Wednesday, November 22, 2017

doppelgänger, y'all

The old applique quilt looked strangely familiar.
Don't you love it when you're looking for one thing and find something else? That's what happened the other day when I was looking through Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Appliqué. I was searching for designs related to the quilt in yesterday's blog post, but the images on page 84 stopped me in my tracks.


Design #16.68, "Cockscombs and Currants" looked identical to the design on the applique quilt I won in a South Carolina auction over the weekend. The source of the design was a quilt on page 46 of "The Quilts of Tennessee: Images of Domestic Life Prior to 1930" by Bets Ramsey and Merikay Waldvogel. I found my copy of the book, and sure enough, there it was-- a four-block rendition of the same exact design.


It's a doppelgänger, y'all! Jane Richey Morelock of Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee made the quilt in the book around 1870. That's the same circa date as the unidentified quilt from the auction in South Carolina. The location of the auction was Camden, which is more than 300 miles away from Morelock's home, Cleveland, Tennessee. Could the quilts be related? Were they made in the same place at the same time by the same hands?


Incidentally, another design from a quilt in my collection appears on the same page in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Appliqué. It is design #16.64 and is referred to as an "Oak Leaf Variant". It appeared on page 39 of "Kentucky Quilts, 1800-1900" from The Kentucky Quilt Project. The quilt was made around 1860 by Mrs. M.E. Poyner of Paducah, Kentucky.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Magnificent!

Botanical applique quilt, cottons, unknown maker, United States, c. 1850, 96" x 102"
It was one of those West Coast Sunday night auctions. I had my lucky charm with me. Several of the most prolific antique quilt dealers were in the midst of breaking down their booths at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. Other potential bidders recently dropped a good chunk of change with the same dealers at another event in New Hampshire, hosted by the American Quilt Study Group.


For whatever reason, the potential bidders were absent when the bidding for this magnificent botanical applique quilt opened. What luck! It ended quickly, and the quilt was worth ten times the hammer price. I made out like a bandit. I was also kind of speechless.


It was most likely made in the eastern United States, perhaps the southeast; and it was probably made before the Civil War, when very large, finely made applique quilts were popular. There is some debate about the botanical motif, which appears to be a floral bud or berry. Some folks think it's a strawberry. Others think it's a thistle. I'd like to ask a botanist who has no knowledge of quilts. It would be interesting to hear what they had to say.


There are nine blocks, each with four branches intersecting diagonally with a central flower. The blocks are surrounded by a meandering vine border. The thing is huge-- 96" x 102". It was a beast to photograph, larger than my quilt stand could really handle, but I made it work. The appliqué and quilting were all done by hand, and the quilt was finished with a fine, quarter-inch applied red binding. Wow! Just wow!

Monday, November 20, 2017

weekend auctions

If you like quilts, it was a good weekend for auctions.
A mid-19th century botanical applique quilt from South Carolina was one of two items I won over the weekend at auctions. It was offered by Wooten & Wooten auctioneers in Camden, South Carolina.


The quilt was one of several textile lots in the auction, but the only lot I wanted. It is approximately 74" x 79" and I can't wait to see it in person.

The second quilt was a whimsical piece, most likely made in the first half of the 20th century. It was covered with creatures and critters, and was offered by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries in Maine. The quilt was described as 1920s, but I think it's a bit later than that. The Nile green edge finish may be a good clue.


These photos were from the auction house, the only ones I've got until the quilt arrives. The figures could be appliqued, or they may be drawings with coloring. The grid was visually tied together with a web of dark, chainstitch embroidery.
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Saturday, November 18, 2017

unusual applique design

applique quilt, cottons, unknown maker, California, c. 1950, 43 & 1/2" x 49"
Six years ago, Karen Alexander wrote a blog post about an unusual applique design she discovered in an auction. The design was a silhouette, representing a Native American chief wearing a feathered headdress while shooting an arrow. The motif appears elsewhere in decorative arts and folk art, such as sheet metal weathervanes, but is rarely seen in quilts.



Recently, I acquired one of these quilts. It came from an Etsy seller in Three Rivers, California. Other examples share design elements, such as the zigzag sashing, which leads me to believe it was a published pattern at one time. It is red, white and blue, hand appliqued and hand quilted, 43 & 1/2" x 49" and the binding is applied using a matching red fabric. Condition is fair with some fading, bleeding and staining.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Carolina Lily, c. 1865, New Hampshire

Carolina Lily, cottons, unknown maker, New Hampshire, c. 1865, 76" x 82"
A couple weeks ago, Mandy Leins and I were chatting about quilts when she spotted this one on Etsy.  It is a lovely, 19th century Carolina Lily quilt. The Carolina Lily was a popular motif in the middle to late 19th century, and the block included both piecing and appliqué work.


Mandy and I talk about old quilts often. In fact, we just finished working on a new book together. It will feature free motion quilting designs inspired by old, elegant quilts in my collection. The book will be released some time in the next year by C&T/Stash.


