Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Archie Butt Quilt Contest 1911

In 1911 Major Archibald Butt and Albert Howell
conducted a great Georgia quilt contest.

The President (left) & Archie Butt strolling in Washington about 1910.

Butt, Georgia born, was aide-de-camp to President William Howard Taft. He and his companion Francis Millet were building a new home in Washington D.C. and Archie decided he needed a quilt for the guest room.

Crazy quilt on a chair. 

The story is told that Butt, Taft and friend Albert Howell of Atlanta were out for a drive in Georgia when they came across a quilt hanging outside a rural cabin. Butt was struck by the quilt and told Howell he needed an "old-fashioned Georgia quilt" for the bed. One article said he wanted a quilt like the kind that were made in the country before the war (Civil War, we assume, although he was born five months after the war was over.)

From Georgia Quilts: Piecing Together a History

Howell, whose brother's family owned the Atlanta Constitution, decided to find Archie a quilt. (Partly as a joke, he recalled.) He put an ad in the Constitution and other Georgia papers.
"Wanted An old - fashioned country quilt, for which a handsome price will be paid. - - . The quilt is to cover the bed of Major Archibald Butt, aide to President Taft."
Apparently hundreds of Georgians brought quilts for Howell to look at. On May 22, 1911 he and friends chose a pair of quilts for the Major. Newspaper articles described their options:
Some of the designs submitted are: "The Sunflower, the "Possum" Paw. the "Basket Quilt. the "Log Cabin. the"Lone Star," the "Brick Quilt." the "Hexagon." the "Sugar Loaf," the "Nine Patch," the "Star Quilt, the "Block Quilt, the "Bear's Paw" and the "Bow Knot" ...

Fortunately a photo was published of the winning quilt. The "Double Sunflower" design was
made by Mrs. A. E. Collum, Decatur, Georgia. She said there were 5,000 pieces in it.

Second place went to a hexagon quilt by Mrs. J. M. Bentley of Atlanta.

The handsome price: $100 each, guessed the Richmond Times Dispatch on May 24, the day after the judging. Somebody at the Times Dispatch thought the whole thing was silly. $100 was too much to pay for an old-fashioned quilt.
"Besides, what does Major Butts want with these quilts?... Doubtless they are as heavy as lead and as ugly as a mud fence. Besides it is Major Butt's business to sleep under an army blanket...."

Butt and Taft were close friends.

Archie Butt and Francis Davis Millet died on the Titanic in 1912, returning from a European vacation.

A fountain in their honor stands near the White House. The quilts went to Butt's niece who lived in England.

The Window Seat by Francis Davis Millet
Francis Davis Millet was a painter and sculptor.

The Widow by Francis Davis Millet

Read more about the great Georgia quilt contest of 1911 here in Home Progress magazine:


And read the nasty article in the Richmond newspaper here:


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Quilts at the 1885 Cotton States Exposition

Harriet Powers's Bible Quilt

"Quilt Exhibit, Interior of Negro Building, Atlanta Exposition," 1895
Stereograph by B W. Kilburn, published 1896

The vintage photo features Harriet Powers's Bible Quilt, now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. Kyra Hicks on her blog Black Threads reported on an original card selling on eBay for $203 ten years ago.

 Harriet Powers's Bible Quilt - 1885-1886

The exposition, a sort of a world's fair, was held in Atlanta, Georgia. The 1895 exhibit was the last of three Atlanta Cotton State fairs:
  • 1881 International Cotton Exposition,
  • 1887 Piedmont Exposition
  • 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition
A coin purse made of a painted shell

The trade show and entertainment showcased Atlanta as a growing city and hoped to develop markets for the post-Civil-War Southern textile economy.

The Negro Building
In the spirit of segregation there was a separate building for black
Americans' arts and industry.

The Memphis Display in the Negro Building.
On the left of the women a spinning wheel.
See one version of this card at the Libarary of Congress:

Behind the spinning wheel some kind of patterned textile.

The commercial photographer B. W. Kilburn & Company of Littleton, New Hampshire, published a series of 149 stereocards of the Expo. In some of the shots of the Negro Building you get a glimpse of what might be quilts.

Probably just flags....

Same photo, another detail
of a doll bed in the foreground
and a girl sitting on a bed just like it.

Just flags.

Those patterned items hung on walls are probably some
other kind of banner or canvas.

Except in the photo of the quilt exhibit featuring Harriet Powers's quilt.
Behind her quilt is a woman in a booth. On the right: seems like a Lone Star.
On the left: A pine cone or pine burr bedcover of folded triangles?

Similar to this one from the inventory of Julie Silber Quilts.

Or maybe it's a  pieced wheel quilt of some kind.

And in the case:
Appliqued words of the Lord's Prayer.
At the bottom

See a similar quilt by Lena Moore featuring Psalm 23 here:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My New Quilt: Appliqued Sunshine

I recently bought this appliqued quilt on eBay.
It is certainly energetic if not conventionally beautiful.

