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!).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stars in a Time Warp: 14 Rainbow or Ombre Prints

Reproduction star by Becky Brown
using a 20-year-old ombre print by Pilgrim & Roy.

Monument to Major Ringgold from a vintage Baltimore album

Many of today's quilters are familiar with rainbow, ombre or fondu prints through their use in Baltimore Album applique of the 1840s and '50s. The shaded stripes added dimension to the monuments and floral details.

A 1905 technical article explained the process of rainbowing, invented about 1820.
"The purpose of rainbowing is to arrange the colors or shades on a fabric so that they shall proceed gradually from the lightest to the darkest, the points where they touch becoming thereby imperceptible. The old system (fifty years old, at least) was to have from ten to twenty narrow boxes placed lengthwise at the end of the sieve, and a color lifter made to fit the boxes. The color lifters were filled with the different shades of color, which were transferred to the sieve and spread with a roller wrapped with soft cloth. The block was then dipped in the color and transferred to the fabric."

It's complicated!

Becky divided the center square into 4 triangles
and fussy cut a shaded blue.

Reproduction rainbow prints from myUnion Blues collection that's in shops now.
Today we print with a silk screen method.

Swatches showing rainbowing in Persoz's 1842 dyebook.
The backgrounds above are shaded, the figures remain the same color.

In this vintage swatch the orange dots are shaded as is the purple background in the stripe.

Quilt dated 1844 from the Connecticut project. Quilt Index photo.
Rainbow shading in a floral stripe added to the visual---what's the word I am looking
for ---chaos? But fashionable chaos.

A block from the Winterthur's collection.

The mid-19th-century purple here is more a stripe than a rainbow.

Vintage quilt, early 19th century. The multi-color rainbow print
catches our eye, but the brown stripe to the left is also
part of the rainbow fad.

Shaded grounds were fashionable behind stripes and in plaids, as well as under figures like florals and scrolls. American quilters had a particular affection for blues of varying intensities obtained with Prussian blue. Rainbow prints were fashionable in all colors from about 1840 to 1865. The fashion was revived about 1880 but dyes were different.

Vintage mid-century fabrics

Vintage  patchwork bag from about 1870-1900.
Both figure and ground in the dot
are shaded but not very skillfully. A quality rainbow
print shaded gradually.

Dress from about 1860
A stripe alternating a shaded rainbow print with
a floral serpentine stripe. The shading in the green
gives a plaid look to the fabric.

Woman wearing a rainbow stripe, about 1860


In SF's star the rainbow blue reproduction has a shaded ground.

Shaded reproduction print from my Metropolitan Fair collection. The figure
changes color here while the background remains the same.

From an old line by Terry Thompson and me: Calico Craze

The blues always catch your eye but don't forget
the madders, purples and browns.

My weekly pirated picture from Barbara Schaffer's blog

Nancy Gere often includes a shaded print
in her reproduction collections.

Shaded ground from a Pat Nickols collection.

Shaded figure from the Cumberland collection
by Fons and Porter (15 yeas ago????)

Sea to Shining Sea by Gaye Ingram.
You must have rainbow prints if you do Baltimore Album reproductions!

Star by Shawn
Many of us are holding on to the last scraps of this
rainbow blue Elly Sienkiewicz did years ago.

What To Do With Your Stack of Star Blocks?
Start Working on an Applique Vine Border

Vintage star quilt bordered with an deep applique vine,
Date-inscribed 1846, HAS.
From Stella Rubin's shop.

The quilt is evidence of the popularity of large plaids
and rainbow shading in 1846.

See more at Stella Rubin Antiques

Reproduction quilt, Marsha Fuller's Civil War Stars in Texas
from a pattern by Bits n Pieces.

Barbara Ann Wafer's Scrappy Stars with a border designed
by Mimi Dietrich

Even simple applique provides an attractive contrast to the geometry of the stars.

One More Thing about Rainbow or Fondu prints

Black and white photo of  irisé wallpaper.
The figure is shaded.

Shaded pattern was also popular in wallpaper. Different languages had different words for the popular fashion.Catherine Lynn in Wallpaper in America discussed the name:
"Some used the word ombré for what [the Alsatian inventor] called irisé, and, less frequently the phrase 'fondu style' was used in referring to papers that featured color shading. In the American wallpaper trade, they were called rainbow papers. Samuel Robinson of Washington, D.C. used this term in his 1826 advertisement for 'Rainbow Papers, all colors.' "

Fondu: French for melted or dissolved. An 1847 dye book explained: "FONDUS; is the name given by the French to a particular style of calico printing resembling the rainbow, in which the colours are graduated or melted (fondu) into one another, as in the prismatic spectrum."

Irisé: French for iridescent. Iris is the Greek goddess of the rainbow.

Ombré: French for shaded or tinted. An 1858 lady's magazine didn't advise using "ombre silk" thread. "The sudden transition from light to dark, or vice versa, has the worst possible effect."

Rainbow: English for graduated color in the full spectrum

Moda makes some rainbow bias strips called Color Theory
Shaded vines?

See pages 58-61 for more on rainbow prints in my America’s Printed Fabrics, 1770-1890. C & T Publishing. 2004.