Woven Coverlets, Quilts and Hooked Rugs, Part 2, The Material Brought In
This is Part 2 of an RTAM program on woven coverlets, quilts and hooked rugs. If you want to see the lectures in Part 1, please use this link:
There was a goodly amount of material brought into this session and we will treat it here.
(Note: Color differences in images of a given piece are the result of different cameras and lighting.)
The first coverlet below is complete and woven in a species of the overshot structure. I have not seen another one like it but Melinda Zongor, who heads the coverlet museum in Pennsylvania, says that it is a familiar one.
The structure yields what is called a “bird’s eye” effect. Marla Mallett tells me that this bird’s eye variety is one of the simplest weaving structures.
The next piece was one of two coverlets a member of the audience brought in. Both are done in the overshot structure. Both are indicated to be family coverlets woven in southwest Virginia. Undated. Both were oven in two pieces and then sewn together. The center seam is visible.
This is the second overshot coverlet this member of the audience brought in. Again the center seam is visible.
The piece below is a scarf, not a coverlet, but also woven in an overshot weave. Notice how similar the pattern and coloring in this scarf is to that in the coverlet above.
(same scarf, remarkable difference in coloring in the two image below)
The overshot coverlet fragment below has for me a nice, seeming “texture” in its pattern and I think the red works to make it a little distinctive.
The coverlet fragment below is one of those overshot patterns that verges on Escher effects.
The details reveal how near curvilinear effects can be produced with entirely rectilinear devices by varying the width, height and position of devices close to one another.
The large coverlet fragment below is my favorite of those I own (although I like C8, below, a lot, too). This piece is being displayed with perhaps a third of it folded under on the left. (It is reminiscent to me of Turkman weavings, although the Turkman never wove something like this.)
It is substantial, fragile, and sewn onto a heavy cotton backing.
This piece is inscribed, but not with the more usual corner signature block. It was woven in 1841.
(click on image)
The ribbing of the weave suggests that this is a variety of beiderwand.
Another large fragmented coverlet I own is the one below. I find the use of a white ground and then of red, dark blue and yellow design devices, very effective.
It is inscribed and was woven in Pennsylvania in the 1840s, perhaps 1849.
It has major seeming floral gul-like devices.
Something like a minor “gul,”
and even “tertiary” pairs.
This piece also has a beiderwand structure, but despite having two sets of warps, has a light handle.
Wendel Swan noticed that most of these coverlets seem lighter and would not provide much warmth. I think it is true that many coverlets were used as a decorative top layer above warmer ones. The two from SW Virginia were more substantial.
The fragment below is one of two (from the same coverlet) I had in the room that are done in the summer-winter weave. The summerwinter weave has only a single set of warps but, this one, has a heavier handle than do most of the overshot (and the C8 beiderwand) examples we’ve seen above.
Here is the light side.
And here is the dark side.
Now we moved to the quilts brought in.
This quilt again has the green and red coloring, characteristic of Pennsylvania and Maryland quilts that Amy accentuated in her lecture. She said that she thinks this red is a specific one, called “Turkey red,” made in a very complex process. She believes that one indicator of its being this Turkey red is that the uneven pattern of deterioration of color – see the right side of this piece.
This pattern is reminiscent of the “oak leaf” design.
The quilt below was described as a “lily” pattern. It is pieced.
Its owner said that the piece below is a family quilt, made in middle Tennessee in 1900. It features two shades of pink.
(again the light and the camera push the lighter pink toward tan in the image below)
The pattern is entirely pieced in small squares. The brighter pink is a solid color. The lighter one has a small pattern. The lighter colored devices seem to be “fylflot” rendition.
The next piece features contrasting color diamond blocks on a dark ground, containing, what, again, seem to be “fylflot” devices. It was machine-pieced, but hand-quilted. It was suggested that it may have been an Amish coffin cover.
The next three pieces were bought in New Mexico.
