Ma Ma at a quilting bee c. 1960

My paternal grandmother, Monnie Childress, at a quilting bee around 1960. She’s second from right. My aunt Nelwyn gave me what she believes may be this quilt. I’ll eventually take a photo and add it here. As a child, I don’t remember my grandmother quilting, but she had a stack of vintage quilts that had been made by her and relatives. By the time I came along, she was crocheting afghans. There was a big basket of crocheted squares behind a chair in her living room, that she’d eventually put together.

Chattanooga Log Cabin Variation, c. 1950

A Chattanooga, Tennessee quilt made around 1950 according to the daughter and grandson of the maker. The log cabin block is a highly ubiquitous and versatile construction in quilt history. Like many patterns, how one puts together the components paired with color choice makes for wide design variety. At the same time, you often find very similar quilts.

Many may think the quilt above is a one of a kind original. But in fact, I consider it one of a genre of log cabin quilts. It’s a style made famous by Gee’s Bend quilters, who many–myself included–consider best of class when it comes to improvisational work. Interestingly, the Souls Grown Deep Foundation labels Gee’s Bend quilts of this nature both “Housetop” and “Log Cabin”. The notation they use would describe this quilt as  “Housetop”– Sixteen-Block “Half-Log Cabin” Variation.

I hope to learn more about the maker of this quilt. Currently I just know her name and that it was made in Chattanooga.  Some of the prints strike me as 1940s era, but the maker’s grandson labeled it 1950s. I think it could fall on either side of 1950.

See another log cabin included in the anonymous quilt gallery here:

Modern log cabin, c. 1900

 

Purple Brick Road c. 1970

This beauty was found at the Santa Fe flea market by a vintage/antique denim enthusiast. The denim patch lower right was his addition. I traded him one of my denim britches quilts to bring this home. Green, purple, pink solids. It’s very dense, springy polyester. And hard to date. The back is an equally dense synthetic striped fabric. It’s machine quilted in long tight rows, which makes it wavy on the edges.

Here’s the back, hanging the other way, then some detail shots:

 

Houndstooth String Quilt c. 1940

I generally refer to this as a houndstooth string quilt, because it’s predominantly composed of houndstooth prints in four colors: dark red, green, yellow and white. Mixed in are an orange corduroy that really makes the design pop, and some plaid and polka dots. It’s the latter along with the old blue blanket on the back, patched in several places, that led me to date this piece to the 1940s.

It’s very striking. And somewhat primitive. Notice the blue blanket peeking from behind at the bottom. I purchased it from Roderick Kiracofe‘s collection in 2015, when I visited him in Oakland and toured his “quilt barn”.

Here are some detail shots:

 

Resilience, c. 1900

I gave this quilt the moniker “resilience” a year ago when I posted it on Facebook. It seemed fitting for the times. And it still does today.

A quilt inside a quilt is always a fascinating find, and in this case a fair amount has been exposed. I believe someone started cutting away the top and then thought better of it. This is how it came to me. Many, many years in the making, this quilt has had two lives in use, and now a third on display.

girl with bonnet figural quilt c. 1950

Found in Missouri, this figural quilt strikes me as a 1950’s era quilt. It has what some call a “naive” style of quilt stitching that a fair number of feedsack quilts I’ve seen from that era possess. Although, this is not feedsack fabric.

Imagine a girl looking out a window with her back to the camera, so to speak. There are butterflies fluttering around. Perhaps that’s a bonnet she has on. For awhile I was calling her “flower-head” but should probably not be so irreverent. The back is equally impressive: 

When I say “naive” quilting, I’m referring to a real free spirited approach that wasn’t concerned with precision. That’s an understatement. The girl is both appliquéd and pieced. She quilted right over bunched fabric, and in one case there are gaps between pieces where a muslin batting shows. She just stitched right across. Clearly, this quilter was concerned with design. Not so much the quilting.

