For books, like with everything else, I try to control how much I own. I don’t have a huge stash. I don’t buy extra gadgets and notions. My quilting books all live in one small bookcase. But even with pretty good impulse control, one of my biggest weaknesses is for quilt history. And one of the best books ever for quilting history is American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780-2007, by Robert Shaw.
I page through this book now and then, sometimes reading the text carefully, and sometimes just looking at the lush photos of important American quilts. One page I always stop at has the picture of a striking work of art. Its graphic simplicity looks quite modern, though it was made in the early 1800s.
The description notes the artist is unknown (label your quilts!) but the quilt dates from 1800-1820. It’s made from a glazed wool known as calimanco.
It is constructed in the center-medallion format that was popular before about 1840 but anticipates the elaborate pieced patterns of later quilts. Its bold, geometric composition of large triangular pieces in bright, saturated colors appears very contemporary, belying the still commonly held notion that early American homes were devoid of color. In fact, this type of bedcover often displays beautiful shades achieved with natural dyes.
I thought a lot about this phrase: “It is constructed in the center-medallion format…” If I were to make the quilt, I would make hourglass blocks, so the notion of it being a medallion quilt confused me a little. I think the distinguishing feature is that from a design standpoint, it is not simply one block (or two), repeated. All sixteen blocks are needed to create the center graphic impact.
I wondered about making a quilt like this, not as an exact replica but as a representation. I’ve never made a quilt from someone else’s pattern. And though I take inspiration from others all the time, I try not to copy. Still, this one is tempting…
I drew it in EQ7 in two different sizes. EQ7 is powerful software and my skills are pretty modest. While I could probably make a more exacting copy, this is my version.
EQ7 calculates needed yardage, so whether I made this in the 54″ version or the 90″ version, I can determine requirements.
Speaking of fabric, calimanco isn’t as easy to find as it used to be. And to update it some with modern cottons, Marcia Derse‘s incredible, rich designs would be my choice for fabric.
Where do you find your inspirations? Have you ever copied a quilt, including colors, by someone else? If so, was it contemporary or historical?