This might look like a nine-patch pattern but it isn’t, because every block is exactly the same. Its field is hand-pieced, but its borders are machine-pieced. Good use of color.
The crib quilt below has been built up with small hexagonal pieces to form stripes. Its back is pieced in an ad hoc geometric pattern.
You can see the individual hexagons in the detail below.
In an exchange, after this program, Floris Flam said that “…Q16 (below) might be seen as a ‘log cabin’ design variant, but it’s not.
“While Q16 does have squares, it is built by adding strips to a half-square triangle. These blocks were then arranged in groups of four to form a series of squares set on point.
“I think this quilt is so charming because the narrow strips added to the starting triangles are of irregular width and the fabrics seem to have been randomly placed.
“I did not handle the quilt, but it is possible that it was built on a muslin backing the way a contemporary quilter would use paper in a paper-pieced quilt. If that’s the case, the quilter would have started with a triangle, added strips until the square was almost complete, than added a final triangle for the opposite corner of the square block.”
The lovely quilt below is pinwheel pattern made by Madelena Stoltzfus, Amy’s Amish friend in southern Maryland. This pattern is reminiscent of some Turkish tiles.
One’s eye focuses on the pinwheel devices and that makes us notice that there are seeming “partial” pinwheels at the sides an both top and bottom of this piece. That, in turn can make us think of this as a “never-ending” type pattern. But the basic quilt square (look at the corner inside the border in the detail image below) is, in fact, a “star” or “cross” centered one, and so there is no incompleteness at the edges. Interesting, how the eye can revise the way we experience a basic square that does not actually employ pinwheels.
The stitch designs used in the quilting of this piece are worth notice. The back panel is a cheerfully, printed cotton with toy blocks scattered about.
The quilt below is full-sized. It is another medallion quilt, with partial medallions at its edges. One begins to look for the character of the basic block used.
We can see, in the detail below, that the quilting stitches on the medallions are intense.
You can see in the image below that this time the basic block centers on the medallions, so the partial ones at the edges are really partial.
We can also see that the quilting stitches both within the medallions and the red areas in between them are dense and elaborate
We moved to treat the next level on the board. Most of these are art quilts (except for the one at the bottom center) brought in by the local art quilt maker and collector Floris Flam, who appears on the right of the image below .
We will treat them one at a time.
Q20 is a pieced kaleidoscope quilt made by Floris Flam for a quilt group challenge. Each wedge of the “sun” was paper-pieced using a pattern she designed. She ran out of interest in the project before she finished piecing the entire circle, so added mountain and sky fabrics to create a sunrise scene.
The quilt, below was made by Sidney Snell, an Oregon artist. It’s called “Miniature Violets” and is part of a series she made that was inspired by spools of thread. The bright circular motifs are machine appliqued and dimensional. The quilt is heavily machine quilted.
The quilt below is raw-edge collage was made by Judy Hooworth, an Australian quilt artist. She uses hand-painted fabrics, cotton sateen strips, net, and stitching to create the image. It is closely quilted to keep the fabrics in place and is finished with a satin-stitched edge. The piece is untitled.
The following piece is a raw-edge appliqué quilt made by Floris Flam, using hand-dyed and screen-printed cotton fabric. It is entitled: “View from Above 2.”
Below is a machine pieced quilt made by Floris Flam. Most of the fabrics are hand-dyed cotton sateen. It is machine quilted in the ditch. The image is based on a photograph in “Earth from Above: 365 Days” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It was part of a quilt guild challenge. (Title: Convergence)
The piece below is an appliqué/reverse appliqué quilt made by Andrea Limmer of Northern Virginia. (Title: “Veil”) It was part of the annual Studio Art Quilt Associates fund-raising auction of 12-inch square quilts
Amy Rispin called attention to the fact that most of the leaves in this little landscape quilt are attached only at their stems or veins, so that the edges of the leaves aren’t sewn down. This gives them a 3-dimensional quality that enhances the scene. Amy found this particularly interesting.
