Their Story and How to Make Them
MARIE D. WEBSTER
Garden City New York Doubleday, Page & Company 1916
Copyright, 1915, by Doubleday, Page & Company All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian
CHAPTER PAGE Introduction xv
I. Patchwork in Antiquity 3
II. Patchwork and Quilting During the Middle Ages 16
III. Patchwork and Quilting in Old England 34
IV. The Quilt in America 60
V. How Quilts Are Made 89
VI. Quilt Names 115
VII. Quilt Collections and Exhibitions 133
VIII. The Quilt's Place in American Life 149
List of Quilt Names, Arranged Alphabetically 169
List of References 177
LIST OF COLOUR PLATES
Indiana Wreath Frontispiece
FACING PAGE *The Bedtime Quilt 24
The Iris Design 40
Morning Glories 56
Daisy Quilt 72
*Poppy Design 86
*The Sunflower Quilt 102
"Pink Rose" Design 120
*The "Wind-blown Tulip" Design 134
Golden Butterflies and Pansies 140
The "Snowflake" Quilt Design 146
*The Dogwood Quilt 150
The Wild Rose 156
*Morning Glory 160
*"Keepsake Quilt" 164
* Made by Marie Webster.
LIST OF BLACK AND WHITE ILLUSTRATIONS
FACING PAGE Section of Funeral Tent of an Egyptian Queen, Made in a Patchwork of Coloured Goatskins 4
Old English Applique 5
Fifth Century Applique 6
Armenian Patchwork: St. George and the Dragon 7
Persian Quilted Linen Bath Carpet: Seventeenth Century 10
Old English Hanging with Applique Figures 11
Modern Egyptian Patchwork: Four Cushion Covers 12
Modern Egyptian Patchwork: Panels for Screens 13
Modern Egyptian Patchwork: Panels for Wall Decoration 16
Double Nine Patch 17
Pieced Baskets 20
Bedroom, Cochran Residence, Deerfield, Mass. 21
Jacob's Ladder 28
Conventional Tulip 29
Old German Applique, Metropolitan Museum, New York 32
Double X 33
Tea Leaves 35
Feather Star 38
Drunkard's Path 39
Star of the East 42
White Quilt with Tufted Border, Metropolitan Museum, New York 43
Sunburst and Wheel of Fortune 46
Tree of Paradise 47
Old Bed and Trundle Bed 48
Two White Tufted Bedspreads 49
Tufted Bedspread with Knotted Fringe 52
Unknown Star 53
Combination Rose 54
Double Tulip 55
Princess Feathers 58
Princess Feathers with Border 59
North Carolina Lily 61
Feather Star with Applique 64
Tulip Tree Leaves 65
Mexican Rose 66
Currants and Cockscomb 67
Conventional Applique 70
Single Tulip 71
Ohio Rose 74
Rose of Sharon 75
Original Floral Designs 78
Conventional Tulip 79
Conventional Rose 80
Conventional Rose Wreath 81
Whig Rose 85
Harrison Rose 92
Detail of Harrison Rose, Showing Quilting 93
Original Rose Design 96
Pineapple Design 97
Virginia Rose 100
Rose of LeMoine 101
Charter Oak 108
Puffed Quilt of Silk 109
Variegated Hexagon, Silk 112
Roman Stripe, Silk 113
American Log Cabin, Silk and Wool 116
Democrat Rose 117
Original Rose No. 3 124
White Quilt, Stuffed Designs 125
White Quilt 128
Old Ladies Quilting 129
Quilts on a Line 136
* Made by Marie Webster.
ILLUSTRATIONS IN TEXT
PAGE Single Diagonal Lines 93
Double Diagonal Lines 93
Triple Diagonal Lines 93
Hanging Diamonds 99
Broken Plaid 99
Feathers in Bands 105
Feathers in Waved Lines 105
Feathers in Circles 105
Three Original Quilting Designs from Old Quilts 108
Design from an Old English Quilt 112
Medallion Design 112
Although the quilt is one of the most familiar and necessary articles in our households, its story is yet to be told. In spite of its universal use and intimate connection with our lives, its past is a mystery which—at the most—can be only partially unravelled.
The quilt has a tradition of long centuries of slow but certain progress. Its story is replete with incidents of love and daring, of sordid pilferings and generous sacrifices. It has figured in many a thrilling episode. The same type of handiwork that has sheltered the simple peasant from wintry blasts has adorned the great halls of doughty warriors and noble kings. Humble maids, austere nuns, grand dames, and stately queens; all have shared in the fascination of the quilter's art and have contributed to its advancement. Cottage, convent, and castle; all have been enriched, at one time or another, by the splendours of patchwork and the pleasures of its making.
In its suitability for manufacture within the home, the quilt possesses a peculiar merit. Although exposed for a full century to the competition of machinery, under the depressing influence of which most of the fireside crafts have all but vanished, the making of quilts as a home industry has never languished. Its hold on the affections of womankind has never been stronger than it is to-day. As a homemaker, the quilt is a most capable tool lying ready at the hand of every woman. The selection of design, the care in piecing, the patience in quilting; all make for feminine contentment and domestic happiness.
There are more quilts being made at the present time—in the great cities as well as in the rural communities—than ever before, and their construction as a household occupation—and recreation—is steadily increasing in popularity. This should be a source of much satisfaction to all patriotic Americans who believe that the true source of our nation's strength lies in keeping the family hearth flame bright.
As known to-day, the quilt is the result of combining two kinds of needlework, both of very ancient origin, but widely different in character. Patchwork—the art of piecing together fabrics of various kinds and colours or laying patches of one kind upon another, is a development of the primitive desire for adornment. Quilting—the method of fastening together layers of cloths in such a manner as to secure firmly the loose materials uniformly spread between them, has resulted from the need of adequate protection against rigorous climates. The piecing and patching provide the maker with a suitable field for the display of artistic ability, while the quilting calls for particular skill in handling the needle. The fusing of these two kinds of needlework into a harmonious combination is a task that requires great patience and calls for talent of no mean order.
To our grandmothers quilt making meant social pleasure as well as necessary toil, and to their grandmothers it gave solace during long vigils in pioneer cabins. The work of the old-time quilters possesses artistic merit to a very high degree. While much of it was designed strictly for utilitarian purposes—in fact, more for rugged service than display, yet the number of beautiful old quilts which these industrious ancestors have bequeathed to us is very large. Every now and then there comes to light one of these old quilts of the most exquisite loveliness, in which the needlework is almost painful in its exactness. Such treasures are worthy of study and imitation, and are deserving of careful preservation for the inspiration of future generations of quilters.
To raise in popular esteem these most worthy products of home industry, to add to the appreciation of their history and traditions, to give added interest to the hours of labour which their construction involves, to present a few of the old masterpieces to the quilters of to-day; such is the purpose of this book of quilts.
Marion, Indiana March 18, 1915.
THEIR STORY AND HOW TO MAKE THEM
PATCHWORK IN ANTIQUITY
The origin of the domestic arts of all nations is shrouded in mystery. Since accurate dates cannot be obtained, traditional accounts must be accepted. The folklore of any country is always exceedingly interesting and generally has a few kernels of fact imbedded somewhere in its flowers of legend, although some of our most familiar household objects are not even mentioned by tradition. Spinning and weaving, however, are very generously treated in the mythology and folklore of all nations. Nearly every race has some legend in which claim is made to the discovery of these twin arts.
In Biblical lore Naa-mah, a sister of Tubal Cain, belonging to the seventh generation after Cain, is said to have invented both spinning and weaving. This tradition is strengthened by the assertions of some historians that the Phrygians were the oldest of races, since their birthplace was in Armenia, which in turn is credited with having the Garden of Eden within its boundaries. The Chinese also can advance very substantial claims that primeval man was born with eyes aslant. They at least have a fixed date for the invention of the loom. This was in 2640 B. C. by Lady of Si-Ling, the wife of a famous emperor, Huang-ti.
The Egyptians who, according to their traditions, sprung from the soil, and who despised the Greeks for their late coming into the human arena, were probably quite as ancient as the Phrygians. It is known positively that in the wonderful valley of the Nile there has lived for more than six thousand years a race remarkable for its inventive faculties and the developing of the industrial arts. In the first dawn of human progress, while his nomadic neighbours roamed carefree about him, the Egyptian toiled steadily, and left the records of his achievements beside his God, the Nile.
When investigating any subject, the ability to see the actual thing itself is more helpful than pages of description. In Egypt are preserved for us thousands of wonderful tombs which serve as storehouses of facts concerning the early civilization of this land. The mummy wrappings reveal very distinctly the development of the textiles and decorative arts. The Egyptians, since the earliest historical times, were always celebrated for their manufacture of linen, cotton, and woollen cloths, and the products of their looms were eagerly sought by surrounding nations. The fine linen and embroidered work, yarns and woollen fabrics of both upper and lower Egypt, were held in the highest esteem.
Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson, in his history of "Ancient Egypt," tells of their knowledge of dyeing and of the nature of the fabrics found in the tombs: "The quantity of linen manufactured and used in Egypt was very great; and, independent of that made up into articles of dress, the numerous wrappers required for enveloping the mummies, both of men and animals, show how large a supply must have been kept ready for the constant demand at home as well as for that of the foreign market."
"The actual experiments made, with the aid of powerful microscopes ... on the nature of the fibres of linen and cotton threads, have shown that the former invariably present a cylindrical form, transparent, and articulated, or joined like a cane, while the latter offer the appearance of a flat riband, with a hem or border at each edge; so that there is no possibility of mistaking the fibres of either, except, perhaps, when the cotton is in an unripe state, and the flattened shape of the centre is less apparent. The results having been found similar in every instance, and the structure of the fibres thus unquestionably determined, the threads of mummy cloths were submitted to the same test, and no exception was found to their being linen, nor were they even a mixture of linen and cotton."
"Another very remarkable discovery of the Egyptians was the use of mordants. They were acquainted with the effect of acids on colour, and submitted the cloth they dyed to one of the same processes adopted in our modern manufactories; and while, from his account, we perceive how little Pliny understood the process he was describing, he at the same time gives us the strongest evidence of its truth."
"In Egypt," he says, "they stain cloths in a wonderful manner. They take them in their original state, quite white, and imbue them, not with a dye, but with certain drugs which have the power of absorbing and taking colour. When this is done, there is still no appearance of change in the cloths; but so soon as they are dipped into a bath of the pigment, which has been prepared for the purpose, they are taken out properly coloured. The singular thing is, that though the bath contains only one colour, several hues are imparted to the piece, these changes depending on the natures of the drug employed; nor can the colour be afterward washed off; and surely if the bath had many colours in it, they must have presented a confused appearance on the cloth."
The ability of the Egyptians to have a variety of colours for use in their embroideries and patchworks contributed much to the beauty of these arts.
Embroidery in various forms, applied to all sorts of objects, was commonly practised throughout ancient Egypt, and the Israelites, at the time of the Exodus, carried their knowledge of the textile arts with them to India. Ezekiel in chapter twenty-seven, verse seven, in telling of the glories of Tyre, says: "Of fine linen with broidered work Egypt was thy sail, that it might be to thee for an ensign." In "De Bello Judaico," by Flavius Josephus, another reference is made to ancient needlework: "When Herod the Great rebuilt the temple of Jerusalem nineteen years before our era, he was careful not to omit in the decoration of the sanctuary the marvels of textile art which had been the chief embellishment of the tabernacle during the long wanderings in the desert. Before the doors of the most sacred place he hung a Babylonian tapestry fifty cubits high by sixteen wide: azure and flax, scarlet and purple were blended in it with admirable art and rare ingenuity, for these represented the various elements. Scarlet signified fire; linen, the earth; azure, the air; and purple, the sea. These meanings were derived in two instances from similarity of colour: in the other two from their origin, the earth yielding linen and the sea purple. The whole range of the heavens, except the signs, was wrought upon this veil or hanging. The porticos were also enriched with many coloured tapestries ornamented with purple flowers."
There is very meagre information concerning the character and style of tapestry in Egypt during the rule of the Pharaohs. MM. Perrot and Chipiex, in their "Histoire de l'Art dans l'Antiquite," publish a painting containing a hanging of purely ornamental design formed of circles, triangles, and palm leaves reversed. Wilkinson describes an Egyptian hanging—an original, not a reproduction—found in an English collection: "In the centre, on a green ground, stands a boy in white, with a goose beside him; and around this centre a border of red and blue lines; then white figures on a yellow ground; again blue lines and red ornaments; and lastly red, white, and blue embroideries." This is a very ancient example of true applied work combined with embroidery. In the Psalms it is said that Pharaoh's daughter shall be brought to the king in a raiment of needlework and that "her clothing is of wrought gold."
The huge columns, bas-reliefs, and the various architectural details of the early Egyptian buildings were all decorated in vivid colours. The interiors of their temples were also covered with gayly coloured scenes which have preserved for us a most extensive knowledge of their life and customs. Their mummy cases were painted in the most brilliant hues, and often the wrappings of the mummies themselves bore brightly coloured portraits of the deceased. Since the Egyptians lived in an atmosphere of brilliant colour, with ever-shining sun, the bluest of skies, and the purple glow of the desert always before them, it is not surprising that they used their brushes with lavish hand. Every plane surface called for ornamentation, whether on temple or shroud. Their pigments, both mineral and vegetable, were remarkable for their permanence.
The crude and childish way in which the Egyptians applied their paint in distinct patches would lead one to believe that patchwork was included in their earliest needlework, even if no actual proof existed. But all nations have at some period used the needle to copy the masterpieces of great artists. The English, as a typical example of this spirit of imitation, sought on a background of cloth of gold to embroider the saints from the canvas of Fra Angelico. Also the French, in the manufacture of their tapestries, copied the works of many of the old masters. Positive proof of the existence of patchwork, or as some choose to call it, "applied work," in Egypt at a very early period is found on a robe belonging to an early sovereign. This article of apparel was of linen and, in general design, resembled a modern apron. According to Wilkinson, it was "richly ornamented in front with lions' heads and other devices, probably of coloured leather; and the border was formed of a row of asps, the emblem of royalty. Sometimes the royal name with an asp on each side was embroidered upon it."
The most ancient example of patchwork is a coloured gazelle hide presented in the Museum of Cairo. The colours of the different pieces of skin are bright pink, deep golden yellow, pale primrose, bluish green, and pale blue. This patchwork served as the canopy or pall of an Egyptian queen about the year 960 B. C. She was the mother-in-law of Shishak, who besieged and captured Jerusalem shortly after the death of Solomon. On its upper border this interesting specimen has repeated scarabs, cartouches with inscriptions, discs, and serpents. The lower border has a central device of radiating lotus flowers; this is flanked by two narrow panels with cartouches; beyond these are two gazelles facing toward the lotus device. Next to the gazelles on each side is a curious detail consisting of two oddly shaped ducks, back to back; then come the two outer compartments of the border, each of which enclose a winged beetle, or scarabaeus, bearing a disc or emblem of the sun. The other main division of the field is spotted in regular order with open blossom forms. There is decided order in the repetition and arrangement of these details, which gives a rather stiff and formal look to the whole design.
To-day Egyptians are making patchwork that is undoubtedly a development of the very art practised in the days of Ptolemy, Rameses, and Cleopatra. They do not use their patchwork to adorn quilts, since these are unknown in the warm Nile valley, but as covers for cushions, panels for screens, and decorations suitable for wall hangings. Generally but two kinds of material are employed in its construction: a rather loosely woven cotton cloth, and a firm, coarse linen. The cottons used are all gayly dyed in plain colours, and the linens are in the natural shades, with perhaps a slight mixture of white. The patchwork designs are typically Egyptian, many pieces being covered with replicas of paintings found on tombs and temples. These paintings are copied as faithfully in colour as in design, even the hieroglyphics being exactly reproduced, and altogether make very striking and effective decorations.
The modern Egyptians have the innate taste and ability of all Orientals for harmonizing colour. Their universal use of black to outline and define most of the designs produces a beautiful harmony between otherwise clashing hues. With nearly as many shades at their disposal in cloth as a painter has in paint, they are quite ambitious in their attempts to produce realistic scenes. On some of the best specimens of modern Egyptian patchwork gods and goddesses are shown sitting enthroned surrounded by attendants and slaves bearing trophies of war and chase as offerings to the divine beings. On others, groups of men and women are shown, humbly presenting salvers of fruit and the sacred flower—the lotus—to their gods. Some of the most effective work is decorated with a simple life-size figure of Osiris or Rameses the Great in brilliant colours. A few of the more subdued patchwork designs consist of a solitary scarab, the sacred beetle of the Pharaohs, or an asp or two gracefully entwined. The smaller pieces make practical and admirable cushion covers. There are many attractive shops in Cairo that sell quantities of this gay patchwork, and few tourists leave Egypt without a specimen or two as mementoes of the paintings that give us a glimpse of Egypt's ancient splendour.
While among the ancient Greeks and Romans all the arts of the needle were held in the greatest esteem, comparatively little attention was paid to the adornment of their sleeping apartments. Accounts of early Greek houses state that, while the bedchambers were hung all about with curtains and draperies, these were usually of plain fabrics with little attempt at decoration. Of patchwork or applique, as known to the Egyptians and Hebrews, the Greeks and Romans have left us no trace. However, as substantiating the regard shown for needlework by the Greeks and Romans, the following two pleasing myths have come down to us: one, the "Story of Arachne," as related by Ovid; the other from the "Odyssey" of Homer.
Arachne, a most industrious needleworker, had the audacity to contest against Pallas, the goddess of the art of weaving. With her bobbins, Arachne wove such wonderful pictures of the Loves of the Gods that Pallas, conscious of having been surpassed by a mortal, in an outburst of anger struck her. Arachne, humiliated by the blow, and unable to avenge it, hanged herself in despair. Whereupon the goddess relented, and with the intention of gratifying Arachne's passionate love of weaving, transformed her into a spider and bade her weave on forever.
