Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dots a Classic

Cartoon by Gilray ridiculing men's and women's
 fashion in London about 1810.

A few months ago a reader asked about polka dots as authentic early 19th century fabric.

They look so contemporary that it's hard to believe they were fashionable in 1811--- as in the swatch below from a London fashion magazine.

Ackermann's Repository featured pink dots in March, 1811.

 And blue dots in January.

No one called them polka dots  (the Polka dance was a later fad).They probably referred to them as spots, as in this 1809 letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra. She was hoping to wear out an old dress so she could justify buying a new one.

"I have pretty well arranged my spring and summer plans of that kind, and mean to wear out my spotted muslin before I go. You will exclaim at this, but mine really has signs of feebleness, which, with a little care, may come to something."

The Austens used a spotted muslin for the sashing in their quilt.

Spotted muslin might refer to any printed cotton.

Or more specifically any print that was arranged
 in a regular set with a diagonal grid.

All the references here are English, where spots and dots may have been more fashionable than they were in the United States.

Detail of an American-made quilt by Zebiah Hewson
 in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Yet the regularly spaced dot is a classic in American quilts too.

1805 Fashion Plate

Read a lot more about spotted muslins in dress fashion here:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Sashing Pattern

The idea of creating secondary designs with blocks seems too sophisticated for the 1800-1820 period. The quilt above, sold at Skinner Auctions a few years ago, is probably from the end of the 1830s or the 1840s.

Similar sashing pattern for an album block about 1900.

Krimmel, The Quilting Frolic

But a detail of this 1813 genre painting by John Lewis Krimmel shows a quilt in the same sashing design.

So one would have to say that this interlocked design was in use during the War of 1812 (Krimmel exaggerated but his observations seem accurate.)

In Krimmel's picture of a Pennsylvania (?) quilt the block is plain and the sashing and cornerstone are pieced. This design is #1054 in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. The proportions in the sashing can differ. The sketch shows a block that is 12" and sash that is made of 3" strips with a 9" x in the cornerstone.
Detail of the Finley family quilt, probably about 1840-1880
The authority on the design and its name is Ruth Finley. In her 1929 book  Old Patchwork Quilts she showed a black and white photo of one from her collection. She wrote:

"Another pattern, exceedingly popular in the early nineteeth century, was called 'Garden Maze' and alos 'The Sun Dial' But it was known sometimes as 'Tangled Garter' and 'Tirzah's Treasure'. The last name is no more than a label. 'Garden Maze' is good, since the block plan suggest a not unattractive landscape layout. But what on earth can be the significance of a 'Tangled Garter'?

Tirzah and her treasures is a Biblical reference. Whatever Ruth meant by "no more than a label" I cannot say. When I worked with Finley's daughter-in-law to republish Old Patchwork Quilts 20 years ago Finley's Garden Maze quilt was still in the family collection but it had been cut into two twin-bed sized pieces and finished with dust ruffles.

Here's another early version of Garden Maze sashing from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum (#1997.007.0540). It's attributed to a woman named Hurlburt, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 1820-1840.
See the full quilt here.

Cindy Rennels has a late version for sale here:
Here are three early variations at the Quilt Index

Krimmel, The Country Wedding, 1814

John Lewis Krimmel painted several genre scenes (depictions of everyday life) in the years 1809-1821 when he lived in Philadelphia. Johann Ludwig Krimmel was born in 1786 in the German duchy of Wurttemberg and drowned in 1821. His paintings are a useful tool for studying fashion, interiors, social life and even quilt design in the teens. He certainly observed women's dress carefully.

See a blog post with many of Krimmel's pictures by clicking here:

And here's a reference to pattern names from Eudora Welty's Delta Wedding (1946) 

"What's the name of this quilt?" asked Dabney, arms on her hips.
"Let's see. I think it's 'Tirzah's Treasure,' but it might be 'Hearts and Gizzards.' I've spent time under both."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Curved piecing

Quilt dated 1801 with curved piecing
in the center and the border of blocks.

Curved piecing seems to be one of the early patterns for all-over block style quilts.
This one, perhaps 1800-1830, is from an online auction. I looked up the pattern in BlockBase under four patches with curved piecing (#1519 or 1520) and found several names such as Pincushion, Orange Peel and Dolley Madison's Workbox, but all the names were published in the 20th century, 100 years after the pattern was popular.