Before we leave Floris’ art quilts we should notice a very nice vest she wore, done as one.
Floris: “The right front of the vest was paper-pieced using commercial fabrics. The block design came from a quilting book, but was greatly reduced in scale to be appropriate for a garment. I made the blocks, then arranged them on my design wall to get a pleasing arrangement. The left front and back are each one piece of commercial fabric, quilted using a combination of straight and programmed machine stitches to hold the layers together.”
The small Amish piece, below, is in a geometric design, reminiscent of the flying geese pattern. Good composition and color use.
Now we moved to some larger quilts.
The quilt below is a recent acquisition that I found in southwest Ohio. It is in a familiar “Joseph’s coat” pattern and the dealer said that it was made by either the Amish or the Mennonites in about 1920.
The quilting stitches in it are not intense, but seem to be of those characteristic of other Joseph’s coat renditions.
The quilt below is smaller, perhaps a “crib” size, although it is a little larger than most of that format.
Both the piecing on its face and its quilting are by hand. The meandering pattern is a traditional one called “drunkard’s path.”
Small “fan-shaped” pieces and small squares are used to fashion this face pattern.
It is signed with a tag. It says that it was made by hand in Virginia in April, 2004.
One of the problems with such signatures is that they can be added afterward with more favorable information on them. Of course, this is a problem with pile rugs, as well.
The full-sized quilt below features compartments with crossed “armatures” and flower-forms pointing outward. The devices in the compartments are applique.
The use of red and green is another instance of that usage noted in Amy’s lecture. Notice also how the use of a close yell0w-green works to enliven the palette in this piece.
The hand quilting stitches are intense but not particularly elaborate.
The quilt below is again compartmented with crossing interior elements.
This design is one of the “crossroads” patterns associated with the “underground railroad.”
The “crossroads” could be any of a number of places north of the Mason-Dixon line, above which runaway slaves could flee to safety. The most frequent crossroad one sees in the literature is Cleveland, Ohio, from which slaves could readily cross to Canada.
It is possible, but not known, that this is an Afro-American quilt.
The crosses are composed of richly colored materials. Trapezoid pieces are sewn to form “chevron”-shaped elements (the resulting chevrons not always of the same color). The quilting stitches are modest, but by hand. Amy Rispin says that she is believes that the inconsistent nature of the chevron construction, and the character of the quilting stitches, indicate that this is an Afro-American quilt
The next “quilt” is, in fact, only a face, machine-pieced of small, triangular-shaped, printed materials. It has a surprisingly sturdy handle.
Although the piecing sewing is by machine, there is a lot of it. In some ways this quilt face is unremarkable, but a great deal of work has gone into it.
It is dangerous to claim that a textile is “unique,” but the next piece seems a candidate. It is an example of a quilt whose primary component was taken from another textile entirely.
Here is the material taken from another textile.
It is the shoulder patch from the uniform of a U.S. Seabee in WWII. The rank is Third Class Petty Officer.
The Seabees built roads, bridges, airfields, during the war, under battlefield conditions. Recruiters were told to look for smart troublemakers.
In 1949, a known, WWII, Seabee veteran in Virginia, decided to use his unit’s shoulder patches in a quilt he was making. So he bought a goodly number and quilted them on a red backing in a medallion-like arrangement like this.
He made and quilted on a number of these medallions.
The result was this small quilt.
To a Turkman collector, the result was too interesting to pass up.
He even quilted in a minor ornament between the gul-forms.
My quilting expert friends tell me that his quilting is quite good.
The tiny piece below is one that presses the bounds of what we can call a “quilt.”
It is called a “yo-yo,” from the circular shape of its elements.
As Amy indicated in her lecture, a “quilt” is usually seen to have three layers. There is a top layer called the “face.” A middle layer is the “batting.” And a lower layer is called the “backing.” A further requirement is that these three layers be stitched together — the actual “quilting.”
