September 20, 2014

American Quilt Study Group Seminar, 2014 (Part 1)

This is the first of three posts that will be devoted to the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) Seminar held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 10-14th.  The last of these will feature a Quaker quilt on display at the Seminar dating from the 1840s.  Be prepared to see some wonderful fabrics!

Some of the activities at the AQSG Seminar each year are tours of local places of interest to quilters, quilt researchers, and quilt historians.  One of this year's tours was a bus trip to nearby Cedarburg to visit the Cedarburg Woolen Mill and Textile Museum.

Entrance to the Cedarburg Woolen Mill and Textile Museum.  All photographs are by
Lynda Salter Chenoweth.
The Cedarburg Woolen Mill is not an old restored woolen mill situated on a river.  It is the basement operation of Kay Walters' Civil War-era wool-to-batting processing business and a chance to see her use of 1860s seeding and carding equipment to produce batting for antique quilt restoration and for modern-day quilts.
Kay Walters describing the different varieties of sheep from which she obtains wool
for her batting operation.
The original Cedarburg Woolen Mill began processing in 1864.  Kay purchased vintage machinery patented in 1860 for her business in downtown Cedarburg and processes her wool in much the same way as it was processed in the 19th century.  The process includes washing and drying the wool, then using a mechanical burring picker and wool card to produce batting of various thicknesses.
Thin batting leaving the wool card on a conveyor belt.  To ensure the conveyor is functioning
smoothly, Kay occasionally gives it's engine a hefty kick!
Batting being wound onto a cylinder at the end of the conveyor belt for removal and bagging
in twin, double, and queen-size quilt amounts.  King-size quilts require placing two double-size
amounts side by side.  Kay says it takes four pounds of wool to produce batting for a queen-size quilt.
Wool batting has been used in comforters and quilts in America throughout its history.  Sheep were raised on most farms during colonial times and the nineteenth century.  The wool produced by these sheep was cleaned, carded, and used in bedding or spun, often dyed, and woven into fabric for clothing.  Quaker families were among those who raised sheep for their wool and much of that wool was used in bedding.
Patricia J. Keller, in her publication "Of the best Sort but Plain", Quaker Quilts from the Delaware Valley, 1760-1890, states:  "Rather than 'cotton wool' filling (more familiarly known in America today as 'cotton batting'), eighteenth-century silk-faced whole cloth quilts with Delaware Valley Quaker provenance tend to have undyed, carded wool as the filling.  The same is often true of silk-faced quilts of pieced or whole cloth construction made by women Friends in this region throughout the nineteenth century."  She goes on to say that the frequent use of silk for quilt piecing in this area, as well as the selection of "undyed, carded wool as filling for silk faced quilts" represent a distinctive Quaker tradition.  (Keller, 19.)
On the Ohio frontier, Quaker Anna Briggs Bentley and her husband Joseph raised sheep for wool.  The wool was produced mainly for home use but was also a commodity that could be sold or traded for goods the Bentley's did not produce.  Anna wrote to her sister in Maryland on 7th mo. 5th 1830:  "I have 4 trousers and 8 shirts to make, my wool to pick to have spun and linsy [sic] made, besides a great deal more sewing."  Anna converted her wool into fabric for clothing and bedcovers and also used it for filling quilts and comforters.  (Foster, 114.) 
The popularity of wool among Quaker quilters can be attributed to the facts that it was warm and durable, sheep easily could be raised on family farms, and slave labor was not traditionally required for its production. 
Kay Walters finds that there is still a significant demand for wool batting today, both to fill new quilts and comforters and to restore old ones.  Many of her clients bring their quilts and comforters to her to have the wool removed, cleaned, carded anew to restore fluffiness, and reinserted.  This work may also require mending the quilt or comforter itself.  Kay has shelves of what she calls "vintage and reclaimed" fabrics that she uses to ensure her "mends" reflect the time period of the quilts she is repairing.
Part of Kay's "stash" of vintage and reclaimed fabrics.
The trip to the Cedarburg Woolen Mill and Textile Museum was not only informative, it provided a window into the past when wool processing was done at home or in small, local manufactories.  Kay Walters is single-handedly preserving the traditions of the past using nineteenth century techniques and equipment.  What a treasure she is!
Foster, Emily (ed.).  American Grit, A Woman's Letters from the Ohio Frontier.  Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2002.
Keller, Patricia J.  "Of the best Sort but Plain", Quaker Quilts from the Delaware Valley, 1760-1890.  Chadds Ford, PA: Brandywine River Museum, 1996.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.


