Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fireworks for New Year's Eve

Corrine Riley collection
Smithsonian Institution
There seems to have been a fashion for a Star of Bethlehem
with strip pieced backgrounds.

From the Quilt Index and the Michigan Project

From Laura Fisher's Inventory

Diamonds and stripes

Or Stripes and Stripes

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Yellow House

From an applique quilt in the collection of
the New England Quilt Museum. 

In the last post
I mentioned the yellow house seen in several New York samplers.

Common vernacular house style before the Civil War.

It could be a generic yellow house but it's not.
It is a specific house.

It has the gables on the ends, which defines it loosely as Greek Revival or Federal style.
Two chimneys.
Three bays with windows above.
A distinctive central door.
The house is surrounded by trees of various kinds.
And sometimes has a gated fence in front.
When viewed from the side the gable end has a third-story arched window.

Sometimes it has a one story addition as in this
example dated 1847-1849, made by Mary Catherine Dearborn (1832-1917) 
of Westchester County, New York.

Mary married Ammi K. Close. Her quilt,  made when she was in her mid-teens, was documented in the New York Quilt Project and is in their book New York Beauties on page 68. The family had a few details wrong. She lived in Ketonah and North Salem and she may have been born in 1833 and died in 1907.

Mary Dearborn Close's quilt

Could this recurring yellow building be a school, perhaps a school in Westchester County, New York, where a needlework teacher encouraged her students to finish off their quilts with double scalloped edges?

The North Salem Academy in Westchester County served boys and girls
from 1790 to 1884. The building has a gambrel roof (like a barn) and five bays----
it's not the yellow house.

The idea of depicting a building, often a school, is quite common in embroidered samplers in England and the U.S. before the 1850s.

Fanny Keever's 1833 sampler
from Stephen & Carol Huber.

Fanny worked her sampler at a school in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.
C. Jontz instructor.

Sampler by Hannah Kelter Dec 17th 1835. 

According to dealers Stephen & Carol Huber: "Hannah wrought this sampler at Misses Robinsons' school in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The Misses Robinsons' school was run by four unmarried sisters in their family home."

Hannah Robinson's 1819 combination embroidery and watercolor.
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sampler historians often categorize samplers by school. The Robinson sisters' needlework school was in Upper Providence, Pennsylvania. Colonial Williamsburg counts eight samplers from the Robinson school.

The National Society of Colonial Dames has a register of teachers and schools for research into needlework but I didn't see any likely places  for a yellow house in Westchester County.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Quintuplets with a Scalloped Edge: New York Style

Sarah Ann Wilson Aug 1854, (QUILT #1)
Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
Restricted gift of Mrs. David W. Grainger, 1999.509

Fans of antique quilts are familiar with this pictorial quilt with its double scalloped edging and red sashing. It's been published several times over the past forty years and it's been in the collection of the Art Institute for about twenty. I've always liked the dots on the red and green scallops.

I knew I had seen several pictorial sampler quilts with that fancy scalloped edge and I now find I have pictures of four. five.

1859, probably New York (QUILT #2)
This one has two scallops too but no dots.
It's an orphan photo, floating around on one of those sites
that does giclee prints of art. At least they captioned it with
date and place.

Anna Putney Farrington (ca 1825-1911), Westchester County, NY
 Dated 1857 (QUILT #3)
Collection of the Farmers' Museum
Fenimore Art Museum

Anna used a similar double scallop. Scallop finishes are not that common in mid-19th century quilts, and double scallops catch the eye. I recently realized there is a fourth in this set. I hadn't look closely and I just filed this away as another picture of the 1854 Wilson quilt (#1)

Arlene Perkins & Charlotte Winter, watercolor, painted in 1941 for the W.P.A. (QUILT #4)
Collection: National Gallery of Art. Quilt found in New York City.

This is not an actual quilt; it's one of those accurate W.P.A. paintings of
a folk art object. It has a single scallop with dots.

The National Gallery had noticed the similarity to Quilt #1.

Before I posted this I noticed a fifth. It's not as closely related
but the double scallop is intriguing and it's from New York.

