Friday, June 6, 2008

Susan McCord's Quilts, Part II

This blog continues from the first blog about Susan McCord's quilts, (see May 18 post) we'll start here "...of McCord's trailing vines, ... In fact, larger leafs on each quilt are made with horizontal strips of different colored fabrics." View Susan's Quilts here

Susan's quilts put this unique stripped leaf technique onto four more of her quilts earlier than the 1880s circa date assigned to her well known strippy style serpentine vine and leaf quilt, based on those featured in Fons and Porter present Quilts from the Henry Ford

One they named "floral urn," a 9 block of appliqué pot and flowers with two vine borders that have the strip-pieced leaves, and two that don't. Another with vine borders very similar to the strippy quilt's serpentine vine and leaf pattern is "ocean waves," made in late 19th century. On this quilt two of the borders have buds or fat leafs that are strip-pieced, the other two borders have leaves not strip-pieced.

Another unique quilt made by her has a border of a vine, leaf and berries in appliqué placed on one side of "turkey tracks" blocks set into the garden maze sashing. The browns of the turkey blocks speak the 1870s-1880s to me, they don't have a date for it in the book. Apparently this border showed and the bed was against a wall. But in this case, Susan put simple pink and green borders on each end, and none on the back. That's different! It seems that when a quilt is made for a particular bed so that certain borders are left off, at least the borders remaining match.

The last quilt with the strip-pieced leaf pattern is called "feathered star," nothing like the pieced block pattern and it is all appliqued. It is best described as four curved leafed vines meeting in the middle of each block, 9 blocks total. Without a specific date estimated, it may be one of the earlier one's she made. Their caption states that pinwheel stars such as these were made around the time of the Civil War. I have not seen another quilt pattern like this.

It does not have a border per se, instead a wide binding, maybe 2" that matches the white background except for a pink rectangle in one corner. The feathers and dense quilting that is not easy to see in the photo, but fill in the large white areas between the vines, keep this quilt's origin on the earlier end of the collection of 12quilts presented in this book.It's a fabulous quilt and pattern.

Some see this stripped leaf as a signature of her work, and it's easy to see why, but is it of her origin? I took a look through other books with quilts made before the Civil War time period on, especially those with quilts from the Midwest where she lived, to see if this leaf was a rarity. It is indeed!

I found two quilts that had stripped leaves, but not just like hers. Could she possibly have been influenced by seeing similar quilts to these as early as the 1860s? It would be tough, unless they are more common than the two I found suggest. In the 1860s quilt patterns in newspapers and magazines were not common like they were later in the century. Patterns tended to be passed around in a community until someone moved west and took the pattern, templates or quilt with them. In fact Susan moved to Iowa for a short time with her family before returning to Indiana.

The first example of a strip-pieced leaf which is also made in pinks and greens like McCord's is on a 1850-1870 Whig Rose variation and just happens to be online at the International Quilt Study Center. The leaves are around the Whig Rose, but I think the buds on the vine may also be strip pieced, difficult to tell by the photo in the book A Flowering of Quilts ed. by Patricia Cox Crews, p. 75, as well as online. Maybe someone who has seen it will comment and fill us in. Notice the quilting, it is exceptional!

The other quilt that has a striped leaf is different in its outcome, but the process is similar. This quilt is found in the first quilt documentation book ever written, "Kentucky Quilts, 1800-1900", pp. 12-13. It is a red and green North Carolina Lily, c. 1865. The stems flow from a stripped V-shaped base that represents leaves in gold or yellow and green. What an unusual application and it's pieced, not appliqué. It is also online at Quilt Alliance. Click on see all images of this quilt and it will enlarge further.

Before I end this longgg newsletter, did you remember my mention of Susan's style reaching into the political realm? From 1977 to 1980 a serpentine vine and leaf medallion quilt hung in Walter Mondale's office when he was Vice President. The leaves are not strip-pieced, but made from lime green, yellow, light blue and hot pink solids popular in the early 1960s when Marie Pedelty made it. In the center she depicted the oldest tree in her hometown of Madelia, MN. It's on p. 46 of the state documentation book Minnesota Quilts, Creating Connections with our Past. She sold it to Joyce Aufderheide, quilt collector, historian and speaker, who loaned it to Joan Mondale for its political reign.

That's all for now- piece,



Judy Anne said...

I really enjoyed the links to examples of the quilts.

It's so interesting how techniques we think of as modern are found in much earlier quilts.

Tonya said...

My great-great grandmother was Susan McCord. My grandma (who passed away in 2003) and great aunt (still alive) donated the quilts to the Henry Ford Museum. Unfortunately, I didn't inherit her talent (scrapbooking is as creative as I get) but am proud to be related to her. Have had fun on the internet tonight learning more about her through short articles and pictures of her quilts. =)

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