So the question can be raised about whether something that doesn’t have these three layers or these quilting stitches can properly be called a quilt.
We will eventually see a “quilt” that has only a face and a backing quilted together, but the “yo-yo” presses the usual defining characteristics of what we call a “quilt” further.
A yo-yo textile is composed of little circular pieces of cloth sewn in a particular way on one side and then sewn together side-by-side.
Here is a detail of the back of the yo-yo above. You can see that its elements are flat circles of cloth sewn together at their sides.
Below, is a detail of the front of this same yo-yo. The individual yo-yo elements are formed by taking flat circles of cloth larger than the back elements and then folding them to the front and sewing them with a stitch that produces a pucker that gives the front face a textured appearance. These individual pieces are then sewn to each other at the sides using a stitch that does not show.
Now is it clear that yo-yos have none of the features that would license the use of the term “quilt.” A yo-yo is probably closest to a quilt “face,” although it is never quilted to another layer. Yo-yos are probably sometimes treated with quilts because they are made from a variety of printed pattern materials, but it’s clear that they are very different from them.
I intrude on the initial image of the quilt below to let you see something of its small size. It is what we call a “doll’s” quilt.
Its pieced face is in a “nine-patch” pattern.
All the materials in it are patterned. Its back is a single piece pattern similar to the red on its front. The hand-quilting stitch is in simple diagonal lines.
The piece below is the first quilt I ever bought and shows how insidious the beginning of quilt collecting can be. It is 6.5 inches by 8 inches and is what is called a “doll house” quilt.
Its face is printed, not pieced. Quilters call a printed face a “cheater,” but allow it as a legitimate usage in quilting. They will not pretend that it is something that it is not (most “school house” faces are pieced) but they will not scorn it either.
In addition to its printed face, it has a plain back and the two levels are hand quilted. The quilting stitch pattern is a simple two-way diagonal, but quilters say that the quilting is pretty good.
One last interesting thing about it. I’ve owned this piece for a number of years, but last year in an antique store in western Massachusetts, I ran into a book full of all kinds of occupational therapy projects. It was the second of a two-volume series, published in 1944-45,
It was a kit, designed for use in occupational therapy and could have been quilted by a recuperating WWII veteran.
The next piece was the most opulent quilt of the day.
Barbara Korengold is a local quilt maker, who makes wonderful applique quilts.
Barbara spends about two years making one of these and it shows. Lots of prizes for her work. Q36, below, is the quilt she brought into this session.
And here’s what she said about it in a subsequent message:
“This quilt was inspired by a wool embroidered and appliqued rug in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum in New York. It is thought to have been made around 1860 in either New York or Maine, by an unknown artist. The quilt is hand appliqued and hand embroidered using mostly solid colored cotton fabrics, with a few tone on tone prints. The colors in the quilt are similar, but not identical to those in the rug. This is not an effort to duplicate the rug, but the relationship will be clear to anyone seeing both pieces. Since the applique is so dense there is not much room for creative quilting, so it is in the process of being hand quilted in a basic grid pattern.”
I think it might be important to elaborate here, a bit on a point Amy made at the end of her lecture. You will remember that she put up this Tenniel illustration from Alice in Wonderland
to say that, in the quilt world, there were both a lot of ways to go, and also that it did not matter in what ways quilt collectors and makers choose to, or can, participate.
In a great many of areas of textile collecting there is, nowadays, visible anxiety about where the next generation of collectors is to come from. This is ,emphatically, not true of the quilt world. It may have to do, in part, with the fact that many folks interested in quilts are makers as well as collectors. The quilt world is burgeoning, democratic, tolerant and creative. There are old classic quilts, there are kit quilts (even K-mart quilts of this variety), there are quilt “challenge” events (where a theme is selected and folks are challenged to make and submit a quilt in terms of it for competition), there are traditional standards, but most participants don’t demand that they be slavishly followed. And in more recent years “art” quilts have appeared, that can, themselves, go in nearly any direction.
