Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dark Background Quilts - Update

After discovering a website selling Uzbek textiles in August 2010, I wrote a bit about their similarity to American quilts.  But it was the black background textiles that rang a bell. You can read those first two posts here and here.

Here is still another link to another beautiful contemporary black-background quilt.

I also wanted to share a gorgeous piece of fabric that would make a lovely applique with black background that I found on eBay.


Some of these emails came to me  personally. Some were posted to the Quilt History List discussion group after I posted asking for feedback about applique on dark backgrounds. QHL is a GREAT List to belong to if you enjoy studying quilt history. You can subscribe via this link.  Another group you really should be aware of and join, if you love quilt history, is the American Quilt Study Group.  Or at least order some of their publications!  You can see a topical list of well researched articles  by clicking here.

From: Jane Hall
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010
Subject: Uzbek designs

Hi Karen...gorgeous designs. In the research Dixie Haywood and I did for an
early book, we came across Uzbek camel saddle designs...true Flying Geese,
and Geese in the Air patterns, exactly as we in this part of the world know
them! Nothing new under the sun for sure.

I think of Pat Campbell for black backgrounds for applique in our time. Her
Jacobean quilt was spectacular.

Jane Hall

From: karen alexander
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010
Subject: Re: Uzbek designs

Hi Jane,

Yes! That's who I was trying to remember - Pat Campbell. Thanks!

I dug thru my mother-in-laws stash of magazines as soon as I read your email and found that 1990 issue! What is the name of the published book you are referring to that you and Dixie Hayward worked on? Did you include some of the Uzbek designs?


From: Jane Hall
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010
Subject: Re: Uzbek designs

HI Karen...glad it was Pat Campbell you were thinking of. That quilt was
spectacular. …

The book Dixie and I did is long out-of-print, I still have a couple of copies, I think. Chilton published it, "Precision Pieced Quilts Using the Foundation Method" .... I found some Uzbek camel saddle blankets in Schnuppe von Gwimmer's book (published late '80s I think, about quilts world-wide) and followed a lead to a man in Switzerland who had a huge collection of them and sent me a couple of photos I was allowed to copy and return. The patterning was exactly some of our traditional pieced patterns...Geese in the Air?? I made slides of a couple of them and show them in lectures.

Traveling in England and France over the years, I've seen perfect LeMoyne Stars, Ohio Stars, etc etc on cathedral floors and walls. Friends have found Log Cabins and stars on kneelers in Buddhist temples in part of Asia. Truly there is not much new that you can do with geometric shapes!

Jane Hall Quilts

Subject: Black backqround quilts
From: linda laird
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010

I once saw a black background double wedding ring in an Amish book and promptly made one.

Linda Laird Designs

Subject: Applique quilts with black backgrounds
From:  Sue Reich
Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2010

In the mid 1930s, Ruth Finley designed a quilt for Eleanor Roosevelt called "Roosevelt Rose."  The original was featured appliqued on a black background.  I was fortunate to find an original newspaper article about Ruth, the quilt, and the presentation.  It can be seen in the "World War II Quilts" book.  A woman from Bristol, CT made the quilt on a white ground.   It can be seen there also.

From: Janet White
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2010
Subject: black background

Hi Karen -

In 2004 AQS published Affairs of the Heart (?) which was applique on black.  Mary Sorensen has been teaching a class on applique on black or very dark backgrounds ("Dramatic Darks") for many years - must be at least 15 years?   

I think I have a book that's even older with applique on black, but no time to dig through books!  No doubt the trend was started by someone who took the art class to heart that everything shows up better on black. Or one of those "I never follow directions because I'm such a free spirit" types.

Janet White

From: Audrey Waite
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2010
Subject: Black Background in Applique Quilts

Hi Karen:

The one that stuck in my mind was Faye Anderson's "My Mother Taught Me To Sew" from 1988.  I believe it is actually a navy blue background, but those applique patterns just sing and I thought she was pretty clever to use that color palette.  American Quilters Society published the 50 patterns in a book in 1990 titled "Applique Designs".

Over the years there was always some maverick that did a traditional pattern on black with stunning results.

Sedona, AZ

Subject: Black backgrounds in applique quilts
From: Laura Syler
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2010

Pat Campbell pretty much revived the black/dark background with her  Jacobean Applique quilt in the late 80's/early 90's, and the  subsequent books and patterns. 

 “Affairs of the Heart” by Aie Rossmann

Originally from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and an architect by education, Alie brings South East Asian design and color influences to her quilting. Started her own design business in 1999 Lotusland’s label.

The Best of Jacobean Applique by Pat Campbell and Mimi Ayars, AQS 2000.

Subject: Black ground applique
From: Teddy Pruett
Date: Sat, 4 Sep 2010

I'm a little late putting in my two cents on the subject of dark and/or black background behind applique but I don't remember anyone mentioning this particular fact.

"Between the wars" as I prefer to say as opposed to the misnomer "Depression Era" there was actually an attempt to promote black grounds.  You occasionally see an old magazine ad showing applique on black - I've seen several pillow patterns offered all in traditional quilt patterns.  It didn't seem to catch on and it's probably pretty easy to diagnose the problem in pushing the style.  Ladies had dark dark quilts throughout brown period of the 1870's followed by the Victorian Crazy quilt & silk show quilt period then they had the turn of the century discharge prints in black blue red and gray.  Well hellooooooo-----here they are in the midst of a craze for new sweet pastels and light luscious colors. They weren't about to go dark again so soon.

