Thursday, December 7, 2017

Spinning Wheel Quilt

Biedler Spinning Wheel 

from the Biedler Covered Bridge Farm 

of New Market Virginia

I have no experience spinning or weaving but I couldn't resist this quilt (67x98 from SE Ohio).

Anyone know if there was a published pattern at one time? Or do you think someone just created their own from a silhouette image?

(above) This is the only other spinning-wheel-focused quilt I have seen an image of seen.

The photo above is just one block from 
a quilt in my collection 
by African American quilt artist Marie Wilson.

This is another Marie Wilson quilt I jut discovered in the April 1987 back issue of Quilters Newsletter magazine. Does anyone know where this quilt resides now?

Why did I buy the spinning wheel quilt (other than the fact that I love old quilts, period!) I bought it mainly because I inherited a family spinning wheel from the Shenandoah Valley before I left Virginia in 2004!

Below is my youngest grandson exploring the old family spinning wheel.

 I am so grateful life took us to Virginia for 15 years, thus enabling me to do primary family research.  I inherited this beautiful object from 101 year-old Mary Lucille Biedler Piner, a distant cousin.  I discovered her brother Claude Daniel Biedler in Vienna, VA about 1991, which eventually led me to Lucille who lived in Shelby, NC at the time.

 Just above is a photo of Luciile's grandparents, her grandfather being my Grandfather's uncle and her grandmother being the one who originally owned the spinning wheel and from whom Lucille inherited it. This branch of the Biedler family lived near New Market, VA and built the Biedler Covered Bridge in 1895, the last covered bridge in Virginia on private land (not owned by the state) that is still in daily use.  Some of my research on this family was referenced in the book "The Covered Bridges of Virginia" by Leola B. Pierce.

Besides the spinning wheel, I also inherited 15 Farm Ledgers from Lucille about the building and working of the Biedler Covered Bridge Farm from the 1870-1960. The ledgers even list all the men hired to make the bricks right there on the farm and lists all the construction supplies Daniel ordered
from Baltimore.

One or two of the ledgers I have were kept by the women of the family. In those ledgers they recorded the money they made from the selling of their turkeys / chickens / and eggs. I was told that money was theirs to spend as they chose for they hard earned it. It is all great reading if you love studying cultural history.

BELOW: A spinning wheel I found on line that looks very similar to mine.

Here is another photo (below) I found with the parts of the spinning wheel identified and labeled.

You can read more about this family farm by clicking here and going to my Biedler blog.

So many more things to write about, but it is time to get back to a quilting deadline I have.   I actually don't quilt very often. As much as I love it, I love research and writing even more so that is where I spend most of my time.

Hope you keep files of your own family history for future generations!

Happy Holidays!



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why so Passionate about Quilt History?

A friend asked me recently how I could get so excited about quilt history. To her the color and design of quilts is what excited her, as well as the connection to the person to whom she was going to give the quilt, not necessarily the history of quilts in general. I had to really ponder her question.

I love the color and the design as well. But I also love the "connectedness" of quilts.  All quilts ultimately contain a story. It's just that most of them we will never know. But its ferreting out the leads, however small, that intrigues me. 

These are objects made by women for the most part and they are powerful contextual carries of women's history as well as community history. They were the voice of women long before most women were allowed to have a voice in public matters. 

Several blogs have written about an image similar to the one above found on a quilt from the 1850s.  Barbara Brackman's blog adds background material to the story. A silk quilt made by Quaker activist Deborah Coates's pictured in the book Heart and Hands: Women, Quilts, and American Society, was cut in half for two descendants and the image of the chained slave discovered by a future generation.

The threaded needle was also a vehicle of livelihood for women in the 1800s when there were few options available. 

Quilts reflect the various eras of art history as well as changing social values. They also reflect and document Western societies' shift in attitudes and perceptions of children and childhood. The illustrations of author Kate Greenway were some of the first images of children translated into needlework patterns and one can trace children's dress, games and moral education thru quilt patterns.

Quilts came into their own as vehicles of community fund raising in the 1800s and, as a consequence, bear the signatures of thousands of women and other community members. One will soon discover upon acquiring a Signature Quilt that one can actually tease out the stories of these lives thru diligently digging into historical records. And one will be astounded at the millions of dollars that have been raised thru Fund Raising Quilts since the early 1800s to this day.

Quilts have literally helped make sense out of world history for me and the pursuit of this passion has led to friendships all over the world.

What is your passion?



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Quilt Style Timeline + Cheatercloth or Faux Patchwork

Quilts that don't come with a date stitched into them or somehow inked on them have other ways of giving us clues as to their approximate age. Style is just one clue. Here is a general style guideline handed out at the first meeting of the Northern Virginia Quilt & Fabric Dating Club in June 1995. I have barely tweaked it. Any suggestions or additions?

