Saturday, April 25, 2015

1862 Crib Quilt: Could it actually be 1862?


Last week I posted on my skepticism about the date inscribed on this crib quilt.


Could it be that a flag dated 1862 was used in a quilt made in the 1870s? Or that the date 1862 commemorated an event that happened a decade before the quilt was made? 

Wendy suggested the possibility that the date might have been 1882 with some stitching missing. I doubt that in this case. That 2 is pretty clear above, but I have seen a crazy quilt dated 1693 where someone removed some of the stitching to make it look older.

Anthony Iasso shows this hand-made 35 star flag:


The flags may indeed have been made in 1862. See a hand-made calico flag attributed to the Civil War years in this post:

Do note that the date on the flag in the charm quilt is upside down. Or the flag is upside down---a traditional signal of distress.

The comments last week were helpful. Barbara Schaffer noted that the crib quilt was once part of textile historian Florence Peto's collection:
"Peto had originally purchased this quilt from a local [NJ] dealer and wrote about it in a letter to Elizabeth Richardson on June 12, 1949: '. . . woe is me, I fell for it. Cute. Entire center of tiny one-inch squares, diagonalled - half light, half dark; makes sparkling tile pattern. The border - red and white stripes which form an American Flag at two of the corners. The quiltmaker was able to squeeze in 6 white stars on the blue field - but - ? homespun backing but the date is 1862. The calicoes are same as those of the swatches that came in a carton I purchased recently from The Patchwork House (antiques) in Hightstown, NJ.' "
This week the defense gets an argument too. Or....

Why I may be wrong in being such a skeptic.

Clues to an actual 1860s date:

4) Red, white and blue solid fabrics in the border.
5) Prints show nothing really typical of the 1870s or '80s. 

4) Red, white and blue solids
Quilt sold by James Julia auctions
The idea of using solid-color cottons to make a patriotic quilt
was popular during the Civil War.

Inspired by this July 1861 pattern in Peterson's Magazine

Maryland quilt dated 1861 from the Maryland project's book,
Maryland Album: Quiltmaking Traditions, 1644-1934


The striped border on the crib quilt dated 1862 is consistent with that style. 

5) Prints show nothing typical of post-Civil-War years.

Detail of the triangles in the crib quilt dated 1862.

This may be the strongest argument for an actual 1862 date. I haven't seen the quilt in the cloth but one can see a lot of detail in the online photos. I was looking for particular prints that were quite popular in the 1870s and '80s but not typical of the 1860s. I found only negative evidence.

Crib quilt dated 1883 from the Pat Nickols Collection at the Mingei Museum

I was looking for date-specific styles like this lace print pictured above. Lace prints were a fad in the 1870s and '80s. But nothing specifically "1870s" jumped out at me in the flag quilt.

Charm quilt inscribed "Centennial 1876"

Even better evidence of a later date would have been one of these prints commemorating the nation's 1876 Centennial ( the two darker grid-set patches on either side of the date above.)

The crib quilt, which has a different brown cast
 to it than the quilts made after 1870. It's a subtle clue.

Those triangles could very well be prints from the 1860s, making the case that this crib quilt was not only made during the Civil War, but it is the earliest date-inscribed charm quilt in my files.

It's a hung jury.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 15: Woven Plaids


Star of woven plaids and stripes by Becky Brown

Vintage block, perhaps 1850-1880
It's is hard to believe the woven green plaid is that old
but it is.

Here's a swatch from an 1851 British journal with similar design.
"Manufactured ...for the American market."
What was different about the "American market?"

Vintage star quilt with plaids and stripes,
about 1840-1860.

We've looked at the rage for printed plaids during the 1840s-1860s decades, See the post here:

End-of-the-19th-century block with a 
variety of checks and plaids

Plaids come and go in fashion but simple woven plaids are a classic.


Woven plaids are among the easiest patterns to create with yarns of different colors. The design is as old as the loom. Here the loom is strung with dark and medium brown yarns (the warp). The weaver crosses with dark and light yarns (the weft).

Vintage mid-19th-century star in the Helen Louise Allen Textile 
Collection at the University of Wisconsin.

The brown center pinwheel above looks to be woven, in contrast to the printed grid design in the background. 

Detail of a quilt from the Norfolk (Connecticut) Historical Society.

Woven plaids and checks are little help in dating a quilt.
That pink windowpane check could have been woven in
1790 or 2015. Fortunately for us the blocks are dated in the 1850s.

The rest of the cottons in this star look about 1870-1900---the
woven plaid, a classic.

Mid-19th-century doll quilt 
We know it's mid-19th-century because of the prints;
the plaids and checks tell us nothing.

We might call these fabrics ginghams.
In the past gingham meant any plain weave, yarn-dyed fabric,
so one could have solid ginghams too.

Five ginghams, two prints in a block from about 1835.
 I'm counting the pink as a gingham too.

Table of fabric prices from the Library of Congress, ca. 1870

"White Goods, Linens, Printed Cottons, Ginghams, etc."
Colored cottons were either Printed or Gingham

Woven plaids and checks---commonplace fabric---became fashionable again at the turn of the 20th century.

Checks are related...

 to stripes and chambrays---
woven pattern of colored yarns.

Woven plaids are a great way to get a ca. 1900 look.



Above and below: Vintage quilts, about 1900


Consider them a good contrast to fancier printed goods
in any of your 19th-century repro blocks.

