Saturday, September 24, 2016

Lucretia Coffin Mott's Quilt

Quilt attributed to Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880).
Collection of the Nantucket Historical Association
Lucretia Mott was born on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts 
and visited family there throughout her long life.

Lucretia Mott was an extremely energetic and liberal thinking woman. Reading her biography is exhausting---While I am sitting on the porch reading about her she would have made 12 pies, dropped into House of Industry to check on the sewing projects the poor women were finishing and written six newspapers editors to tell them what's what.

Lucretia Mott sat for this portrait by 
Joseph Kyle in 1841 when she was in her late forties.
Collection of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian.
Sitting still was not her skill area.

Of course she made quilts. I've only found one attributed to her, the detail at the top of the page, but she wrote many letters and did mention quilts and quilting.

The letter is from Palmer's Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott.
Scroll down to see the reference.

In 1879 at 87 years old she, in her usual breathless fashion, told of a trip where she spied two quilts at the House of Industry [at least I think that is what she is talking about]:
"For $2 buying and bring away a very pretty red patchwork quilt red & mixed-calico not large---which I have concluded to send to Will & Nellie's attic spare chamber. She left another not so pretty which will do for Hannah's room..."
Women sewing in the House of Industry.
The Quakers provided a safe place to work and customer connections for women who 
sewed for a living.

 House of Industry about 1870 at
714-6 Catherine Street.
Free Library of Philadelphia

A 1919 city director describes the work of the House of Industry:
"b) Make new quilts and recover old ones. Products sold. Orders taken."

Read a little more about the House of Industry in its various incarnations as a female empowerment association:

Had it been 1859, Lucretia Mott would probably have passed up that red calico quilt. Mott and her husband were leaders in the Quaker antislavery movement and they felt strongly about abstaining "from the products of the slaves' labor": cotton, sugar, molasses, indigo, tobacco and rice.

James and Lucretia Mott enjoyed a long, companionate marriage.

When first married, her husband was partner with her father in James Mott and Company at 45 N. Front Street, a Philadelphia business selling cotton and wool fabrics. He was what was called a commission merchant, a retailer.

The Anti-Slavery Alphabet book
condemned the Merchant of the north.

In 1826 James Mott helped organize the  Philadelphia Free Produce Society and gave up the cotton trade, specializing in wool fabrics. He and Lucretia also ran a Free Produce Store. For the store they sought substitutes and certified non-slave produced items. The family cooked "Anti-Slavery Sweets," candy without sugar or molasses made more palatable by a rhyme in the packaging.
"Sweet as these sweets are, yet sweeter still
The soil that Freemen tread and Freemen till."

A free-produce sugar bowl from the collection
of the Museum of the City of London. 
Certified free labor sugar came from India.

Ruth Ketring Nuermberger, in The Free Produce Movement: A Quaker Protest Against Slavery described some of the rhetoric intended to influence women.
"The Society appealed to women generally to exert their influence by abstinence from slave labor products, and by instilling in their 'offspring a deep-felt sense of their duty [to give] the preference to the products of free labor.' ... It is true, some inconveniences will at first be unavoidable, the texture of your garments will perhaps be coarser than that of your accustomed wear, but they will cling less heavily around your forms, for the sighs of the broken-hearted will not linger among their folds...."
The James and Eleanor Clark family, English Quakers and textile producers,
all dressed in free labor cotton.
Courtesy of the Library of the Religious Society of Friends, London.
From Anna Vaughn Kett's dissertation.
Scroll down to see the reference.

The only acceptable cotton was Free Labor Cotton, of which very little was raised, sold or manufactured into cloth. So Quakers who abstained wore linen, silk and wool. These fibers seem luxurious to us today, but in the 1820-1850 period cotton was relatively novel, much too "gay" and quite fashionable. For decades Quakers had been wearing subdued silk and woolen (and combination fabric) clothing because cotton was perceived as too worldly.

Lucretia Mott's acceptance of plain clothing was not the sacrifice it might have been to a 20-year-old Unitarian or Methodist. But certainly rejecting slave-grown cotton in a fabric business was a sacrifice for the Motts, who had their financial ups and downs over the years, primarily due to their consciences.

This has been a long story to give us some background into the quilt attributed to Lucretia Mott by the Nantucket Historical Association. It was donated by one of her descendants Mrs. J. C. Richard Heckscher who also gave James Mott's waistcoat.

All we have to see online is a detail, which shows a quilt that seems to be silk and wool fabrics (some perhaps mixed fabrics of different yarns); the face seems very consistent with Quaker wardrobe. The shinier fabrics may be silk, some of the duller stripes seem to be wool. The gray check, a very small and not very gay (silk?) check, fits the Quaker palette. 
The back of the quilt is hard to figure out from a photo. Could it be a print, overdyed blue to make it plainer?

Lucretia Mott tends to be overlooked today as a feminist and antislavery hero, eclipsed by women younger than she, but her life is fascinating (well ----perhaps, interesting is a better word.) She had an attitude.