Dated 1847 Mary Catherine Dearborn Chase,
 Westchester County, New York
Quilt #5 is not quite so similar.

These five quilts share numerous style characteristics.
The scallop may be the most unique. The flat figurative images are also distinctive. The first four quilts have blocks set on the square with a narrow red sash. Three of those four are 7 blocks across by 6 down (Sarah's is 6x5.)

The blocks are not only flat stylized applique, rather isolated in the center of each square, but the quilts share similar conventional applique designs like this 8 lobed floral.

#1 on left; #2 on right

And mainly more unusual pictorials.

#1 at top; #2 below

Double trees in ##1 on left; #2 on right

Yellow houses with birds and pairs of trees.
#1 on left; #3 on right

#5 also has a yellow house and a bird.

From #1
And, of course, the silhouetted paper-doll like black figures
with the women in aprons in #1 and #4.

The figures apparently have facial features embroidered so it does appear that they are not meant to be silhouettes but black characters. Black stereotypes were typical in all kinds of imagery so this does not tell us the race of the quiltmakers. 

I found a little about Anna Putney Farrington who was born in 1820 according to the cemetery records and thus about 34 when she made her quilt. Her husband was Hiram Farrington (1830-1906) and they are buried in the Amawalk Friends' Cemetery in Westchester County NY.

The cemetery at Amawalk

Hiram was postmaster in the early 1880s
in Cornell – Kitchawan.

Sarah Ann Wilson is harder to find, but I bet she's from New York too, maybe Westchester County.
What was going on in New York in the 1840-1860 period? Were people selling patterns? Making kits? Showing off their quilts at fairs to inspire copies? Teaching classes? Was that yellow house a school?

Friday, December 22, 2017

Applique: At One With Nature

Isn't it amazing how applique artists of the 19th century
adapted nature to their quilts?

Using simple shapes they captured the natural world.

In this one from the Herr's Antiques you can guess
she's depicting a sunflower. Some quilters had
a real talent for abstracting nature.


From the Kentucky Quilt Project & the Quilt Index
Well, not everybody's at one with nature.

From gb-best quilts on eBay

From a show at the Quilters' Hall of Fame

From a sampler sold at James Julia Auction

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Past Perfect: Martha Skelton

December's Past Perfect featured quiltmaker is Martha Skelton who
was Mississippi's Queen of traditional quilting.

Sunburst by Martha Skelton, 1993

In the 1990s and the oughts she entered many contests and usually
cleaned up in the handwork category.

Martha B. Skelton (1919-2008)

Four-Block Carnation, Martha Skelton, 2006

Her inspiration was often Southern regional design. The carnation above was probably drawn from a Garrard County, Kentucky quilt, maybe this one on the cover of Quilters' Newsletter in 1983.

Here's her classic Southern Rocky Mountain/New York Beauty. She won
a purchase prize at the American Quilters' Society show
in Paducah in 1987 with this one.

Another regional design by Martha...

Inspired by a four block by
Mattie Peden of Kemper County, Mississippi???

From her 2008 obituary:

Born in New Martinsville, West Virginia, a resident of Vicksburg since 1947. She was 89; a graduate of the University High School in Norman, Oklahoma and received her degrees in Geology and Library Science from the University of Oklahoma. After moving to Vicksburg, she was Librarian at H. V. Cooper High School for a number of years. A book [about her] by Mary Elizabeth Johnson, from University Press contains photographs of 90 of the 200 quilts she completed. Mrs. Skelton was selected twice to participate in the Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival and was instrumental in establishing quilting as a program for the Mississippi State Fair. Her quilts are in the permanent collection of the Museum of the American Quilters Society and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History Collection. 

Mississippi Hardwood
by Martha Skelton, 2004-2005

Her inspiration, perhaps this top:

New England leaves from the Binney Collection at
the New England Quilt Museum.

Ninety of Martha's hundreds of quilts are pictured in the book Martha Skelton: Master Quilter of Mississippi by Mary Elizabeth Johnson.