Wooly Mammoth

By: Wendy Canton Reed
Bath, Maine
Laureen LaBar
Richmond, Maine

We chose a quilt representing those made in Maine in the early 1800s. Its maker utilized minimal piecing in bright colors and simple, elegant floral motifs highlighted by linear diagonal quilting. In Maine, pieced wool quilts mark a transition between wholecloth and patchwork quilts. This example has a rectilinear color scheme, calling to mind early nineteenth-century Federal design. If it weren’t for the overhang at the bottom to accommodate bedposts, (typical in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Maine), one might think this was a product of today’s Modern Quilt Movement, with its wonderful use of negative space. But its quilting designs refer back to an earlier rococo sensibility. This unusual combination pairs well with today’s Maine culture and lifeways that look to the past for inspiration in a decidedly digital age.

We wanted the study quilt to echo the original. Wendy constructed the quilt. She hand quilted it using Laurie’s Tree of Life interpretation of the original floral and vine motifs. Fabrics in the top are 100% wool. The indigo was a nearly perfect match. The soft yellow and green were serviceable, but Wendy had to tea dye the salmon to tone it down a bit. She wanted linen for the backing but after a few hand dying experiments, settled on “homespun type” cotton, instead of a thicker wool backing.

Wendy used wool batting, split in half to create a lower loft. It needled beautifully. The challenge was marking Laurie’s quilting designs. The Hera marker worked reasonably well on all but the indigo. Wendy was just able to get a white pencil to leave enough of a mark to see, and felt a remarkable empathy for the original maker. If Wendy had this much trouble seeing quilting lines with today’s specialty lighting, how could one have quilted by candle or oil lamp?