Photograph of Executive Committee of the 
Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society,  1851
Back Row: Mary Crew, Edward M. Davis, Haworth Wetherald, 
Abigail Kimber, Miller McKim,Sarah Pugh. 
Seated: Oliver Johnson, Margaret Jones Burleigh, 
Benjamin C. Bacon, Robert Purvis, Lucretia Mott, James Mott

The book I dawdled my time away on was Valiant Friend: The Life of Lucretia Mott by Margaret Hope Bacon. Bacon also wrote Mothers of Feminism, The Story of Quaker Women in America and the book reflects her knowledge of Quaker life and the early women's movement.

I'm also reading Mott's letters in Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott, edited by Beverly Wilson Palmer. Read the biography before tackling the letters.
See a preview of her letters with a reference to her and her mother differing on whether the quilt in progress needed a border or not.

Want to know more about LCM? See the Lucretia Coffin Mott Papers Project at Pomona College:

Detail from Sarah Wistar's quilt
made by women who worked at the House of Industry
in the 1840s.

Read about two other House of Industry quilts at the excellent history blog Quaker Quilt History:

Patricia T. Herr," Quaker Quilts and Their Makers," in Jeannette Lasansky, Pieced by Mother, Symposium Papers (Lewisburg, PA: The Oral Traditions Project of the Union County Historical Society, 1988), 13.

Read more about the Free Produce Movement & Quaker fabric choices:

Anna Vaughn Kett. "Without Consumers of Slave Produce. There Would Be No Slaves. Quaker Women, Antislavery Activism, and Free-Labor Cotton Dress in the 1850s." Quakers and Abolition, edited by Brycchan Carey, Geoffrey Plank.

Anna Vaughn Kett. Quaker women, the Free Produce Movement and British anti-slavery campaigns : the Free Labour Cotton Depot in Street. Dissertation.

Ruth Ketring Nuermberger, The Free Produce Movement: A Quaker Protest Against Slavery (Durham, NC: 1942). Available on line.

Emma Jones Lapsansky, & Anne A. Verplanck. Quaker Aesthetics: Reflections on a Quaker Ethic in American Design.....

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Y Seam Woes

Dolores Umbridge

I must remind you that I was a special education teacher for many years and having students complain that the lessons are too hard does very little to deter me in my lesson planning.

Edna Krabappel

One must master the Y-seam.

Terry's Number 8 - Chimney Rock


Sandra's # 3

Even if it takes four tries.

Patchwork Inspiration on Instagram

Amity Quilter 1-8

Pinkdeenster on Instagram

Gone2theBeach gets extra credit for drafting her own pattern.

Stickers for everyone!

Beaver Cleaver

You'll be glad to know:
Only one more block with Y seams.

Smooth sailing down the other side of the Rockies.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Cornelia Smith Henry's Quilts

Cornelia Catherine Smith Henry (1836-1917 )
Her 1855 wedding photograph.

A few weeks ago I did a post on Atheline Henry, an enslaved girl in Buncombe County, North Carolina. Her short life is recorded in the diary of the slave owner Cornelia Catherine Smith Henry. Cornelia and Atheline made quilts together and Cornelia wrote about them as part of her everyday housework.

We can thank Cornelia for being so specific in describing the style or name of her quilt. She mentioned a "cactus quilt." We have no idea what it looked like but I added some photos of possibilities.

From the Massachusetts Project and the Quilt Index

Cornelia's enjoyment in making quilts comes through in her writing and gives us a little insight into the process in a Southern home during and after the Civil War. In March, 1861, as the war began:

"I worked some quilt pieces in evening for Atheline to piece me a rag quilt."

They struggled with a new sewing machine that year.

1861  Willcox and Gibbs sewing machine

October 1, 1861. I cut Willie out some dresses but sewed but little....I will have them to make with my fingers as all very fine machine needles are broken.

October 26, 1861. Got the sewing machine needles yesterday 8 for $1.

From a sampler

November 11, 1861. I made Zona  [daughter Mary Arizona] a quilt.

September 17, 1862. I sew up a lining for a quilt. I want to quilt it soon (my cactus quilt.)
[I wish I knew what that cactus quilt looked like!]

September 24, 1862. I have been carding bats today to put in my cactus quilt. Atheline helped some. I got it in & quilted a little on it.

September 30, 1862. I have quilted all day. I can't quilt more than half a side a day. It is very tedious work. Atheline does the cooking. Hanes attends to Willie.

Buncombe County is in blue in this map of North Carolina

October 4, 1862. I quilted till dinner & got ready to roll and after dinner Mr. Henry helped me to roll. [husband William L. Henry 1823-1900]

See more about his pattern at this post:

October 22, 1862. I finished my quilt today. I have been four weeks lacking one day at work on it. I have not quilted every day. I have missed four days besides several pieces of days as it has been so cool for the last three day.

October 27, 1862. I have bound my new quilt today with red. It looks very well.

July 30, 1863. I began Zona a bonnet today making it of yellow quilt calico.

August 1, 1863. I have been gloomy all day. My spirits are below zero smartly....Nothing new from the war. I finished Zona's bonnet yesterday & began one for myself of green quilt calico.

A block

In April, 1864, her husband is off fighting.
I began to piece up a quilt today of old dresses, mine & the children's.

I cut some quilt pieces today of old dress skirts. Atheline will piece it if she gets able.

I cut some quilt pieces today till dinner& then lay down as I had the headache. When I woke about 3 o'clock Mr. Henry was standing by me. I was so glad to see him.

June 13, 1864. Sewed some on a quilt. It is of old dresses & other odds & ends.

June 15, 1864. Sewed some on my quilt, got all the squares done.

June 16, 1864. I tore out the squares for my quilt to put it together but sewed but few of them.

June 20, 1864. I pieced my quilt today. It is pieced in single irish chain.

June 21, 1864.I sewed on my quilt today & finished it & intend piecing two like it for the crib.

June 22, 1864. I sewed on the crib quilts today.

June 23, 1864. I finished both cradle quilts today before dinner.

July 4, 1864. [Sister] Matt & I quilted one of the cradle quilts today. I bound it this evening.

July 5, 1864. We quilted the other cradle quilt today. I bind it this evening.

August 28, 1864 I finished my quilt today & Matt & I bound it this evening.

After the war:

Aug 21, 1865 Betsy and I washed out some five quilts this morning. They are damaged a good deal in the way of stain. Old Mull [a neighbor] is the cause of that. I hope he may get his just reward some day.

August 14, 1868. I put in a quilt and got it laid off in diamonds. Pinck and Zona both helped some. They done very well for beginners. [Mary Arizona was born in 1859; Robert Pinckney in 1856, so they were about 9 and 12 years old.]

August 28, 1868. Rene is carding me some bats for a quilt. I must make some this fall.

September 16, 1868. I am getting on finely with my quilt. Pinck & Zona help. They make long stitches and crooked lines. It will learn them and keep them out of mischief.

Indiana Project & the Quilt Index

Read Cornelia's diary:
Fear in North Carolina: The Civil War Journal and Letters of the Henry Family. Clinard, Karen L. and Russell, Richard, eds. (Asheville, NC: Reminiscing Books, 2008).

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thread Peddler Club: Civil War Women's Sewing Circle

Jane at Stitch by Stitch posted this Instagram
photo of a Civil War Sampler she quilted

Here's a great club idea from the Thread Peddler Shop in southern Missouri. They are starting a
 "Civil War Women's Sewing Circle" that meets monthly,  using my Civil War Sampler book for the patterns.

"This is a cutting class only and you will bring in your Civil War fabric scraps for exchanging with the "Civil War" women in attendance. We will go through the book and cutout 4-6 blocks per class. There are 50 blocks to the quilt."

I like the fabric swap idea.

Two posts from Silvia at silk_100

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A Strip Quilt in the Civil War

Repro quilt by Georgann Eglinksi

Someone asked if a strip quilt would be an appropriate Civil War reproduction quilt.

Georgann's quilt is an interpretation of a strip quilt from the collection of the Helen F. Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. The inspiration was a delaine (wool blend) quilt with a stripe in the strips. She chose this piece to copy because she had a pretty close repro stripe. The reproduction is all cotton.

The original, from the Thayer collection, # 1928.947

The problem in looking at fashion for strip quilts is I have so few date-inscribed examples in my picture files. The style just doesn't have the signatures and dates you see in block quilts. Here are my two date-inscribed examples from 1830-1865.

1845, Sarah Jane Robertson, Virginia

Leah Minich, 1837

This tells us little or nothing about how popular strip quilts were in the 1830-1865 period.

Here's one dated 1864 in the collection of the
International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

But that big fat date in red embroidery
and the fact that it's such an outlier in the data
makes me wonder when that date was added
and when the quilt was actually made.

With the exception of the popular Wild Goose Chase
I don't even have many date-attributed examples to those 25 years.

This particular four patch in a strip set might be the
best evidence for doing a strip set as a Civil War repro. Kimberly Wulfert's
quilt has a piece of Civil War conversational print in
one of the four patches.

This one from Maine might be of wools---
mid-19th century

It does seem to be a setting style that was fading from fashion by 1860.

So maybe they weren't being made.
But if you were a re-enactor you might very well be making a utilitarian old fashioned quilt.
And if you were a soldier you might have a utilitarian old fashioned quilt.

And if you don't want to make one....

You can own this historically accurate reproduction quilt by Georgann Eglinski.
Several years ago we did a guild challenge to interpret antiques in the Spencer Museum collection and this small strip quilt was one of the most accurate.

On the back is a label:
"This is a small interpretation of an antique quilt in the Spencer Museum of Art Collection (no. 1928.947) donated by Sallie Casey Thayer. The original: 1850-1870. Reproduction by Georgann Eglinski, Lawrence, Kansas, 2006."

It's 31" or so square. Georgann machine quilted it in the ditch and added a simple curved design. It's beautifully sewn and thoughtfully put together. The squares in the strips are 2".

Buy it at my Etsy shop:

My dog Dottie for scale.

We are selling this quilt for a charity and the money will benefit a non-profit organization.

See the inspiration quilt in the Spencer Museum of Art Collection:$