- February 12, 2018
American Quilts in their (Nearly) Native Context
On view February 21 – March 18, 2018
Presented in partnership with the Texas Quilt Museum and Quilts, Inc., our annual quilt exhibit brings 19th- and early 20th-century quilts into our historically installed rooms. The quilts on display this year are conventional appliqué in style, in which the quilter builds a design from plain or patterned fabric sewn to a larger cloth. Around 1840, conventional appliqué replaced cut-out chintz appliqué. This earlier technique involved cutting printed designs from larger cloth and applying them to a base fabric, sometimes with elaborate embroidery stitches. During this same time period the block quilt replaced the medallion or central design format favored for cut-out chintz appliqué. This new method freed women to personalize group quilts by allowing different quilters to work independently on sections of the project when they came together for “bees.” Four of the five quilts on view follow the block quilting design format.
The quilts on view reflect a variety of traditional design features of nineteenth and early twentieth-century appliqué. Three of the quilts combine red and green calico over a white ground. “Turkey red” calico used an unusually color-fast dye that recommended itself to quilters, and paired well with green on a less expensive white ground for a naturalistic effect. The rose, and particularly the three-lobed tulip and eight-lobed rosette motif (Rose of Sharon) both emerged from the German American communities of Pennsylvania during the second half of the nineteenth century. The designs were simple, beautiful, and replicated in a block format easily and became popular across the country.
By placing the quilts in period correct rooms, we highlight the personal and relational aspects of their artistry; while appreciate them today as significant artistic achievements in their own right, distinguished by the amount of craftsmanship and work by hand required to complete them, their original context was far more practical. Families like the Neills and the Cochrans would likely have used quilts of similar design and construction in their daily lives.
Images courtesy of the International Quilt Festival Collection.