I think one of the reasons why the quilt world is so vibrantly alive has to do with how folks who begin to participate in it are treated by those who are more experienced. Let’s say that you’re busy person with a job, a household and children. Your life is full of competing priorities, but you want to make a quilt for one of your beds. You go and buy and make a “K-mart” kit quilt (because that’s what you’re able to invest in quilting), and you show your finished quilt to some other quilters. They will not pretend that it is what it is not, but almost always they will say encouraging things about your efforts, even, find things to admire about them. I think a novice quilt collector will have similar experiences. The result of this welcoming, inclusive treatment is that folks are encouraged to continue to participate in whatever ways they can.
I think that those of us in some other parts of the textile world could learn some things from the quilt community.
Now we moved to our final group of the day. Hooked rugs. You may have to worry about aesthetic decompression as you move from Barbara’s magnificent applique quilt, above, to my humble hooked rug below. But let’s be brave about that.
You saw this piece in the lecture and can see why it is called “a poor man’s rug.” It is a little over 4′ X 6′ and heavy. It has been, and despite condition problems, still could be used on the floor. As we said in the lecture, you can see that the maker was envious of an oriental rug and determined to have something like one. The thickish black lines mark off putative borders and a central medallion on the basic “marbling” of the rug. Despite it being humble, it projects good graphic punch.
I am not sure what to conclude about the deliberate versus accidental character of the “marbling.” It looks very random. But one experienced textile collector insisted that there is more intent involved than one might think.
The mounted, hooked rug, fragment, below, features striped, “interlacing” bands in its design.
It is a good rug for exploring how some of us experience a given piece differently than do others.
One experienced collector said to me that he felt that the maker of this rug should have retained the same striped colors, and their order of use, in the interlacing bands. He experienced this inconsistency as an aesthetic fault. I acknowledge the fact of what he says, but find that this inconsistency works differently for me, and, in fact, enriches the aesthetic impact I experience looking at this fragment.
It seems to me that there is no demonstrable aesthetic “right” or “wrong” here. This difference illustrates an instance in which different people experience the aesthetics of a given piece differently.
We couldn’t do justice to the hooked runner below. It’s 17 feet long and only a relatively small part of it hung down on the front of the board. But you get the idea.
I watched this runner in a Maryland antique store for over five years, with a ‘not for sale” sign on it. But one day it had a price and I bargained and bought it. It is redundant to say, now, but I’m a sucker for compartmented textiles.
Amy Rispin, who owns H42 below, said that she loves the clarity of the colors in it. Although it is not a fine as Grenfell mats are, its naturalistic pattern is of the sort they frequently use.
This is a finished rug, but the backing has not yet been turned under and sewn down.
The fact that we can see the backing (in H42b below) is useful. It shows us the character of the backing material used. It, also, likely, permits us to make two additional points.
First, Michael Heilman said that the backing appears to be of a sort normally used in “latch hooked” rugs.
If this is a latch hooked rug, it was done with a distinctive tool and a distinctive stitch different from that used with a usual hooked rug.
Here is the distinctive latch hooking tool. Notice that it has a hook, but also a hinged “latch” that opens and closes.
Notice that it’s actually a symmetric knot, tied on one horizontal part of a hole in the backing material rather than (as is the case with most hand woven pile rugs) around two warps. (Amy checked and, sure enough, the stitches in her hooked rug are of the knot variety that confirms that it is a latch hooked rug.)
Notice also that with a latch hooked rug the stitches (knots) are entirely independent of one another. There is no continuation stitch to stitch on the back side that often occurs with conventionally hooked rugs (see image below).
This would seem to indicate (since the symmetric type knot is not firm on the basis of its own construction) that individual knots in a latch hooked rug might come out. Michael Heilman says that he has never had such a knot failure in a latch hooked rug he has made. He said that, after the latch hooked knot is in, the maker takes hold of the pile ends and pulls it tight. And, he said, each knot’s firmness is also supported by the the knots that surround it.
