Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Herbarium #8: Two Open Wreaths for Susan Fenimore Cooper


True Lover's Knot & Poke Berries by Becky Collis.
You get two similar blocks this month.

Two patterns this month, one with leaves & a floral and one with berries. You'll need 13 blocks if you follow the "official set," on point. Or if you put the blocks side by side on the square and only need 12 you can stitch your favorite of these two.

True Lover's Knot & Poke Berries
Remembering Susan Fenimore Cooper

Susan Augusta Fenimore Cooper (1813 - 1894)
a "naturalist"

Daughter of one of America's most popular novelists, Susan Cooper spent much of her life in Cooperstown, New York, her father's hometown.

Fenimore Art Museum Collection
Susan's grandmother Elizabeth Fenimore Cooper (1751-1817) 
 with her sewing, a servant and an indoor nursery of botanical projects
 probably at Otsego Hall.

The Family Home Otsego Hall
Samuel F. B. Morse, artist and inventor, assisted friend
James Fenimore Cooper in remodeling his parents' house about 1830.

Becky Brown's True Lover's Knot

And her Poke Berries. These go in opposite corners of the quilt in the official set.
See a post about the "Official Set" here. Scroll down:

The James Fenimore Coopers had spent time in New York City, Italy and France where daughter Susan was schooled, probably learning natural history, an appreciation put to good use living in the gothic house near the Susquehanna River.
In 1851 she was the anonymous "lady" who published
Rural Hours, a meditation on nature illustrated with her paintings of
birds and botany. The nature book was her second; the first a novel.

"The following notes contain, in a journal form, the simple record of those little events which make up the course of the seasons in rural life, and were commenced two years since, in the spring of 1848, for the writer's amusement."
In her thirties then Susan was a single woman living with younger sister Anne Charlotte (1817-1885) and her parents, who died within weeks of each other soon after the book was published. More loss: Otsego Hall burned in 1853. 

Byberry Cottage still stands
She and Charlotte commissioned a smaller house on River Street, constructed from the rubble, where they lived the rest of their lives joined by their widowed sisters as time went on. 

Susan published many books and articles over the years, dying at the age of 81 of "apoplexy," a stroke, in 1894. Her Rural Hours is considered one of the early appreciations of nature and its fragility, especially notable in that it was written by a woman.

Rural Hours was preprinted several times. Not everyone was
a fan. Above an 1887 review in the Boston Evening Transcript.

The Blocks

Blocks based on an open wreath from the sampler 
in the collection of the Shelburne Museum

Five of the 8 samplers feature similar open wreaths with leaves.

And six show the same structure with berries, red poke berries.

Poke Berries by Denniele Bohannon

 True Lover's Knot by Denniele Bohannon

The True Lover's Knot may not be the best block for the single Miss Susan F. Cooper. Rather than representing any love, lost or not, the pattern pictures a plant common in Europe, called True Lover's Knot, Paris quadrifolia.
German illustration from 1796.
Einbeere implies one berry, true love.

Are we quibbling here to note that the quadrifolia means four leaves and petals? Whether our quilt pattern designer paid attention to the number of red petals, the way the root is shown above seems to have had some influence on the applique design.

An 1818 botanical painting from Barton's Vegetable Material Medica
showing the poke berry, the flower and the leaf. You may be familiar with
poke plants as they are a hardy American weed. 
 The berries hang down as in the Shelburne Museum's quilt.

See a post about poke weed symbolizing the 1845 Presidential
 campaign of James K. Polk here:

The sampler quilt recorded in the New York project, attributed to Florence
Thompson Strutz, has some romance added with a pair of love birds,
rings and a heart (although it could be the Odd Fellows lodge symbols.)
Go back to Block #1 and see some birds and heart patterns you could add.

Regarding Miss Susan Cooper and the romance in her life: Her chief loyalty was to her father who decided she should stay single, serving as his assistant. While in Europe, "a Frenchman of good fortune, noble family, and very fair looks" proposed but James turned him down---no foreigners. There were also rumors that Samuel F.B. Morse, twenty years her senior, considered Susan second-wife material. Her father denied any "connexion with Mr. old friend of mine, but neither of my daughters would dream of making a husband of him."

Looking for shortcuts I got 8b the Pokeberries done.
Pieced in an oval print.

Robyn Graff's five-sided Poke Berries, top right.

Becky Brown's 9 blocks 1 to 8a & 8b.

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