As you can see, it doesn't go much beyond 1950. New categories have been established by quilt appraisers for quilts after 1950, I am sure, so it's probably time for me to update this list. But since most quilts in my collection pre-date 1960, I haven't yet taken the time to update my own list.

General Quilt Style Timeline

(includes whitework, trapunto-stuffed and corded,

Blue Resist)

Wool or worsted..........1750-1840

Cut-out chintz or Broderie Perse..........1775-1865

Pieced Chintz..........1775 - 1863

Square on point.........1800 - ??

Red and Green on white.........1830-1900

Blue (prints) and white..........1830—1930

Fancy silks..........1830-1910

Four Block (applieque not Broderie Perse)..........1840-1900

Album (all same block pattern)..........1840 - present

Album (appliqué Sampler)..........1840-1900

Two color quilts (red & white, blue & white, etc) 1840-1925

Hawaiian quilts..........1840 - present

Charm quilts..........1870-1950

Log Cabin at its peak..........1870-1890

Foundation (string and crazy)..........1875 – present

Utility and comforters..........1875 – 1950

Amish classics (wool)..........1880-1940

Outline embroidery (for fund raising to 1950).....1880 – present

Turn of 20th century dark colors..........1890-1925

Marie Webster’s appliqués appear in pastel colors in LHJ Jan 1911

Pastel – white background – Art Deco..........1915 – present

Fabric Dating 

For me, the strongest clue is usually the fabric itself, but that took years of studying lots of old quilts and the clues break down within this category, too: scale of print, color scheme within individual prints, printing techniques, print styles, weave.

Solid colors can be a problem, though. Then you have to rely on any number of other clues, like pattern, style, the combination of the solid colors used in the quilt, dyes, etc.

Eileen Jahnke Trestain books, "Dating Fabrics, A Color guide 1800-1960" and "Dating Fabrics, A Color guide 1950-2000" are the two handiest guide books I have come across to help see the differences in color and design, era by era, at a glance.

Cheater Cloth or Faux Patchwork

The term "cheatercloth" was new to me as I began studying quilt history in the early 1980s. Some folks call it "faux" patchwork cloth. Others simply call it "printed patchwork." For me it's especially fun to find the early stuff, i.e. pre 1900 but I do also buy small pieces of 20th century "cheater cloth" because they are good tools to show what color combinations were popular at a given time period.

Here are a couple of items from my doll quilt collection and yardage collection.

A circa 1890 doll quilt  11x17 

Quilt segment above showing use of "cheater cloth" or "printed patchwork" as most quilt historians prefer to call it now.  Notice the different color-way on the back. 

Fairly recently produced printed patchwork honoring quilters.

Another delightful doll quilt (1930s) using printed patchwork fabric.

A darling quilted doll coat using printed patchwork cloth. Probably 1970s.

Unused printed patchwork yardage - 1960-70s?

A dress of printed patchwork seen in Indiana. Probably 1950s.

Unused printed patchwork yardage - ca 1900-1925? Or is it a recent reprint of that era?

Doll quilt - 13 x 23. The woman to whom this once belonged was born in 1917. 
The daughter was selling her mother's belongings after he mother and passed and 
did not know who made this little quilt.

Check out another preprinted "cheater-cloth" child's quilt in my collection here.  It is a Raphael-Tuck & Sons preprinted fabric.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sampler Quilts & Quilts-inside-Quilts

"Pattern Samplers" or "Pattern Quilts" are one of my favorite style of quilt. It is so exciting to find a quilt inside another quilt. Even if the inner quilt doesn’t turn out to be anything spectacular, the adventure of documenting it is still just as exciting. 

I have been fortunate to own three such quilts.  One was a family quilt found in my Great-Grandfather’s home which my father inherited from a cousin it in 1974. The house had been unlived in for 10+ years at that point and was left cluttered and stuffed to the gills. 

Here are my two great aunts as young women: (2nd from left) Annie Alderton Biedler  and (r) Lena Biedler Huffman. Will Huffman, Lena's husband, is on the far left.

I well remember visiting the house in the Shenandoah Valley as a child. To my siblings and me, the house (as well as the two elderly great-aunts!) seemed like the ancient of days. The house seemed to have stopped in time at about 1920, the year my father was born and the year my Great-Grandmother died.

Lost in time Going through an Old House 

My two great-aunts seemingly NEVER threw anything away. You had to wear a mask to sift through everything and it took several years. Fortunately, my father loved genealogical sleuthing as much as I did, so he tried to eyeball everything ---although some of it was so rodent infested even he couldn’t bring himself to attempt to decipher what it was. (Guess where I got my love of history from?) 

Here is one of the quilts my father gave me that came out of this house.