The other interesting incident of ancient times is that of Penelope's patient weaving. It is related that, after one short year of wedded happiness, her husband Ulysses was called to take part in the Trojan War. Not a single message having been received from him by Penelope during his long absence, a doubt finally arose as to his being still alive. Numerous suitors then sought her hand, but Penelope begged for time and sought to put them off with many excuses. One of her devices for delay was that of being very busy preparing a funeral robe for Ulysses' father. She announced that she would be unable to choose another husband until after this robe was finished. Day after day she industriously wove, spending patient hours at her loom, but each night secretly ravelled out the product of her day's labour. By this stratagem Penelope restrained the crowd of ardent suitors up to the very day of Ulysses' return.
PATCHWORK AND QUILTING DURING THE MIDDLE AGES
In the early days of Christianity the various organizations of the mother church took a deep interest in all the textile arts, and we are indebted to the ecclesiastical orders for what progress was made in needlework during the beginning of the Middle Ages. The makers of church hangings and vestments were stimulated by thoughts of the spiritual blessings with which they were assured their work would be rewarded. Much of this early ecclesiastic needlework is extremely elaborate and was always eagerly desired by the holy orders. At one time the craze for gorgeous vestments reached such an extreme that we have record of one worthy bishop chiding his priests because they "carried their religion on their backs instead of in their hearts."
The artistic needlework of the Christian era consists almost entirely of embroidery; no positive reference to patchwork or quilting being found in western Europe prior to the time of the Crusades. But with this great movement, thousands of the most intelligent men in Europe, urged by religious enthusiasm combined with love of adventure, forced their way into eastern countries whose culture and refinements of living far surpassed their own. The luxuries which they found in Syria were eagerly seized and carried home to all the western lands. Returning Crusaders exhibited fine stuffs of every description that roused the envy of all who obtained a glimpse of them. A vigorous commerce with the east was immediately stimulated. From Syria merchants brought into Italy, Spain, and France silks and cottons to supplement the native linen and wool, and also many kinds of embroidered work of a quality much finer than ever known before. As a result dyeing, weaving, and needlework entered on an era of great development.
Previous to the eleventh century so memorable in the history of the Crusaders, references to quilting and patchwork are few and uncertain, but from that time on these twin arts became more and more conspicuous in the needlecraft of nearly every country in western Europe. This is explained by the stimulus which was given to these arts by the specimens of applique hangings and garments brought from Syria, where the natives wrought for centuries the identical applied work carried into Palestine from Egypt in Biblical times by the Hebrews and the Phoenicians.
About the earliest applied work of which we have record were the armorial bearings of the Crusaders. A little later came rather elaborate designs applied to their cloaks and banners. Among other specimens of Old English needlework is a piece of applied work at Stonyhurst College depicting a knight on horseback. That this knight represents a Crusader is beyond question since the cross, the insignia of the cause, is a prominent figure in the ornamentation of the knight's helmet and shield, and is also prominent on the blanket on the horse.
Noticeable progress in the arts of both quilting and applique was made during the Middle Ages in Spain. Spanish women have always been noted for their cleverness with the needle, and quite a few of the stitches now in use are credited to them. At the time of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, applied work had long been known. Whether it developed from imitating garments brought home by the returning Crusaders, or was adopted from the Moors, who gave the best of their arts to Spain during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, cannot be positively stated. However, it is worthy of notice that whenever the Christian came in contact with the Moor, a great advance in the textile arts of the former could generally be observed. This holds true even down to this day, our eagerness to possess the rugs of Turkey and Afghanistan, and the imitation of these designs in the manufacture of domestic carpets, being a case in point.
During the reign of King Philip II, 1527-1598, the grandees of the Spanish court wore beautifully wrought garments, rich with applied work and embroidery. A sixteenth-century hanging of silk and velvet applique, now preserved in Madrid, is typical of the best Spanish work. It is described as having a gray-green silk foundation, on which are applied small white silk designs outlined with yellow cord; alternating with the green silk are bands of dark red velvet with ornamented designs cut from the green silk, and upon which are small pieces of white silk representing berries. Also, another handsome specimen of Spanish applied work of the seventeenth century is a linen curtain richly embellished with heraldic emblems couched with gold thread. Horse trappings and reposters, loaded with applique flowers cut from gold and silver cloth, were much in evidence among the Spanish nobility of this period.
Of particular interest, as showing how oriental quilting designs filtered into Europe through the intercourse of the early Portuguese traders and missionaries with the East Indies, is the brief mention by Margaret S. Burton of a very elaborate old quilt now in a New York collection: "My next find was a tremendous bed quilt which is used as a portiere for double folding doors. It formed part of a collection of hangings owned by the late Stanford White. He claimed there were only four of its kind in existence, and this the only one in America. It is valued at $1,000. It is a Portuguese bed quilt and was embroidered centuries ago by the Portuguese missionary monks sent to India. They were commissioned by their queen to embroider them for her to present as wedding gifts to her favourite ladies-in-waiting." On account of intricacy and originality of design this quilt represents years of patient work. It is hand embroidered in golden coloured floss upon a loosely woven linen which had been previously quilted very closely. The work is in chain stitch, and there are at least fifty different stitch patterns. In the centre panel is the sacred cat of India. Doves bearing olive branches, pomegranates, daisies, and passion flowers are intermingled in the beautiful design.
While the uses of patchwork were known over Europe long before the Renaissance, some credit its introduction, into Italy at least, to the Florentine painter, Botticelli (1446-1510). The applied work, or "thought work," of the Armenians so appealed to him that he used it on hangings for church decoration. Under his influence the use of the applied work, opus conservetum, for chapel curtains and draperies was greatly extended. In time these simple patchwork hangings were supplanted by the mural paintings and tapestries now so famous. There are still in existence some rare pieces of Italian needlework of the sixteenth century having designs of fine lace interspersed among the embroidered applique of silk.
A homely cousin of the gorgeous opus conservetum, which has filled its useful though humble office down to the present day, is the heavy quilted and padded leather curtain used in many Italian churches in lieu of a door. Many of the church doors are too massive and cumbersome to be opened readily by the entering worshippers, so they are left constantly open. Leather hangings often several inches thick and quilted with rows of horizontal stitches rather widely spaced, are hung before the open doorways. Even these curtains are often quite stiff and unyielding, so that holding back corners for the passage of both worshipper and tourist forms a favourite occupation for numerous beggars.
Applique, described as opus consutum, or cut work, was made in Florence and Venice, chiefly for ecclesiastical purposes, during the height of their glory in the fifteenth century. One such piece of Florentine cut work is remarkable for its great beauty and the skill shown in bringing together both weaving and embroidery. "Much of the architectural accessories is loom wrought, while the extremities of the evangelists are all done by the needle; but the head, neck, and long beard are worked by themselves upon very fine linen, and afterward put together in such a way that the full white beard overlaps the tunics.... For the sake of expedition, all the figures were sometimes at once shaped out of woven silk, satin, velvet, linen, or woollen cloth, and sewed upon the grounding of the article.... Sometimes the cut work done in this way is framed, as it were, with an edging either in plain or gilt leather, hempen or silken cord, like the leadings of a stained-glass window." Gold and silver starlike flowers, sewn on applique embroideries, were common to Venice and also southern Germany in the fifteenth century.
Belonging to the Italian Renaissance period are some marvellous panels, once part of a curtain, which are now preserved in the South Kensington Museum in London. The foundation of these panels is of beautiful blue damask having applied designs cut from yellow satin. These hangings are described as being very rich in effect and unusually handsome, and nothing in the annals of needlework of their period was more glorious.
A very ingenious patchwork, originating in Italy during the sixteenth century and peculiar to that country and Spain, consisted of patterns designed so as to be counter hanging. For example, if one section of a length of such patchwork consisted of a blue satin pattern on a yellow velvet ground, the adjoining section would, through the interchange of materials, consist of a yellow velvet pattern on a blue satin ground. The joints of the patching were overlaid with cord or gimp, stitched down so as to conceal them entirely and give definition to the forms constituting the pattern.
Italian needleworkers were very fond of this "transposed applique upon two fabrics," especially when composed of designs of foliage conventionally treated, or of arabesques and scrolls. On a piece of old Milanese damask, figured with violet on violet, appear designs in applique cut from two shades of yellow satin. These are remarkable for their powerful relief, suggesting sculpture rather than embroidery, and have been pronounced worthy of the best masters of their time—namely, that period so rich in suggestions of ornament—the seventeenth century.
Closely related to patchwork, but not as commonly used, is "inlay." In the making of this style of decoration one material is not laid on to another, but into it. It is the fitting together of small sections of any desired fabric in a prearranged design. For convenience, all the pieces are placed upon a foundation of sufficient firmness, but which does not appear when the work is finished. Ornamental stitches conceal the seams where the edges meet, and it is especially adapted for making heraldic devices. During the Renaissance it was much used by both Spaniards and Italians, who learned the art from the Moors.
