Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fun Finds! Comparing Crazy Quilts at Sandy Spring Museum

The Sandy Spring Museum has some wonderful crazy quilts in their collection.   I was struck by the difference between two quilts - one created in 1870 and the other, I suspect, in the 1920-1930s.  I based my guess on the art deco embroidery stitch style and the fact that some of the fabrics are old enough to have deteriorated..  Wikipedia states that crazy quilting became popular in the late 1800s "likely due to the English embroidery and Japanese art that was displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition."   Who knew? Thanks Wikipedia!
Quilt #1 - Crazy quilt made in 1870 by Elizabeth Trundle and Margaret Chiswell 
Quilt #2 - Crazy quilt donated to the Sandy Spring Museum by Lewis Moore & FLorence Grosso  (1920-1930?)
The 1870s quilt (Quilt #1) does show the satin stitching and heavy embellishment on seams and patches mentioned in the Wikipedia article on crazy quilts.  The move away from "boring" cotton to richer fabrics such as velvet and silk is typical.   The lack of lumpiness in the construction suggests that the patches were minimally overlapped.  The theme of embroidered flowers, berries and animals is beautifully unified by the same embroidery stitch in gold & white thread throughout the quilt.  A few of the patches are even painted velvet.  This quilt has a Victorian feel to it.
Quilt #1 detail - Note the unifying embroidery at the seams
Quilt #1 detail - Painted sunflower on velvet

The Brooklyn Museum had some interesting insight into crazy quilting too stating that "[crazy quilts]...were made possible by newly affordable luxury fabrics produced by the growing textile industry and encouraged by women's magazines dismissive of "old-fashioned", "dreary" cotton patchwork.  That's amusing to me as organic fibers are all the rage in America today.   Fabulous cotton fabrics in a bewildering array of solids, batiks, prints and so much more overflow my wonderful local candy quilting shops.  Quilts these days are only dreary if that's the feeling they are trying to impart!

Let's look at the art deco influenced quilt (Quilt #2).   This quilt feels more utilitarian.   It is less planned and more free form in construction and embellishment.  The maker must have had a basketful of strips - the design is more linear than the 1870s quilt..  There is less luxury/patterned fabric being used.  The maker offsets this by embroidering over whole patches.   It's hard to tell from the photos, but there are big lumpy overlaps in the construction.  The maker of this quilt focused their creative energies on an abundance of art deco inspired stitch patterns in many colors.   I wonder if it was a sampler inspired by yet another woman's magazine tracking the trends?   Whoever made this quilt, they had fun with it!
Quilt #2 detail - Many thread colors and stitch patterns are used.  Three patches above are covered in stitching.
Quilt #2 detail - more embroidery stitches and colors.  
Some of the embroidery stitches are similar to the stitch used on the 1870s quilt seams.
Quilt #2 detail - more embroidery stitches and colors because I couldn't bring myself to edit them out...   The same patterns are scaled up and down in size and variations of stitches are used to add interest.
Quilt #2 detail - the green stitch above was tantalizingly situated on the fold of the fabric, but I could tell that the motif was being reversed 180 degrees each time it was stitched 
Quilt #2 detail - here is another instance of the green stitching where all of the motifs are in the same orientation.   Sadly, you can see some of the disintegrating fabric.
Quilt #2 detail - my favorite stitch pattern!  The way the maker used two partial "trees" to fit the design into the available space speaks to Christopher Alexander's property of roughness that I talk about here in my blog.

The Sandy Spring Museum collection also contains a set of 1930's electric bills with advertisements on the back designed to sell more electricity.   I enjoyed reading about the latest and greatest appliances and services.   I want to use the crazy quilt format as inspiration to integrate the advertisements into a surface design piece.   It will give me the opportunity to have fun with the art deco inspired stitches too!   Are you thirsty after reading all of this?  Maybe you should get a chilled drink out of the refrigerator models below!
1930s Advertisement on the back of a Potomac Electric Power Company bill