Archive for July, 2009

The Baltimore Museum of Art has granted me permission to show their photographs of the splendid Baltimore album quilt exhibit. Here’s the entrance to the textiles gallery, where they were shown. The quilts are “revisited” because it was the BMA’s major, traveling exhibit of Baltimore album quilts in the 1980s that first brought them to the attention of the public. This sparked interest and motivated stitchers to revive this style of quilt-making and textile art.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be invovled.

On the left below is the same quilt, with one of the other quilts. Obviously they had been set up and lighted for the professional photographer, and were displayed differently for the public.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be invovled.

When I saw the show, the magnificent beauty below was hanging in the middle, where the quilt on the left is shown above. I am required by the terms of the permission granted me to include the attributions.


Maker: Unknown

Designer: Attributed to Mary Simon (nee Heidenroder), German. 1810 – 1893 Album Quilt: Baltimore Album Brides Presentation Quilt, 1849 Cotton, silk velvet, ink

104 x 105-1/2 in. (264.3 x 268.1 cm.)

The Baltimore Museum of Art: Friends of the American Wing Fund BMA 1976.93

I think I’ve got the attributions below correct.  This quilt is a lively example of the red-and-green color scheme that so dominated Baltimore album quilts. The border actually appeared to be reverse appliqué. Astonishing!


Maker: Mary Patten Everist, American, dates unknown

ALBUM QUILT, c. 1847-1850

Cotton, cotton braid, wool or cotton embroidery threads

97-3/4 x 97-1/8 in. (248.4 x 246.8 cm)

The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Dr. William Rush Dunton, Jr. BMA 1940.159

And here’s the third one. It includes cut-work, pictorial representations that are

not floral motifs, such as the hunting scene which presumably had some significance for the recipient,

as well as the usual floral arrangements.

possibly Mary Evans, American

Album Quilt: Baltimore Album Brides Presentation Quilt. c. 1852

Cotton, velvet, silk: wool and silk embroider, threads

103 x 104 in. (261.6 x 264.1 cm)

The Baltimore Museum of Art: Bequest of Queens and Belle Stewart, Buffalo Gap. South Dakota BMA 1977.30

Here is a detail from that quilt. It is a square representing the Baltimore Washington Monument. This motif showed up often in Baltimore album quilts.

Washington Monument

In addition to these quilts, the BMA was showing some quilt squares that had never been used to make a quilt. Please go to my Flickr site to see enlargements of these squares.

While this is a relatively simple design, note the fine strips of fabric making the lattice. There’s technical skill here.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be invovled.

Maker: Unknown,

ALBUM QUILT SQUARE: Large Flowers in Red Pot with Green Lattice Center, c. 1850 Cotton

17 1/2″ x 17 1/2″

The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Sister John de Matha Bersch, SSND, Baltimore BMA 1972.44.5 Photography By: Mitro Hood

This is an extraordinarily complex and technically very difficult work. The whitish flower on the lower right has five, that’s 5, layers of appliqué.

Maker: Unknown,

ALBUM QUILT SQUARE:Floral Bouquet, c. 1850

Cotton, ink

17 1 /2 ” x 17 1/2″

The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Olive C. Slater BMA 1946.44b

Photography By: Mitro Hood

This square features ruched flowers; that is, strips of fabric were gathered, then attached to the ground fabric to form petal shapes, in layers. Note also the inked drawing with what may be Baltimore’s Washington Monument again.

Maker: Elizabeth R. Ellis, American, dates unknown

ALBUM QUILT SQUARE:Memorial to Susannah Riley, 1847

Cotton, silk or cotton embroidery threads, ink

17-1/2 x 17-3/4 in. (44.4 x 45.1 cm.); Mount: 24-3/4 x 24-3/4 x 2-1/2 in. (62.9 x 62.9 x 6.4 cm.)

The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Robert V. Brawley, Winston-Salem, North Carolina BMA 1981.150 Photography By: Mitro Hood

Here’s a detail of a ruched flower. Isn’t it amazing?

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be invovled.

The next square shows the use of fine ink writing that often appeared on these quilts. Much of it seems to have been done by the same “professional” calligrapher.

Maker: Unknown

ALBUM QUILT SQUARE: “Memorial to Susanna[h] Riley”, 1847

Cotton, cotton embroidery threads, ink

18 x 17 3/4 in.

The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Robert V. Brawley, Winston-Salem, North Carolina BMA 1981.151 Photography By: Mitro Hood


This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be invovled.

