19th Century Journey . . .
Before continuing on to the final gallery, I took a detour to a small room off
to the side, which held a fantastic collection of chintz yardage; a beautiful
c. 1820 doll's dress; and
a charming collection of three 19th century children's dresses, each in
excellent condition (see below). Also displayed were a beautiful paisley shawl c. 1870, a collection of cheater
fabrics from different periods, and a large wood block used for printing
fabric. There was plenty of comfortable seating in this room and I sat for a
long time reading all of the informative signage. Of particular interest to me
was a piece of early American chintz, sporting its' original label from the
Bloomfield Calico Print Works, (thought to have been located in what is now a
part of Newark, New Jersey) displayed next to yardage from the same period
which was likely English or French in origin.
|Click on picture to enlarge
The third and final gallery held the balance of
the collection; approximately 22
quilts illustrating a complete variety of quilt making styles made from 1850
through the end of the century. There was a beautiful Mariner's Compass with
extraordinary appliqué, two Flying Geese quilts (each with a fantastic array
of fabrics), Lady of the Lake, Turkey Tracks, Churn Dash, Friendship Star,
Carpenter's Wheel, Flower Basket, 9-Patch, and others. The end of the century
was represented by a collection of dramatic wool and silk quilts in Log Cabin,
Roman Bars and Basket Weave patterns. If you are a crazy-quilt fan, you will
love the stunning example made by Ann Marie Failing Brown c. 1881. Mrs. Brown
made this quilt at age 72, according to the label on the back. This quilt
includes butterflies, horseshoes, and at least one bluebird. The blocks
contained embroidered, appliquéd, painted, and folded silk ribbon flowers. It
had an intricate scalloped border composed of pieced fans and the edges were
bound with gold-colored ribbon.
Next, it was time to make my way to the Education Building to hear nationally
acclaimed quilt historian Shelly Zegart present her lecture, Political Quilts:
A Woman's View. Shelly took us on a walk through the past for a look at how
19th century women used their quilts to express their views about a range of
political, social and economic issues. We explored the use of popular political
symbols such as eagles, flags, and pictures of the candidates themselves by
viewing slides of quilts with these images.
Shelly closed out the 19th century with a discussion of war quilts and suffrage
quilts. She took us into the 20th century; through the Great Depression, the
work of the WPA, the decline of quiltmaking after WWII and its' resurgence in
1971 with the exhibit at the Whitney Museum. To quote Shelly, "these
quilts are not made by women with lightly-held beliefs!"
She wrapped up her talk with slides of modern day political quilts featuring
such topics as the Oklahoma City Bombings, AIDS, Guns, Immigration and
September 11. Shelly reminded us that we have only the quilts to speak the
opinions of 19th century women, but today, we are lucky enough to have both the
artist's voice and her quilt to speak for her.
I returned the following day to see the quilts once more; to meet and talk with
quilt historian and Quilt Appraiser Elizabeth (Beth) Davis; and to hear a talk
on Crazy Quilts by Dee Stark, published author from Guilderland, NY. Dee is a
friendly, lively speaker who clearly enjoys her topic and her audience. I must
admit that I am not well informed about the symbolism of Crazy Quilts and I was
not sure that I had the available disk space in my brain to store such details.
However, Dee's enthusiasm was infectious and she hooked me in with her expertly
woven tale of the popularity of Oscar Wilde in the 1880's and the resulting
We studied nature-inspired images of butterflies, animals, birds, flowers,
spiders and feathers. Dee had brought beautiful quilts from her collection for
all of us to view. The crowd screamed when Dee showed a slide of a quilt from
Penny McMorris's book Crazy Quilts. The caption below the quilt on page 51 of
the book reads, "Crazy Quilt by Mrs. Daniel McWilliams c. 1882...who added
two taxidermically stuffed chipmunks at the bottom to give her quilt that
unique finishing touch!" Indeed! Dee ended by cautioning us about dates
found on crazy quilts. She said that, whereas a date on an early quilt is
usually the date when the quilt was made, on a crazy quilt, the date might be a
birth date, a date of death, or the date of an important event.
After Dee's informative presentation, I walked
out to the Education Center lobby to view the demonstrations. Talented quilters
were demonstrating techniques for constructing a beautiful Star Medallion
Quilt, as well as hand quilting and hand appliqué. I was fortunate to meet
Carol Altemus, a Genesee Valley Quilt Club Member, who was
quilting her own beautiful replica of the Red and Green Medallion Appliqué
"logo" Quilt I spoke of earlier. The museum gift shop sells the
pattern for this extraordinary quilt and Carol, in making her quilt, was
testing that pattern. She had chosen a black background, instead of the white
used in the original, and it was striking. Carol is shown here (at right)
holding her quilt with museum interpreter Barb Kramer(at left). I
had earlier observed Carol's fellow GVQC member, Claire Welch, (in photo
below) quilting her version of this same quilt while working in the gallery.
Carol explained her
and press" method using freezer paper templates for the machine-appliqué
work and made it sound so easy, I may try it! Finally, Carol provided a written
map for me of "the best way" to drive back to my host's home a couple
of hours away-a beautiful journey through the Finger Lakes region of New York
State-proving, once again, that if you need to know anything, ask a quilter!!
I highly recommend a trip to Genesee Country Village and Museum before October
31, 2005, when this wonderful exhibit ends. However, if you are unable to make
the trip, you can still take your own journey through the collection by
purchasing the book, A Stitch in Time: Quilts from Genesee Country Village
& Museum, written by Elizabeth Davis. (catalogue
review) Beth is a museum docent and
member of the Genesee Valley Quilt Club. She was doing appraisals on this busy
weekend and took her valuable time to meet with me and talk about the exhibit
and the quilts. Her seemingly endless knowledge was impressive, to say the
least. Beth has volunteered countless hours to the museum, documenting the
museum's quilts, leading tours, and developing programs for visitors. Her
softcover book features annotated full-color images of twenty-seven quilts from
the museum's collection, a glossary of quilting terms and a selected
bibliography. I purchased numerous copies!
Lorie Stubbs lives in Lakewood, CO. Her email is: email@example.com.
Country Museum: Programs and Events - Quilts Uncovered.
In the National Quilt History News section of this website there is
information about the museum, exhibit schedule, and hours. I want to thank
Lorie Stubbs, who photographed the majority of quilts shown in this article,
and also the Genesee Country Village Museum for providing the other photos we
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