I took this quilt to the AQSG (American Quilt Study  Group) Seminar in 1989 when we met in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Barbara Brackman looked at it and said she would date the blocks from the 1840s to 1890. It has the initials LH roughly embroidered on the back. My Great Aunt's married name was Lena Huffman. I am assuming she took her mother's and/or grandmother's collection of blocks and put them together in the 1890s. 

Brackman speculated at the time that here was another quilt inside my Pattern Sampler Quilt! However, it wasn't until the AQSG Seminar in 2001 in Williamsburg, Virginia when I finally opened it up. Actually, I didn't open it myself. AQSG member Judy Grow volunteered to take it up to her room and undo all the ties and take the stitching out along the top so that we could see inside. 

Unfortunately, I did not to think to have someone take photos at the time as she went through this set-by-step procedure of opening the quilt. Instead, several years later I re-inserted the inner quilt and sort of reenacted the opening of it to dramatize the process and take photos.  Unfortunately, it was no where near as dramatic as the first opening.

When Judy brought the quilt back to the afternoon General session, we opened the quilt and pulled the inner quilt out.

The quilt inside was a Strippy* with wonderful Indigo fabrics. It was quite obvious that the inner quilt had been well worn and patched many times before it had been stitched inside a new "cover" sometime in the 1890s, I believe.

Didn't take a photo at the first reveal so had to lay it out on my deck
when I got back from Seminar. My apologies for the shadows.

The Other Side of this Same Inner Quilt

(The other side is mostly browns; very interesting but VERY badly worn.) 

All the batting is missing where you see the Indigo. What you are seeing is the back of the Indigo fabric that is on the "front" of this quilt. Although I don't really know which she considered the "front", I call the Strippy the front.

 I even saved some of the twigs and feathers that were inside the quilt! 

One AQSG member who knows a lot about weaving (whose name I now cannot recall) told me that some of the patches on the front of the inside quilt were hand-loomed linsey-woolsey. That got me very excited because one of the other near-by Biedler family farms (still in the family at the time) had a log Loom House still standing. I can't "prove" those patches came from that other Biedler Farm, but knowing how inter-connected and inter-dependent the extended family was between the three large farms three brothers and their descendants owned from 1802-1900, I wouldn't be surprised if it had been woven in that cabin.

Some close-ups of several blocks in this family Sampler Quilt~

Is it a *Strippy Quilt or a Bar Quilt?

Personally, I would call the one side of the inner quilt a "Strippy" quilt, not a "Bars" quilt based purely on a research project Hazel Carter and I did on Strippy Quilts and reported on in Blanket Statements Spring 2007 issue #87.

I think so-called "Strippy" quilts is another area where terminology has not been set in stone. We found that one museum would call them one thing and another museum would call them another thing. Brackman refers to them as “Strip” quilts. Hazel Carter and I chose to use the British term “Strippy Quilt” for this style of quilt.
Brackman wrote in "The Strip Tradition in European-American Quilts" in the Clarion-Fall 1989 (published by American Folk Art Museum), “An examination of setting characteristics in American quilts makes the case for a traditional American strip quilt that predated the rise of the block quilt and endured as an alternative design structure in the mainstream quiltmaking culture and in smaller communities.”
Our study encompassed 120 quilts that predated 1899 and did not include Amish "bar" quilts since the majority of those were made in the 20th century. We combed through all of our combined quilt history books for published examples plus did research at the Smithsonian where we were permitted to make copies of some of the research in each of their Strippy quilt files.                                                                                         

Whose terminology will become the accepted standard in our field of study?  The Quilt Index? The International Quilt Study Center?  Will all museums eventually look to use one standard definition?

Quite frankly, it was difficult to draw conclusions from our research about any “standard” to this style of quilt. Rather, the study seemed to reveal the importance of the individual ingenuity of quilt makers working within a loose tradition.

Also, in some texts we studied, it was stated that this style of quilt was intended as a utility quilt. However, on the whole, the fabrics in the quilts in our study were of pleasing high quality. Moreover, many of the quilts in the study exhibit exquisite quilting, dispelling the assumption “Strippies” resulted from strictly utilitarian motives.

Click here to see additional Estate Records 
and Merchant Records from my Family

I knew from family records found in the old Valley House that my Great-Grandfather Samuel Milton Biedler bought his mother's quilt at her estate Auction in 1860. I am assuming that at that time whatever one didn't give away before one died —and wasn't individually listed in one's Will — had to be then be auctioned off with the proceeds going either to pay one's debts or to one's heir?  Ah, more research to be done.

I remember being surprised to discover that our family members had actually bid on items at the estate settlement auctions of their parents. I had always assumed the items we found in the old family home places had been "given" to other family members…. until Dad and I stumbled on those settlement papers.
My Great-Great-Grandmother died in 1860. We found the Estate paper listing her personal possessions that were sold at Auction to settle her estate. Each item was separately listed along with the name of the person who bought the item—mostly family members. A “Blue Quilt” was mentioned. I have often wondered if the above quilt was that "blue" quilt.
Sometime in 2013 I shared some of the photos on this blog post with the AQSG list members. Here is one very interesting series of responses from my friend quilt historian Barbara Garrett from Pennsylvania.