Another extraordinary square, this one designed by the woman to whom the design of the first quilt I showed you above is attributed. Imagine cutting and stitching all those thin strips of fabric that make up the basket. And notice the ways in which the print fabrics are used, such as for the bird’s wings. Some details were ink-drawn.

Maker: Unknown

Designer: Attributed to Mary Simon (nee Heidenroder),German, 1810 – 1893

ALBUM QUILT SQUARE:Basket with Bible, c. 1850

Cotton, silk, silk velvet, ink

17 1/2″ x 17 1/2″

The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Olive C. Slater BMA 1946.44m

Photography By: Mitro Hood

To tell you the truth, I am disappointed in these photographs. They do not capture the dimensionality of these works, and you can’t even see the quilting. They appear flat, more like prints on paper than layered textiles. My own photographs, while inferior in some ways, at least allow you to see more of the textures. I’m going to take the risk and show you some of them. Some are overly bright, like this one, because the originals were shot in dim light, from a distance, and this is the best editing I could do.

The following shot shows examples of the three most common features of Baltimore album quilts: red-and-green motifs, cut-work motifs, and pictorial (usually floral) motifs. It is a detail from the Mary Patten Everist quilt above.


The next three close-ups are of the third quilt I showed you. To see this intricate work actually up close is breathtaking. Notice how much the red basket of flowers, the basket in particular, resembles the square with the Bible above. See the quilting? Extremely fine!

Center right side_edited-1

In my photograph, you can see the print of this red fabric and the decorative quilting. That cut-work circle appears to have been cut from a single piece of cloth. How on earth could that have been done?


Again, you can see here the prints and the quilting. The rings below were cut out individually and appliquéd so as to appear interlocking.


The next two details are from the first quilt shown above, the one whose design is attributed to Mary Simon. They look overly bright because my original photograph, shot from a distance in dim light, was too dark to make out the details. I wanted you to be able to see the intricacy of this design. Notice the alternating red and tan strips of fabric making the container for the floral arrangement.


Here’s a close-up of the central motif of this beautifully designed (by Mary Simon?) Bride’s Presentation Quilt.


This delightful detail is from the Mary Evans quilt, the one with the Washington Monument square shown earlier. Her quilt is not as sophisticated a design as Mary Simon’s; but the motifs are charming, it is technically a marvel, and the craftsmanship is superb.


Okay. I’m done. Let’s hope I don’t get caught. At least, since you are reading this, I haven’t been caught yet.

Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these Baltimore album quilts.

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Here are the threads I’m working with on my improvisation. There have been others, already put away, but in the same colors. These include cotton in various weights, silk, rayon, rayon/silk, and wool.

My palette--roughly

It struck me yesterday as interesting. The only primary color I’m using is red.  No yellow or blue. They are present in the secondary and tertiary colors–green, purple, and orange in various shades and intensities. What kind of color scheme is this?

Here it is, hanging on its too-small frame on my portable design board. I have two more wrapped rings to embellish, on the far right, and some more patches of sequin waste to treat in some way.

More progress

I’ve used some of my homemade Sculpey beads. That was fun.

Sculpey beads

They appear elsewhere, too.

Then, how am I going to tie the disparate parts together? I still don’t know what I’m doing! Just fooling around.

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In March I alerted you to the Baltimore album quilt exhibit that had just opened at the Baltimore Museum of Art. On July 1st, I went to the museum, and I’m waiting to hear from the Rights and Reproductions Coordinator whether or not I can show you images from that exhibit. Meanwhile, I do have photographs I took at the Maryland Historical Society, where they have several of their two dozen Baltimore album quilts on display.

What is a Baltimore album quilt? It is a quilt comprising appliquéd squares, usually quite large squares—16 inches, for example. These quilts are called album quilts because they suggest albums girls and young women kept in which they, their family and friends left autographs, quotations, drawings, pressed flowers, and other mementos. The quilt squares are like album pages. Some include names, verses, and ink drawings. They are unique to Baltimore, made in the mid-19th century, with the most sophisticated examples dating to c. 1850. Over 300 Baltimore album quilts are known today, and since the 1980s when a Baltimore Museum of Art traveling exhibition brought them to public attention, the dealer and auction prices for original quilts compare with those of fine paintings. They are works of art, requiring mastery of many different skills. In fact, they are technical wonders.

Two kinds of appliqué were used in creating the quilt squares—naturalistic, pictorial designs and cut-paper designs, which are often complex, symmetrical patterns.

I’ll show you the photographs I got of some of the quilts in the exhibit. Remember, the lighting was dim and I had to stand some distance away to shoot whole quilts. Hence the dim photographs. This one includes both types of appliqué.


