Saturday, November 28, 2009

birds on quilts

Looking through some of our images for a Holiday image,
I found this fabulous, hand embroidered
TURKEY from a fancy 1890s Crazy Quilt (detail).

We recently sold a 19th century Sampler Quilt featuring
this cocky fellow.

So, I started looking for more Birds on Quilts and found

the cool ones below.

Detail: circa 1880s "Birds of Paradise" quilt, Pennsylvania

Detail of an Album Quilt, circa 1860

Detail of an Album Quilt, circa 1860

Detail of an Appliqued and Stuffed Quilt, circa 1880

Align CenterVictorian Crazy Quilts tend to be covered with embroidery,
typically worked over every seam.

But the fancy pieces of silk and velvet
are also a nice canvas for embroidered images of
objects, people, animals of all sorts ~ and great birds!

Why so many birds on quilts?
Whoo Knows?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

YOU . . . are . . . INVITED !

Julie Silber and Joe Cunningham
are very excited about our


A FULL Day of Rare, Fun & Informative Quilt Events

Sunday, December 6, 2009
9:20 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. ~ San Francisco

• A
Guided Tour: Amish Quilt Exhibition at the de Young Museum
• A
Rare Tour: Jeffery Ross and Jonathan Shannon's fabulous home, the Archbishop’s Mansion ~ and quilts (including "Amigos Muertos")
Janneken Smucker: “A New Look at the Esprit Quilt Collection”
(includes live examples)
Robert Shaw: "A History of the Art Quilt" ~ Who Knows MORE???
Julie and Joe: Dog-n-Pony Show on "Maverick Quilts"
and the nature of improvisation
with Live Examples ~ some DOOZIES !

Lunch and Museum Admission are included.
Space is limited.

For More Information and Sign-Ups

Sunday, November 1, 2009

then ... and now

I HEART Jean Ray Laury...

Jean and I have known each other for a long, long time. Way further back than the top photo here, taken about 15 years ago, on one of my visits to Jean and Frank's home.

Circa 1994 outside of Jean Ray's home in Clovis, California.
My sweatshirt (in Hebrew) translates to "Mendocino" (my home town)

At the annual meeting of AQSG Oct. 2009, San Jose, CA; Jean was the Keynote Speaker
(What a wonderful treat to get in a little visit...)

The late, legendary textile dealer, Cora Ginsburg, once said this to some folks who were complaining about how they looked in a photograph,

"Enjoy it, my Dears. Fifteen years from now, you will look back at this shot think you looked FABULOUS!"

Tempus, she definitely fugits...

To learn more about Jean Ray, and her work, please visit:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Inspirations . . . Sources

Inspirations . . . Sources
copyright, The Quilt Complex, 2009

Original Design, pieced and appliqued, circa 1930-40

In looking through my quilts (and photos of quilts) for a recent article I wrote on CURVED SEAMS in pieced quilts, I came upon this WONDER. Curved seams, yes. Elongated points, yes. Skillfully made, yes.

But WHERE did this unnamed quilt maker get the idea for this totally
ORIGINAL DESIGN made circa 1930-40?

The issue of sources and inspirations for quilt designs is a HUGE subject and will not be covered in this simple blog entry.

On this fantastic design, MY best guess for the quilt maker's model --
early 20th century crocheted doilies !

What do YOU think?

Monday, August 10, 2009

appraising antique quilts ...

And The Wonderful Things We Sometimes See...

copyright: The Quilt Complex 2009

Last Saturday I appraised quilts (made before about 1960) at the San Jose (CA) Museum of Quilts and Textiles. The museum organized this event for the public.

I love doing appraisals this way. You never know what is going to "walk in the door."

I do not yet have permission from all of the owners to share their quilts with you, I will post mostly detail shots of what we got to see ...

From the funk-a-delic to the sublime.... pretty exciting!

By far, the oddest "Yo-YO" quilt I have ever seen! Made predominantly of silk stockings, probably World War Two era, 1940s.

Detail of a charming, crudely made, Four Block floral applique, circa 1900, Georgia

A signature quilt from Pennsylvania, with well documented blocks, dated 1870 - 1877. Family owned.

And YES, a true, authentic Baltimore Album quilt , c. 1845, never before shown and right out of the family!

What a great day!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

"...barely contained vibrations..."

Wanna see why I love Joe Cunningham?

I am getting ready to list this fabulous circa 1870s silk quilt for sale on our website .... and I found myself lost for words.

"Modern"? No. "Graphic"? Indeed, but overused. "Elegant"? Well, yes, but so much more...

Skip to below the photos for Joe's inimitable "take" on this one!

