teaching sewing confidence, tip by tip

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Can't Get To The Quilt Exhibition In Brooklyn? Take My Photo Tour Instead - Room 1 of 2

Last week Cynthia @AQuilterbyNight and I visited the "Workt by Hand": Hidden Labor and Historical Quilts exhibition at Brooklyn Museum, New York.  The exhibition continues until 15 September 2013 and I highly recommend it if you can get there.

Right now all the blossoms are out and the Museum front is looking incredibly beautiful as you step out of the subway. And yes, that really is how close the subway is to the Museum so if you're visiting Manhattan you can see it's so easy to get to and the entrance fee is a 'Suggested' $12/person - which means you can take the whole family in for free if that works best for you.

While I was at the exhibition I took lots of photos to share with those of you who won't be able to get there and here they are, well at least here's Room 1 - I'll post Room 2 separately!!!

Cynthia snapped this pic of me hard at work grabbing all that quilty detail to share with you!


Here goes, a photo-heavy post and no words, these quilts speak for themselves
 - just the Museum's display board details for each quilt.  Enjoy :)

Pictorial Quilt, circa 1795: Linen, multicoloured thread - illustrating life in late 18th century England or Ireland.  Using a combination of cotton printed fabrics and embroidery, the unknown quilter created mirrored scenes of village life and country life on the outer border and showed elaborately dressed couples engage in conversation or dancing along the inner ring.  The multiple borders and stylised floral cartouches are common elements in quilts from this region and time period, but the vignettes offer the maker's own perspective on the world

Medallion Quilt, circa 1830 - Elizabeth Welsh, West Virginia - Cotton: Elizabeth Welsh's use of reverse applique, in which the fabric that provides the ground for a design is meticulously cut away from the decorative elements that lie below, shows the care that went into creating this patriotic medallion quilt.  Since several nearly identical quilts have been attributed to the Baltimore area, it is likely that Welsh had a connection to this region through friends or relatives.  In advance of the national Bicentennial in 1976, this pattern was translated into a popular kit titled "American Eagle".

Star of Bethlehem Quilt, circa 1830 - Cotton

Tumbling Blocks Quilt, circa 1865-70 - Victoria Royall Broadhead (American, 1839-1913) - Columbia, Missouri - Silk, velvet, wood: Employing skillful colour variations and similar block patterns in the interior and border, this quilt was clearly a point of pride for its maker.  The label on the reverse reads, "Box and Star Pattern, Quilt made by Mrs Victoria Royall Broadhead in 1865 to 1870 in Columbia, Mo" and lists state fairs in two cities (St Louis and Kansas City) where the quilt received the first premium and others (Columbia and Mexico, Missouri) where it was exhibited.

Coverlet, circa 1810 - Betsey A Canfield (American, born 1794) - Cotton: In choosing to work with a pristine white cloth, Betsey Canfield clearly set out to make a special-occasion quilt, since any stain would ruin the surface of this whole-cloth masterpiece.  She used quilting stitches as her sole tool for delineating patterns, which are emphasised by additional stuffing that enhances their sculptural quality.  The medallion format, here composed of successive borders with a large flower basket at the centre, harks back to designs found in the imported Indian palampores (hand-painted cotton fabrics) that arrived in Europe in the 17th & 18th centuries and remained popular in quilt-making until the 19th century.

Star of Bethlehem Quilt, circa 1850 - Silk: Large Star of Bethlehem quilts became popular in the first half of the 19th century, as the range of fabrics available to quilt-makers grew dramatically with advances in manufacturing and the increasing ease of international trade.  Star quilts are always a tour de force, but this one surpasses most with its dynamic patterning, vivid colours and exclusive use of expensive silk fabric.  The maker was likely a woman of privilege, able to afford the material and time needed to complete her design and the specialised care required to keep it intact.  While ostensibly functional, this piece would primarily have been a showcase of her artistic sense, needle skills, and social status.

