Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two Golden Ages of Appliqué—An Exhibit Curated by Debby Cooney

As Teri mentioned last week, we scheduled one last road trip before I (Kara) head to Germany. Our primary goal, aside from visiting a few wineries and quilt shops, was to see Debby Cooney's exhibit, "Two Golden Ages of Appliqué: 1840-1870 and 1920-1940," at the Virginia Quilt Museum.  The exhibit did not disappoint! Unfortunately, the time frame for the exhibit is over, but if you missed it, then this post is for you.

Debby Cooney is a quilt historian who has researched and collected appliqué quilts and has graciously shared her collection, along with quilts from a few other collectors, with the museum. The art of appliqué has experienced a recent re-birth, and the quilts from Debby's collection tell the story of appliqué as an art form from the past. Many of us who are passionate about appliqué have been inspired by these quilts and many others.  

We tried to take as many pictures as possible, and while the lighting was somewhat dimmed for the sake of the quilts, I hope you will be as inspired by these appliquéd beauties from the past as we were. Many thanks to Debby for permitting us to share her collection with you! (Please note, per the museum's websitePermission to copy any of the quilt designs or patterns seen on exhibit must be obtained by the original designer or copyright owner.)

One of the sights that greeted us as we stepped into the exhibit rooms

Wholecloth Chintz Quilt
ca. 1830s
61" x 83"

Palampore Panel Quilt
ca. 1830s
70" x 91"
Provenance: York County, Pennsylvania

Detail: Palampore Panel Quilt

Detail: Jane Weakley Leche Quilt

Jane Weakley Leche Quilt
ca. 1825
108" x 109"
Provenance: Baltimore, Maryland

Framed Star Quilt
ca. 1820s
60" x 60"
Provenance: Probably Frederick or Washington County, Maryland

Reproduction Framed Eagle Quilt
ca. 2006
32" x 40.5"
Provenance: Bobbi Finley

Detail: Reproduction Framed Eagle Quilt

Calico and Chintz Block
ca. 1830s-1840s
Provenance: Unknown
Collection of Polly Mello

Framed Center Diamond
ca. 1835-1850
Provenance: members of the Holmes family, Rockbridge County, Virginia

Pieced and Appliquéd Quilt
ca. 1840s
Provenance: Frederick County, Maryland

Leaf Detail

Most of these blocks have blue corner squares,
but a few don't. Did they run out of fabric, or was it planned?

Chintz Cradle Quilt
ca. 1830s
34" x 42"
Provenance: probably Baltimore, Maryland

Detail: Chintz Cradle Quilt
Reverse appliquéd leaves

Mathematical Star Quilt
ca. 1850s
94" x 94"
Provenance: Eastern Shore of Maryland

Detail: Mathematical Star Quilt
Detail: Mathematical Star Quilt
Apparently, these are typical colors found in

Appliqué Nine-Block Quilt
ca. 1850s
84" x 84"
Provenance: Unknown, possibly Pennsylvania

Detail: Appliqué Nine-Block Quilt

Baltimore Appliqué Quilt
ca. 1850s
96" x 97"
Provenance: members of the Hayden Family, Baltimore, Maryland

Detail: Baltimore Album Quilt

Detail: Baltimore Album Quilt

Appliqué Cradle Quilt
ca. 1850s
43" x 45"
Provenance: possibly Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
From the collection of Polly Mello

Appliqué Pillowcase
ca. 1850s
18" x 30"
Provenance: possibly Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Appliqué Cradle Quilt
ca. 1850s
39" x 40"
Provenance: probably Washington County, Maryland

Four-Block Appliqué Quilt
ca. 1850s
96" x 97"
Provenance: probably Pennsylvania

Quilting detail

Such vivid colors after all these years!

Appliqué Cradle Quilt
ca. 1850s
43" x 44"
Provenance: Chambersburg area, Franklin County, Pennsylvania
The name of this pattern is an "Apple Pie Ridge Star."

Six-Block Appliqué Quilt
ca. 1850
53" x 81"
Provenance: Collected in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
From the collection of Pat and Arlan Christ

The green feather-like motif is used here to represent the Pennsylvania-German symbol for good luck.

All the dots give the quilt a certain charm.

Appliqué Album Quilt
ca. 1860s
73" x 88"
Provenance: Unknown

Appliqué Four-block Quilt
ca. 1860s
83" x 90"
Provenance: Southeastern Pennsylvania 

This Princess Feather pattern would give some good practice at corners and inner curves!

All of the previous quilts fall into the first Golden Age of Appliqué, from 1840-1870. These next quilts come from the second, 1920-1940. It is interesting to see the change in fabrics used for these quilts.

Nine-block Appliqué Quilt
ca. 1920s
Provenance: Franklin County, Pennsylvania

This flowering cactus is done in bright Pennsylvania "Dutch" colors.

Four-block Appliqué Quilt
ca. 1930s
88" x 95"
Provenance: Southeastern Pennsylvania

I just love the polka-dot fabric for the center flower!

Orchid Wreath Appliqué Quilt
ca. 1930s
88" x 88"
Provenance: probably Emporia, Kansas
Original pattern by Rose Kretsinger

The orange and yellow butterflies add a beautiful
pop of color.

Nine-block Appliqué Quilt
ca. 1933
86" x 86"
Provenance: Ettie Brunhaus Schulz
Oak Park, Illinois
Original pattern by Marie D. Webster

Appliqué is my first love, and this exhibit exceeded my expectations in so many ways. It was so inspiring to view all these quilts in person, and studying them up close was a treat. Are you inspired by quilts from the past? If so, please let us know; as we'd love to hear about them! If you would like to read about our other museum adventures, you can click on the links below. Next week, we will share another fabulous exhibit that was in the VQM last fall. Hope you'll join us!


  1. By still my heart! These are fantastic. I am so glad you got to make such a special trip as your swan song before departing for Germany. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You are welcome Wendy! Oh to have a collection such as this...

  2. What a feast for the eyes! I will never get to see anything like this exhibit, so thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. Thank you so very much for these pictures! Wow such glorious examples of applique. I love applique and these quilts like these are what I want to make!! Love the crib quilt especially!

  4. Thank you for these beautiful photos of old quilts very interesting and Polly to share his beautiful collection!

    1. You're welcome! We were thankful to be able to share both Debby's and Polly's exhibits with you.