A second point about the backing in H42b is generally true of hooked rugs and the backings used for them. The the holes visible in H42b are sizable. Here it is again for ease of comparison.
The general point to be made is that a hooked rug can have fewer stitches than the number of holes in the backing material (and Michael Heilman says that is usual), but not more. The number of holes per linear inch in the backing material determines the maximum fineness a hooked rug can have.
The member of the audience who brought the hooked rug below said that it was hooked by her grandmother, who also dyed and cut the wool.
The two hooked pieces below were described as used as either stair treads or riser decorations.
Done with a simple hook. Straight lines across and diagonals. Usually you do 6-8 loops per inch.
Michael Heilman collected them on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in about 2004. They are extremely well hooked and have a low pile.
Michael said that Rug 46 “…is basically a hand dyed wool fabric rug I made with a shuttle hook, using 1/4” strips.. There are also sections of dyed wool yarn scattered throughout. I guess you would term the design “hit-or-miss” in the same sense of a quilt made with miscellaneous pieces. It is about 28″ x 42″. Rug 46 is a finely made wool rug constructed of 1/8 wide fabric strips on a cotton backing.”
Michael: “H47, the flower pattern is fairly conventional, but well done. My guess is that this rug dates from the 1920s or 30s and that it was stored away for most of its life., showing no signs of wear or fading.
(again, color differences are the result of camera differences and light)
“The thing that caught my eye is how the maker used a subtle “waterfall” pattern in the center grey field. I am quite sure this was a personal touch, perhaps a result of the maker having a small amount of slightly lighter grey fabric to work with.
This rug is also unusual in the method used to finish the edges.
Normally, a rug maker leaves about 2 or more inches of unworked backing fabric around the edge and then folds that over when finished and sews that portion to the back.
Here, the maker folded the backing fabric over, and probably sewed it, and then continued hooking up to the very edge through the doubled fabric backing.
This would have been a challenge, and one can see on the back that the edge hooking is more uneven than the rest of the rug.
Michael treated H48, below, as similar to his H47 above. He said they are both very fine and done with yarn.
H48 is a modified “log cabin” design (from quilts) with effective use of color and gradations of it. Mounted on black.
H49, below, is the last one of this virtual version of this program.
This is a “hooked” Art Deco design the size of which you cannot accurately estimate on the basic of the image below. It could seem to be room-sized, but it is very small, only 8 X 11.5 inches.
It is a piece that I bought very early. Entirely on impulse, without any real notion of what it was.
It is, in fact, “tufted,” rather than “hooked.” it’s stitches were put in using a needle with the “pile” material threaded through an eye, rather than using a hand hook.
Notice in the two images of its front above that all of the areas seem filled in. But if you look closely at H49b and, especially at H49c you will see that this “filled in” effect on the front has been created using not entirely “filled in” areas on the back. There are fewer stitches on the back than it appears there are on the front.
Our session came to an end. A few photos after.
Gotta do Floris’ vest again.
I want, again, to thank Amy Rispin for very capably taking on the quilt part of this program, for her work with me as we prepared for this program, for conducting it with me, and then for working with me as we jointly composed this virtual version.
I also want to thank Melinda Zongor, who heads the Museum for the American Coverlet in Bedford, Pa. for some useful distance consulting.
We thank quilt collectors, Marsha Swiss, and local quilter, Floris Flam, who both brought quilts and helped us treat them in the room.
Thanks, too, to Michael Heilman, who hooks and collects hooked rugs, and teaches the hooking of them. Michael provided support during our preparations of the hooked rugs part of this program, brought hooked rugs he had made or collected, and helped with our describing the hooked rugs brought in.
My wife, Jo Ann took photos of the program, as did Wendel Swan, who provided another excellent set.
Amy and I hope you enjoyed this virtual version of a Rug and Textile Appreciation Morning that was fun to put on.
R. John Howe