See Barbara Schaffer's blog with one from the Phebe and Isaac Nichols family of Newark, New Jersey
This detail from a pieced quilt in the Winterthur collection was made by Fanny Johnson McPherson in Maryland. They date it 1835-1850
See the whole quilt and enlarge it to see the wonderful quilting:

It's quite similar to one from a recent online auction

A version that is more complex but similar in coloring from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum (1997.007.0817):
It's attributed to New York, about 1820-1840
A slightly different pattern (BlockBase #1527) with similar names Orange Peel and Melon Patch.

This example looks to have a pillar print for a border.

The designs are rather sophisticated for early patchwork---setting up lights and darks so there is secondary patterning.

I showed this one from the Spencer Museum of Art last month, discussing the yellow-ground chintz in drab style.
Inspired by that ruffled quilt I did a mini for the AQSG Study in Pre-1840 Bedcoverings. I appliqued my curves. If one were looking for a good pattern for an early 19th-century reproduction any of these curved patchwork variations would be good.

See a similar antique at Willy Wonky's blog
See a great reproduction by Diane Finnegan here:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Variable Stars: Antique & Reproductions

Star with various chintzes from about 1800

Some of the earliest blocks feature right angle triangles and their cousins, stars pieced of right angle triangles.

Sawtooth Star alternating with chintz blocks sold at Christies.

Many call this star a Sawtooth Star today. It's #2138 in my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns with the name Sawtooth referenced as from Farm & Fireside magazine in 1884. The Ladies' Art Company published it as Evening Star a few years later. In 1935 Carrie Hall called it Variable Star.

This quilt in the collection of the American Museum in Bath is dated in the late 18th century. The date has been damaged but it might be 1770s.

Quilt dated 1820 by Sophia Hooker
Winedale Center
Briscoe Center for American History,
 University of Texas at Austin
See the Quilt Index photo here:

This star is a nine-patch with a proportionately larger center square---the center square is twice as large as the corner squares.

One could turn the stars on point and vary the shading.

And link them in rows for borders and strips.

And add more shapes. This one with the Turkey red points and am extra yellow square in the center square might be about 1830-1850. Quilters continued to vary the variable star over the years, but the early versions tend to be simple.

An Ohio Star?
From Connecticut's Stratford Historical Society
See the full quilt in a Quilt Index photo here:

Another common star is the variation based on a nine-patch with 3 equal divisions. The square in the center is equal to the square in the corners. This star is #1631 in the Encyclopedia with many names, perhaps the earliest published name being Mosaic Patchwork #1 in Saward & Caulfeild's 1882 Dictionary of Needlework from England. Carrie Hall called it Ohio Star and that name has stuck. It seems just a simple step from the ubiquitous Broken Dishes to this design.

From Colonial Williamsburg.
This star is often seen set on point.
 See the URL for more at the bottom of this page.

From the Washington (NH) Historical Society

Quilt dated 1811 with a Hewson panel in the center.
Collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum

Stars alternating with a striped toile from Skinner Auctions.

The third common star variation is pieced of diamonds (#3735). It was called Star or Eight-Pointed Star in the 1890 era publications, names too generic for Ruth Finley who called it The Star of LeMoyne in 1929.

Star signed by Catherine Collins,
Smyrna, DE in 1806

Here it is as a medallion border in a quilt dated 1806 in The Delaware Historical Society, the earliest dated example I've seen so far of either the simple star of the complex Star of Bethlehem. See more here:

So if one had some fabulous fabric and wanted to do an early reproduction--- a simple eight-pointed star would be a good choice.

Sophia's Star by Carol Gilham Jones

An AQSG study by Claire McKarns

Another of Claire's small stars.

Roseanne Smith was inspired by an antique shown above to make this star of William Morris reproduction prints.

Judy Severson
Evening Star & Bouquet

Bettina Havig

To see Colonial Williamsburg's quilts go to this site and do a quick search for quilt. This particular star quilt is #119.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Delphy Costin: Free Blacks and Slaves in Washington City


A reproduction of Washington china
 with Martha's monogram and a chain of states
created in 1795 by the Dutch East India Company.
What the Costin family tea set looks like is unknown.

After Martha Washington's death in 1802 Mount Vernon was stripped of family possessions. George Washington’s will required that slaves, furnishings, equipment and quilts be sold. William Custis Costin and his wife Philadelphia Judge Costin took a china tea set from Mount Vernon to their home in the new Federal City, an heirloom that was then passed down in their family for several generations.
The Costins also removed themselves from Mount Vernon to Washington in a transfer that remains mysterious. Like the tea set, they were property. Nineteenth-century family history says that slave Philadelphia (Delphy) Judge (1780-1831) descended from Martha Dandridge Washington to her eldest granddaughter Eliza Custis and husband Thomas Law. 