Reproduction block by Bettina Havig
It's hard to tell from the photo whether the background
check is printed or woven. It really doesn't matter. She's captured
the look of the shirting fashion.

Could this blue check from about 1890 be printed?
Again it's the look that's important.

Reproductions
Two recent collections from French General
and Primitive Gatherings


Rosemary Youngs has been making
stars for a Japanese taupe project.

You can also find excellent plaids in places
like the rag bag, the back of the closet and the
thrift shop.

Use shirts,

Even if they seem a little strange---or too modern.

Vintage block about 1900

The bright plaids in this mid-19th-century star could have
been woven yesterday. 

What To Do With Your Stack of Star blocks?
Alternate checkerboard blocks.

Set the stars with a checkerboard of squares cut 2" (WAIT! That's 2-1/2") to make a 6" finished checkerboard.

The Lincoln Museum quilt by Deb Rowden

Deb and I made this plaid quilt for the Lincoln
log cabin at  the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois.

Plaid fabrics in a plaid set.

Scraps too small to save?
Never. 
Cut 16 squares 2" x 2",

Bobbi Finley, Hancy's Stars 

Bobbi pieced the small quilt from a reproduction fabric collection of mine called 1862: Battle Hymn.
It's a different star with checkerboard center and a 16-patch checkerboard for setting.

One More Thing About Woven Plaids

Mid-19th-century star quilt from the Pat Nickols
collection at the Mingei Museum

Add a green gingham to your mid-19th-century scrappy quilts.

Scrappy block from the 1860-1900 years.

Log cabin from the 1870-1890's

It's surprising how many green checks you see in mid-century scrap quilts. It may be that a woven green check, what they might have called an apron check, was common everyday clothing. Bright green calico prints were not really for clothing, but a subdued green check was just the thing for a work dress---and the scrapbag.
Union Cradle Quilt by Barbara Brackman.
Green checks and gold checks.
The pattern for this quilt is in my book Civil War Women

Read more about woven plaids in both my books on fabric dating: America's Printed Fabrics (pp 94-98) and Making History (pp 45-46).

Saturday, April 18, 2015

1862 Crib Quilt: Questions

Small flag quilt
Date inscribed 1862
38 1/4" by 32 1/4 "

This quilt has been in my file of quilts related to the Civil War for several years. It's been handled by a few antique dealers and was auctioned at Sotheby's last year. The date of 1862 in the lower right corner is part of the quilt's value.

I haven't felt completely confident about the date that is embroidered  (?) on one of the flags.

1862 is inscribed in the stripe of one flag.

The overall quilt-style just doesn't look 1862. If it were not dated I would guess it was pieced between 1870 and 1890.

My dating guess is based on three style characteristics.
1) The major pattern,what might be called a charm quilt of triangles.
2) The strip border.
3) The corner treatment in the strip border.

1) The Pattern: Charm Quilt 


1) The major pattern is in the style called charm quilt---a sampler of prints. This is not a true charm quilt as there are numerous duplicate prints, but very few charm quilts achieved the goal of no two prints alike.

The pattern of squares half dark and half light is common.
The small quilt above is date-inscribed 1897.

1862 Flag quilt detail 

The style idea in a charm quilt is to use prints for both light and dark areas and stitch the quilt from only one shape.
This flag quilt is the earliest date-inscribed quilt in this style that I've seen. Anytime one finds a very early or a very late example---an outlier---one should be suspicious.


Quilt date-inscribed 1876

The charm style was extremely fashionable in the 1870s. Here's the next-earliest version I've seen with a date on it, pieced of Centennial Prints in 1876, the date of the U.S. Centennial celebration.

Quilt date-inscribed 1882

Small quilt date-inscribed 1883 from the
Nickols collection at San Diego's Mingei Museum.

Many quilts were made in charm style after 1870. One gets the feeling quilters were celebrating a new abundance of American prints in new styles, such as the black (brown?) lace print that is the border here. Lace prints in stripes were quite popular in the 1880s.

Quilt date-inscribed 1869, documented by the Heritage Quilt Project
of New Jersey, photo from the Quilt Index

This is the closest thing I have found dated in the 1860's and it's similar only in the use of the half-square triangle and prints for the light colored areas. The large white triangles are a solid white. It's not a charm quilt but it is pieced of half-square triangles.

2) The Border Style


The border pieced of multiple strips is also a style seen more after 1870 than before. This is not one of the strongest clues to date; there are earlier quilts with multiple strip borders.

3) The border corner treatment.


A stronger clue to a post-Civil War date is in the way the borders turn the corners. The style is not mitered and is not even pieced to look mitered. The strips are just seamed as they were added, in a rather casual fashion typical of the late-19th and early 20th century. Today people call the style a run-on border.
See a post I wrote on this late 19th-century border corner here:


My thinking is that the crib quilt is more typical of Centennial-style quilts

Such as this quilt pieced of triangles framing a central panel printed to commemorate
the 1876 Centennial and four flags cut from another Centennial commemorative.



The two flag quilts above and below were pictured in the series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics

An undated charm quilt of rectangles featuring a flag in the collection of the New England Quilt Museum. Is it a Centennial quilt celebrating 100 years of American independence and a lot of calico?

Next week the defense for a Civil War date on the crib quilt gets an airing. (I'm doing both sides of  the debate here all by myself but if you have ideas do comment, please!).