I was most impressed with the quilt display at Old Sturbridge Village. As you walk through the Visitor Center to access the village, the Quilt display begins with a simple and effective explanation of what a quilt is. Sample blocks, quilted and bound, illustrated the 5 types of quilts popular during this time period- whole cloth, hexagonal or mosaic, pieced, whitework and strip quilts.
Following this was a magnetic board upon which you could arrange printed pieces to design your own quilt block. What a great idea- this would work well for teaching children or even beginning quilters.... You can click on each of these photos for a larger view....
The next display, called Tools of the Trade, featured specialized quilting templates used to mark the more complex designs such as cables, leaves and swirls. These were made of tin, wood or even cardboard with cording sewn on to create the design. The templates could be pressed into powdered "lead" (graphite) or chalk to transfer the design to the quilt top. I was fascinated with this, never having seen this type of thing before- I had never stopped to think of what was used before the plastic stencils we have today...
Ten quilted garments, including silk bonnets, petticoats, a morning robe and a wadded silk pelisse formed a lovely showcase; alas no photos because of the reflections from the glass. We often forget that quilting was not only used for bed quilts in those days, but also to add warmth to garments for the long harsh winters.
Fifteen quilts and coverlets completed the exhibit, with a good representation of styles - wholecloth, pieced, whitework, stencilled and strip quilts. The T shape was, of course, necessary to fit around the posts of the bed. These pieces were all dated circa the early 1800's, mostly 1820's to 1840's, but one, a wholecloth wool quilt, was dated 1789. "While quilted items are functional and practical, they can also express the creativity and aesthetic sense of their makers. The quilts on display show an array of elaborate and well-executed stitching patterns, boldly arranged quilt blocks and a variety of unusual embellishments such as stencilling and embroidery." ~ Quilts from the Old Sturbridge Village Collection, 1790-1850. OSV pamphlet
As I toured through the village, I was also keeping an eye out for quilts in the houses. Shown below are several I found in the Salem Towne House, a handsome federal-style dwelling from Charlton, Mass., 1796. "Salem Towne Jr. inherited the house at the death of his father in 1825; he and his wife Sally headed a well-to-do establishment, but still sometimes worked alongside their hired help to manage the farm, dairy, and the house. Their household was a large and complicated one that included children (seven of their nine were living with them in 1830), farm laborers, hired women, and sometimes relatives who were visiting or needed a place to stay. Like his father, Salem Towne Jr. was a man of business, a land surveyor, a Justice of the Peace, and an active figure in politics, as well as an innovative, “progressive” farmer. Of the four bedchambers upstairs, two have been created by dividing a large space that was originally built as a ballroom and used until 1806 for Masonic meetings. Probably reflecting its original use for Masonic rituals, the room has striking painted murals, partially preserved from that early time, depicting an exotic landscape." (the last 2 photos here are from that room)
I hope you have enjoyed this brief "arm chair visit" to Old Sturbridge Village. On my next post we'll leave the 1800's in New England for New York City's Garment District - hold on to your hats for a whirlwind tour....
"When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness."
~ Alexis de Tocqueville