quilt. If you have any vintage or antique quilts which haven’t been appraised please contact me thru the website. I have appraisal appointments available in my schedule.