Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stories in the Stitches: East Tennessee Historical Society Quilts

Detail of a quilt by Iora Almina Philo Pool (1855-1903), Rugby, Tennessee.
East Tennessee Historical Society 

Now that the heavenly bodies are back where they should be it's time to get back to antique quilts.
Above a detail from one of the great late-19th-century creations.

This quilt was recorded in the Quilts of Tennessee project and appeared in their book where Bets Ramsey wrote that Pool's blocks,
"Having no regular set...flow into each other in happy medley."

This quilt and others from the East Tennessee Historical Society's collection are now on display in Knoxville's East Tennessee History Center. Stories in Stitches: Quilts from the ETHS Collection will be up until January 2, 2018.
"East Tennessee families treasure quilts made by their ancestors. Besides warming and decorating the bed, quilts also serve as reminders of important events—births, weddings, service to our country, the death of loved ones. Often, these memories are preserved in notes attached to the quilts or through stories handed down to younger generations. Sometimes notes are lost and memories fade, leaving families with a 'mystery quilt.'
 Did Grandma Jones or Granny Smith make this quilt? Or, was it Aunt Jane? When did she make it? Why did she choose this pattern? What caused this stain or that tear? These are some of the mysteries that quilt historians try to address through genealogical research and technical analysis.
From histories handed down to mysteries that remain, this exhibition provides visitors the opportunity to learn the 'stories in stitches' from the quilts that have been trusted to the East Tennessee Historical Society since 1992."
Curators Jan Wass and Merikay Waldvogel have been studying some of these quilts for several years. Another exceptional quilt on display is the Knoxville Crazy Quilt made between 1898 and 1918.

"I think the Knoxville Sentinel is the cheapest & best paper to take."
Details from a crazy quilt by Lillie Harvey (1859-1934)

Lillie Harvey seems to have made a Knoxville advertising quilt, including dressed pictures---
paper figures clothed in fabric and attached with embroidery---of local businesses with what looks like advertising copy.

"I wish Mama would buy bread and cake from Kerns"

"Pure Sweet Milk. No water in it."

The show includes sources for some of Lillie's imagery.

"Wait for Me"

Merikay will give you your own private 25-minute lecture on
the Harvey crazy quilt in a You-Tube video at this page:

And see more about Iora Pool's medley of patterns quilt here at the Quilt Index:

Monday, August 21, 2017

Path of Totality

Today's the big day under the Path of Totality.

We are miles southwest of the path 
but looking forward to some strange eclipsean things around here about 1:00 today.

Inspired by this circa 1900 quilt from Julie Silber's inventory I thought about
doing a brickwork quilt to recall the event.
I love those diagonal brick strips.

There aren't very many quilts of brickwork aslant.
It's probably the general bias against diagonal grain.

Holmes County Amish

You don't need a pattern. Cut rectangles twice as long as they
are tall, say 3" x 6" (2-1/2" x 5" for precut strips) 
Make strips; connect them in half drop repeat,
like laying bricks.
Set them on the diagonal and trim into a rectangle.

From about 1910.
Digitally manipulated

Small quilt; From about 1945

Or just use shaded strips.

Digitally manipulated strip quilt.
You could have this top done by the
cocktail hour today.

It's sort of like a Jelly Roll Race quilt
except diagonal.

Look at this tutorial for diagonal Jelly Roll strips from Becky Kercado :

More about brick quilts at this post:

Don't forget to include the date:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

More Thoughts on the Tree of Liberty Block

A couple of months ago I did a post on the 1859 Tree of Liberty quilt block from Esther Blair Matthews's "Shenandoah Valley Botanical Album Quilt" in the collection of the Virginia Quilt Museum.

Esther, born the year of American Independence 1776, has left us a confusing inscription:
"Tree of Liberty & United States." 

Her tree has 35 circles, thought maybe to represent the 33 states in the Union in 1859. Esther lived till 1866 so she saw the admission of the 35th state when Union West Virginia seceded from Confederate Virginia in 1863. But that was nothing for Esther to celebrate. Her family were Virginia Confederates from Rockingham County, near Harrisonburg.

Quilters are currently interpreting the quilt
Here's Doreen Johnson's Tree of Liberty.

The quilt is said to have made for her grandson, Addison Blair Martz who enlisted in the Confederate Virginia Infantry a few days after the first shots at Fort Sumter in April, 1861. According to a family bible:
"Addison B. Martz son of Hiram & Hannah Martz died May the 5th 1863 from the effect of a wound received in the Battle of Chancellorsville May the 3rd 1863."

The first Liberty Tree

The major problem in interpreting Esther's symbolism is the loss of cultural references over the generations. Were we examining the quilt in 1860 we might guess she was referring to the Liberty Tree of 1765 when Britain's Stamp Act enraged Boston's colonists who decorated an old elm tree on with lanterns, posters and effigies of the tax collectors.

Dawn at Collector with a Needle
found a print for each of Esther's circles.

Forty-five lanterns held political symbolism, linking the young rebellion with John Wilkes whose periodical The North Briton had incurred the wrath of the government for criticizing the King in the 45th issue.

No. 45 became a slogan of protest in England and in Boston.