Think about the avocado green of the 1960's.  By the 1980's it was a color that gagged the majority of the populace.  Today it has been reintroduced in a slightly different shade as sage or any number of variants and we love it again.  But it has taken forty to fifty years for us to face it.

From: Laura Fisher
Date: Sat, 4 Sep 2010

Now in Gail Bakkom's collection
When I return from a too brief few days away, I will upload several pictures related to recent postings, and see what the list has to say. 

One is a BLACK background, 1930s floral applique of pink roses with a scalloped border that has green swag like detail appliqued on top of each curve; very chic and a quilt type I have had only a few times before in my quilt life.

Another is a BROWN background 'House on the Hill' pattern in which little houses on curvy green foundations are appliqued in parallel rows diagonally down the quilt.

And if I can find the photo, a third is one huge southern belle type lady with tiered ombre'd salmon color skirt, on a BROWN background (probably from the same kit company as the houses) She was published in an old Quilt Engagement Calendar (of course I never kept a good file of which months and year my quilts appeared, so one day I will look through them all and do so for my own provenance)

And, another is a Stearns & Foster pattern applique of pink tulip like flowers on a NAVY BLUE background, only one I ever saw. It's on my website.

And lastly, the one that got away at Brimfield--a Four Eagles applique, you know the format, on a BLACK background! It has been through many hands and now has a much higher valuation than when I saw it being packed in a shopping bag.

Anything on a dark background that is not a crazy quilt is so infrequently seen that it attracts my immediate attention, as do any of the floral appliques on a peach or green background, that I think are more stylish alternatives than the white background

And, lastly, I still have blocks of a wool Mennonite 1870-80s applique quilt with stuffed work flowers, as well as a leafy vine border, on a black green now oxidized greenish. The blocks were from a PA quilt that had some moth damage, so the picker/seller cut the thing into pieces before selling me the load. How I wish that had not been done; one really can't put it back together the quilt originally must have been a knockout, certainly uncommon, and probably restorable when intact. If only we knew then what we know now. I will try to scan a block or two so you all can lament with me..........

Waiting for laundry to finish, so I am horribly chatty.

A lovely Labor Day to all, the hurricane has passed us by.

Laura Fisher Quilts

Subject: Dark grounds -again
From: Teddy Pruett
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 2010

I forgot to mention one pretty important thing in my last post.  I actually OWN one of the dark ground appliques.  It's a crib sized black sateen ground Roosevelt Rose.
It hung in the back of a hallway in my house for years and was a lovely focal point.  I
guess it's all packed up and squished in a moving box with the others right now.

Subject: RE: Dark grounds -again
From: "Jean Carlton"
Date: Tue, 7 Sep 2010

Hi all,
I created an album on the QHL eboard for Black Background examples and posted one with a black sateen well as two other appliques - one with orange and one with Alamance yellow background. Laura mentioned some with those colors, too.
Teddy, if you find your crib quilt please post - or does anyone else have photos to add to that album? I hadn't posted in a long time but it was smooth - from the QHL site click Gallery and then go to the Quilt Tab to view or post quilts.

Subject: black cotton sateen
From: Laura Fisher
Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2011

Hi all - have a question about when black cotton sateen came into use in quilts. I think of it as being used primarily in Amish quilts from Holmes County Ohio from the 1920s-ish era forward, and occasionally have seen it in non Amish quilts like those black background appliques with a lot of greenery, also from that era. Anyone know when it was 'invented'? and how come it seems limited to use among the Amish community? Thanks

Subject: Black Cotton Sateen
From: Teddy Pruett
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 2011

Laura, I have a Roosevelt Rose on black cotton sateen ground.  There's at least one more listed in the Quilt Index that is on black. From what I've seen, it appears that someone tried to get a following for the pastels of the 20's - 30's placed on a black ground.  I think it was too soon after the turn of the century darks, not to mention the long timeframe of Victorian dark darks.  The gals just werent ready to embrace it yet and it never caught on. Just an ungrounded theory.  But the rose quilts indicate the use of black sateen was more widespread than just the Amish.

Subject: Re: Black Cotton Sateen
From: Cindy Rennels
Date: Sun, 3 Jul 2011

Hi, Regarding Laura's note about black cotton sateen, I have one and have had the Roosevelt's Rose quilt that is on a black cotton sateen ground and always felt that quilt was from the 20's- 30's. Can't answer the question about when it came about, but seems like the right time period. Would love to know for sure though. I never washed one of those quilts, so not sure if the color would bleed, as it sure might have.  Maybe that's why we don't see it in more quilts.  Anyone know about that black fabric stability as I have some red sateen fabric yardage that the color is still coming out every time I wash it.  Wanted to use it for some binding, but afraid to put it on something and have it leach out.

Cindy's Antique Quilts

Here is a 1920s black background Four Block Tulip Quilt from eBay dealer french72, always a great dealer to work with. Treat yourself and visit his eBay store! Just click on the french72 link above.

Below is another from french72 with a dark indigo background from the 1880s.

And here is a newly made black background applique as seen on eBay:

Another quilt---Sunburst 1885---added for your enjoyment March 2012 from dealer John Sauls whom I met via facebook's "Quilts--Vintage and Antique" List.

So the beat goes on!

Karen in the Islands

1 comment:

  1. How do you post photos to this blog? I forgot, and I have some interesting black or dark background pieces to add the discussion. thanks