Saturday, May 30, 2015

Confederate Album in Homefront & Battlefield

Confederate flag block in the center of an album sampler
made for Atwood Cluverius Walker,
date inscribed 1863

Also inscribed over the flag and the yellow flower:
"Be faithful to your flag and when the toils of war are over, may you repose peacefully beneath its folds. You friend Ellen Wright, April 6, 1863."

The Walker quilt is being shown at the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska though the end of June. It's the last venue for Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, an exhibit from the American Textile History Museum that "highlights a broad range of textile artifacts and other objects to explore the Civil War."

Atwood Cluverius Walker (1838-1922) survived wounds and prison camp to return to his Virginia home Mount Elba in Walkerton. He married Bettie F. Toombs in 1870 and was survived by four children. His descendants care for the quilt today.

Army records describe his imprisonment and appearance:

"captured at Hatcher’s Run, Va. March 31, 1865, sent to Johnson’s Island from Washington, D. C. April 9, subscribed and swore allegiance to the United States at Johnson’s Island, Ohio, and released, June 17, 1865, 27 years old Farmer, resident of Walkerton, Va., born in Virginia, fair complexion, light hair, blue eyes, 5’ 10”

When you see the quilt in the cloth a pair of Broderie Perse
blocks with a hound dog print catch your attention.

Atwood Walker must have been a fan of dogs.

This photograph of Walker at a Confederate memorial is at the Virginia Civil War website, where scans of his papers are kept.

The catalog for the exhibit is also on sale at the Museum.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 20: Excentric Prints

Reproduction star by Becky Brown.
The star is a version of an eccentric or excentric print. Either spelling is correct. Americans spell it with two C's today. You'll see below excentric as an alternative.

A vintage excentric print, about 1880.

One extremely popular style of cylinder print featured fine geometric figures with jagged or wavy distortions---"a particular style of design known by the name of 'excentrics,' in the production of which England surpasses every other nation in the world," according to a proud printer testifying to the British Parliament in 1840.

Fine, wavy lines in a vintage quilt about 1830.

The style was so popular in the 1830s that the British Parliament heard testimony about the originality of eccentric prints in hearings concerning copyright infringements when the House of Commons was worried about continental mills stealing English design. It was generally the other way around, the printers admitted. The English stole from the French.

The Parliamentary report was illustrated with examples.

Eccentric prints were the exception.  Calico printer John Brooks testified he'd been in the business for thirty years and while "spots had been seen since time immemorial," two eccentric prints were "the only real original patterns I recollect since I have been a calico printer." He mentioned one called Diorama created by accident when a parallel stripe creased in the roller, "producing a new and unexpected effect. " Rather than discarding the misprint, the enterprising mill owner was inspired to create a new fad for jagged stripes. 

Two very popular variations called Hoyle's Wave (1822) and Lane's Net followed.

Lane's Net in a nine-patch about 1870

Variations on Lane's net from my collection. 
The largest piece is 20th-century.

A lilac version from an 1870-1890 quilt

Vintage illustration of some eccentric prints.

A Parisian swatch book from 1825
shows an excentric print at the bottom here.

Eccentric prints, an English specialty, were probably based less on accident and more on technological advances in lathes and other metal tools. The word excentric means odd or erratic but it also refers to geometric ellipses and circles with centers at different points (as opposed to concentric circles.) 

Toolmakers developed metal lathes with so-called excentric chucks that could create mechanical drawings of endless lines, first used to engrave intricate bank note backgrounds.

Illustration of "Fancy Turning" from about 1860

 The English calico printers adapted the technology as well as the name.

Lane's Net was popular in madder-style shades.

Americans quilters continued to use eccentrics in their quilts through the early 20th century.

An eccentric excentric from about 1880

More eccentricity by Becky Brown.
Her repro print is a South African fabric
featuring stripes of different period excentrics.


One of Jeanne's many great repros with a Hoyle's Wave

Nancy Swanwick's repro block with an eccentric center.

Reproduction block by Becky Brown
They used the same recent print. Anyone remember the line?
Nancy and Jeanne say:
"Mourning Grays by Carrie Quinn"

From the Mill Book 1892 collection. 

