December 10, 2012

Red and Green Evoke Thoughts of the Holidays

Most Americans today identify the colors red and green with the holiday season.  These colors bring to mind Christmas lights and decorated trees, mistletoe tied with red ribbon, holly berries, and festive wreaths.

From the 1830s through the end of the 19th century, however, Quaker and other quilt makers combined red and green with white to produce album quilts that had no holiday connotation.  Prior to this time, the fashion was to use realistic floral prints cut from expensive chintz fabrics to produce appliqued (often referred to as broderie perse) quilts in the album style.  The cost of these chintz fabrics generally limited this style to those women who had the means to purchase them.

The popularity of the red, green, and white album quilt was highest during the period of 1840-1860 after affordable, cotton fabrics of green and red became available.  Using these colors, so frequently found in nature, women began to fashion their own floral designs by cutting, overlaying, and appliqueing fabric to create wreaths, floral displays in vases or baskets, sprigs, and bouquets such as those seen in chintz prints.  This technique was widely used by middle-class women, both rural and urban, to make heirloom quilts for their families.  The production of these quilts declined after the Civil War perhaps, in part, because the synthetic dyes used after 1860 produced reds and greens that faded to beige or browns from washing and exposure to light.

Lynda, rummaging through her fabric "stash" earlier this year, came across a number of reproduction fabrics in green and "Turkey red" she had bought a few years ago with the idea of one day making a red, green, and white quilt.  She was inspired to do this, at last, by many of the Quaker quilts of this color scheme that she and Mary had seen in books, museums, and private collections.  Lynda particularly liked the album quilts that combined blocks of appliqued designs with pieced blocks and decided, using block patterns and designs seen in Quaker quilts, to make one of her own.

Quilt pieced and hand-appliqued by Lynda Salter Chenoweth, 2012.  Machine quilted by Maureen
Burns of Sonoma, California.  The irregular shape of the quilt results from the kindness of Lynda's
huband and neighbors who held it aloft for a full frontal photograph.  Lynda calls this quilt "A
Mid-Atlantic Quaker Memory".  Photograph by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Lynda gave a "nod" to the early cut-out chintz blocks by creating a wreath of roses, a cluster of roses, and a bird/floral applique to include among her blocks.
The three blocks using printed fabrics to create cut-out-chintz-style patterns. Photographs
by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Two other appliqued blocks are paper-cut patterns popular in the mid-Atlantic region of America during the middle of the 19th century.  One is a circular wreath and the other is one of Mary's favorite patterns, the fleur-de-lis medallion variation some now recognize as an "Apple Pie Ridge Star".
Wreath and "Apple Pie Ridge Star" blocks.  Photographs by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The pieced blocks Lynda made for the quilt include: a Bear Paw, a Chimney Sweep (also called Christian Cross), a Nine Patch, and a replica of the blocks that appear in Philena Cooper Hambleton's 1853 quilt.
Bear Paw, Chimney Sweep, Nine Patch, and Philena quilt blocks.  Photographs
by Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
Lynda chose a bright yellow paisley for part of the border so the quilt would not be mistaken for a "Christmas quilt".  But it is, indeed, the holiday season so we present this quilt to thank you for visiting our blog and to wish you all
Brackman, Barbara.  Clues in the Calico, A Guide to Identifying and Dating Antique Quilts.  McLean, VA: EPM Publications, Inc., 1989.
Hornback, Nancy and Terry Clothier Thompson.  Quilts in Red and Green and the Women Who Made Them.  Kansas City, MO: Kansas City Star Books, 2006.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2012.



1 comment:

  1. A lovely quilt - thanks for the close ups of the blocks. I love the last basket! Happy Christmas to you too. Every Stitch