Mariner's Compass Quilt, circa 1850 - Cotton

Crazy Quilt, circa 1875-1900 - Silk, brocade, velvet

Strippie Quilt, circa 1880 - Silk, velvet

Bars Quilt, circa 1880 - Silk, velvet

Touching Stars Quilt, circa 1850 - Cotton

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Quilt, circa 1850

Quilt with Flying Geese Pattern, circa 1847

Pictorial Quilt, circa 1840 - Cotton, cotton thread: Each block of this quilt showcases the diverse skills and interests of a different contributor.  One features a woman's silhouette, the initials "NM" a cat, a heart, a mitten and the square and compass symbol of the Freemason fraternal organisation.  Though they were not allowed membership, women supported this all-male group through female auxiliaries, using their needles to raise money and awareness for Masonic causes.

Whole-Cloth Quilt, circa 1830s - Cotton toile: By choosing symbolic fabrics, such as this cotton print featuring portraits fo the first seven US presidents, or patterns such as the Whig Rose on view nearby, women used quilts as a way to voice their political positions.  The fabric used here suggests a date for this unique whole-cloth quilt: as only the initial year of Andrew Jackson's first term is included, the fabric was presumably printed while he was in office, between 1829 and 1837.  The laudatory phrase below Jackson's image, "Magnanimous in Peace, Victorious in War", implies that this quilt's maker was a supporter of the contentious president.

Medallion Quilt, circa 1830 - Cotton

So much inspiration and food for thought don't you think?
I'll post Room 2 tomorrow, I'm in need of a cup of tea first, though! :)

Link to Room 2 now available here.

For details of other fabric, yarn, trim and notion stores that I've visited around the world along with the NYC stores I love, exhibitions and events I've attended and wonderful people I've been lucky to meet click the links below or in my sidebar :D

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only, no payment or commission is received on click-throughs and opinions are my own.

Follow on Bloglovin


  1. I am so thrilled by this post!!! These quilts are beyond amazing. What an incredible experience to see them in person!! Thank-you! Thank-you!

    1. I'm delighted that you enjoyed seeing them as much as I did! :)

  2. Wow!! Speechless!! All that handwork!
    Thank you, Chrissie for sharing the experience!

    1. Pleasure Ann, I just feel privileged to have seen them :)

  3. Thank you so much for sharing, for those of us who can't make it! What stunning quilts, and so inspirational. I still can't get over how 'modern' some of them look. I am trying to decided which is my favourite, but it's difficult to choose! You were very lucky to see them in person, it sounds like the perfect day.

    1. A really great day Sarah and, although it makes you realise that it's all been done before, it's most shocking to see just how long ago. That Amish quilt in Room 2 is so modern it's simply unbelievable! My two favourites are the final medallion quilt in Room 1 and the log cabin quilt in Room 2 :)

  4. Thank you for sharing these pictures with us Chrissie. The quilts you got to see are amazing.

  5. Fabulous. Thanks for the tour!

  6. Hi!
    I'm a friend of Cynthia's in Tokyo and it was such a treat to be able to visit the New York show with the aid of your photos. Every quilt is a beautiful work of art and I am impressed with the last Medallion quilt. Although made of such busy prints it is very calm and striking at the same time.

    1. Hi and thanks so much for dropping by, I'm delighted to meet some of Cynthia's friends here! I'm thrilled that you like the last Medallion quilt - it's my favourite quilt from Room 1. It's hard to believe from its vibrancy, colour and print detail that it was made around 1830, it's just exquisite. :)

  7. I am reading this post now for the third or fourth time and it is like revisiting the show with you! I so appreciate that you've included the text. It was so enjoyable to view the show with you in person Chrissie - I'm so glad that worked out!

    1. That's so funny that you like that I included the display text, I preferred reading you thoughts on each quilt in your post and thought my review was dull in comparison! I'm so glad that we met up and that we just clicked and got on incredibly well immediately - I felt like I'd known you so long, quite amazing. I'm looking forward to your next NYC visit already! :)

  8. WOW! WOW! WOW! What a treat to see these amazing quilts through your eyes and camera. Thanks so much!

  9. Thank you for the awesome photo tour! I would love to see this exhibit, but I think I won't make it to NYC until after it has closed - darn! Two wonderful posts!

    1. Oh what a shame, but there's sure to be something else wonderful for you to see while you're here, there's always something going on! :)


I love to hear from everyone, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts. Please leave a message to let me know you visited, it's a great way to get to know you all better too :)

Chris Dodsley

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.