Research Paper Presentations

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Baltimore Album Quilts: New Research

Deborah Cooney and Ronda H. McAllen

This paper reexamines the Baltimore Album quilt genre, adding to the substantial body of knowledge generated by previous studies. It analyzes the stylistic shift in high-style Baltimore album motifs that occurred around 1848 that confirms the participation of professionals in block design and preparation. A compilation of new information on quilts made for Protestant ministers documents the role of these quilts in defining a specific Baltimore Album style, and in raising the level of their artistic expression.  This study suggests that by the 1840s social and cultural  ideals prescribed for women were changing, as seen in album quilt motifs and inscriptions that revealed Baltimoreans’ religious, political, patriotic, and reformist beliefs.

Deborah Cooney is a quilt historian, writer, and lecturer. She has made presentations at DAR Museum and Williamsburg symposia, and spoken on various topics of quilt history. She has contributed to several publications, including the DAR’s Eye on Elegance exhibition catalogue and Blanket Statements. Debby worked on several quilt documentation projects in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and served six years on the AQSG board of directors. She did her graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Ronda Harrell McAllen is an independent quilt scholar and genealogist specializing in Baltimore Album quilts and Maryland history.  She has presented at Colonial Williamsburg, the Daughters of the American Revolution symposium, as well as the American Quilt Study Group.  Her paper “Jewish Baltimore Album Quilts” was published in Uncoverings 2006.  Ronda has worked with numerous authors and quilt scholars on the origins and understanding of early American quilts and their makers.

The Mystery of the Harlequin Star Quilts: Finding and Naming a Previously Unidentified Regional Design

Kathleen L. Moore

The chance discovery of a unique interpretation of the Mariner’s Compass quilt block design on a quilt found in Texas in the 1980s and published in Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes’s book, Lone Stars: A Legacy of Texas, 1836—1936 led to a long and interesting research project involving many hours scanning published quilt history books, websites, and many hours delving into the genealogy of the maker’s family. The maker’s name was given as Sally Beaird Lewellin. A child of the Civil War, Sally left north Georgia and relocated to the Texas hill country in the late 1870s or very early in the 1880s. She was an experienced and gifted quiltmaker with a unique taste in color and design. Although she made other more mundane quilts, Sally seems to have favored this particular pattern and she had her own ideas about how it should look. Her Sunburst quilt tops are unlike any other and they were challenging to complete. Most interesting of all, Sally seems to have brought her basic pattern design ideas with her from north Georgia. The evidence is sparse but compelling and leaves little doubt that she was not the first person from her geographic region to attempt this difficult design, but she took it to stunning levels of accomplishment. This paper presents the story of Sally Lewellin’s unique interpretation of this regional design and her possible source(s) of inspiration. The focus of this paper is not only the story of Sally Beaird Lewellin’s quiltmaking legacy, but the revelation of a previously unknown regional interpretation of a long-established and challenging quilt block design.

Kathy Moore received a master’s degree in textile history with an emphasis on quilt studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2005. She is a researcher and lecturer and co-author of Home on the Plains: Quilts and the Sod House Experience (Kansas City Star Books, 2011). She authored the article, “A New Life for an Old Quilt: A Case Study in Options and Consequences” for the Summer 2015 issue of Blanket Statements. Since retiring and moving to central Texas, Moore has been a volunteer in collections care and conservation for the quilt collection at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas, Austin. She is a long-standing member of AQSG, having just completed two terms of office on the Board of Directors. Additionally, Moore is a quiltmaker and has been/is a member of a number of quilt guilds in Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas. She has been the Program Chairperson for the Lone Star Quilt Study group since 2011 and was selected as the Faith P. and Charles L. Bybee Foundation and Texas Quilt Museum’s Bybee Scholar for 2016. In her spare time, Moore continues to research interesting quilts and quilt stories.

