Sunday, May 18, 2008

Susan McCord's Quilt Carries On

If you know the 19th century quilt maker Susan McCord's work, you immediately see the similarity to Susan's Fan, the quilt made by Rita Denenberg in 1989. It won Judge's Choice in the 1994 All-American Quilt Contest sponsored by Land's End and Goodhousekeeping Magazine. It is a take off on Susan McCord's "Trailing Vine" quilt made around the 1880s. It is in the Henry Ford Museum and therefore you can see it in the book Fons and Porter present Quilts from the Henry Ford (p. 52-59, including the pattern) but it is a beauty and has been published in other books over the years too. Susan actually lived in Indiana, with her large family and made several gorgeous quilts. She favored appliqué.

Rita chose a unique way of adapting McCord's quilt. Rita repeated the serpentine vines quite similarly to McCord's, but instead of placing them in Strip Style side by side, she appliquéd hers into one huge "Grandmother's Fan" tilted on it's side with six blades; each blade has one curved vine running the length with four off shoots. Together they fill the blade but are delicate in their design, no prints are the same, and the overall look is not dense or compact. It is harmonious, symmetrical overall, and the use of red as the one main and repeating color gives it an air of modernism, even today.

If we were to take a leap in time to 1995, we'd notice the quilt made by Jane Sassaman titled "Willow" chosen as one of the 20th century's Best 100 American quilts. In the center is a large contemporary, whimsical, colorful depiction of a tree trunk with branches and leaves reminiscent indeed, of McCord's trailing vines, in its totally curved orientation and individual leaves appliquéd so that they appear delicate and alive. In fact ,larger leafs on each quilt are made with horizontal strips of different colored fabrics. Jane herself says a 17th century embroidered Elizabethan Jacket that she saw as elegant and witty influenced her.

In the next blog I post, I will continue the continuum of this pattern. It gets into politics…the quilt does!


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