We chatted about the Carlolina Lily quilt. It was a bargain. The item description said it was made in the 1930s, but the quilt was surely much older than that. It was a "red, white and green" quilt with Turkey red, cheddar orange and overdyed green. Those fabrics were Civil War era, not Depression era. Obviously, the seller was not a quilt historian.


We decided one of us should really buy it before anyone else discovered it. Since she found it, I let her have first dibs. When she passed, I snapped it up, but I promised to sell it to her at the same price should she ever want it.


The quilt came from a seller in North Carlolina. It originally came from her grandmother who lived in New Hampshire her whole life, although she may have been born too late to be the maker. It was most likely made just after the Civil War, c. 1865. It is 76" x 82" and T-shaped to fit a four-post bed. There are small stains throughout, but mostly on the white fabric. I think it will clean up well.
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Monday, November 13, 2017

Collin Ruff Fellows

Collin Ruff Fellows with "Mars" - part of his "Otherworld Visions" series
The quilting community lost a rising star yesterday morning when Collin Ruff Fellows passed away suddenly. He was 49. Collin was a friend. Less than two weeks ago we had dinner with his husband Marlin at Pepitas, their favorite Mexican restaurant. They were excited about the future, and we talked about their upcoming plans.

"Neptune" by Collin Ruff Fellows
There was nothing ordinary about Collin, and that's why I liked him. He was a big, burly guy with lots of ink and piercings. He enjoyed cigars, leather and motorcycles and had a soft spot in his heart for pit bull pups. He was passionate about social justice, especially with regard to the LGBTQ community, and was working on a new quilt exploring social justice themes.

Collin Ruff Fellows
Collin stuck out at quilt shows, but his alternative appearance never fooled me. He was intelligent, articulate, and surprisingly soft-spoken for such a big, bearish man. He was also an unusually talented artist. When I first saw his work, I was so impressed I went directly to my friends who worked in print media. Generation Q Magazine picked up a story last year, and his quilt "Earth" appeared on the cover of the November/December 2016 issue.


More recently, his work was juried in to the upcoming exhibition of quilts by men at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. I urged him to enter, never imagining he would not be here for his museum debut.

"Jupiter" by Collin Ruff Fellows
He was very curious about quilts, especially the history of quiltmaking in America. Whenever he came to visit, he made a beeline to my quilt history books. He worked with a clear sense of historical context and always pushed the boundaries. I photographed some of his quilts from the "Otherworld Visions" series and hoped to photograph "Jupiter", his latest completed quilt before Thanksgiving.

work in progress from the "Otherworld Visions" series
Collin completed several quilts in the series, each representing one of the planets in the solar system. I am not sure how many he finished, but the ones I could find from the series are in this blog. He started making quilts just a few years ago, drawing on his creative experience as an accomplished glass artist and former dealer of vintage mid-century modern collectibles. Decades before getting seriously involved with quiltmaking, he made panels for The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.


Even though Collin's heart condition was no secret -- he and I both had heart attacks in 2016, and talked about it often -- I am thunderstruck. It reminds me of something people say when they lose a friend or loved one suddenly to a heart attack. "His heart was just too big."

"Earth" by Collin Ruff Fellows
Writing a memorial for Collin is not what I expected to be doing today. Selfishly, I miss my friend terribly, but I was lucky to know him. The world can only wonder what he would have done. At the same time, we are fortunate to have the quilts he left behind. Collin Ruff Fellows will live on through his work.
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Monday, November 6, 2017

Score!


Yesterday I bid in an eBay Live Auction for the first time, and came away a winner. This stunning applique quilt was offered by Clarks' Auction Company of Scotts Valley, California. The live auction started at 3pm Pacific Time and the quilt came up before 5pm. The bidding was fast and furious for a few moments, but I kept clicking the bid button until it said I was the lead bidder, then the bidding abruptly ended and I won. It wasn't super cheap, but at the same time it was an outstanding bargain. 



The quilt comes with some documentation, and one photo shows a label with a lead to information about the maker of the quilt. The "strawberry" design looks almost like a thistle because of the green appliqué points coming out of each berry. I have seen a few quilts with this basic design over the years, but never saw one with the additional applique points coming out of the berries.



The circa date was 1870, and it could be just a bit earlier but probably not later. Toward the end of the 19th century, fewer of these red, white and green applique quilts were made. It was more of a middle 19th century trend in quiltmaking. Dimensions are 98" x 98" and the binding appears to be a quarter-inch, applied red binding. The quilting is superb, with small-scale grid diamond fill and feather wreaths.


These details seem to point to an earlier circa date, pre-Civil War, when many large, square quilts were made with beautiful, decorative quilting and fine applied bindings. Depending on what I learn about the maker, I could see backing up the circa date to 1860. There are some stains on the back, but they do not appear to show through on the front. I think it will clean up well. My head is still spinning from the auction and this magnificent, masterpiece quilt. I can't wait to see it in person.