I have never been a quilter. Now among 30-somethings in Los Angeles this is not unusual. But it is actually a bit of a surprise considering quilting fits right into my skill-set and, to a certain extent, my aesthetic. I spent much of my childhood sewing, mostly clothes, but some home goods, pillows, a dust ruffle, etc. Never quilts. I even worked as a seamstress in college and ended up as the hand sewing specialist. My hems are indeed invisible, but I never translated that skill into hand quilting.
One of my memories relating to my baby brother’s birth is sitting under the quilting frame in my grandmother’s living room watching the ladies tie a quilt for him, but by the time I was grown up enough to help I didn’t want to.
I remember visiting my best friend’s aunt when we were 15, she was a young mom recently home with the baby, and had started quilting. When she talked about it, it seemed like such a throw-back to earlier times. However, the designs she was working on were not so much pioneer, but simple bold graphics. More like Dwell Bedding and less like musty attic. After talking to her, I remember thinking quilting seemed like something to be admired, it was a lot of work and the end product could be beautiful.
In previous generations, quilting was a social event. You left with a lot of work done on your quilt and renewed friendships.
There are (at least) two layers of design happening here. The quilts themselves are amazing, hand crafted works, but they could have been displayed in a pedestrian manner. Instead, this incredible display (with incredible lighting) makes an amazing exposition.
All the quilts are from the collection of Joanna S. Rose. Her husband asked what she wanted for her 80th birthday, and this free, public display of her red and white quilt collection was what she choose.
The turkey-red color was very popular for hundreds of years because of it’s color fastness. It would not run when you washed it and would not fade when exposed to sunlight. Within the same color scheme the amazing variety of pattern is what makes this display something special.
The oldest quilt is dated 1857, and there were no two alike in the 650 that make up the exhibition. The thousands and thousands of hours of handwork on display here boggle the mind.
First and last images from the American Folk Art Museum website here
The quilts were on display March 25 – 30, 2011 at the Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000-square-foot drill hall in NYC.