Red and green materials were used extensively (in this and many quilts), in part, at least, because the red fabrics were so expensive (thus desirable) and there were many green prints available. Nineteenth century Baltimore women had unusual access to a wealth of fabrics, both foreign and domestic.

The following shot shows the use of red and green, the use of cut-paper and pictorial motifs, and elaborate designs such as the compotiers of fruit, the basket of flowers, and the memorial to a Baltimorean Mexican war hero in the center. This is a very typical Baltimore album quilt, with frequently seen motifs.


This next one has only pictorial and symbolic images, although the upper left square could have been based on a cut-paper design. The designer of this quilt obviously loved to portray animals.


Some of the quilts, though made in Baltimore or its immediate environs in the mid-19th century, do not fit the strict definition of Baltimore album quilt. This exquisite quilt features broderie perse—designs cut out of printed chintz fabric that have been appliquéd to each square. The sashings and borders are strips of chintz also appliquéd to the ground fabric.


It is amazing work, almost hard to believe; but I saw the original, up close and personal.

Imagine cutting out, then stitching around such intricate details with tiny, invisible stitches.


Here’s a close-up of the border. Everything has been appliquéd to the ombre blue ground.


Some scholars, including the curator, Jennifer Faulds Goldsborough, who wrote the book on the Maryland Historical Society’s Baltimore quilt collection, Lavish Legacies, suggest that the chintz fabrics, which were exorbitantly expensive, inspired the album appliquéd designs. They may have been intended to substitute for unaffordable materials. In any case, many of the Baltimore album motifs are very similar to the chintz designs.

Here are two more atypical quilts in this show. Both feature squares with appliquéd chintz combined with geometric patterns. Chintz appliqué quilt blocks preceded and segued into Baltimore album quilts.

star quilt

This gorgeous quilt has two borders of chintz strips surrounding large squares with appliquéd chintz that surround rows of tiny square patches bordering the central medallion that includes more squares and triangles with appliquéd chintz. IMG_4103_edited-1

Here’s a close-up of the lower left corner so that you can see the details in this magnificent quilt. Giraffes were all the rage in Paris at the time. Notice the decorative quilting. One can only guess at the thousands of hours that went into the making of these extraordinary works of art.


Now to show you some of the details of this true Baltimore album quilt.


In the bird motif you can see the artful use of shaded fabric to create dimension. You can get a good look at the outer border as well.


One of the many green prints used in this quilt appears here. The flowers are padded or stuffed, using three layers of different fabrics. The compotier, a frequent motif, is heavily padded and stitched to create the design. Sawtooth sashing and borders are common.


Although you can barely see it, there is an inked inscription in the center of this block, very often seen in these album quilts. The highlights on the flowers were achieved by stitching. There is stitching, too, around the buds. Something new.


Although this is a terrible photograph (the block was high up on the quilt, that’s my excuse), I wanted to show you the ruching used to make the white flower. Several layers of ruched fabric were attached and stitched into petal shapes. It’s a marvel to behold. Again, a padded compotier and decorative outline stitching instead of the usual invisible appliqué stitches.


In this next block there’s yet another green print and more decorative stitching added to the appliqué.


Baskets made of thin strips of fabric show up repeatedly in Baltimore album quilts. It seems likely there were patterns or even kits available to the stitchers. This block includes reverse appliqué, with the green leaves around the petals cut out to reveal the padded buds.


Here rose petals are represented by stitched padding, and yet another green patterned fabric. Sorry it’s out of focus.


Finally, a return to this uniquely pictorial album quilt, from 1850—the height of the album quilt craze.


Some details. Though most Baltimore album quilts were  made of cotton with occasional velvet, this one also includes wool tweeds. Notice especially the amount of embroidery that embellishes the appliqué.

IMG_4063_edited-1 IMG_4055_edited-1 IMG_4056_edited-1 IMG_4057_edited-1 IMG_4058_edited-1


Did you see the reverse appliqué on the two compotiers above? There’s more reverse appliqué on the bird below.


From the border:


The Civil War virtually ended the Baltimore album quilt fad. Far fewer fabrics were available and women were nursing and sewing for soldiers, managing their households without men, and in distress. Nevertheless, quilt making continued and embroidery increasingly made up for the lack of variety of fabrics. As time went on, quilts were increasingly embellished, and by 1890 the crazy quilt fad had taken hold.

Unlike the make-do patchwork quilts of poor, rural, and frontier women, the urban, middle-class women who created Baltimore album quilts and crazy quilts deliberately chose and bought the materials they used—often very costly materials, and their technical skills were matchless. (Somebody else must have been doing the housework!)