Here are some close-ups of the fabric and quilting:

Humpty Dumpty c. 1970

I’d say about a third of my quilt collection is circa 1970, probably about 70 quilts in all. It’s a diverse collection–landscapes, appliqué samplers, rustic denim,  polyester geometries, improvisational patchworks, and children’s quilts. The children’s quilts often really get me. Maybe because I was a child in the 70s. Here’s one small scale, or child’s quilt, of Humpty Dumpty.  Is Humpty Dumpty still as popular today as he was in the 1970s?

Anonymous women quilting bee c. 1900

These women look like they’re having a grand time. Wonder what they chatted about while working on this quilt. Wonder what the quilt looks like, what colors those fabrics are.  Wonder who took the photograph. Was it staged? Did these women want to have a photograph taken of them working on a quilt?

Here’s an image of the cabinet card the close up comes from, the two-box telephone on the wall places it around 1900.

1960 “Ol’ Shep” Friendship Quilt Block

Yesterday I published a blog about an 1844 friendship, or album quilt. This block is from a 1960 version. I saw the quilt on a bed in a small museum in Kelsey, Texas, where my mother grew up. This block is my family’s contribution to the quilt. My mother doesn’t know much about it, who made it or why. Her name, Ruth, is in the lower left corner. Other names are my aunts and uncles, my grandfather and grandmother are represented in red thread in the upper and lower center blocks.  And Ol’ Shep? That was the dawg. Says a lot about my family that he got star treatment.

1844 “Forget Me Not” Friendship Album Quilt

I purchased this quilt from the Santa Fe craigslist. By the time I spied the $75 listing, it had been live for more than 30 days. The seller said she got it from a friend’s thrift store in Los Angeles. “It’s really old,” she said.

Yes, it is.  I’ve always heard these sorts of quilts referred to as friendship quilts, they are quite common and have a long history. This quilt is an example of the very earliest, they were all the rage in the 1840s and referred to then as album quilts.

In American Quilts: The Democratic Art, Bob Shaw titles Chapter 3 “The Golden Age of Applique”, 1840-1860. Shaw notes that block-style construction had just begun to overtake the European approach of building a quilt around a central medallion.

“Sampler quilts first became popular in the 1840s, just as block-style design began to overtake the central medallion format as the dominant organizational method employed by American quiltmakers,” Shaw writes about quilts in which each block is a different design.

“Early samplers, many of which are preserved in museum collections, are reminders of the most important era of transition in American quiltmaking, when this country’s women were developing a new and uniquely American approach to quilt design and organization.”

Shaw discusses Album quilts as made and signed by groups of women to give to a departing friend, or perhaps a minister leaving their church, as a common practice. “America was on the move in those years,” he writes, noting that three and a half million Europeans migrated to the United States between 1825 and 1900.

Searching the names I can make out on this quilt online at ancestry.org, it’s very possible that many of these women were born in England.

There’s a “forget me not” poem embroidered on one of the blocks. It’s very hard to make out who it’s to or from.  But by deciphering just a few phrases I was able to find it through an online search.

Let memory sometimes bear thee back, To other days almost forgot; And when you think of other friends, Who love thee well–Forget me not.

The earliest reference I found to the poem is in The Literary Gazette, and Journal of Belles Lettres, Arts, Sciences in 1825, attributing the poem to E. Morrar, of Edinburgh (abbreviated Edinb.)

Who knows where this quilt traveled in the 173 years before it landed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The fabric has that aged “tea” look that you see done on purpose these days in reproduction quilts and other fabric items made to decorate homes. But in this quilt, it’s the real deal.

The quilt is full of signatures in ink, most of them so smudged that it’s very hard to make them out. But thanks to Amy Tucker and Rachel Chandler, we know that the quilt was made in 1844. There are also a few place names in ink that are just on the edge of decipherable.

While there’s quite a bit of fabric loss, there’s still a lot to enjoy as well.

 

 

There are numbers in ink on the back. Makes me wonder if the quilt spent some time in an institution, maybe a nursing home. Please be in touch if you have more information about what these numbers might mean.