Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp 29: Lapis Blue

Val's repro star for white ground chintz
captures the popular red, white and blue color scheme.

Vintage chintz

In the 18th- and early 19th-century a color style combining red and a bright blue was quite the thing.
The blue was indigo; the red from madder.

The dyes used to print the color combination
worked quite differently, making the popular
palette difficult for printers to produce.

Early-19th-century quilt
Printers had to leave a white halo or space between the red and the blue.

Detail of a hand-painted and block-printed Indian palampore.
Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Some designers planned the gaps between the reds and the blues. Others had a more devil-may-care attitude.

Early-19th-century blotch-ground chintz.

In 1808, textile engineers figured out how to print reds (or other colors) registered right next to an indigo blue.

Calicoes from old blocks showing madder reds and indigo blues 
printed adjacently without the intervening white spaces 
that had been necessary prior to 1808.

Designers still could add white for effect but note how the
red touches the blue especially in that red scallop.

The mills called these red on blue prints Lapis prints,

Lapis cufflink

using the name of the vivid blue stone. Another name
was lazulite for another blue mineral.

From William Crooke's printing manual.

In 1874 Crookes described, "A modification of indigo Lazulite, neutral, or lapis style."
He outlined the complicated formula, even though "the lazulite style is at present in very little request...As fashion may revive at any moment, it should not be overlooked."

Fashion did not revive, so the blue and red combination is a good clue to an early quilt. And something to add to your shopping list.

Why is it important to know the difference between a true lapis
print and a blue ground with white haloes? If you are a quilt
detective you can use the information as a clue in dating.
The lapis print above had to be printed after 1808.


Lexington quilter found a stripe with red and blue
separated by white for one of her repro blocks.

Becky couldn't find any red, blue and white chintzes in her
stash. Here's the closest red and blue priints she could come up with.
But they are terrific blocks. Not only will the bird remind us
to buy some lapis style prints; she can remind us how good primary colors look together.
And why people wanted red and blue in the same print.

Another by Becky.
Can we count the blue and red berry as a lapis print.
Why not???

S.F.'s repro star has a copy of a blue ground chintz. The reproduction gives a hint of the haloes once necessary to print blue and red in the same design.

Stella Bella's small repro quilt makes the most of a
 traditional blue and red palette.

As does Austin Manor from Harriett Hargrave.

It doesn't really matter if your reproduction prints
are true lapis style or just blue and red chintzes and calicoes.

Deatil of a Hickory Leaf repro quilt by me,
 showing two red + blues in the upper left block

Broderie Perse by Roseanne Smith
Center of a quilt.

Above and below are blue-ground chintzes Terry Thompson
and I did over a decade ago for Moda.

Look for blue ground chintzes and smaller-scale prints
with lots of red in the figures.
The print is in the eage in the top border below.

Barbara Fritchie Star
by Jean Stanclift and Shirlene Wedd

Karla Menaugh and I designed the pattern and picked the fabric.
Jean and Shirlene did their deft sewing.
One of our favorite quilts from our old Sunflower Pattern Co-op days.

Stripes from Nancy Gere

Ginger Coral by John Robshaw
And, as always with these early prints, look at upholstery reproductions.

What to Do with Your Stack of Stars?
Shade the composition.

Quilt dated 1832 by Rebecca Burroughs,
 possibly Pennsylvania

Nine Patch from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

Quilt dated 1832 from Chester County, Pennsylvania

Similar idea in a nine patch from the collection
of the American Museum in Bath---a hot design idea in 1832 in Pennsylvania???

Early quilters favored a central focus. They shaded the overall composition to create one, arranging the repeat blocks in areas of lights and darks.

Baby Blooming Nine Patch by Lynn Stalowy
Reproduction top.

Or one might shade the alternate setting squares as well as the blocks. The Blooming Nine Patch was an idea from Blanche Young's 1996 book Tradition with a Twist.

Simple stars could be substituted for nine-patches.

Reproduction top by Bobbi Finley and friends

We shaded the setting squares to mimic a strip quilt. The fabrics were strike-offs from my Lately Arrived from London line. The blues were never actually printed to be sold. We had too many choices and that colorway had to go. (Too bad for blues fans including me.)

There are many ways to shade the overall composition.

The star quilt on the cover of the McCloskey-Martin book Variable Star Quilts shows shading without the medallion-like focus you often see in early quilts. The shading moves the eye across the composition.

One More Thing About Blue and Red Prints

Detail of a foulard-set florette with a white halo
from an early 19th-century quilt

Even after 1808 when blues and reds could be printed adjacently without the intervening white spaces printers continued to include the halo. The calico above is in a style we might call a provincial print, a mignonette or an Indienne. The necessity for a halo became a style in itself. 

Savonnerie by Sandy Klop/American Jane

The reproductions of these Provincial style prints tend to be rather minimalist lately and the blues are quite intense. But now you know what historical styles are the inspiration.

We'll discuss these classic prints later, but this week's a good time to see if you have any red on blue or blue on red provincial prints in your stash.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Fisk Sanitary Commission Quilt

During the Civil War the Union Sanitary Commission
collected bedding for hospitalized soldiers and 
encouraged women to make and donate quilts.

This summer the Pasadena History Museum is showing a quilt date-inscribed 1864 with the Sanitary Commission stamp on the back.

The label tells the story about a war-time romance.
The quilt led to the marriage of
Captain Robert E. Fisk and Elizabeth Chester.

Captain R.E. Fisk
New York Infantry

Robert Fisk was recovering from wounds in a North Carolina hospital when a representative of the Sanitary Commission gave him a quilt made by a group in Vernon, Connecticut, in 1864.