Joe writes:

"Asymmetrical Like A Fox"

Quilters of the past had an entirely different relationship to symmetry than modern quilters. In this era has grown the idea that a quilt which is done "right" is done in a way so that elements are more or less symmetrical. This quilter was indifferent to that idea.

She treated some of the blocks as if they were single 16-patch units and some as if they were made of four separate four-patch units. In two of the blocks she squirts a line of color across the middle.

The seemingly airbrushed stripe of the background fabric is carefully cut to go always in the same direction, except for the two triangles in the upper left, which, by being flipped the other way, disrupt the diagonal flow. Cover them up and you see a restful, pleasant design. Uncover to see barely contained vibrations.

For more from and about Joe Cunningham:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thinking About Curved Seams

Ruminating on ... Curved Seams...
copyright, The Quilt Complex, 2009

Why are there so many more (antique) pieced quilts made with straight seams than made with curved seams?

Is the answer the obvious one ~ that straight seams are simply much easier to execute?

Are curved seams that much more difficult to piece?

There are a few designs incorporating curved seams that are fairly common.

Two of those popular designs are shown above: The red and white is "Drunkard's Path" (circa 1910), and the one just above is a detail of a circa 1930's "Double Wedding Ring."

Nonetheless, we see FAR fewer curved seam quilts in the 19th and early 20th centuries than we see straight seams.

Below are some more examples of curved seams pieced quilts.

These with more complex designs than the two above; below we see curved seams combined with points, sometimes elongated points.

Detail, "Caesar's Crown," circa 1840

Detail, "Mariner's Compass," circa 1880

Full Shot (above) and Detail (below)
"New York Beauty," circa 1880, Southern United States

Friday, July 17, 2009

More on My Parents' Quilts

July 17, 2009

copyright, The Quilt Complex, 2009

I promised to add more photos of my parents, Al and Merry Silber ~ and some of the antique quilts in their collection.

I have just returned from eight days in Michigan with my folks. My Mom's 95th birthday was July 10 ~ We had a great party for her.

I got out a few more of their quilts and took some photos.

Here's Mom with an 1880's Log Cabin "Zig Zag" variation

And here she is examining a turn-of-the-century quilt called "Rattlesnake" or Mohawk Trail."

Mom has a special love for indigo and white quilts of the 19th century.
The one above is called "Orange Peel."

Below is a detail of a design Mom always called "Kaleidoscope." I'll have to check my books to see if that is a traditional name for it.

All three of the blue and white quilts shown here have curved seams.

Stay tuned...
There is more to come on my folks' wonderful quilts.

Monday, June 29, 2009

"Colonial History" Quilt ~ Ruby McKim

June 29, 2009
copyright, The Quilt Complex, 2009

American "History" in Old Quilts

In December of 1926, some newspapers began printing a series of redwork patterns designed by Ruby McKim. (The patterns were accompanied by text ~ someone's version of American "Colonial" history.)

Over a period of 24 weeks, women could trace these "themed" patterns, week-by-week, onto their own fabric and hand embroider the images, usually in red on white.

In 1927, "R H R" finished, initialed and dated her version of McKim's "Colonial History" quilt. (Right side, above photo)

The vertical "set," and the quilting designs (executed in blue thread) in this version are really unusual ~ and perhaps unique.

It is certainly the most successful presentation of McKim's Colonial History blocks we have ever seen!

To see more images of this quilt:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thinking About Trapunto (Part Two)

June 25, 2009
copyright The Quilt Complex, 2009

Trapunto in OLD Quilts
Part 2

My last blog featured two mid-19th century quilts with two different styles of trapunto .

Below are two more examples of early quilts, made by women who used trapunto in yet more ways!

"Single Lily" ~ circa 1850
A "sampler" of trapunto designs ~ a different one in each white block

Boutis ~ Provence, France ~ circa 1850

A wholecloth quilt in which the trapunto IS the design of the quilt.

To see more photos of the Boutis:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thinking about Trapunto

Align Center

June 22, 2009 ~
copyright The Quilt Complex, 2009

Trapunto in OLD Quilts
Part One

We have recently gotten several early quilts featuring "
trapunto" ~ a technique in which the quilting design is outlined with running stitches and then padded from the underside to achieve a raised effect.

It got me to thinking about the various ways quilt makers incorporated this stuffing technique into their designs.

Styles vary, about as widely as they do in all other aspects of quilt making. (DUH!)

Check out the two terrific variations below.
next blog entry will have two more examples ~ different styles!

"Pots of Tulips" ~ circa 1860

This quiltmaker used "trapunto" feathers to separate and border her applique designs
(More photos of this quilt: )

"Currants and Coxcombs" ~ circa 1860

Here, the trapunto ALMOST mimics the applique design
(More photos of this quilt: )

Two more terrific examples, with different trapunto styles coming in my next entry!

copyright The Quilt Complex, 2009