Friday, May 08, 2009

Quiltscapes Exhibit

Yesterday I trekked to the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture to view 43 quilts from the Eastern Washington State Historical Society's permanent collection. The exhibit runs through May 17th so I was running it a bit close. This exhibit was masterfully hung/laid out, and offered a slim exhibit catalog worth the $3.00 they were asking. Because of the low lighting and taking pictures without flash, I've had to adjust the photos, so colors are not necessarily accurate and some are a bit blurred. Here's a sampling of what caught my eye (click on any picture to see more detail). The Lone Star above (attributed to Minerva Hellen Wilson) is one of two 1820's quilts on display. Immediately noticeable was the unexpected chrome yellow fabric near the center and used nowhere else. It was only upon a second look that I realized the squares making up the border were of fabrics used in the star points. Well, of course! Note the break in symmetry of the border (upper left).

The other 1820 quilt was an English mosaic top, pieced over old correspondence. It is suspected that Susan Eusden, who was born in England about 1838, brought the top with her when she and her husband immigrated to America in 1869. Although the overall sense of this top was a mishmash of muted browns and pinks, with only the center a visible flower motif, I soon realized that a pink flower was centered on each side near a line of blue hexagons forming an inner border. These were fabulous blues that had not faded one bit.

This Birds in the Air quilt was made by Sarah Koentz Glover and is inscribed 5th November 1846. It was the border that caught my eye. To get a sense of how small the triangle are, the Birds blocks are 9 inches square and have 91 triangles in each. Mmmm, and this woman had 11 children by the time she made this quilt.

This next one is for my friend LeAnn, who I believe is in the process of quilting a top with this block in it. Identified as Ducks Foot, it was made by Jane Jacoby of Indiana in 1880. My friend pondered long and hard about an appropriate quilting pattern for her very traditional rendition, so I thought she'd enjoy seeing how Jane handled hers. Feathers, of course!

There were two quilts from 1890. This Honeybee by Sarah Chambers was originally dated circa 1850 because of its trapunto, applique and quilting techniques. Further research of the maker and a closer look at its fabrics proved a later date. Well, you know how many quilters eschew the latest fads and recreate masterpieces in styles from the past. Reproductions, we call them. Or just keeping on doing what we always did. I love the quilting in this one. It also gives testament to the fact that quilters didn't used to obsess over perfection quite like we do today. Note the sawtooth borders that do not perfectly match. This was actually the closest match of the 4 inner corners.

The other 1890 quilt was a classic log cabin done in the furrows setting and made from fancy silks. by Jeannie Creighton. What caught my eye was this quirky edge finish - a thick corded or stuffed piping looped at the corners.

This Fifty-Four Forty or Fight quilt was made by Jesse & Ruth Brockway around 1900. You've got to admire anyone who takes on this block using suiting wools and heavy cottons! The blocks were maybe 14 or 15 inches square, and yes, that one star was much brighter than the rest of the quilt. Quite a charming piece.

The last two quilts are from the early 1900's. I've seen cigar band "quilts" before, but not one quite like this. Usually, there is an over predominance of gold silk bands, but this one had a great variety of colors as well as some great text. The maker, Anna Branzeau never finished this top. I could imagine her enthusiasm waning after a while.

Then there was this cigarette silks "quilt." I've read about these but had never seen the silks in person before. Really great detail and some quite extraordinary colors. I couldn't make out the names under these ladies, but they must have been well-known celebrities of their day. And the interesting twist to this quilt? It was made by ladies at a brothel in Walla Walla, WA. With it's very wide dark blue dust ruffle finish, I could easily see it gracing a bed or fainting couch in one of their rooms. The exhibit catalog asks the question, "Do you suppose they collected silkies from customers of from their own smoking habits?"

Tomorrow - an unexpected contemporary exhibit at the museum...


Chris said...

Thanks for taking me to the quilt show! I never get tired of looking at old quilts.

Feather on a Wire said...

Thank you for these photos and your observations, a thoroughly enjoyable posting.

Olga said...

I love the idea of prostitutes enjoying making quilts in between bouts of activity.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Happy to share & glad you enjoyed seeing these. Even though I'm not concentrating on this kind of quilt right now, I still find I can learn things and get ideas from these wonderful old quilts.