When we first went to the US together 15 years ago, I was not a quilter but my mum was. I remember I bought her a pattern book on the Smithsonian quilt collection, and then I saw an amazing exhibition called "Calico and Chintz" at the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art in Washington DC. The quilts in that exhibition were all made prior to 1850 and they were, in a word, amazing.
I was hooked from that moment on. I wanted to be a quilter too. So I took my first class, and then I took another, and then I started making quilts all the time.
When we were in New York a couple of weeks ago, we visited the American Folk Art Museum which was holding a special exhibition called "Super Stars". All the quilts had stars as the theme. And again - amazing.
This was probably one of the oldest quilts in the exhibition. It's a Mariner's Compass quilt made sometime between 1840 and 1860 by an unidentified quilter. Aren't the colours amazing, 150 years on? And the hand piecing! I can imagine the woman making this would have done her meticulous piecing by lamplight after her chores were done and the children were in bed. Nowadays we all have daylight lamps and magnifiers. How lucky we are!
This Bull's Eye quilt was made sometime between 1900 and 1920 by an unidentified member of the family of Alverda H. (Hoffman) Herb in Berks County Pennsylvania. Again, the amazing handwork in this is breathtaking. I want to learn how to be this amazing! And patient!
Star of Bethelehem with Satellite Stars quilt, made by an unidentified quilt maker, possibly in Pennsylvania sometime between 1930 and 1950. I can't imagine the word "procrastination" or "idleness" was in the quilt maker's vocabulary. The hand quilting is spectacular.
This quilt was framed and behind glass. The integrity of the fabrics was still really good. It's a Star of France quilt made between 1930 and 1940. It was apparently made from a purchased kit (pattern number 151 from Hubert Ver Mehren's Home Art Studios of De Moines, according to the museum). So some things haven't changed - we quilters still use kits to make our quilts!
This quilt was perhaps my favourite, and I sat in front of it, examining the patterns, for quite some time. It's beautiful in it's simplicity, but the amount of work making all those ties in the pattern of the stars is incredible. it's called a Tied Stars quilt, made by an unidentified quilter sometime between 1900 and 1940. The museum notes that "The pointiillist effect of this (tying) technique creates a doffuse Milky Way when seen up close. At a distance, the stars resolve into their defined forms".
What do you see? The docent at the museum I spoke to said he could see hearts.
This Carpenter's Wheel variation quilt made between 1945 and 1955 includes cotton, and also synthetic and nylon fabrics. It's a Midwestern quilt by another unidentified artist. The colours are lovely in this - I can imagine it as a very modern quilt made today, and not 60 or 70 years ago. And so meticulously made - even a quilt this old still hangs straight. That's an achievement.
Visiting this museum was another highlight of our trip. It's a tiny place, just opposite Lincoln Centre, but was worth visiting just so I could be inspired by quilts made years before I was born, and marvel at their workmanship. The exhibition made me want to be a better quilter.