Lessons From The Past

Sometimes I need to view great examples of old quilts to appreciate how constant the elements of a really good quilt are. It doesn’t matter whether a quilt is traditional, modern, art or folk. A library book has been reminding me of this.

Quilts: Masterworks From The American Folk Art Museum is a 2010 coffee table tome that deserves to be admired on paper, not on a small screen. I did find 60 of the quilts included on the museum’s website, so you can view some of the quilts in the book. Trust me, the photos look better on paper.

The main drawback to this book is that background information about each quilt is minimal – maker (if known,) where made, when made, size, material, and donor. I was eager for some link to whatever information was known about each one, but none is offered. I did find more about some of the quilts pictured on the museum’s website, but that leaves about 140 with very little information.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorites. There are wonderfully quilted pieces in the book, but they just don’t show up well in a photo. And of course my taste runs to the graphic rather than exquisite applique. Where available, I’ve provided information about the quilts.

double_wedding_ringI love the blues and dusty purples set on a very dark (navy? black?) ground and enlivened with pinks, rose, greens, golds and white.  This double wedding ring quilt was made between 1930-1940 by Mrs. Andy Byler in Atlantic, Pennsylvania.

crazy_quilt_fansThis controlled crazy quilt gains such structure from the fans surrounding the center star. It’s silk, made between 1880-1890, by Mary Ann Crocker Himnan in New York State.

crazy_quilt_Mifflin_PAAnother crazy quilt set in order by the sashing and those wonderful gold/cheddar squares surrounding each cornerstone.  It was made by Leah Zook Hartzler in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, out of wool and cotton, and is dated 1903.

hummingbirds_quilt.This cotton hummingbirds quilt  has such sparkle and the inner and outer border color choices are genius. It was made by an unidentified Amish woman between 1920-1930 in Shipshewana, Indiana.

Freedom_quiltThis quilt dated 1983 was made in Georgia by Jessie Telfair. According to the American Folk Art Museum, “[t]his is one of several freedom quilts that Jessie Telfair made as a response to losing her job after she attempted to register to vote.” It brought tears to my eyes.


Filed under Books

7 responses to “Lessons From The Past

  1. I’ve seen photos of most of these. Ambition: seeing them in person. Thanks for the show.

  2. jennyklyon

    Wow, those are stunners! Makes me want to make a really cool traditional quilt! You made me spend money and order that book.

  3. You and I have similar tastes, I think–the quilts you’ve featured here are astounding! I’m not usually drawn to crazy quilts but the added structure changes everything, especially in the Hartzler quilt. And I have always loved the Amish look, with the brights against a dark background. Of all of these, though, I have to admit that the Freedom quilt is my favorite–the use of a traditional craft to make a bold statement in support of a cause just makes it perfect.

    • I’m with you on the crazy quilts. I hope to find out if these quilts are on display in NYC. Last time I was there the Folk Art Museum was in temporary quarters and had very limited displays. Alas, no quilts were shown.

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