The Fisk quilt is in the collection of the 
Lincoln Memorial Shrine
in Redlands, California

Block inked Rowena A. Clark

Mrs. Mary Hall

Mrs. Ruth Baker

Vernon Center in 1836

Several Mrs. and Misses signed the blocks. Robert Fisk wrote Miss Fannie Chester thanking them for the gift. She'd apparently written her name and that of Lissie C. Corbin on a sheet of paper included with the quilt. His letter has been published:

September 18, 1864
Miss Fannie Chester:
This is to show that I am the recipient, through the U.S. Sanitary Commission of the Patchwork bed cover or quilt, which you had a hand in constructing.
I am deeply sensible of the obligation I am under to you and your fair companions for this your contribution to my comfort....I am proud to testify to the many sterling virtues of New England women: endowed, generally, with rarest gifts of face and from, and educated in head and heart to adorn the loftiest sphere of the sex, the women of New England stand preeminent in the estimation of their countrymen as the truest sweethearts, the best wives, and most perfect mothers in the land.
I should be much please to hear that this note reached you in safety.....

Union soldiers at the Foster Hospital 
in New Bern, North Carolina

(I hoped to see Fannie Chester's name on the quilt but it was displayed on a flat table. I couldn't get close enough to read all the names and did not find hers. It may not be on there, but only on the slip of paper she enclosed.)

The Mrs. in the group thought 16-year-old Fannie too young to write to a stranger, so older sister Lizzie wrote Fisk explaining that there would be no correspondence from Fannie.

October 3, 1864
Capt. R.E.Fisk,
A few days since, I had the pleasure of receiving two letters written by you addressed to my sister, Miss Fannie Chester, and Lissie C. Corbin. The former being at present busily engaged in school duties and the latter having reached the very mature age of (to use her own words) "two old last July." I have been deputed to answer the said communications..."

Elizabeth Chester Fisk 1846-1927

Undeterred, Capt Fish wondered if Lizzie might be interested in corresponding with a lonely soldier?

The story of Lizzie and Robert has been published many times. Below may be the earliest.

Romance of Marriage.
From the Tolland Connecticut Journal, 1867 
Two weeks ago we published the marriage in this town of Capt. Robert E. Fiske (sic), editor of the Helena (Montana) Herald, to Miss Lizzie Chester. Since that time we have learned that there is a romance connected with this affair which is worth telling. When the war of the rebellion broke out Mr. Fiske was a resident of New York, from which State he enlisted in the union army and attained to the rank of captain. In some one of the engagements he was wounded, and taken to an army hospital.-- 
While he was thus confined, it appears that the ladies of our town of Vernon were at work for the soldiers, and among other things which they provided and sent as hospital stores, was an "album bedquilt," containing the names of the several ladies who assisted in its construction. As luck would have it, this bedquilt found its way to the hospital and the very bed upon which the wounded captain lay; and for amusement he copied the names, sending his letter or photograph, or both, to the address of every lady. One of these letters was received by a little girl, who procured the services of Miss Chester to reply. 
We need not particularize further, but it was simply through the agency of this album bedquilt that captain Fiske heard of Miss Chester, and now, after the lapse of two years, that acquaintance has culminated in marriage, and the gallant officer has taken his fair lady to his home in the far west.

Berthold photo of the Fisk Expedition to the
 Montana Territory in 1866 

Robert's brother James organized several immigrant treks. Robert joined other family members on the 1866 journey to Montana, then returned to Connecticut to marry Lizzie on March 21, 1867.

Helena, Montana in 1872.
Five Fisk brothers were among influential Montana settlers.

Helena Herald, 1875

Robert, whose letters to Lizzie must have been quite persuasive, was editor of the Helena Herald. Three of his brothers were also newspapermen.
Robert Fisk

Robert and Lizzie kept the quilt that brought them together. Both became important social leaders in Helena.

All I could read in this block is the date 1864.

Robert, Lizzie and children in front of their Helena house built in 1871

The Fisks added to this structure, which survives as a larger house. See a National Park Service post on the Fisk house and the family.

Berkeley train station, 1907

In 1902 they sold the newspaper and moved to Berkeley, California, Somehow the quilt made its way to the Lincoln Memorial Shrine museum and temporarily to the display at the Pasadena History Museum.

I published the tale of the Fisk romance in my book Quilts From the Civil War. I had no idea that the quilt survived. I'd seen snapshots of an album quilt on display at the Lincoln Shrine but did not find any references to the quilt's history so didn't know until I saw the label at the Pasadena museum that this was indeed the famous romantic bedquilt.

The quilt seems to have been
on permanent display at the
 Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands

It's another relatively rare example of written history and an antique quilt coming together.

Read Wilene Smith's post on the Fisks here:

The Fisk papers are conserved in the Northwest Digital Archive.
The collection include Lizzie's letters and diaries and a story by daughter Florence Fisk White. " 'The Autograph Quilt,' tells the of a quilt made for Civil War soldiers, and how it led to Elizabeth meeting her future husband."

Lizzie's papers and the early letters between Captain Fisk and the Chester girls have been published in book form:
Lizzie: The Letters of Elizabeth Chester Fisk, 1864-1893, edited by Rex C. Myers (Missoula: Mountain Press, 1989)

See more about the Lincoln Memorial Shrine here:

I found a little about another woman on the quilt, Rowena Clark was born in Vernon about 1838 and married Frederick Edward Stanley in 1884, so she was in her mid-twenties when the quilt was made.