Frans Vintage Friends

(4/5/08)

The fourth biennial Fran's Vintage Friends Seminar was held at the Robert Morris Inn in Oxford, MD last weekend. Even though the antiquing on the Eastern Shore doesn't measure up to Lancaster Co., PA where the first three seminars were held, it seemed that the charm of Oxford, the historic 18th century inn, crabcakes galore and the beauty of spring on the Chesapeake compensated for fewer shopping opportunities. 

The curator of the Historical Society of Talbot County generously opened the Society's quilt collection to our visitors on Friday afternoon. The spectacular Baltimore style Album quilt with fondue blue sashing and an appliquéd coverlet with an incredible array of dimensional flowers were the hits of the day. Close behind were the Mathematical Star (MD's version of Lone Star with smaller stars between the blades) and the 1850s friendship quilt. 

The first official event of the Seminar was Debby Cooney's presentation "The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of Appliqué 1820-1940." The first and earliest quilt was a small medallion with a central star surrounded by chunks (that's the most accurate description) of chintz from Frederick, MD. The ladies of Frederick Co. made fabulous quilts in the early 19th century. Other Frederick examples were an Entwined Lily also with dogtooth and running vine borders and a blue and buff Honeybee. A chintz appliqué with a basket center surrounded by a dogtooth inner border had a swag and stuffed quilting. 

The goodies just kept coming: an 1850 Baltimore Album from the Hayden family, a Mary Brown quilt, 1850, with fell flowers alternating with an original flower design (You can read about Mary Brown in "A Maryland Album."), an Eastern shore Lone Star with stuffed roses and a swag border. Pennsylvania quilts were well represented in the second half of the century: a 4-block Eagle from Center, Co., a teal, red and white Oak Leaf and Reel from Mifflin Co., a York Co. Whig Rose. An blue and white 1880s Fleur de Lis from NY was done in reverse appliqué. 

The early 20th century revival of fine appliqué was illustrated by several Marie Webster designs including Windblown Tulips. Show and tell produced three pairs of PA pieced pillowcases, appliquéd Roses in a MD stairstep border, an 1840s Medallion with a large central star surrounded by small stars in a variety of French fabrics, a pair of PA Basket quilts with orange zigzag sashing and two Amish quilts, one patch squares one crib the other twin size that may have come from the same family. 

The prize for cute goes to Hazel Carter's mother who embroidered a Bunny of the Month crib top: June is a bunny bride and in August the bunny is fanning herself in an easy chair. Polly Mello started us off on Saturday with "Quilts of the 1930s." Starting with 1890s quilts with cretonne backs and border, progressing through the early 1900s with a Dolly Dingle bluework dated 1911, Ruby McKim's Bible and Nursery Rhyme patterns to the ultimate Sunbonnet Sue (p. 190 of America's Glorious Quilts) Polly discussed brownies, kewpies, the Campbell Soup kids and other inspirations for series quilts. 

A discussion of the impossible to piece patterns of Hubert VerMehren led to the wonderful Dahlia with the deco border. We saw many kits: Rhododendron, Roses on pink background, a Rose Tree on beige, Magnolia, Dogwood on yellow, American Beauty--all the wonderful realistic flowers. A Baby Block with ABC images dated 1939 was inscribed "Billy age 2." 

We had another chance to see the Lindberg redwork and a Texas A&M quilt made from uniforms (pants, vest, sleeves etc) dated 1928 and tied with maroon yarn. The Romance Magazine quilt from Commerce, TX (1936) was made for a daughter going off to college. Each block has a crayon drawing of a picture from the romance magazines popular at the time. 

My identical twin separated at birth Suzanne Cawley gave a talk on "Quilt Cousins: Woven Coverlets." For most of us this was an entirely new field and Suzanne gave us a great introduction. I now know the difference between geometric and fancy coverlets, double weave and summer and winter. I have a long way to go but Suzanne gave me a great introduction. 

I lack the vocabulary to describe the examples we saw, but I intend to learn. My presentation was "Eastern Shore and More: Quilts of Delmarva." I had a wonderful time gathering a selection of quilts made on the Shore in the 19th century. 

When I first moved here I thought that there would be a recognizable Eastern Shore style of quilt. After all the area was isolated from the rest of the world by the Chesapeake Bay until the first bridge was built in the 1950s. I was wrong. There are a few generalizations that can be made but nothing that shouts "Eastern Shore." Here's what I've found. 