Cream pot with a radical slogan from the
collection of Colonial Williamsburg

Teapot with portrait of John Wilkes.
He was such an icon of liberty that
Americans named their children for him:
John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln's murderer was one.

Whether or not the first Liberty Tree actually had 45 lanterns we will never know, but the idea of a Liberty Tree was copied as an image of rebellion. John Adams noted in his diary in May, 1766:
"Saw for the first time a likely young button-wood tree, lately planted on a triangle made by three roads. The tree is well set, well guarded, and has on it an inscription, ‘The Tree of Liberty, and cursed is he who cuts this tree.' "
The slogan "45" was understood by all as a symbol the government should be more responsive to the citizens.

 Silversmith Paul Revere's No. 45 Punch Bowl.
45 toast were often offered.

In 1768 in Norwich, Connecticut, according to a local 19th-century history:
"An entertainment was given at Peck's tavern, adjoining Liberty Tree, to celebrate the election of Wilkes to Parliament. The principal citizens, both of town and landing, assembled on this festive occasion. All the furniture of the table, such as plates, bowls, tureens, tumblers and napkins, were marked 'No. 45.' ... The Tree of Liberty was decked with new emblems, among which, and conspicuously surmounting the whole, was a flag emblazoned with 'No. 45, Wilkes & Liberty.' "

Disneyworld has a Liberty Tree with lanterns.

If we were more familiar with the 18th-century concept of a Liberty Tree we might see related meaning in Esther Matthews's quilt, but then again 35 circles are not 45 lanterns. The idea of an elm tree with lights does give us a little insight into her meaning. We can wish she'd left an explanation of her symbolism, but I bet she thought she had.

Neva Hart has done much biographical research on Esther (whose birth name was Easter).
Read more here:

Tree of Liberty by Pamela Eubanks Winfield

And see what the stitchers who are making blocks from Esther's quilts are up to here:

Kay Butler's version of the latest block the Rainbow.

Post Script: One reason the number 45 lost its meaning is that other numbers associated with the Revolution like 13 and 76 replaced it in our iconography.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Happy Hour

From the Reiter Baltimore Album in the collection
of the Museum of American Folk Art.

Around here everybody else's autumn sedum looks like this.

Mine looks like this.

Last year I thought it might be deer nibbling but now I know the culprits.

Not only do the house finches demand a free drink every evening,
they want a salad bar too.

Photographic evidence. Mrs. Finch to left of pole about to
help herself.

From the Connecticut Quilt Project
and the Quilt Index.

It's one thing to lose your fruit to the birds.

But the whole plant! They balance on the top of the stem,
bend over and take a bite.

The sedum keep trying to bloom.

I could of course stop providing a happy hour.

But I guess I enjoy the finches more than I would the
pink flowers.

These last few birds are from a book Karla Menaugh & I did a few years ago. Juniper & Mistletoe is available in our Etsy shop.

Juniper & Mistletoe by Georgann Eglinski
and the Sewhatevers

The birds squawk if they don't think there is enough water.
I run and get them more.
They are as spoiled as the dog.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Past Perfect: Judy Martin

Colorado Log Cabin by Judy Martin about 1983

August's Past Perfect Quilt Star is Judy Martin, my old friend from Quilters' Newsletter.

We worked together at the magazine in the eighties. She lived in Colorado and was an editor. I mailed the editors articles in manila envelopes. It was fun to be at the center of what was happening. Judy had kids and moved to Iowa. But she never stopped making innovative quilts. (She counts over 250.)

35 years later quilters are still making Judy's Colorado Log Cabin (and not giving her enough credit.) It's the perfect example of an updated classic. She simply added a couple of seams to create secondary patterns. Brilliant!

Supernova is up in Iowa now

The Iowa Quilt Museum has a show of her recent work. Do go to Winterset, Iowa to see 
Innovation Meets Tradition: Judy Martin Quilts. It's up till October 1st, 2017. The quilts on display focus on Log Cabin and Star quilts, patterns she's explored for years.

Red Sky at Night

Over the years she has designed simple quilts and complex quilts.

Galileo's Star from the exhibit.

And simple quilts that look complex.

Hollywood Boulevard

Some of her designs are so "of course" that people tend to think they have always been around and they are free to use her ideas without any credit. All the pictures on this page are copyrighted by Judy Martin.

Wedding Bands with its staggered star borders
has been influential recently

  She's written over 20 books and published most of them with husband Steve. 

One of my favorites is an early book Patchworkbook, a design how-to for piecing.

Scrap Quilts is another early favorite. There is Colorado Log Cabin
on the top shelf.

Judy is from San Diego and grew up with a "mother who sewed and a father whose engineering profession encouraged mathematical practicality. She was at home with the sewing machine and with graph paper at an early age."

Flowering Star

Judy really did a lot to define the end-of-the-20th-century quilt and she is working on the 21st century now with new techniques and traditional designs.

Wave on Wave

Capistrano is in her 2010 book Stellar Quilts.
It's a variation on Flying Swallows.
See a post on the traditional block here:
Iowa Quilt Museum
Winterset is a 3 hour drive from Lincoln, Nebraska so you could see two of your favorite quiltmakers' work in one midwestern trip. Edyta Sitar's quilts are at IQSC's Quilt House in Lincoln, Judy Martin's in Iowa.