Okay, if you’ve stayed with me this far, you must love textile art as much as I do. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some very special quilt art from Baltimore.

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MHS crazy quilt redux

Originally uploaded by jowynnjohns

Among the 113 photographs I took at the Maryland Historical Society, I found a better image of this wonderful quilt.

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On Thursday I went to the Maryland Historical Society, having learned last week at the Baltimore Museum of Art that they had a Baltimore album quilt exhibit. I’d gone to the BMA to see their Baltimore album quilt show and that whetted my appetite to see more of these extraordinary works of art, first done in Baltimore in the mid-19th century. At the MHS I found not only the album quilt show, but three fabulous crazy quilts, as well. The MHS has an extensive collection of textile art from which individual pieces are displayed in rotation, to protect the vulnerable fabrics.


While I’m waiting for the Rights and Reproductions Coordinator at the BMA to respond to my request to show you images of their Baltimore album quilts, I’ll show you the pictures I took at the MHS of their crazy quilts now, and their album quilts later.

Because I wanted to be ignorant of the MHS photography policy (so that I could plead innocence if rebuked), I assumed that photography was not allowed. Consequently, I was shooting surreptitiously, hurriedly, and my photographs are poor. On the way back home, I read the information sheet I’d been given upon entering the museum and learned that photography for personal use was allowed! Shucks! So I’ll show you my lousy shots of magnificent quilts. So sorry about that.




If you can’t read this caption, it says that the blocks of the quilt immediately above were not sewn together and they are shown as separate blocks, just as they were created.


This quilt has a very dark blue velvet border and it was obviously carefully designed. Note that in addition to the fan blocks in the central square, there are hand fans in each corner block.


Here’s the two cats motif referred to in the caption.


In all three of these quilts on display, the seam treatments are simple, but the piecing is complex, and there are many motifs on the patches. I’ll show you a few examples of blocks.


These blocks are from the first quilt shown above. I love the way the flower motif in the center is carried over two patches. I also love the flower with its sunburst center in the lower left corner. That motif appears again in another block, shown here, in the upper right corner. I like all the other “sunburst” style motifs in this block, too.


Here are two blocks that show the complexity of the piecing, the tiny patches, and the use of motifs on the patches.


Another floral motif that carries over three patches in this case. Oh, the colors!


Ribbon work flowers over two patches. Notice the outlined image of the little girl? There are many outlined motifs on these quilts. They came from pattern books and women’s magazines.


IMG_4081_edited-1 IMG_4080_edited-1

No commentary needed.

Below you can see several outlined motifs and that gorgeous satin-stitched floral motif. Again, notice the complexity of the piecing, the simplicity of the seam treatments.


As I pointed out above, the velvet-bordered quilt has hand fans, each unique, in its four corner blocks. Here’s one of them.


Here’s a closer look at the central square of that quilt. In the upper right block, the two cats motif is shown oriented as the quilt is hanging. Look closely at that block and at the lower left block. Each has a very small black-and-white image of a “strong woman”, flexing her muscles. Hm-m-m-m-m!


Okay, I’ve shown you all the photos fit for viewing, inadequate as they are. I took so many more that I had to delete. Oh, how I wish you could have been there!

You can see enlargements of the three quilts at Flickr.

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Still playing with this crazy patchwork, crazy something—just a little every evening. What I’m doing to create texture around the wrapped rings is very slow stitching. I just grab a thread and start, not knowing what I’m going to do until I’m doing it. No planning. No precision.

Here it is on its too-small frame, which is necessary because of the rings and the sequin waste patches.


One corner


Another detail shot


I can’t figure out how to get all the colors right, but these shots are an approximation. Probably should have put these on Flickr, but I’m too embarrassed to show them there!

What am I doing? Where am I going?

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Not only did my daughter-in-law host me for the weekend and transport me, she also gave me this gift, a haori.


Never mind the socks, isn’t that lovely?

I want you to see how it is constructed, so I draped it over a table with the lining showing. The whole jacket is two layers of the print silk, with the seams inside. It is entirely hand-stitched. Inner and outer sides are finished, completely finished. No raw edges. The lining is attached by tiny hand stitches. Where on earth did she find this?


Notice the tabs under each sleeve.


And the fine damask (?) lining fabric. If I’ve got it wrong, somebody please tell us all what kind of fabric this is.


It feels wonderfully elegant on. It is beautifully made.

You can see more and learn more about haoris here. Mine also has the ties, as shown at this website, but I understand that the haori is usually worn open.

Oh my, Carolyn. I’m overwhelmed.

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