An example of quilting, attributed to the Island of Sicily about the year 1400, is described as being a ground of buff-coloured linen. The raised effect is obtained by an interpadding of wool, and the designs are outlined in brown thread. This entire coverlet is embroidered with scenes from the life of Tristan, who frequently engaged in battle against King Langair, the oppressor of his country. This bit of quilting hangs in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Another hanging of the fourteenth century, belonging to the same collection, shows a spirited naval battle between galleys. A striking peculiarity of this hanging is that floral designs are scattered in great profusion among the boats of the combatants.
A patchwork made by the application of bits of leather to velvet was extensively used in some European countries during the Middle Ages. As leather did not fray and needed no sewing over at the edge, but only sewing down, stitching well within the edge gave the effect of a double outline. This combination of leather and velvet was introduced from Morocco. A wonderful tent of this leather patchwork, belonging to the French king, Francois I, was taken by the Spanish at the battle of Pavia (1525), and is still preserved in the armoury at Madrid.
Some of the very finest specimens of the quilting of the Middle Ages have been preserved for us in Persia. Here the art, borrowed at a very early period from the Arabs, was developed in an unusual and typically oriental manner. Prayer rugs, carpets, and draperies of linen, silk, and satin were among the products of the Persian quilters.
We are indebted to Mr. Alan S. Cole for the following description of a seventeenth-century Persian quilted bath carpet, now preserved at the South Kensington Museum in London. "This typical Persian embroidery is a linen prayer or bath carpet, the bordering or outer design of which partly takes the shape of the favourite Persian architectural niche filled in with such delicate scrolling stem ornament as is so lavishly used in that monument of sixteenth-century Mohammedan art, the Taj Mahal at Agra. In the centre of the carpet beneath the niche form is a thickly blossoming shrub, laid out on a strictly geometric or formal plan, but nevertheless depicted with a fairly close approach to the actual appearance of bunches of blossoms and of leaves in nature. But the regular and corresponding curves of the stems, and the ordered recurrence of the blossom bunches, give greater importance to ornamental character than to any intention of giving a picture of a tree. Similar stems, blossoms, and leaves are still more formally and ornamentally adapted in the border of the carpet, and to fill in the space between the border and the niche shape. The embroidery is of chain stitch with white, yellow, green, and red silks. But before this embroidery was taken in hand the whole of the linen was minutely stitched."
Worthy of mention is a patchwork panel made in Resht, Persia, in the eighteenth century: "The foundation ground is of ivory coloured cloth, and applied to it, almost entirely covering the ivory background, are designs cut from crimson, cinnamon, pink, black, turquoise, and sapphire coloured cloths, all richly embroidered in marigold and green silk."
The following is a quilt anecdote, typically oriental, which contains a bit of true philosophy. It seems that the hero, Nass-ed-Din Hodja, was a Turkish person who became chief jester to the terrible Tamerlane during his invasion of Asia Minor. He was also the hero, real or imaginary, of many other stories which originated during the close of the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries. His tomb is still shown at Akshekir. The story is given entire as it appeared in "Turkey of the Ottoman" by L. M. Garnett:
HOW THE HODJA LOST HIS QUILT
"One winter's night, when the Hodja and his wife were snugly asleep, two men began to quarrel and fight under the window. Both drew knives and the dispute threatened to become serious. Hearing the noise, the Hodja's wife got up, looked out of the window and, seeing the state of affairs, woke her husband, saying: 'Great heavens, get up and separate them or they will kill each other.' But the Hodja only answered sleepily: 'Wife, dear, come to bed again; on my faith there are no men in the world; I wish to be quiet; it is a winter's night. I am an old man, and perhaps if I went out they might beat me.' The Hodja's wife was a wise woman. She kissed his hands and his feet. The Hodja was cross and scolded her, but he threw the quilt about him, went downstairs and out to where the disputants were, and said to them: 'For the sake of my white beard cease, my sons, your strife.' The men, in reply, pulled the quilt from the Hodja's shoulders and made off with it. 'Very well,' observed the old man. He reentered, locked the door, and went upstairs. Said his wife: 'You did very well to go out to those men. Have they left off quarrelling?' 'They have,' replied the Hodja. 'What were they quarrelling about, Hodja?' 'Fool,' replied the Hodja, 'they were quarrelling for my quilt. Henceforward my motto shall be, "Beware of serpents."'"
Applique, or applied work, has never been used in France to the same extent as in England, even though the French name "applique" is more frequently used than any other. However, there is one striking example of applique work, of Rhenish or French origin, now hanging in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This realistic patchwork represents a fight between an armoured knight mounted on a high-stepping white horse and a ferocious dragon. The designs are arranged in a fashion similar to the blocks in a modern quilt, and depict several scenes showing the progress of the combat. There is also a border covered closely with figures of monks, knights, and ladies.
An extract from "First Steps in Collecting," by Grace M. Vallois, gives an interesting glimpse of an old French attic. An object of great interest to us is the old, unfinished quilt she discovered there: "A rummaging expedition in a French grenier yields more treasures than one taken in an English lumber room. The French are more conservative; they dislike change and never throw away anything. Among valuable antiques found in the grenier of a Louis XV house in the Pyrenees were some rare curtains of white linen ornamented with designs cut from beautiful old chintz; the edges of the applied designs were covered with tightly twisted cotton cord. Also, in the same room, in a drawer of an old chestnut-wood bureau, was found an unfinished bed quilt very curiously worked. It was of linen with a filling of rather soft cotton cord about an eighth of an inch wide. These cords were held in place by rows of minute stitching of white silk, making the bedcover almost solid needlework. Besides the quilting there were at rather wide intervals conventional flowers in peacock shades of blue and green silk executed in chain stitch. When found, the needle was still sticking in one of the flowers, and many were traced ready for work. The traced lines appear to have been made with India ink and were very clear and delicate. What caused the abrupt interruption of the old quilt no one can tell. It is possible that the great terror of 1793 caused the patient maker to flee from her unfinished task."
In the countries of northern Europe there is scarcely any record concerning the art of quilting and patchwork, and little can be said beyond the fact that both existed in some form or other. In Germany the quilt so familiar to us is practically unknown. In the past applique was very little used, except as cut work, or opus consutum, in blazonments and heraldic devices. The thick feather beds of medieval Germany were covered with various kinds of thick comforts filled with either wool or feathers, and sometimes sparsely quilted. The only decoration of the comfort consisted of a band of ornamental work, ten to twenty inches wide, usually worked in cross-stitch design with brightly coloured yarns. These bands were generally loose upon the comfort, one edge being held down by the pillow, but occasionally they were sewed to the edge of the bedcover.
In a work on arts and crafts relating to their presence in Sweden, it is written that "woven hangings were used to decorate the timbered walls of the halls of the vikings. They were hung over the temples, and they decorated the timber sepulchres of the dead. When the timbered grave of the Danish queen, Fyra Danabode, who died about 950, was opened, remains of woven woollen cloth were found." As far back as Swedish records go it can be shown that Swedish women wove and sewed figured material.
On account of the cold there is urgent need of wall hangings, and they are used extensively throughout Scandinavia. On festive occasions the stiff, cold appearance of Swedish peasants' homes is transformed by the gay wall coverings to one of hospitality and warmth. The hangings used are made of linen, either painted or embroidered in bright colours. The painted ones are especially interesting as they depict many historical scenes. Allegorical and religious subjects are also used to decorate many of these linen hangings. The Swedes are very patriotic, and on their wall hangings show all the saints clad in typical Swedish costumes. The apostles wear Swedish jack boots, loose collars, and pea jackets; and Joseph, as governor of Egypt, is shown wearing a three-cornered hat and smoking a pipe.
There is a valuable collection of Swedish needlework in the Northern Museum of Stockholm, dating from 1639 to the nineteenth century. Among this collection there are a few small pieces of applied work: some cushions, glove gauntlets, and a woman's handbag. It is possible that patchwork was used more extensively than the museum's display would indicate, but since large pieces are very rarely found, patchwork was evidently not held in the same esteem as embroidery and painting.
PATCHWORK AND QUILTING IN OLD ENGLAND
In searching for the beginning of needlework in England, the first authentic date revealed relating directly to this subject is 709, when the Bishop of Sherborne writes of the skill Englishwomen had attained at that time in the use of the needle. Preserved in various museums are some examples of Anglo-Saxon embroidery of uncertain date, that are known to have been made before the Bishop of Sherborne's time. Mention should also be made of the wonderful Bayeux Tapestry. This ancient piece is 227 feet long and twenty inches wide, and is of great historical interest, in that it illustrates events of English history from the accession of Edward the Confessor to the English defeat at Hastings by the Normans in 1066. There is some doubt as to whether this tapestry, which has the characteristic of typical applique—namely, the absence of shading—is actually of English workmanship, but it is unquestionably of Anglo-Saxon origin. It was first hung in Bayeux Cathedral in 1476.
It is a generally accepted fact that applique and embroidery are closely related and of about equal age, although relatively few examples of the former are preserved in collections of needlework. One of the oldest authentic bits of applique is at Stonyhurst College. It represents a knight clad in full armour, mounted on a spirited galloping horse. The horse is covered with an elaborately wrought blanket and has an imposing ornament on his head. The knight wears a headdress of design similar to that of the horse and, with arm uplifted and sword drawn, appears about to attack a foe. This work is well done, and the pose of both man and horse shows spirit. It is said to have been made during the thirteenth century. Preserved to us from this same period is the tattered fragment of a coat worn by Edward, the Black Prince, and which now hangs over his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral. With it are the helmet and gauntlets he wore and the shield he carried. The coat is of a red and blue velvet, now sadly faded, applied to a calico background and closely quilted. It is too elaborate to have been made to wear under his armour, and was probably worn during state functions where armour was not required, although it was then customary to wear thickly padded and quilted coats and hoods in order to ease the weight of the heavy and unyielding coats of mail.
Much of the best needlework in England at this early period was for the church. Neither labour nor expense was spared to make the magnificent decorations used in the old cathedrals. Aside from the linens, silks, and velvets used in this construction, much gold and silver bullion was wrought into the elaborate altar hangings, altar fronts, and ecclesiastical vestments. In their ornamentation applied work was freely used, especially on the large hangings draped over the altar.
It was during the earliest period that the Latin name opus consutum was commonly used to designate patchwork. Chain stitch also was much used on early English embroidery; to such an extent that it is now of great service as an identification mark to fix the dates of medieval needlework. Chain stitch was dignified by the Latin name opus anglicanum. Only the most elaborate and richest of embroideries have been preserved; the reason being that much of the work was done with silver and gold threads which were in reality fine wires of these precious metals. Being exceedingly costly, they were given unusual care, many being kept with the royal plate and jewels. One specimen made in 905 by Aelfled, the queen of Edward, the Elder, is now treasured in Durham Cathedral. It is described as being "of almost solid gold thread, so exquisitely embroidered that it resembles a fine illuminated manuscript," and is indescribably beautiful. In many instances the fabrics of these old embroideries have partly fallen away, leaving only frail fragments of the original material held together by the lasting threads of gold and silver.
The great amount of precious metals used in making the richest garments and hangings sometimes made them objects to be desired by avaricious invaders. In an inventory of the contents of Cardinal Wolsey's great palace at Hampton Court there are mentioned, among many other rare specimens of needlework of that period, "230 bed hangings of English embroidery." None of them is now in existence, and it is supposed that they were torn apart in order to fill the coffers of some vandal who preferred the metal in them to their beauty as hangings.
Among the sumptuous furnishings belonging to the Tudor period, applied work held a prominent place. Vast spaces of cold palace walls were covered by great wall hangings, archways were screened, and every bed was enclosed with curtains made of stoutly woven material, usually more or less ornamented. This was before the advent of French tapestry, which later supplanted the English applique wall draperies. The Tudor period was also the time when great rivalry in dress existed. "The esquire endeavoured to outshine the knight, the knight the baron, the baron the earl, the earl the king himself, in the richness of his apparel."
In direct contrast to the long inventories of beautiful and valuable clothing, bedcovers, and hangings of the rich, are the meagre details relating to the life and household effects of the landless English peasant. In all probability he copied as far as he was able some of the utilities and comforts used by his superiors. If he possessed a cover for his bed, it was doubtless made of the cheapest woven material obtainable. No doubt the pieced or patched quilt contributed materially to his comfort. In "Arts and Crafts in the Middle Ages," Julia de Wolf Addison describes a child's bed quilt included in an inventory of furniture at the Priory in Durham in 1446, "which was embroidered in the four corners with the Evangelistic symbols." In the "Squier of Lowe Degree," a fifteenth-century romance, there is allusion to a bed of which the head sheet is described as embroidered "with diamonds and rubies bright."
It was during the gorgeous reign of Henry VIII that the finest specimens of combined embroidery and patchwork, now preserved in various museums, were made. It was really patch upon patch, for before the motives were applied to the foundation they were elaborately embroidered in intricate designs; and after being applied, they had their edges couched with gold and silver cord and ornate embroidery stitches. Mrs. Lowes relates in "Old Lace and Needlework" that, during the time of Henry VIII, embroidery, as distinct from garment making, appeared; and every article of wearing apparel became an object worthy of decoration. "Much fine stitching was put into the fine white undergarments of that time, and the overdresses of both men and women became stiff with gold thread and jewels. Much use was made of slashing and quilting, the point of junction being dotted with pearls and precious stones. Noble ladies wore dresses heavily and richly embroidered with gold, and the train was so weighty that train bearers were pressed into service. In the old paintings the horses belonging to kings and nobles wear trappings of heavily embroidered gold. Even the hounds, which are frequently represented with their masters, have collars massively decorated with gold bullion."
Mary, Queen of Scots, was devoted to the needle and was expert in its use. It is said that while in France she learned lace making and embroidery. Many wall hangings, bed draperies, bedcovers, and house linens are the work of her skilful fingers, or were made under her personal direction. A number of examples of her work are now owned by the Duke of Devonshire. It is said also that many of the French costumes and laces of her wardrobe were appropriated by Queen Elizabeth, who had little sympathy for the unfortunate queen. As a solace during long days of loneliness, Queen Mary found consolation in her needle, as have many women of lower degree before and since her unhappy time. She stands forth as the most expert and indefatigable of royal needleworkers.
Hardwick Hall is intimately associated with Queen Mary's life, and is rich in relics of her industry. In one room named for her there are bed curtains and a quilt said to be her own work. Extracts from old letters relating to her conduct during captivity show how devoted she was to her needlework. An attendant, on being asked how the queen passed her time, wrote, "that all day she wrought with her nydil and that the diversity of the colours made the work seem less tedious and that she contynued so long at it that veray payn made hir to give over." This shows that fatigue alone made her desist from her beloved work.
There is a very interesting fragment of a bed hanging at Hardwick Hall said to have been made by Queen Mary. It is of applied patchwork, with cream-coloured medallions curiously ornamented by means of designs singed with a hot iron upon the light-coloured velvet. The singed birds, flowers, and butterflies are outlined with black silk thread. The worked medallions are applied to a foundation of green velvet, ornamented between and around them with yellow silk cord. This is only one of a number of examples of curious and beautiful patchwork still in existence and attributed to the Tudor period.
Queen Elizabeth herself was not devoted to needlework, but judging from the accounts of the gorgeous costumes which she delighted to wear, she was one of its greatest patronesses. It is said that at her death she left one of the most extensive wardrobes of history: in it were more than a thousand dresses, which were most voluminous in style and elaborately trimmed with bullion, pearls, and jewels. Before the precious stones were applied, her garments were solidly covered with gold and silver quilting and embroidery, which made them so heavy as to be a noticeable burden even for this proud and ambitious queen. In Berkeley Castle, as prized mementoes of Queen Elizabeth, are five white linen cushions beautifully embroidered with silver threads and cherry-coloured silk. Also with them is the quilt, a wonderful piece of needlework, that matches the hangings of the bed wherein she slept.
The magnificence of Queen Elizabeth's reign gave great impetus to all kinds of needlework. France at that time led in the development of fine arts, and furnished many of the skilled workmen employed by the nobility solely as embroiderers. There seemed to be no limit to the ambitions of these workers, and the gorgeous results of their labours were beyond anything attempted after them.
To those who wish to study the work of the Tudor period, Hardwick Hall is recommended as the place where the best specimens have been preserved. To Elizabeth, daughter of John Hardwick, born in 1520, and so poor that her marriage portion as the bride of the Earl of Shrewsbury was only thirty pounds, credit is given for the richness of this collection. She was a woman of great ability in the management of her estates, became very wealthy, and gave employment to many people. Included among her dependents were many needleworkers who plied their trade under rigorous administration. Elizabeth of Shrewsbury was a hard mistress, but not above doing an occasional bit of needlework herself, for some pieces bearing her initials and done with remarkable skill are preserved in the collection. She, as much as any Englishwoman, fostered and developed applied patchwork along the ambitious line of pictorial needlework.
In Hardwick Hall are several hangings of pictorial needlework that are very interesting. One of black velvet has a picture of a lady strongly resembling Queen Elizabeth. She carries a book in her hand and at her feet reclines a turbaned Turk. In the background is an ecclesiastical hanging which is embroidered to represent a cathedral window. The realistic effect of the whole picture is gained by the use of coloured silks cut in correct proportions and applied to the velvet foundation; very little embroidery entering into the main composition. Another hanging, also of black velvet, has an even more ambitious design. It is described by M. Jourdain in "The History of English Secular Embroidery" as follows: "The ornamentation on the black velvet is with applique in coloured silks consisting of figures under arches. In the centre is 'Lucrecia,' on the left 'Chastite,' and on the right 'Liberalitas.' The oval panel on the right contains a shield bearing the arms of Hardwick." At each end of the hanging are fluted Ionic columns, and a decorated frieze is carried across the top. The figures have grace and beauty; the drapery of their robes falls in natural folds; and altogether it is a remarkable picture to have been made with patches.
That this fine collection of medieval needlework is preserved for the admiration of people to-day is due to the faithful execution of the Countess of Shrewsbury's will, in which she left all her household furnishings, entailed as heirlooms, to always remain in her House of Hardwick.
In the interesting Hardwick collection are pieces of beautiful needlework known to have been used by Mary, Queen of Scots, during the years she spent as a prisoner at Tutbury. Her rooms there, furnished in regal splendour, are still kept just as she arranged them. The Earl of Shrewsbury was her custodian, and his wife, the countess, often sat and sewed with the unfortunate queen, both making pastime of their needlework.
During the Middle Ages applique was in universal use, and not confined merely to wall hangings, quilts, and bed draperies. It was used to ornament all kinds of wearing apparel, including caps, gloves, and shoes. Special designs were made for upholstery, but because of the hard wear imposed upon stools and chairs but few specimens of this work have been preserved.
Quilting also came into vogue in the making of bedspreads, of which great numbers were required during the winter nights in the poorly heated bedrooms. The quilts intended for service were made of substantial, well-wearing material. None of these strictly utilitarian quilts is left, but they were certainly plentiful. The old chroniclers give us a glimpse of what the women of these days cherished by telling us that in 1540 Katherine Howard, afterward wife of Henry VIII, was presented with twenty-three quilts of Sarsenet, closely quilted, from the Royal Wardrobe.
Tradition says that, during the reign of Henry VIII, the much used and popular "black work" or "Spanish work" was introduced into England by his Spanish wife, Catherine of Aragon. It has been found that this work did not originate in Spain but was taken there probably by the Moors or by the Crusaders, for it is known to have been perfected at a very remote period in both Persia and China. The following interesting description of black work is from Mrs. Lowes' "Chats on Old Lace and Needlework":
"The work itself was a marvel of neatness, precision, and elegant design, but the result cannot be said to have been commensurate with the labour of its production. More frequently the design was of scrollwork, worked with a fine black silk back stitching or chain stitch. Round and round the stitches go, following each other closely. Bunches of grapes are frequently worked solidly, and even the popular peascod is worked in outline stitch, and often the petit point period lace stitches are copied, and roses and birds worked separately and afterward stitched to the design." There are many examples of this famous "Spanish work" in the South Kensington Museum in London. Quilts, hangings, coats, caps, jackets, smocks, are all to be seen, some with a couched thread of gold and silver following the lines of the scrolls. This is said to be the Spanish stitch referred to in the old list of stitches, and very likely may be so, as the style and manner are certainly not English; and we know that Catherine of Aragon brought wonders of Spanish stitchery with her, and she herself was devoted to the use of the needle. The story of how, when called before Cardinal Wolsey and Campeggio, to answer to King Henry's accusations, she had a skein of embroidery silk round her neck, is well known.
"The black silk outline stitchery on linen lasted well through the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Very little of it is seen outside the museums, as, not being strikingly beautiful or attractive, it has been destroyed. Another phase of the same stitchery was working cotton and linen garments, hangings and quilts in a kind of quilted pattern with yellow silk. The finest materials were used, the padding being placed bit by bit into its place. The quilting work was made in tiny panels, illustrating shields and other heraldic devices, and had a surface as fine as carved ivory. When, as in the case of one sample at South Kensington, the quilt is additionally embroidered with fine floss silk flowers, the effect is very lovely."
One interesting feature of "black work" and similar flat embroideries was their constant use in decorating furnishings for the bedroom. It was peculiarly well adapted for quilts, as its rather smooth surface admirably resisted wear.
Fashions in needlework changed, but not with the same rapidity as in clothing. Gradually ideas and customs from other countries crept into England and new influences were felt. An established trade with the Orient brought Eastern products to her markets, and oriental designs in needlework became popular. About this time "crewel" was much in vogue. This was embroidery done with coloured woollen threads and was a step backward in the art. Some of this "crewel" work, done in the seventeenth century, is described by M. Jourdain in "English Secular Embroidery": "These hangings, bed curtains, quilts, and valances are of linen or a mixture of cotton and linen, and one type is embroidered with bold, freely designed patterns in worsted. They are worked almost always in dull blues and greens mixed with more vivid greens and some browns, but rarely any other colouring."
A very curious custom of these days was the use of "mourning beds," with black hangings, coverlets, and even sheets. As these funereal articles of furniture were quite expensive, it was a friendly custom to lend these mourning beds to families in time of affliction. In 1644 Mrs. Eure wrote to Sir Ralph Verney: "Sweet Nephew, I am now overrun with miserys and troubles, but the greatest misfortune that could happen to me was the death of the gallantest man (her husband) that I ever knew." Whereupon Sir Ralph, full of sympathy, "offers her the loan of the great black bed and hangings from Claydon."
Interesting indeed are descriptions of wonderful old quilts that are now guarded with zealous care in English museums. One, an original and striking design, is closely quilted all over in small diamonds. Upon it is embroidered an orange tree in full leaf and loaded with fruit. This tree, together with the fancy pot in which it is planted, covers practically the entire quilt. In the lower corners a gentleman is shown picking oranges and a lady in a patient attitude is waiting to receive them, the figures of both being scarcely taller than the flower pot. The whole design is made up of gayly coloured silks evidently worked in after the quilting was done. Mention is also made of an elaborate quilt said to be the work of Queen Anne, which is preserved at Madresfield Court. Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, in giving an order for house furnishings for her "wild, unmerciful house" about 1720, asks for "a vast number of feather beds, some filled with swansdown, and a vast number of quilts."
Mrs. Delany, who lived from 1700 to 1788, and left a large correspondence relating to needlework, which was later edited by Lady Llanover, was a most prolific worker with her needle as well as a profuse letter writer. She was often quoted as an authority and given credit for much originality in her designs. A quilt that she made is described as follows: "Of white linen worked in flowers, the size of nature, delineated with the finest coloured silks in running stitch, which is made use of in the same way as by a pen etching on paper; the outline was drawn with pencil. Each flower is different, and evidently done at the moment from the original." Another quilt of Mrs. Delany's was made upon a foundation of nankeen. This was unique in that no colours were used besides the dull yellow of the background. Applied designs of leaves tied together with ribbons, all cut from white linen and stitched to the nankeen with white thread, made a quilt no wise resembling the silken ones of earlier periods. This quilt may be termed a forerunner of the vast array of pieced and patched washable quilts belonging to the nineteenth century.
The embroidering of quilts followed the process of quilting, which afforded the firm foundation essential for heavy and elaborate designs. There were many quilts made of white linen quilted with yellow silk thread, and afterward embroidered very tastefully with yellow silk floss. Terry, in the history of his "Voyage to the East Indies," made about the middle of the seventeenth century, says: "The natives show very much ingenuity in their manufactures, also in making excellent quilts of their stained cloth, or of fresh-coloured taffeta lined with their prints, or of their satin with taffeta, betwixt which they put cotton wool, and work them together with silk."
Among many articles in a list of Eastern products, which Charles I, in 1631, permitted to be brought to England, were "quilts of China embroidered in Gold." There is a possibility that these quilts were appreciated quite as much for the precious metal used in the embroidery as for the beauty of design and workmanship. It was but a short time after this that women began to realize how much gold and silver had gone into all forms of needlework. They looked upon rare and beautiful embroidery with greedy eyes, and a deplorable fashion sprang up, known in France as "parfilage" and in England as "drizzling." This was nothing more or less than ripping up, stitch by stitch, the magnificent old hangings, quilts, and even church vestments, to secure gold and silver thread. Lady Mary Coke, writing from the Austrian Court, says: "All the ladies who do not play cards pick gold. It is the most general fashion I ever saw, and they all carry their bags containing the necessary tools in their pockets. They even begged sword knots, epaulettes, and galons that they might add more of the precious threads to the spool on which they wound the ravelled bullion, which they sold." To the appreciative collector this seems wanton sacrilege.
John Locke, 1632-1704, a very famous man of Charles II's time, and one of the greatest philosophers and ardent champions of civil and religious rights which England ever produced, mentioned quilts in his "Thoughts Concerning Education." In telling of the correct sort of beds for children he writes as follows: "Let his Bed be hard, and rather Quilts than Feathers. Hard Lodging strengthens the Parts, whereas being buryed every Night in Feathers melts and dissolves the Body.... Besides, he that is used to hard Lodging at Home will not miss his Sleep (where he has most Need of it) in his travels Abroad for want of his soft Bed, and his Pillows laid in Order."
Pepys, a contemporary of Locke, in his incomparable and delicious Diary, remarks: "Home to my poor wife, who works all day like a horse, at the making of her hanging for our chamber and bed," thus telling us that he was following the fashion of the day in having wall, window, and bed draperies alike. It is plain, too, by his frequent "and so to bed," that his place of sleep and rest was one of comfort in his house.
A quilt depending solely upon the stitching used in quilting, whether it be of the simple running stitch, the back stitch, or the chain stitch, is not particularly ornamental. However, when viewed at close range, the effect is a shadowy design in low relief that has a distinctive but modest beauty when well done. Early in the eighteenth century a liking for this fashion prevailed, and was put to a variety of uses. Frequently there was no interlining between the right and wrong sides. At Canons Ashby there are now preserved some handsome quilted curtains of this type, belonging to Sir Alfred Dryden, Baronet.
During the Middle Ages instruction in the use of the needle was considered a necessary part of the English girl's education. By the seventeenth century "working fine works with the needle" was considered of equal importance with singing, dancing, and French in the accomplishments of a lady of quality. In the eighteenth century much the same sentiment prevailed, and Lady Montagu is quoted as saying: "It is as scandalous for a woman not to know how to use a needle as for a man not to know how to use a sword."
The Spectator of that time sarcastically tells of two sisters highly educated in domestic arts who spend so much time making cushions and "sets of hangings" that they had never learned to read and write! A sober-minded old lady, grieved by frivolous nieces, begs the Spectator "to take the laudable mystery of embroidery into your serious consideration," for, says she, "I have two nieces, who so often run gadding abroad that I do not know when to have them. Those hours which, in this age, are thrown away in dress, visits, and the like, were employed in my time in writing out receipts, or working beds, chairs, and hangings for the family. For my part I have plied the needle these fifty years, and by my good-will would never have it out of my hand. It grieves my heart to see a couple of proud, idle flirts sipping the tea for a whole afternoon in a room hung round with the industry of their great-grandmothers." Another old lady of the eighteenth century, Miss Hutton, proudly makes the following statement of the results of years of close application to the needle: "I have quilted counterpanes and chest covers in fine white linen, in various patterns of my own invention. I have made patchwork beyond calculation."
Emblems and motifs were great favourites with the quilt workers of "ye olden times" and together with mottoes were worked into many pieces of embroidery. The following mottoes were copied from an old quilt made in the seventeenth century: "Covet not to wax riche through deceit," "He that has lest witte is most poore," "It is better to want riches than witte," "A covetous man cannot be riche."
The needle and its products have always been held in great esteem in England, and many of the old writers refer to needlework with much respect. In 1640 John Taylor, sometimes called the "Water Poet," published a collection of essays, etc., called "The Needle's Excellency," which was very popular in its day and ran through twelve editions. In it is a long poem entitled, "The Prayse of the Needle." The following are the opening lines:
"To all dispersed sorts of Arts and Trades I write the needles prayse (that never fades) So long as children shall begot and borne, So long as garments shall be made and worne. So long as Hemp or Flax or Sheep shall bear Their linnen Woollen fleeces yeare by yeare; So long as silk-worms, with exhausted spoile, Of their own entrailes for man's game shall toyle; Yea, till the world be quite dissolved and past, So long at least, the Needles use shall last."
It is interesting to read what Elizabeth Glaister, an Englishwoman, writes of quilts in England:
"Perhaps no piece of secular needlework gave our ancestors more satisfaction, both in the making and when made, as the quilt or bed coverlet. We have seen a good many specimens of them, both of the real quilted counterpanes, in which several thicknesses of material were stitched together into a solid covering, and the lighter silken or linen coverlets ornamented with all sorts of embroidery. Cradle quilts also were favourite pieces of needlework and figure in inventories of Henry VIII's time.
"The real quilts were very handsome and the amount of labour bestowed on them was enormous. The seventeenth century was a great time for them, and the work of this period is generally very good. The quilting of some of them is made by sewing several strands of thick cotton between the fine linen of the surface and the lining. When one line was completed the cotton was laid down again next to it, and another line formed.
"A sort of shell pattern was a favourite for quilting. When a sufficient space was covered with the ground pattern, flowers or other ornaments were embroidered on this excellent foundation. Perhaps the best results as a work of art were attained when both quilting and flowers were done in bright yellow silk; the effect of this colour on a white ground being always particularly good. A handsome quilt may be worked with a darned background. It is done most easily on huckaback towelling of rather loose weave, running the needle under the raised threads for the ground.
"A very effective quilt in quite a different style is made in applied work on unbleached cotton sheeting. A pattern of yellow fruit or flower with leaves is cut out in coloured serges sewn on with crewels in buttonhole stitch; stems, veins, and buds being also worked in crewels, and the ground slightly darned in dim yellow crewel. It is elaborate, but a very pleasant and repaying piece of work.
"Many beautiful old quilts are made of silk and satin embroidered in pure silks or in gold and silver twist. Most of the best specimens are from France and Italy, where from the arrangement of the houses the beds have continued to be more en evidence than has been the case in England for the last two centuries. Many also are of Indian origin; the ground of these is sometimes of fine soft silk and sometimes of thick muslin, over which the pattern is worked in silk. Others, though of Indian workmanship, show a European influence, of which the most curious are those worked at Goa, under Portuguese dominion in the seventeenth century."
THE QUILT IN AMERICA
The date of the quilt's advent into America is unknown, and—because of the lack of knowledge concerning the house furnishings of the early colonists—can never be positively determined. Quilts were in such general use and were considered as such ordinary articles that the early writers about family life in the colonies neglected to mention them. We do know, however, that quilted garments, bedspreads, curtains, and the like were very essential to the comfort and well-being of the original settlers along the Atlantic seaboard.
Extensive investigation has shown that the introduction of the arts of patchwork and quilting to the American continent is due entirely to the English and the Dutch. No evidence has been found that Spanish or French colonists made use of quilting. The Spaniards in the warm lands of the South had little real need of warm clothing, and—outside of possible applique heraldic devices on the coats of the early explorers—may be considered as having brought to the New World none of the art so popular in Spain at the time. The French who opened up Canada brought none of the quilting or patchwork of France with them. While needlework was taught at a very early date in the convents of Quebec, it was apparently only the more fanciful kinds of embroidery. As a protection against the biting northern winters, the early French settlers sought protection under furs, which could be obtained quite readily in the great woods. To secure more bed clothing, it was very much easier to engage in a little hunting than to go through the laborious processes of piecing and quilting. To both Spanish and French, the new world was strictly a man's country—to adventure in and win riches upon which to retire to a life of ease in their native lands. With them, therefore, the inspiration of founding a home and providing it with the comforts of life was lacking; and without such inspiration the household arts could never flourish.
The English and Dutch planted their colonies along the coast from Virginia to Massachusetts with the primary object of founding new homes for themselves. With them came their wives and daughters, who brought along as their portion such household comforts and conveniences as they possessed. Under their willing hands spinning, weaving, and the manufacture of garments began immediately. Their poorly heated log houses made necessary an adequate supply of bedding and hangings for protection against the winter cold. Substantial, heavy curtains, frequently lined and quilted, were hung over both doors and windows and were kept closely drawn during the bitter winter nights. In the more imposing homes were silk damask curtains with linings of quilted silk to keep out the drafts of cold that swept through the rooms.
In Massachusetts in the early colonial days quilted garments, especially petticoats, were in general use. It is a curious circumstance that we owe this bit of information largely to the description of runaway slaves. The Boston News Letter of October, 1707, contains an advertisement describing an Indian woman who ran away, clad in the best garments she could purloin from her mistress's wardrobe: "A tall Lusty Carolina Indian Woman, named Keziah Wampun Had on a striped red, blue and white Home-spun Jacket and a Red one, a Black and quilted White Silk Crape Petticoat, a White Shift and also a blue with her, and a mixt Blue and White Linsey Woolsey Apron." In 1728 the News Letter published an advertisement of a runaway Indian servant who, wearied by the round of domestic drudgery, adorned herself in borrowed finery and fled: "She wore off a Narrow Stript pinck cherredary Gown turned up with a little floured red and white Callico. A Stript Home-spun quilted petticoat, a plain muslin Apron, a suit of plain Pinners and a red and white flowered knot, also a pair of green stone earrings, with white cotton stockings and leather heel'd wooden shoes."
A few items in a list of articles ordered from England for a New England bride, Miss Judith Sewall, who was married in 1720, give some idea of what was considered as a suitable wedding outfit during that period. The bride belonged to a rich family and no doubt had furnishings much more extensive than usual: "A Duzen of good Black Walnut Chairs, A Duzen Cane Chairs, and a great chair for a chamber, all black Walnut. One Duzen large Pewter Plates, new fashion, a Duzen Ivory-hafted knives and forks. Four Duzen small glass salt cellars, Curtains and Vallens for a Bed with Counterpane, Head Cloth, and Tester made of good yellow watered camlet with Trimming. Send also of the same camlet and trimming as may be enough to make cushions for the chamber chairs. A good fine larger Chintz quilt, well made." This list also includes such items as kitchen utensils, warming pans, brass fenders, tongs, and shovels, and "four pairs of large Brass candlesticks."
As the resources of the new country were developed, the women were given some respite from their spinning, weaving, and garment making. Much of their hard-won leisure was spent piecing quilts. In the rigorous climate of bleak New England there was great need of warm clothing and bedding, and the spare moments of the housekeeper were largely occupied in increasing her supply. To make the great amount of bedding necessary in the unheated sleeping rooms, every scrap and remnant of woollen material left from the manufacture of garments was saved. To supplement these, the best parts of worn-out garments were carefully cut out, and made into quilt pieces.
Beautiful, even gorgeous, materials were imported for costumes of the wives and daughters of the wealthy colonists. There may be a greater variety of fabrics woven to-day, but none is more splendid in texture and colour than those worn by the stately ladies of colonial times. The teachings of the strict Puritans advocated plainness and simplicity of dress; even the ministers in the churches preached against the "sinfulness of display of fine raiment." Notwithstanding the teachings and pleadings of the clergy, there was great rivalry in dress among the inhabitants of the larger colonial towns. "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy," was unnecessary advice to give to the rich colonist or to his wife. Men's attire was also of costly velvets lined with handsome brocades; beautifully embroidered waistcoats, silk stockings, and gold lace trimmings were further additions to their costumes during the pre-Revolutionary period.
After these gay and costly fabrics had served their time as wearing apparel, they were carefully preserved and made over into useful articles for the household. The pinch of hard times during the struggle for independence made it imperative for many well-to-do families to economize. Consequently, in many old patchwork quilts may be found bits of the finest silks, satins, velvets, and brocades, relics of more prosperous days.
Alice Morse Earle, in her charming book on "Home Life in Colonial Days," gives us a rare insight into our great-grandmothers' fondness for patchwork, and how highly they prized their bits of highly coloured fabrics:
"The feminine love of colour, the longing for decoration, as well as pride in skill of needlecraft, found riotous expression in quilt making. Women revelled in intricate and difficult patchwork; they eagerly exchanged patterns with one another; they talked over the designs, and admired pretty bits of calico and pondered what combinations to make, with far more zest than women ever discuss art or examine high art specimens together to-day. There was one satisfactory condition in the work, and that was the quality of cottons and linens of which the patchwork was made. Real India chintzes and palampores are found in these quilts, beautiful and artistic stuffs, and the firm, unyielding, high-priced, 'real' French calicoes.
"Portions of discarded uniforms, old coat and cloak linings, brilliantly dyed worn flannel shirts and well-worn petticoats were component parts of quilts that were needed for warmth. A magnificent scarlet cloak, worn by a Lord Mayor of London and brought to America by a member of the Merrit family of Salisbury, Massachusetts, went through a series of adventures and migrations and ended its days as small bits of vivid colour, casting a grateful glory and variety on a patchwork quilt in the Saco Valley of Maine.
"Around the outstretched quilt a dozen quilters could sit, running the whole together with fanciful set designs of stitchery. Sometimes several quilts were set up, and I know of a ten days' quilting bee in Narragansett in 1752."
The women who came from Holland to make their homes on the narrow island at the mouth of the Hudson were housekeepers of traditional Dutch excellence. They delighted in well-stocked linen closets and possessed unusual quantities of sheets, pillow cases, and bedding, mostly of their own spinning and weaving. Like their English neighbours to the north, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, they adopted quilted hangings and garments for protection against the severity of winter. Their quilted petticoats were the pride and joy of these transplanted Hollanders, and in their construction they exerted their highest talents in design and needlework. These petticoats, which were worn short enough to display the home-knitted hose, were thickly interlined as well as quilted. They were very warm, as the interlining was usually of wool. The fuller the purse, the richer and gayer were the petticoats of the New Amsterdam dames.
While not so strict in religious matters as their Puritan neighbours, the early inhabitants of New Amsterdam always observed Sunday and attended church regularly. Within the fort at the battery stood the church, built of "Manhattan Stone" in 1642. Its two peaked roofs with the watch-tower between was the most prominent object of the fortress. "On Sunday mornings the two main streets, Broadway and Whitehall, were filled with dignified and sedate churchgoers arrayed in their best clothes. The tucked-up panniers worn by the women displayed to the best advantage the quilted petticoats. Red, blue, black, and white were the favourite and predominating colours, and the different materials included fine woollen cloth, camlet, grosgrain silk, and satin. Of all the articles of feminine attire of that period the quilted petticoat was the most important. They were worn short, displaying the low shoes with high heels and coloured hose with scarlet clockings; silken hoods partially covered their curled and powdered hair; altogether a charming and delightful picture."
The low, flat land of South Manhattan lying along the Hudson, because of its similarity to their mother country, was a favourite dwelling-place in New Netherlands. This region, known as Flatbush, was quickly covered with Dutch homes and big, orderly, flourishing gardens. A descendant of one of the oldest Dutch families which settled in this locality, Mrs. Gertrude Lefferts Vanderbilt, in her book, "The Social History of Flatbush," has given many interesting details of early New York life. She tells of the place quilt making held in the community, and how the many intricate patterns of patchwork pleasantly occupied the spare moments of the women, thus serving as a means of expression of their love of colour and design. The following little domestic picture shows how conveniently near the thrifty housewife kept her quilt blocks: "A low chair with a seat of twisted osier, on which was tied a loose feather-filled cushion, covered with some gay material. On the back of these chairs hung the bag of knitting, with the little red stocking and shining needles plainly visible, indicating that this was the favourite seat of the industrious mother of the family; or a basket of patchwork held its place upon a low stool (bankje) beside the chair, also to be snatched up at odd intervals (ledige tyd)."
One reliable source of information of the comforts and luxuries that contributed to pleasant dwelling in old New York is found in old inventories of household effects. Occasionally complete lists are found that throw much light on the furnishings of early days. Such an inventory of the household belongings of Captain John Kidd, before he went to sea and turned pirate, mentions over sixty different kinds of house furnishings, from a skillet to a dozen chairs embellished with Turkish embroidery. Among the articles with which John Kidd and his wife Sarah began housekeeping in New York in 1692, as recorded in this inventory, were four bedsteads, with three suits of hangings, curtains, and valances to go with them. Feather beds, feather pillows, linen sheets, tablecloths, and napkins, ten blankets, and three quilts. How much of this store of household linens was part of his wife's wedding dower is not stated.
The early settlers in Virginia and the Carolinas were mostly English of the better class, who had been landed proprietors with considerable retinues of servants. As soon as these original colonists secured a firm foothold, large estates were developed on which the manners and customs of old England were followed as closely as possible. Each plantation became a self-supporting community, since nearly all the actual necessities were produced or manufactured thereon. The loom worked ceaselessly, turning the wool, cotton, and flax into household commodities, and even the shoes for both slave and master were made from home-tanned leather. For their luxuries, the ships that carried tobacco and rice to the English markets returned laden with books, wines, laces, silverware, and beautiful house furnishings of every description.
In the colonial plantation days of household industry quilts, both patchwork and plain, were made in considerable numbers. Quilts were then in such general use as to be considered too commonplace to be described or even mentioned. Consequently, we are forced to depend for evidence of their existence in those days on bills of sale and inventories of auctions. These records, however, constitute an authority which cannot be questioned.
In 1774 Belvoir, the home of the Fairfax family, one of the largest and most imposing of houses of Virginia, was sold and its contents were put up at auction. A partial list of articles bought at this sale by George Washington, then Colonel Washington, and here given, will show the luxury to which the Southern planter was accustomed: "A mahogany shaving desk, settee bed and furnishings, four mahogany chairs, oval glass with gilt frame, mahogany sideboard, twelve chairs, and three window curtains from dining-room. Several pairs of andirons, tongs, shovels, toasting forks, pickle pots, wine glasses, pewter plates, many blankets, pillows, bolsters, and nineteen coverlids."
It was customary in the good old days after a dinner or ball for the guests, who necessarily came from long distances, to stay all night, and many bedrooms, frequently from ten to twenty-five, besides those needed for the family, were provided in the big houses. All were beautifully furnished with imported, massive, carved furniture from France and England. In one year, 1768, in Charlestown, South Carolina, occurred twelve weddings among the wealthy residents of that city, and all the furniture for these rich couples came from England. The twelve massive beds with canopies supported by heavily carved posts, decorated with rice stalks and full heads of grain, were so high that steps were needed in order to climb into them. Elaborate and expensive curtains and spreads were furnished to correspond. In one early inventory of an extensively furnished house there are mentioned "four feather beds, bolsters, two stools, looking-glass tipt with silver, two Turkey carpets, one yellow mohair bed counterpane, and two green silk quilts." From this it is evident that the quilt had already found its place, and no doubt in great numbers, on account of the many beds to furnish in the spacious house of the rich planters.