Louisiana Acadian Cotonnade Quilts: Preserving the Weaving Heritage of a People

Dale Drake

Two hundred fifty years ago Acadian refugees from Nova Scotia settled in southwest Louisiana, bringing their weaving traditions with them. Over the next 150 years they lived in cultural and linguistic isolation, building strong family groups reliant on their own resources for survival, and they created hand-spun and hand-woven cotonnade fabrics for clothing and household textiles. They continued this tradition through the nineteenth century, long after others in America had abandoned their looms for inexpensive commercial fabrics. A few of the quilts made by Acadian women from these homespun fabrics have survived in private and public collections and were studied in this project. Analysis included piecing format, cotonnade style, quilting and binding method and condition, which provided clues to how these quilts were used. Most of the quilts were collected by area buyers and exist without provenance, but two were created by a single extended family, and the study includes information from a family member who remembers living in a household where hand-made cotonnade was available for clothing and for quilts. Traditional Acadian values of self-sufficiency, frugality, cultural conservatism and family loyalty are evident in these quilts. They are important cultural artifacts, documenting the wide variety of fabrics the weavers created as they cared for their families, and preserving that weaving tradition and those cultural values in a new form.

Dale Drake is an independent quilt researcher and holds a B.S. in Computer Technology from Purdue University. She has been active in local history, serving as Morgan County (Indiana) Historian, co-founding the Morgan County History and Genealogy Association, editing its publications, writing a local newspaper column, and serving as the Volunteer Committee Chairman of the Friends of the Indiana State Archives. She co-edited An Index to Records of the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home in the Indiana State Archives, and continues to research Indiana families as a professional genealogist. She began quilting in the early 1990s, and joined the American Quilt Study Group and Midwest Fabric Study Group in 2004. She now moderates the AQSG Yahoo discussion list. She enjoys creating quilts by hand, drawing inspiration from antique quilts, and has participated in the last five AQSG quilt studies. She serves as Collections Chair of the Quilters Hall of Fame, restores quilts, teaches hand quiltmaking techniques and tatting, and lectures on quilt history and vintage quilt care. Her main research interest is Louisiana Acadian quilting traditions, stemming from discussions with her mother’s family in southwest Louisiana.

The Cushman Quilt Tops: A Tale of North and South

Rachel May and Linda Welters

The Cushman Collection in the University of Rhode Island’s Historic Textile and Costume Collection includes three unfinished quilt tops and two fabric swatch books along with over 500 other artifacts. The quilt tops, which were begun in 1833, reveal a family story of North and South that spans two hundred years. The tops were similarly constructed of hexagons with a central star motif, made with the template-pieced mosaic patchwork method. Many of the paper templates remain in the backs of the quilt tops. Dates in the paper fragments range from 1775 to 1940, revealing generations of history, from the colonial and antebellum period in Charleston and Providence to the Colonial Revival movement. The fabrics in the quilt tops and swatch books mark the transition from hand-spun and hand-woven cloth to machine-made textiles. Further, the quilt tops, swatch books, and related archival materials shed light on deeply intertwined family relationships between those who lived in Providence, Rhode Island, and Charleston, South Carolina, and their connection to larger themes in the Atlantic world, notably capitalism, trade, and slavery.

Rachel May is the author of three books, including Quilting with a Modern Slant, a Library Journal and Amazon.com Best Book of 2014. Her forthcoming book, Stitches in Time, is a work of creative nonfiction that tells the story of the Crouch-Cushman family and the people they enslaved. She’s an Assistant Professor of English at Northern Michigan University.

Linda Welters is Professor of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design at the University of Rhode Island where she teaches courses in the history of textiles and fashion. She has published articles and books on fashion, European folk dress, archaeological textiles, and American quilts. She directed the Rhode Island Quilt Documentation Project and co-edited Down by the Old Mill Stream: Quilts in Rhode Island with Margaret Ordoñez.

