Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's Red and White and at the Armory?

651 Quilts.
Presented by the American Folk Art Museum this exhibit of predominantly 19th century quilts defies the imagination. Joanna S. Rose collected American red and white quilts. These are being displayed within the Armory's massive and historic Wade Thompson Drill Hall for six days. They are arranged into intimate circular rooms so viewers are able to enter the space and share the staggering experience.
Before the doors opened on Saturday
and the crowds arrived.


A fellow quilter who had traveled down from Boston said to me that she was struck by the number of hours the hand work in the quilts represented. As I considered the magnitude of that sum, my eyes filled with tears.  For surely, these "ordinary coverings" made by so many unidentified women represents  an escape from daily routine into a realm where something more becomes possible. That resonates with me today.

These are not scrap quilts. 

Producing red cotton cloth using Turkey Red dye made from madder root was a complex and expensive process. Cloth made this way cost more, but it was desirable because of its light and colorfast properties. When, in 1868,  a synthetic version of the dye was developed, American mills were able to produce more affordable red cloth. Patterns followed and there was an explosion of red and white quilts, a variation on an infinite theme.

They are strong, striking and graphic.

They are spectacular.

In the absence of any color other than red I was freed to focus on the quilt pattern and the quilting.  This pattern, Jacob's Coat or Peeled Orange, is one of my favorites.  It's a perfect hand project. There's a quilt along out there that may need a new member or two. 

I also love the swag and bow border. I've been hand quilting an applique quilt with a border like this. I can see now what's been missing. It needs that graduated chain and then will feel exactly right.  

hand quilted detail from a strip or bar quilt
I don't know why I love this quirky Irish Chain so much but I just do. 
There is something extra comforting about it.

The American Folk Art Museum has a catalog in the works. Meanwhile, they encouraged photography at the show. There's a flickr page with lots more photos for your viewing pleasure.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. What you said about being able to focus on the patterns rather than fabrics is so true. "Your" Irish Chain is wonderful. I think that expanse of red lets you see the gorgeous chain framed to perfection. I have been surprised by the ones that have caught my eye - the aeroplane one, for instance, just really appeals to me. And the Vortex - I may have to turn my hand to that one day . . .

    The scale of the display is shown so perfectly in your picture with the viewers looking so tiny in that huge space. Really, really nice. Thanks for sharing.

    Regards, Sue