September 2, 2014

Quaker Quilts at Abram's Delight

This has been a year of quilt activities at the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society in Virginia.  The finishing touches are being put on plans for their Seminar, "A Focus on Quilts from the Lower Shenandoah Valley", scheduled for September 19th and 20th.  (See information at left.)  Currently, "A Collection of Quilts" from their collection can be seen at the Hollingsworth Mill in Winchester, Virginia, through October 31st.

Additionally, it was Mary's pleasure to act as a Guest Curator for a special three-day exhibit of Quaker Quilts that was held June 13-15, 2014 at Abram's Delight, a Museum of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.  The exhibit featured twenty-six quilts made between circa 1840 and 2007.  All were made or owned for generations by members of the Religious Society of Friends.  Many were made by direct descendants of Abraham Hollingsworth for whom Abram's Delight Museum is named.  Built by his son, Isaac, it is believed that construction on the house started before Abraham's death in 1748.

Abram's Delight Museum, Winchester, Virginia.  Photograph courtesy of the
Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.
One of the most recent quilts on display was made by Janney Lupton in 1997.  Janney Lupton is a direct descendant of Isaac Hollingsworth, the original builder of Abram's Delight.
Hollingsworth Revisited, 1997.  Quilt made by Janney Lupton.
Janney based her Hollingsworth Revisited Quilt on the Hollingsworth Family Quilt, circa 1858, which is now in the permanent collection of the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society.
Hollingsworth Family Quilt, circa 1858.  Collection of the Winchester-Frederick
County Historical Society.  Photograph by Barbara Tricarico.
Janney Lupton's 1997 Hollingsworth Revisited Quilt won "Best in Show" at "A Century of Quiltmaking" at Belle Grove, Winchester, Virginia, and "Best in Show" at the 2007 Maine Quilt Show, Augusta, Maine.  Her straight-set reinterpretation is heavily hand-quilted in a half-inch hanging diamond grid design.  The applique designs include cutwork hearts, similar to those seen in several other mid-nineteenth century Quaker quilts made in Virginia, as well as five blocks of the pattern known locally as "Apple Pie Ridge Star".  (See our post of February 4, 2012.)  This block is at the corners and fourth from the top in green, far right.  Janney Lupton was the first to publish the charming block pattern name after learning it from this quilt's previous owner, her cousin Janney Wilson.
While examining the original Hollingsworth Family Quilt over a light box, Janney made a startling discovery.
Hollingsworth Family Quilt, detail.  Photograph by Mary Holton Robare.
Hollingsworth Family Quilt, details showing the same block of appliqued circles
lit from behind.  Photograph by Barbara Tricarico.
What appeared to be a block of appliqued circles is, in fact, hiding an original "Vase of Tulips".
Theories about why the original block was covered up are numerous.  The first thought is that the "circles" block was a repair.  However, close examination by an expert determined there was no visible damage to the original block.  Furthermore, the fabrics and stitching of the added block appear to be contemporary to the rest of the quilt. 
One possible explanation was suggested by Janney Lupton:  "Perhaps the maker of the hidden block was disowned by strict mid-nineteenth century Quakers, resulting in the block's 'erasure'."  Some reasons for disownment included training in the military, frolicking and dancing, marrying outside of the faith, or even simply attending a non-Quaker wedding.  While we may never really know why the pre-existing block was covered up, knowledge of its mere existence is irresistible to any mystery lover. 
Note:  You can learn more about the three-day exhibit in the new publication by Mary titled "Quaker Quilts: Snapshots of an Exhibition."  (See link at left to purchase it through  The pamphlet-style, 42 page book features a never-before published pattern for creating your own applique template of a "Hidden Vase of Tulips".  The pattern was originally drafted by Janney Lupton directly off of the circa 1858 Hollingsworth Family Quilt.
In addition to some family history and anecdotes pertaining to the makers and owners of the twenty-six exhibited quilts, there is a snapshot of a circa 1850 Quaker quilt that was brought to a Quilt Turning conducted by Barbara Garrett on June 15, 2014, at the Hollingsworth Mill, Winchester, Virginia.
______________  "Quaker Networks Revealed In Quilts."  In Proceedings of the Textile History Forum.  Cherry Valley, NY: Textile History Forum, 2007.
Robare, Mary Holton.  Quilts and Quaker Heritage: Selections from an Exhibition, Virginia Quilt Museum, May 3-September 22, 2008.  Winchester, VA: Hillside Studios, 2008.
Virginia Consortium of Quilters.  Quilts of Virginia: The Birth of America Through the Eye of a Needle.  Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2006.
(c) Lynda Salter Chenoweth and Mary Holton Robare, 2014.