Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Austen Quilt

The Austen patchwork
This spread with a central basket is
attributed to the Austen women.

"My dear Cassandra, have you remembered to collect pieces for the Patchwork? -- We are now at a standstill." In 1811 Jane Austen reminded her sister they were working on a bedcover at Chawton Cottage.
Chawton Cottage where Jane Austen,
 her sister and her mother lived after 1809

Patchwork (presumed to be made by the family) is on display at this shrine for Austen fans. A look at the quilt can tell us a lot about fabric in the teens. It's actually called a bedcover as it is not quilted. Much English patchwork of the time was a single layer like this piece.

See a video---a few seconds of a tour of the bedroom here 

The main part is a patchwork field of rather oddly proportioned diamonds in a grid. They are not true 60 degree diamonds, a little off.

I am just going by photos so I cannot say if that grid patchwork is a grid of dots or another tiny figure, but they certainly look like round dots. 
  • Polka Dots are old---they go back to the 18th century at least, before anybody called them polka dots.
  • Dots are a good option for a neutral print in an early reproduction.
A Question?
  • Is the use of dots in this era more English taste than American? (Notice the George III quilt in a recent post.)

The center features a larger diamond with a wicker basket full of flowers.

About a dozen years ago Makower printed a reproduction of that basket panel. Eat your heart out if you didn't get one then. It's too late now.

But Moda's French General has a similar isolated basket in a collection called Paniers des Fleurs---in shops now!

  • What fabric did the Austens use to cut the center diamond?
Answer: I asked Merikay Waldvogel, who keeps a list of early panel prints, and she showed me a quilt with the same fabric---proving it was cut from a panel. And then there is a recent post about a quilt at England's Bowes Museum with the same print.

Detail of center of a quilt made by Elizabeth Norman
Collection: Bowes Museum
See photos of this quilt at the PiecenPeace blog:
And see a better photo of it in Dorothy Osler's book North Country Quilts: Legend and Living Tradition from the Bowes Museum. (page 15).
Here's a link to one at the Bowes Museum website:

The center patchwork field in the Austen quilt is bordered by a field of  patchwork of smaller diamonds without the white grid. It looks like the border is on three sides here but I am guessing the top border is folded over in this photo...

...As it's displayed with a border over the pillow and at the foot of the bed. In some photos the border echoes the rather soft colors of the central diamond patchwork.

But in other photos there seems to be a clash of color as well as print style.
Here's a men's patchwork dressing gown from about 1820 in remarkably similar style in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
See the whole piece by clicking here:

  • The outer border is pieced of brighter fabrics
  • The outer border is pieced of smaller-scale fabrics.
  • The outer border seems to be pieced of roller printed calicoes rather than block printed furnishing prints.
  • Is the border later than the inner field?

There is a distinctive style difference in the prints in the two areas.
The inner patchwork looks more like the classic floral chintzes popular for furnishing fabrics. The outer diamonds look more like small calicoes that became quite popular in the teens when roller printing and new dye combinations began to change taste.

  • Is this a classic case of dawdling over a project so long that taste and technology completely changed?

 Perhaps the two Cassandras (mother and daughter) finished the quilt years after Jane's death in 1817.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Textiles to Feature in a Medallion

Pieced Medallion (1790-1810)
from The Winterthur collection

We don't find multicolor, imported chintz panels with American commemorative images,
but there is a tradition of using single color toile-style textiles for medallion centers with a patriotic theme. The detail shows a handkerchief with Benjamin Franklin at the top and Washington in the center. It looks to be a bordered composition rather than a vignette cut from a scenic toile as in the quilt below.
 See the whole quilt here:

This quilt attributed to Martha Washington in the late-18th century features a scene cut from a William Penn toile. See more about this quilt here:

The framed panels were probably printed as handkerchiefs. Quite a few handkerchiefs in the single color on white combination survive. This one includes the Declaration of Independence with the words "Just the Thing for a Child to Love." These copper-plate textiles dating to the years before 1820 MAY have been printed in the United States. Any printer could run a piece of cotton or linen through his newspaper press. But the ink was not color fast.

It took a technical sophistication to print the mordant for a permanent dye with a copper plate, skills we do not find in the United States before the War of 1812.  So we assume that madder-dyed toile pieces from the 18th or early 19th centuries were done in England or France for export.

Washington's death in 1799 caused a national mourning that inspired this handkerchief, found in both red and brown colorways.

Two more Washington mourning bandanas.

Handkerchiefs were marketed as teaching tools for a children.

The Spencer Museum of Art owns a quilt from about 1825 with a child's teaching handkerchief in the center.

Masons also commissioned handkerchiefs that found their way into quilts.

Quilt with a Masonic Handkerchief
National Heritage Museum
The central textile dates to 1817.

See more about this quilt here:

Collection of the Noah Webster House

Here's a detail of a quilt from the 1780s featuring a Masonic kerchief dated AD 1769. See more about it in a newsletter from the Noah Webster House.