Two of Nancy Gere's 

Kathy Hall for the Southcott Quilt, reproduction
of an 1808 quilt at the Winterthur Museum

Mary Koval for Palampore

And Mary's Cynthia

Here's an old reproduction print you may still have...

Jenny Zutphen's repro block includes the fabric Terry Thompson and I did for Moda
based on the document print below.

A variation of Hoyle's Wave

I found this fussy cut example of our repro in a hexie at the 
Quilts in the Barn site.

What to do with your Stack of Stars?
Update the look by staggering them in a border.

Medallion by Kathy Ronsheimer
She turned each star block
into a rectangle by adding a strip of background.

Star over the Rockies by Lolly Platt using a
Mountain Vistas pattern by Judy Martin
I first noticed this contemporary use of staggered stars in a border by Judy Martin.

She and Marsha McCloskey included it in their 1995 book
Pieced Borders.

For our 6" stars you'd want to add a strip to
each star cut 6-1/2" x 2". The block now finishes to 6" x 7-1/2".

Rotate the rectangular blocks 180 degrees to get the dancing stars.

Stairway to the Stars Block of the Month designed by Winnie Fleming

Maureen Gore Brooks, Celtic Hearts

 Turning your square star into
a rectangle could lead anywhere.

Another Judy Martin quilt
It's sort of like the excentric lathe.
Excentric prints, excentric quilts.

One More Thing About Eccentric Prints

Prints in a swatchbook from France about 1830
Combination excentric/serpentine stripes

The astounding popularity of excentric designs in the 1830s shows the importance of novelty to the burgeoning cotton printing business, which was becoming an economic force. By the 1840 Parliamentary hearings the members heard that the taste for excentrics "is like everything else in the trade, transient and temporary…The passion for it is over…The style was exhausted and the public required something new."

But excentric prints weren't the only strange prints. Printers often complained about the public taste for novelty (it seems to be a built in human need.) During the early decades of roller printing they created some truly novel and eccentric designs. 

An odd print from an 1837 swatchbook.

The Powerhouse Museum has the swatches from this sample book online here:
Over on the left on the main page see if you can read the list of books and click on the 1837 button.

That book shows many eccentric prints (in the sense of odd or strange).
The search for novelty seemed to be driving the roller printing
industry at the time.

These are not the kind of prints likely to be reproduced.
The market would be minuscule--- you guys and me.

See another post about early excentrics:

Read more about the British hearings on copyright and excentric prints here

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Sewickley Valley Historical Society's GAR Quilt

Appliqued GAR badge,
detail of a remarkable Pennsylvania 
Civil-War commemorative quilt.

The quilt is attributed to Sarah Bright Anderson Lea (About 1833-1918.) Collection: Sewickley Valley Historical Society. They date it as 1890 based on the stars in a flag on the reverse side.

The center is an appliqued window with Victorian woodwork and flower pots
on the sill. Lady Liberty is at the top under a shower of stars. The bearded men look
to be late-19th century dignitaries.

More embroidery under the sill shows a camp of tents with scenes of army life.

Detail of the left hand side.

Above the window is a stuffed eagle with more figures.

Along the sides are  regimental patches.

The symbols were a popular identification image
at Grand Army of the Republic reunions.

Souvenir flag from a Chicago reunion in 1900

Souvenir GAR bandana

Flags with corp badges also decorated G.A.R. halls.

The family and the museum speculate that the quilt was made "in connection with a celebration or commemoration sponsored by the G. A. R." Sarah's husband Benjamin Franklin Lea (About 1843-February 15, 1918) was a private in Company A, 101st Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. 

Allegheny City is the North Side, north of Pittsburgh's
Allegheny River

He joined G. A. R. Post No. 162 in Allegheny City north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 19, 1889. He and Sarah lived in the Fineview neighborhood in the municipality of Allegheny City that was absorbed by Pittsburgh in 1907.

"Dinner in the Grove"
Reunion of the 101st and 103rd Pennsylvania Volunteers 1904

The flag of the 101st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers

The battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac 
is recalled at the center bottom of the quilt.

Benjamin (and presumably Sarah) is buried in Union Dale Cemetery in Pittsburgh. They died within weeks of each other in early 1918.

See more about the quilt here: