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:
Modern Backgrounds, Moda
Black and White, Cotton and Steel
Ink Modern Background, Zen Chic, Fat Quarter Shop
Black and White, 10″ squares, Keepsake Quilting
Dot and Dash, Riley Blake
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.
I love quilting baby quilts and this sweet pattern with small Churn Dash blocks is no exception. I wanted the quilting to reflect the vintage pattern and the retro feel of the fabric. The blocks were 6 inches square, which is about half the size of a standard block (12″). It would look funny if a quilting pattern designed for a 12″ block was used on a 6′ block. In my software, Creative Studios 6, I was able to preview the quilting design.
In the first example, the Butterfly and Flower design by Kim Diamond, is shown on the quilt top as if it were stitched out with the default size of 12″, notice how large the flowers of the quilting design are compared to the size of the block, and the individual pieces which make up the block. In addition, the size of the flowers in the quilting design are approximately 10 times larger compared to the size of the flowers in the fabric.
In the second example, the quilting is denser, but it is also more in scale with the block size and the scale of the prints. I much prefer being able to preview how my quilting is going to look on my computer monitor and then hitting ‘undo’ than to quilt something out which I don’t like and taking my seam ripper out to undo it!
The finished quilt had a soft, ‘quilty’ look and feel–just perfect to wrap a baby!!
I slowed down designing for Quilt Design a Day during February as I worked to finish other projects. Designing every day is very fulfilling and exercises my creative muscles. How do you exercise your creativity?
Thank you so much Madame Samm and Pat Broe for such a fun pattern and blog hop. We all used this wonderful retro pattern by Madame Samm, which you can purchase by e-mailing her: firstname.lastname@example.org for $12.00. Madame Samm created the pattern and the original quilt to help a friend who was facing a cancer diagnosis. Throughout the blog hop I have read touching and interesting stories about each blogger’s experience with cancer or other serious illness. Every project has been touching and thoughtful.
When I first signed up for the hop I was clueless about what I was going to create, although I thought it should be fun, practical and inspiring. Our family has experienced a lot of loss, cancer, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, heart disease…. I would love to give each one of those who I’ve lost one more hug. However, with each of those losses I was fortunate to see family members care for each other. My quilt is for the care givers. Those are the people who care–Eight Days a Week, 25 hours a day. I was inspired by The Beatles song “Eight Days a Week” by Paul McCartney and John Lennon:
Hold me, love me, hold me, love me
I ain’t got nothing but love, babe
Eight days a week
Eight days a week
I love you
Eight days a week
Is not enough to show I care
I was also inspired by an exhibit of ‘envelope’ quilts which were made for Veterans and shown at the AQS show in Paducah last year. Each block had an envelope pocket made of fabric into which people added notes, or gift cards, or other trinkets. Earlier in the year a group of friends created a friendship quilt for one of us who had been experiencing health issues. Each of us wrote a message on our block to encourage her. All of these ideas tumbled around in my brain until I had a lightbulb moment! I made each of the bra cups, fully lined and padded :), into a little pocket, just the right size for a little note of encouragement or a gift card. Because each caregiver ‘loves’ Eight Days a Week, there is a bra for each of those days. In keeping with the retro feeling, I hand embroidered each with the days of the week..
And yes, there is an ‘itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow polka dot bikini’ in there as well, because we all need to laugh and smile, even if it is through tears. You may notice some of the straps are twisted and some bras are a little lopsided, because my sense of humor is twisted and lopsided, er, not my sewing.
Please visit the other talented bloggers on the hop:
Welcome blog hoppers!! My ‘season’ is Spring and I had an absolutely delightful cross stitch pattern by Brooke Nolan to stitch for my Tammy Bag by Madame Samm. The Tammy bag is the perfect size for a hand stitching project. The ‘pinny’ by Cori Blunt is a perfect accessory for the bag–I will no longer put my pins and needles in arm chairs now that I have this pinny. I starting taking photos outside, hoping that ‘Spring’ would come despite the cold temperatures and snow. However the cold chased me inside to complete them.
The back of the bag has a pocket with a “faux” binding, a convenient place for a pattern. The back of the pinny has a thread catcher and a place to store your needles.
I placed two divided pockets in the interior of the bag to store my scissors, reading glasses and other supplies. I found this lovely aqua gingham in my stash and I knew it would be perfect because each of Brooke Nolan’s designs has some gingham depicted in cross stitch. I was so excited by the prospect of cross stitching again that I stitched all 3 of the remaining seasonal designs and got a good start on the Tammy bags and pinnys for them as well.
Please come back and visit me to see the finished projects. Please visit all of the people on today’s hop: