Thursday, February 23, 2017

Vintage Virginia Stitches

This week, Kara and I (Teri) are busy preparing to spend a quilt week in Virginia. First, we will go tho the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, and then we will spend the week in Williamsburg at the Academy of Appliqué, teaching our Floral Wreath and Secret Garden classes. 

As I assemble kits with lovely ribbons and threads, I am reminded of the trip to Virginia that I took with my husband in the fall. He is wonderfully accommodating when we travel and accompanies me to many a quilt shop, and sometimes even a museum or two. Last fall, we spent a day in Charlottesville, Virginia, and we found some beauties!

When I see a name like Quilts Unlimited on a sign, it is a sure thing that I will be drawn inside. Indeed, I was not disappointed when we got to the back of the store and saw the shelves stacked with vintage quilts. I knew we might be there for awhile. The quilt that intrigued me the most was a hand appliquéd album-style quilt, thought to have been made some time around the 1970s. Unfortunately, that was the only provenance known about the quilt, but it was a stunning piece of workmanship.

Album-style appliquéd quilt, c. 1970

Detail: rose wreath
Detail: vase of flowers
Detail: tulips and bird

Detail: cornucopia of flowers and grapes

Detail: dogtooth border, strawberries, and piped binding

I thought this piping made an interesting binding;
this was the first I had seen binding done this way.

The shop has an Etsy store, linked above,
if you are interested in seeing the quilts they have for sale.

As we continued to walk through the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, this shop called The Needle Lady was the next to lure me inside. 

The walls were filled with colorful eye-candy: threads of many kinds were beautifully arranged, just taunting me to try them. There were wools, silks, and wool/silk blends. And I confess, it was difficult to pick which colors I needed. I ended up with a lovely sampling of new threads to add to my fiber collection. (Addiction, perhaps?) Who could resist?!

Our last visit in Charlottesville was in this shop.
Don't you love the door stop?

The next day, we took a trip to Harrisonville, the home of the Virginia Quilt Museum. (That visit deserves a post all to itself!) After spending the morning studying the quilts in the museum exhibits, we decided to wander through the town. As we passed this antique jewelry store, below, I jokingly asked my husband if he thought he might need to buy me a small souvenir from the shop, but as I looked in the window, I saw an exquisite antique appliquéd quilt hanging on the wall. Of course, we went inside to study the quilts—there were three. (And no, I didn't get any jewelry souvenirs...)

This stunning Princess Feather quilt used to be red and green, but the green has faded to tan.

I love this quilt—it's such a gorgeous block! I believe it may be a variation of a Rose of Sharon block, but I cannot locater my Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Appliqué at the moment. (If only I put things away when I'm finished researching . . . ) Perhaps you know the name of this block; if so, could you tell us in the comments below? 

The scalloped border frames the quilt beautifully. And the quilting was superb!

This lovely pomegranate quilt, above, is the one I saw through the window that drew me inside. We spent some time chatting with the shop owner, James, and his friend, Wayne, about the quilts in the shop, and about quilts in general. Both are collectors of antique quilts and are involved with the Virginia Quilt Museum in town, and Wayne is learning to quilt. It was a privilege to have met them and to have had the opportunity to visit with them. It's so easy to make friends with fellow quilt lovers! 

We visited quite a few wineries while in this area. Virginia makes some delicious dry, red wines.

We also scoured several antique shops. As Kara mentioned last week, we both love to search for inspiration, hoping to stumble upon some treasure that may be within our budget limitations. Too often, we leave empty-handed, but our brains are usually filled with ideas.

Lone Star, c. 1930, made in Illinois 


The fabric choices in this Lone Star quilt are interesting; note that the star points are not identical. The corner blocks, above right, are each made with different fabrics as well.

A creative way to display a piece of an old quilt

An embroidered Colonial Lady
(To see more Colonial Ladies, read What a Lady!)

More vintage embroidery

This plate has some potential design elements for appliqué or embroidery—or both.
Stop back next week for more from Virginia! We will share some fun from the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, and give you some insight into the Academy of Appliqué in Williamsburg. Maybe we will see you there? Have a "stitchy" weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Crazy Treasure

For me (Kara), antiquing is about digging for treasure—finding that one item that speaks to you in some way and deciding that you can't leave without it. Unfortunately, my budget line item for antiques (if that really existed in our house) is negligible. However, every so often, I find an item that is a treasure, but won't break the bank or incur some sort of financial displeasure from my husband.

To my delight, I have found two quilts in the last six months that meet the previous requirement. The first one is a log cabin quilt that I will share more about in the coming weeks, but the most recent was a tattered silk crazy quilt that practically jumped off the table and into my arms. It even has a ribbon in it from Jackson, Michigan. I worked in Jackson in my early adult years, so I took that as a sign that I should buy the quilt.(I can rationalize with the best of them.)

Crazy quilts have held a special place in my heart for a long time. Participating in making a reproduction crazy quilt for quilter/author Jan Vaine was a joy, and it solidified my love for this particular genre. You can read about that in our post here. The crazy quilt I just bought was sitting underneath a pair of embroidered "twin" quilts that Teri will tell you about another time, and it caught my eye. It was a little worn in spots, primarily because it was made of mostly silk, but its charm held me captive.

The fabric that caught my eye in the store was a printed ribbon from the "Annual Reunion, 20th Michigan, Volunteer, Jackson." Being a Michigan girl at heart, this was all I needed to lead me to purchase this gem. As I researched, I found out that the 20th Regiment, Michigan Infantry, was mustered out of Jackson, Michigan, for the Civil War in 1862.

As we looked at it further, we found another ribbon with "6th Annual Encampment GAR" and "Compliments Fairbanks Post No. 17, Detroit Michigan, 1884." As I did a little research, I learned that GAR stood for Grand Army of the Republic. This was a society founded in Decatur, Illinois, in 1866, and its members were all honorably discharged Union veterans who had seen active combat in the Civil War. You can read more about the GAR here. If you would like to read about another crazy quilt that references the GAR, check out Barbara Brackman's post about the Emma Hurd 1886 Union Crazy Quilt here.

While these ribbons added to the quilt's charm, the fabrics, stitching, and painting in and on the quilt worked together to make a lovely example of the crazy quilt style, popular in the 1880s. There is no provenance with this quilt, so I have to make up one based on the evidence in the quilt. My favorite appraiser, Phyllis Hatcher, dates the quilt at approximately 1884-1890 based on the fabrics and the ribbons. The embroidery ranges from quite good to beginner, leading me to believe that the quilt could have been made by more than one person.

I've never seen a stitched grasshopper before
A goose or a duck?

Tea anyone?
A slightly more primitive bird
Another primitive bird sitting on a branch

Embroidery wasn't the only method used to create motifs; the stitchers also put their artistic talents to use by painting images on velvet.  I always wonder what inspired a particular maker, or makers to put certain motifs into a crazy quilt.

A spray of forget-me-nots
The owl makes another appearance 

A lovely thistle

Sweet painted roses
A popular motif in this quilt is a tassel design scattered throughout the whole quilt. Most of the seam stitches are classic crazy quilt stitches with a few more creative ones thrown in.

Is there a significance to this design?

Very neat stitching
A classic fan
Some creative stitching!
The quilt is pieced with so many different types of fabrics: silk, velvet, embossed velvet, foulard, faille, as well as pieces of ribbon. There is even a piece of silk that looks to be the lining of a hat!

"Newent" and "London" are the two discernible words on this piece of silk
that is possibly a piece of lining from a hat.

A lovely piece of embroidered lawn
It was difficult to get a good picture of the whole quilt, so I took pictures of the quilt in four sections. The quilt is made up of four 24" square blocks, two of which are made up of four patches. The borders are about 5-6" wide, and thankfully, the maker used a gingham as a backing, so where the silk has degraded, it doesn't look quite as bad with the gingham showing through.

I have so many questions about this quilt. Did the military ribbons belong to a relative? Where did they get all these silks, velvets, and ribbons? Were the fabrics they used special to them in some way? How did they come by the GAR ribbons? Unfortunately, these questions will never be answered, but I am thrilled to have such an interesting piece of the past in my collection now. Who knows what other quilt treasures might join it in the future?