From: Barb Garrett
Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2013 20:56:37 -0400
To: karen alexander
Subject: your sampler quilt

Hi Karen -

I love your quilt -- and that it's a family piece is even more special.

I wanted to tell you about current practices in my area that "everything
goes to sale" when someone dies or severely downsizes.

I was first introduced to this concept about 1968 when my sister-in-law's grandparents "had sale" -- that's the phrase used in PA German areas for your total house auction.   I learned that she was going to be bidding on a child's rocking chair that she loved as a child, which I thought strange at the time.     I (at age 22) thought you inherited the items, you didn't have to buy them.  Wrong. This was an old Conservative Mennonite couple in York County, PA.   I learned that if a family member wanted something, they bid on it at the auction.   I remember her family -- children, spouses and grandchildren, sitting in the front row of lawn chairs and everyone else either in chairs behind or standing.   I don't know how I learned it, but the local dealers didn't bid up the family on items – family members bought those items they wanted and it was deducted from their "cut" somehow -- I don't remember the details -- it was a long time ago and was all new to me.   I do remember that dealers would bid till something was a reasonable price, but no bidding wars with family members.   If family members got into wars, I don't know, since we were newly married and I didn't know her family at the time.

 Fast forward a few decades -- in 2007 I worked with a local group -- Historic Poole Forge -- to mount an exhibit of locally owned antique quilts in an old Iron Master's Mansion.   One Amish family – Lancaster County -- loaned us 2 quilts and a few other textiles from his family (he was born in 1950).    Both he and his wife named which sale they had purchased each item from -- all part of the family.   I've learned that in the”plain” community, the old practice of descendants purchasing items at sale is still practiced.   It's actually a very logical way to disperse items in a fair way when there are 7 to 12 children plus 50 to 100 grandchildren.  There's no fighting, no taking items "because I want my fair share" – if you want it you buy it.

 So, I wasn't surprised to read that your great grandfather bought his mother's quilt at her estate auction in the Shenandoah Valley -- it all fits together in my mind.    How wonderful to have the estate auction paper -- I've never seen one -- that is so cool.

 ...those are the 2 concrete examples I have.   I've also overheard women at the Mennonite thrift store where I volunteer talk about "so and so is having sale" so I'm fairly sure it's still happening.

Side note -- while the signs and ads say "auction" I don't hear people saying "auction" -- they say "sale", as in "Wengers are having sale this Saturday."    We recently had our big Relief Sale in Harrisburg -- and it's an auction of quilts.


From: karen alexander
Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2013 23:37:30 -0700
To: Barb Garrett
Subject: Re: your sampler quilt

Thank you so much, Barb, for all this information on the traditions surrounding the settling of an estate in PA among the Amish and Mennonites in PA!  This makes total sense because my ancestors were Mennonites from PA who became either Brethren or Primitive Baptists in the Valley after about 1800 (depending on the branch of the family). Almost all the buyers at my Great-Great-Grandmother's estate auction were immediate family members, aunts, uncles or first or 2nd cousins, etc.

I will share some of this insight you have given me when I put the story on my blog.   I'm glad the subject of Pattern Quilts came up today because I have been meaning to write this all down for the family. Right now its just in bits and pieces scattered here and there in my files.



Computer  storage has helped, but there still seems never enough binders or shelf space around! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Raphael Tuck & Sons Pre-printed Nursery Rhyme Blocks

I am trying to determine the age of this crib quilt, which is 35x51 and came out of the Waco TX area.

Does anyone recognize the images on these printed nursery rhyme blocks? 

I am thinking the images might have been printed since 1960 onto fabric, therefore making this crib quilt of fairly recent vintage. But the artwork used thy the manufacturer of the fabric line is older than the 20th century. 

I was able to decipher the printing at the bottom edge of one of the blocks, stretching the seam line apart on the Tom Thumb block. 

It says "Raphael Tuck & Sons Ltd."

From there I googled "Raphael Tuck & Sons" and came up with this:

“Raphael Tuck & Sons was a business started by Raphael Tuck and his wife in Bishopsgate in the City of London on October 1866, selling pictures and greeting cards, and eventually selling postcards, the latter being the most successful. Their business was one of the most well known in the 'postcard boom' of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Their contributions left a lasting effect on most of the artistic world. During The Blitz, the company headquarters, Raphael House, was destroyed including the originals for most of their series. The company never fully recovered.”

Were these designs printed in recent years?  Or between 1900 and 1960s perhaps? 

Have any of you seen this fabric on the bolt in a quilt shop? 

Thanks for your help!