Fleur de Lis friendship quilts were the most popular design on the Upper Shore in the 1840-50 period. Most ES Album quilts mere made in the 1860s, after the fad had ended in Baltimore. Many high style, elegant quilts were made pre-Civil War, especially in Maryland. The finest of fabrics were available in spite of the area's isolation (most travel was by boat and there is water everywhere. Many 2nd and 3rd quarter quilts have blocks set on point with sashing and cornerstones. Lots of double and triple rodded straight lines in the borders. 

From 1860 to 1920 in quilts made on the Lower Shore I see more orange than anywhere outside of PA. Also common in quilts of the Lower Shore (1860-1880) is the use of pink as a background and green for sashing (you'd almost think you were in central PA). 

After 1890 you find lots of shirtings. There were shirt factories all over the Shore which employed the wives and daughters of watermen and farmers. Mary Lou McDonald spoke about the Baltimore Album quilts owned by the Lovely Lane Methodist Church in Baltimore. 

The depth of Mary Lou's research on the whole body of Balt. Albums is astonishing. It's fascinating to see the variations on theme such as woven baskets, cornucopia, crossed branches, bowls of fruit, etc. There are so many questions. Of course, we are all hoping that somewhere in a Baltimore attic is a diary that will answer some of these questions. 

Susan McKelvey did the impossible combining two great topics. She discussed her specialty "Writing on Quilts" with antique examples and then her own contemporary interpretations. A Garfield's Monument quilt with many signatures was especially interesting. It's not a pattern one often sees and it does make a good friendship pattern. She also brought her collection of blue bird quilts, some appliquéd some embroidered. 

The perfect visual treat for an early spring morning. Judi Gunter's presentation, Commemorative Textiles, was right up my alley. I've finally admitted that there is no more space for quilts in our small house, but I'm sure I can fit in lots of small, flat stuff. Judi talked about the commemoratives printed for World's Fairs starting with the wonderful bandanas from the Philadelphia Exhibition (the one that shows all the major buildings and several others) continuing with the Columbian Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago, the Pan Am in 1901 and the Lewis and Clark Centennial in St. Louis.right up to Seattle in 1962. 

Eponymous Fran told us a great story about visiting the 1939 fair in New York as a little girl. Wars have produced a variety of fabrics: the ubiquitous sweetheart/mother/sister pillows, a WWII doll quilts with a puppy in uniform, a Hitler figurine with a pincushion on his rear end.. From the political realm Judi has an 1840 doll quilt with a toile back featuring Wm Henry Harrison (log cabin and hard cider). She showed the Kansas City Star Elephant and the Donkey. A clown costume from the 1920s showed dancing elephants and donkeys (how appropriate!). There was an Ike dress with complimentary "I Like Ike" gloves (there were lots of Eisenhower textiles) and a Nixon paper dress with a frilly organdy apron, a "Wash Away LBJ" washcloth, a Kerry Beanie Baby and a Hillary Voo Doo doll. 

There is simply no end to the inventiveness of the partisans. I loved the hilarious spoof of the anti-equal rights amendment forces: a "Ladies Against the Women's Movement" scarf with inscriptions such as "Roses not raises, You're nobody until you're Mrs. somebody, Suffering not suffrage, Born to clean, I'd rather be ironing, Recriminalize sex"--what fun, but we must remember that the "antis" won. 

I also like the temperance ribbon inscribed "Here we pledge perpetual hate to all that can intoxicate." The grand finale was "Fran's View," a discussion of the early 20th century quilts made of "sleazy" (Fran's word) with 1/8" seams. Fran had a whole pile of tops made in northern Delaware. Fran is not fond of 20th century quilts (even the great ones) but she is forgiving. 

As Ginny Gunn wrote in her article for Uncoverings 2007 women in the early 20th century just didn't have good fabrics to work with. The one worry we had about having the Seminar on the Eastern Shore was that we can't offer the antiquing opportunities of Lancaster Co. (who can?). The scenery and the seafood seemed to compensate.

 I almost hate to admit that on my way home I found a scrappy 1870 Chimney Sweep with pink and green background and sashing. It would have fit perfectly in my presentation. I know I just said I have no more room for quilts (I lied). 

Cinda on the Eastern Shore

Read Cinda's comments on the January 2008 meeting here

Read Cinda's comments on the March 16, 2007 meeting here

Read Cinda's comment on the March 2006 meeting here

Read Cinda's comments on the January 2006 meeting here

Read Cinda's comments on the June 24, 2005 meeting here.

Read 's comments on the May 2005 meeting here

Read Cinda's comments on the March 21, 2005 meeting here

Read Cinda's comments on the Jan 20, 2005 meeting here.

Read Cinda's comments here

For more information, contact Fran Fitz at fjfitz@erols.com