Delphy was younger sister to Ona Judge who successfully escaped from the Washington household in 1796. Both were daughters of a slave named Betty and Andrew Judge, a white indentured servant, a Mt. Vernon tailor. "Soon after William Costin and his wife came to Washington, the wife's freedom was secured on kind and easy terms, and the children were all born free." Henry Wiencek in his book on the Washingtons and their slaves Imperfect God traces Delphy Costin's freedom to about 1807 when records indicate Eliza's estranged husband Thomas Law freed Delphy and her children.

Delphy's husband William worked after the War
 at the Bank of Washington as a porter.
After his death the Bank
commissioned a portrait.

Five years later when the second war with Britain began, Delphy and William were in their early thirties, raising many children (five daughters, two sons and four adopted children) in a house they built on A Street South.
The Capitol, drawing by Latrobe, in 1806.
The Costins built a house on Capitol Hill in 1812.

They gave each child the middle name of Parke, a link to John Parke Custis, Martha Washington's son, who is thought by some to have been William's natural father. John Parke Custis, heir to a large Virginia estate, was given that middle name because his grandfather left a will dictating that only descendants with the middle name Parke could inherit the Parke/Custis money, land and slaves. Numerous white children benefitted from the naming rule until the Parke and Custis money ran out. William Costin’s reasons for naming his children in similar fashion are, like his origins, mysterious.

Washington in 1803.
 The brand new capitol city was described as muddy fields
interupted by an occasional oversized building.

 During the teens bigotry against free blacks like William and former slaves like Delphy increased. Their children had been welcome in Capitol Hill's public schools but as the numbers of free blacks grew segregation became the standard. In 1807 Washington had about 4000 whites, about 1,000 slaves and 500 free blacks. Laws passed in 1808 enacted curfews and requirements that free people carry papers. Black families including the Costins reacted to the new laws by sponsoring schools for the community's children.

Paul Jennings
1799 – 1874

In the summer of 1814 everyone in Washington was worried about the British Navy, which had settled into the area's waterways.  Paul Jennings, a teenaged slave in the White House, remembered the mood. People became "alarmed for the safety of the city, as the British held Chesapeake Bay with a powerful fleet and army. Everything seemed to be left to General Armstrong, then Secretary of War, who ridiculed the idea that there was any danger. But, in August, 1814, the enemy had got so near, there could be no doubt of their intentions. Great alarm existed, and some feeble preparations for defence were made."

On Tuesday August 23rd the Navy Secretary's wife wrote to First Lady Dolley Madison: "Lucy and I are packing---we know not where to go, nor have we any means yet prepared for the conveyance of our effects. I sincerely hope and trust the necessity may be avoided..."

By Wednesday morning many of the citizens had abandoned the town in a cloud of dust. Dr. James Ewell watched the flight from his house on A Street. "Presently I beheld the unfortunate Secretary of War and suite in full flight, followed by crowds of gentlemen on horse-back, some of whom loudly bawled out as they came on 'Fly, fly! the ruffians are at hand! If you cannot get away yourselves, for God's sake send off your wives and daughters, for the ruffians are at hand!' Unable to find any transportation Ewell took off on foot for a neighbor's with his wife and daughters, "leaving my house and property in the hands of servants."

The White House by William Birch, ca. 1800

First Lady Dolley Madison remained at the President's House while Madison went in search of the enemy. She spent Wednesday morning at the windows turning her "spyglass in every direction," seeing only "groups of military wandering in all directions, as if there was a lack of arms, or of spirit to fight."

Paul Jennings remembered that while Sukey, another Madison slave, was watching from the window, free Black James Smith came galloping up waving his hat with news of General Armstrong's order to retreat. Paul ran off to find a wagon for the First Lady. "People were running in every direction.... a rabble, taking advantage of the confusion, ran all over the White House, and stole lots of silver and whatever they could lay their hands on."

Quilt inscribed "1810/MG"
 by Margaret Grundacker,
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
This month while things look bad for Washington City we'll consider block-style pieced quilts like the early-19th-century example above from the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum.
The pictures of Washington City are from the Library of Congress. See a page of early images of the city by clicking here: