Friday, October 19, 2012

Some Notes on Early Quilts from Diane MacLeod Shink

Canadian Quilting Expert and Author Diane MacLeod Shink recently attended our War of 1812 Quilt Show Reprise to visit her quilt entry pictured below.  

I thought I would post some comments she shared with us earlier this year on one of her research trips to the Smithsonian.

Dear Lynette

Hope by this time you have my Pillar cot to coffin challenge in hand. I was able to spend time at the Smithsonian last week examining the circa 1800 quilts in their special storage drawers and thought I would pass on a few impressions.

Only one out of three in that era had an applied binding. The blue Copp Quilt I loosely based my challenge quilt on has a knife edge finish joined with a running stitch - I used a whip stitch.

The pinwheel one made while the makers husband was at the 1812 war has a back to front finish and in all cases the 1812 era quilt’s edges are not exactly straight and even.  I chuckled as I was so determined that mine have a straight edge when clearly it was not of great significance to the quilters in the 1812 era.

We need to be cautious about making generalities about quilts in that era. The quilters then used various methods no doubt what they had been taught by others. Someone said black was not available then but that is not true. In explaining my quilt I said that there was no green in it because green dye was not available. When I examined the Copp Quilt there were a few green fabrics, clearly overdyed blue and yellow but never-the-less we do see green fabrics from the 1812 era.    

It is also helpful to keep in mind that the first pattern for a quilt block was printed in Godey’s Ladies Book in 1835 so the patterns used in 1812 were simple designs. 

I am sorry not to be able to attend the exhibit will be thinking of you as I celebrate Quilting Day with a chapter of the Modern Quilters in Boca Raton Florida.


P.S.  I trust you are aware of the wonderful resources appearing in the Smithsonian quilt collection on the web although neither of the quilts I used for my quilt design are on the site yet.

Copp Family Quilt
about 1815

 This quilt was made by members of the Copp family of Stonington, CT. The more than 150 different pieces of copperplate-printed, block-printed, roller-printed, resist-dyed, woven-patterned, and plain fabrics of cotton, linen, and silk range in date over about a 40 year period. They provide a catalog of clothing and furnishing fabrics available in the late 1700s and early 1800s to the prosperous Copp family, some of whom were in the dry goods business. But while the array of fabrics is extravagant, economy is evident in the use of small, irregularly shaped scraps to compose many of the pattern pieces of the quilt. The lining of the quilt is pieced of mended linen and cotton fabrics that were probably sheets originally.


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