One exception to the idea that the permanently dyed handkerchiefs were imports is John Hewson's Washington kerchief. Printed by woodblocks rather than copperplate technology, this madder-printed square was sold in Philadelphia at the Hewson printworks in the Revolution's early years, the mid-1770s.

You can buy a reproduction (shown above) at the New York Historical Society store:

See their original here:

Saturday, April 14, 2012

British Commemorative Panels

English panels were exported to the United States but several were made exclusively for the home audience. The English quilt on the cover of Averil Colby's book above features a floral panel with the inscription in the border "G-50-R" 

Americans would have been unenthusiastic customers for fabric celebrating the Golden Jubilee, King George III's 50th Anniversary in 1810.

King George III

The cover quilt is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. See these links:

The Duke of Wellington's Victory over Napoleon in 1815 would not have inspired customers to line up at the wharves in Boston or Charleston.
See Celia's blog post about a quilt with the Wellington panel by clicking here:

"Princess Charlotte of Wales Married
to Leopold Prince of SaxeCobourg May 2, 1816"

A few years after the American/British War, George III's granddaughter Princess Charlotte married. This panel made to celebrate the wedding might have made it across the Atlantic. Royals-watchers were broken hearted when Charlotte died in childbirth a year later, making her cousin Victoria heir to the throne (Victoria married Leopold's nephew Albert.)

This English medallion quilt with a different colorway of the Princess Charlotte panel sold at Christies four or five years ago.

See more here:

The New England Quilt Museum has another fabulous medallion quilt featuring this panel. See a picture at the Quilt Index:

And read about a reproduction Princess Charlotte panel at Penny's blog here:

In 1821 the late Princess Charlotte's father was crowned as George IV. This panel celebrates her mother, "Her Most Gracious Majesty Caroline Queen of England." Caroline of Brunswick and George despised each other and she was barred from the Coronation, although she had her supporters, the customers for this panel.
A woodcut on paper from the time

This portrait was advertised as actress Anne Brunton Merry (1769-1808), born in England and died in Virginia. There must be many other unidentified portrait and commemorative textiles out there.

See a George IV commemorative calico at this post

America and Washington on a toile

It's interesting that American-themed scenic toiles were imported but we do not find any of these multicolored commemorative panels featuring Franklin, Washington, Jefferson or Liberty for the American market during this period.

UPDATE: In the comments box Hester noted the quilt on the right from a Kerry Taylor auction in 2007. Similar style and proportion in the frames; another octagonal panel.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Panels Imported from England

Basket of Fruit panel
 about 1810-1820
Full color chintz with purples

Framed panels developed as a popular quilt style during the teens, particularly in the Southern states. Most of the panels were imported from England---possibly by smugglers and privateers during the war---and later by enterprising traders.

Same panel trimmed for an applique quilt

The panels, like the Trophy of Arms square in the South Carolina quilts in the last post, often survive in quilts and as squares cut from yardage.
Strip quilt by Sarah Jones,
 Lenoir in Caldwell County, North Carolina

This quilt from the North Carolina Quilt Project features a floral basket panel arranged in strips the way the yardage would have been printed. See the whole quilt at the Quilt Index by clicking here:
Here's another where the panel has been pieced rather than appliqued from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum:

In 1833 Sarah Caldwell used panel yardage for this quilt in the collection of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina

On the left and right two designs for
Hepplewhite table tops featuring geometric medallions

Textile historians Florence Montgomery and Janet Rae write that printed medallions were more likely designed for pillows or other furnishing purposes, rather than for quilt centers.

Sheraton designs for Pier Tables

Rae found references to the name Sheraton panels in England indicating they're related to furniture designs of Thomas Sheraton popular between 1780 and 1820. Sheraton furniture and it's many copies featured inlaid woods in classical motifs such as vases, swags and wreaths.

An inlaid table viewed from above

Another table with a half medallion

The Victoria and Albert Museum has a printed chair cover from about 1800. Click here:

Ovals and circles seem to be the most popular shapes for the textiles

But like the furniture design motifs, the textile panels also fit into octagonal and scalloped medallions--echoing the rococo influence with its s-curves and cartouches.

The most common panel used in America seems to be the basket of fruit that is featured in this quilt from the Atlantic Historical Society and at the top of the page. It's easy to spot even in small pictures because of the triple peaches on the right.  In her 2008 catalog Chintz Applique Carolyn Ducey notes its popularity with Southern quiltmakers, observing that American medallions featuring the printed panels tend to be from the 1820s and 1830s and made in the Carolinas.

This one appears to be a demi-chintz with
fewer colors---or it may have faded

Dating the panels, which seem to have been printed in England from about 1810 to 1820, is one thing.
Dating the quilts made from them is another. The panels were often saved. We can assume some cutting-edge quilters used them as early as about 1810 and fashion laggards worked on them into the 1840s. (This is my guess on dates----but I am open to argument.)
See more quilts with the Basket of Fruit panels by clicking on these links. Several include everything in fashion: pheasants, palm trees...

See an essay on the panels at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum site:

From the Charleston Museum, which says they have three.

Michigan State University Museum has one thought to have been made in Pearlington, Mississippi