First of all it's dated
Jan 1931 in Turkey red thread.

The applique designs all askew are quite cheerful.
Are those chrome orange butterflies?

Any quilt with stars & suns reminds me of my
sorely missed friend Nancy Hornback who used
to collect quilts with suns and stars and moons.

Blocks include six versions of this fleur-de-lis design, which
was a fairly common mid-19th century pattern, numbered
6 in my Encyclopedia of Applique.

Another great thing is that there was a little bit of history with it. The Massachusetts dealer had bought it "from a picker in Philadelphia who purportedly bought the quilt from an African American household in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia."

It said Philadelphia to me.

I was thinking of applique like this one dated 1847
from Philadelphia

And this one sold by dealer Stella Rubin.
 It's dated 1842 in memory of Abby Leaming Forepaugh
who died in Philadelphia.

And then there's block #116 from
the Ladies' Art Company catalog.
"Philadelphia Beauty."
#6.2 in my Encyclopedia

See a post on the traditional pattern here:

The khaki colored blocks are appliqued
with green thread and probably were
once a dark green.

At first I was doubtful about the date of 1931. The fabrics look to be the solids dating from about 1880 to 1920 that were so unreliable.

The reds are now pinkish. 
They might have looked like the Turkey red embroidery thread once.
The chrome orange is still a bright orangey-yellow.

It was once a red, green and yellow applique, a style you do not see much of after 1910 or so.Without the date I'd have guessed about 1900. So my first guess: it was appliqued about 1900 and quilted later. You can see parallel lines of machine quilting above.

But my friends noticed that the applique is stitched over the quilting. This was quilted first and then appliqued. I think it was probably a comforter of some kind---a white muslin-encased blanket with sparse machine quilting. Some clever stitcher took a shortcut and added the applique to the bound and quilted comforter and dated it January, 1931. 

Once I figured this out I noticed a quilt done in similar style also on eBay. The red appliqued wheels seem to be appliqued to a pre-quilted comforter from what I could see. 

The dealer was from a town north of Philadelphia.

I didn't buy it however. One is enough. And I like mine better.
But now I'm wondering how more there are out there.
It's the old Mary Evans question:
One person or a regional style?

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Past Perfect: Edyta Sitar

Sticks & Stones
Designed by Edyta Sitar for Laundry Basket Quilts

July's Past Perfect quilter is Edyta Sitar whose pattern company Laundry Basket Quilts offers a wide range of designs inspired by the past.

New York Beauty

Edyta is having a show of her work at Quilt House in Lincoln, Nebraska, from July 11 through October 8, 2017.

"Bringing an individual vision to the traditional look of American quilts, Edyta Sitar designs quilts and fabrics and teaches workshops around the world. Sitar had an innate love for textiles and sewing as a child, but was introduced to quiltmaking by her husband’s family. She proudly carries on the family tradition 'stitched together through the generations.' Her quilts on exhibition offer inspiration for today’s quiltmakers who, likewise, sustain these tradition."

Blue Spruce

Edyta and husband Mike Sitar live in Michigan, where they run their business based on patterns and Edyta's fabric designs.

They offer "Laseys," which is a pretty good pun
for laser-cut applique shapes. Brilliant idea!

Paint Basket

Jolene's Star


I bet this photo on the cover of one of her books
is Edyta and her mother. She was born in Poland,
raised in Germany and came to the U.S. temporarily---until she met Mike.

Rainbow Star

Several years ago the Grand Rapids Press did an interview:
"A resourceful child without her own fabric stash, Edyta Sitar cut a piece of fabric from her mother's beloved drapes. When she presented her mother with the pillow she had stitched by hand out of the drape fabric, her mother was not pleased. 'She took it all apart and put those drapes back together. Thank goodness, she didn't kill me that day,' Sitar said, laughing about how she went on to cut up four of her mother's best sweaters and stitch pieces of each back together to make one sweater.
'She loved it,' Sitar said, explaining her mother realized early there would be no containing her daughter's creativity.
Reaching Out
"Staying in the U.S. wasn't the plan when Sitar arrived in California to study English. But plans to return home were preempted when Sitar fell in love and married Michael Sitar. 'I was very lucky to be welcomed by his family,' Sitar said.The couple lived briefly with her husband's grandmother, an avid quilter who was strict with one house rule in particular.
'When you live in my house, you're going to quilt,' Sitar recalls her grandmother-in-law telling her.
Sitar agreed to this condition even though 'I had no idea what the word 'quilt' meant.'
But she learned quickly, spending hours quilting with Grandma, who eagerly shared 64 years of quilting knowledge with her."

Sweet Blend

Sweet Sixteen

Broken Glass

See Edyta's quilts in the Pumphrey Family Gallery at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum's Quilt House:
The show opens on Tuesday the 11th of July.

Dancing Umbrellas

And see many more of her designs at Laundry Basket Quilts.