Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fabric... Welcome to the Patriotic Quilter where I like to share all things quilty as well as red, white, and blue! Please feel free to look around and enjoy yourself! I would love to hear from you.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Antique Baltimore Album Quilts Exhibit

My husband and I spend the long weekend in Colonial Williamsburg.  On our second day, we spent the afternoon at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.  We began with a guided tour.  The tour guide began by sharing a definition of folk art--art produced by people who have the urge to create but have no formal education in art.  I don't know about you all, but folk art is my favorite!  I love the naive quality and the usually simple forms.  I could go on and on about folk art, but this entry is about the quilt exibit.  Needless to say, I practically needed a bib before we even got into it, as the folk art had me drooling...

The quilt exibit was in its own small gallery.  The lighting in it is designed to not fade the quilts.  It made for terrible photography conditions, but I did my best.  This post is going to have many photos, but they are going to be worth your time!

The first one was a whole cloth quilt.  I was sort of wondering if this was the back of an appliqued quilt, so people could just notice the quilting, but frankly, I didn't read the write-up about this one.  I had just stepped into paradise!

The next one was a broderie perse quilt--are you familiar with that technique?  The maker cuts details from a printed fabric (usually a chintz) and appliques it onto the background fabric.  This was a quilting technique that goes back to colonial times.  It was also done by wealthy women--no one else could afford large pieces of fabric necessary for the technique.
Perhaps you can see that the motifs above are designs cut from a floral fabric.
I loved that the lighting in the exhibit room was even "quilty"  And do you see that little table?  It features tiles of quilt blocks so that kids can design their own quilt! (Yes, of course I played with it, too!)  You can see a closeup here below.
This is the first of the really traditional album quilts.  This one is all appliqued, but the border is a print fabric.
Here is a detail shot.  This block features many symbols of IOOF (Oddfellows).  More than one of these quilts was IOOF related.  There was also a Masonic one.  In this one, though, I love that tiny heart in hand!  And look at the quilting!!!  The stitches are miniscule!
This is a detail showing the printed border.
The next one was set on point.  I love how the red and green lattice weave over and under!  No fancy border on this one, just half and quarter square blocks and then a red and white strip set.  It looks like some of the half blocks were one appliqued block cut in half!
Closeup photos show the weaving lattice.  The block above is a papercut block--the pattern was folded like a snowflake and cut.  Other blocks were detail appliqued.  I love the tiny hexies below.


The next quilt was also on point with red sashing.  I think everyone knows that Baltimore Album quilts are defined not only by the exquisite applique, but also by the predominant use of red and green.

The applique just gets more and more complex!  I love this basket block.  Look at the basket--made with the cut out reed detail!
Next is one with a square setting and the first fancy appliqued border.

Also notice that some of the blocks are repeated 4 times--like the ones in each corner, and the rings of flowers block below/above each corner. 
I really tried to get a closeup of the quilting, but couldn't.  Can you see that the quilting is done in two parallel lines that are really close to each other?  The stitches were so tiny I could hardly see them! The photo below shows the grape pattern in the border.

The next quilt had a border of grapes, also, but they were done in purple, which adds to the traditional red and green color scheme.  This border is more complex than the last.  I also like the three strip lattice.
Here is a detail photo.  You can see that the quilting is a small on point grid.  It also looks like there was some writing in this block--another common trait of the album quilt.  Sometimes verses or names were inked in.
Are you overwhelmed yet by the skilled work?!  I was!!  This next one has a larger block surrounded by smaller ones.  Can you see that trupunto is being used here?  Can you see how some of the shapes are stuffed?  I love the rosebud border, as well.  Also, I really like how there isn't any sashing so that the applique just pops off the background.
(The vertical line is in the display glass, not on the quilt)
Look at that quilting!!!!!

The fruit bowl...  And of course, below, I bet you can tell what I like--the flags!  Also, check out the ruched flowers.

This one may be my favorite.



Actually, I suppose this is my favorite thing in the room.  Sorry everyone, he's mine!  But check out that quilt behind him.  Let's get him out of the way...
That's better.  Again, this one doesn't have sashing, but look at that border!  This is the quirky one.  Can you tell that the blocks in the top half are upside down?  I'm guessing the maker wanted it to look good hanging off the bed?  Or maybe it was to be hung over a pole or something?   Let's get a closer look.
 The block above is from the lower part of the quilt.  Look at those tiny pieces in the basket!  The block below (more flags!!!) is from the upper part of the quilt and I didn't flip it--those blocks are all upside down. 

The border is a densely appliqued row of zig-zagging flowers and leaves.  Notice the trapunto quilting. 
Whew.  After those masterworks of applique and quilting, the next one featured some simplicity.  This one only uses these harp blocks.  Also notice that the corners are rounded.
Even my husband noticed the missing quilting in the lower corner.  An intentional mistake?  Or did it wear away?  Who knows...  My favorite thing about this quilt is that it wasn't made in Maryland, but across Chesapeake Bay.  It was made in York County, Virginia--I live in York County, Virginia!
The last one I thought was modern.  The colors are so bright!  A quick check showed it to be from the 1850-60s, though.
This one has a nice scalloped border, no sashing, and grid quilting.  It must have always been put away because the colors were not faded at all.

So, which do you prefer?  Do you like them with sashing or without?  Are you ready to sign up for applique classes yet?  Do  you have ten years to spend on your next project? 
I hope you enjoyed the quilts.  If you are at all within travel distance to Williamsburg, I highly recommend a visit.  There was an hour-long talk about them earlier in the week, I missed it! But, I'm going to watch for it and hopefully get a chance to go back to hear more information.
Have a great day!


  1. These are all stunning! And it makes me a little sad that the last one might never have been used and loved....just put away. It's still perfect, but I like to see antique quilts with a little wear. Then you know someone got to use them.

    I just love how much trapunto is on these. I just love it. And the broderie perse! Wonderful!

    What an amazing exhibit. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. That whole cloth is amazing! It looks like a really amazing exhibition.

  3. Thanks for sharing!! Vintage quilts have so much history to share....created by someone amazing women!