Dr. Welters has received a number of honors including a Legacy Society Award from the University of Minnesota, and the University of Rhode Island Foundation Scholarly Excellence Award. She was named a Fellow of the Costume Society of America in 2004 and the International Textile and Apparel Association’s Distinguished Scholar in 2002. She is an Associate Fellow of the International Quilt Study Center where she received an Othmer Faculty Fellowship. Welters earned her PhD from the University of Minnesota, her MA from Colorado State University, and her BA from the College of St. Catherine. She became interested in quilts as a graduate student after writing a paper on their history. She both makes and collects quilts.

Old Quilt Brought to America

Dana Fobes Bowne

An exquisitely embroidered, but puzzling, quilt has been in the collection of the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane, Washington, since 1937. A handwritten note in the quilt’s file suggests that it was made at the court of Queen Elizabeth I, while its motifs, expertly stitched in silk, reflect Persian design. Research was undertaken to determine the quilt’s actual provenance, including examination of the quilt, fiber identification, and genealogical research. The results suggest that this quilt is most likely a rare surviving seventeenth-century Bengali quilt that was brought to Colonial Massachusetts and then handed down through generations of the donor’s family. This presentation describes the research, provides a historical context for the quilt, and offers a plausible explanation of how it traveled from India to Europe to New England, and finally to Spokane. The author will also examine how facts were blended over time to form a narrative about the quilt that was false, but contained pieces of the truth.

Dana Fobes Bowne is an independent textile researcher in Spokane, Washington. She was a contributor to Quilts of Alaska: A Textile Album of the Last Frontier (2001). Dana is a retired elementary school teacher who lived for many years in Fairbanks, Alaska. She has a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Washington, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a graduate certificate in Quilt Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Whence Garlands, Swags, Bowknots, and Baskets? Four Neoclassical Design Motifs Found in American Quilts

Anita B. Loscalzo

Baskets of flowers, bowknots, garlands, and swags appear frequently as appliqué, pieced, and whitework motifs in American quilts made in the first half of the nineteenth century. The historical use of these motifs as architectural elements and in porcelain, textiles, wallpaper, and furnishings will be explored, as well as possible routes of their assimilation into the general design vocabulary of American quilt makers. Garlands derived from ancient times, first as funerary items in Egypt, and later as decorative elements in Greece and Rome with the addition of bowknots or substitution with drapery swags. Sixteenth-century architects revived these classical motifs, but the greatest revival occurred during the neoclassical period of the mid- to late-eighteenth century. Baskets of fruits or flowers became popular motifs in the decorative arts of Europe in the seventeenth century and gained further prominence in the eighteenth century. European ideas of architecture and decorative arts spread to Colonial America, and then to the early Federal Republic, beginning in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. As a result, examples of the motifs abounded in the everyday surroundings of the populace of the young United States, giving ready examples to needleworkers to copy and adapt for their works.

Anita B. Loscalzo, an independent quilt historian and exhibition curator, is the former Curator of the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Science degree in Library Science from Drexel University, and a Master of Arts degree in Textiles, Clothing, and Design/Quilt & Museum Studies from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to her career switch in 2004, Ms. Loscalzo worked for 30 years as a librarian in art and medical libraries and rare book collections. As well as being a member of the American Quilt Study Group and having served on its Board, she is a member of the Quilt Alliance, the British Quilt Study Group, and the Costume Society of America.

Ms. Loscalzo has previously published research papers in Uncoverings and Quilt Studies and was a contributing author of Massachusetts Quilts: Our Common Wealth. She has curated numerous exhibitions, among them: “Contemporary Broderie Perse,” (New England Quilt Museum, 2010; National Quilt Museum, 2010-2011); “Backstitch: A 25 Year Retrospective of Advances & Milestones in Quiltmaking,” (New England Quilt Museum, 2012; National Quilt Museum, 2014); and “A Passion for Prussian Blue,” (New England Quilt Museum, 2015).