Last week I went to the New England Quilt Museum so that the Mass. Quilt Documentation Project could document the antique quilt. I told them who I thought made it and why. They thought my theory was reasonable and they used my estimated date in their documentation.
I had a few other questions and went into the NEQM library for help.
1. Was all the fabric silk? Yes. I spent time with an interesting book on the types of silk that had swatches!
2. Can I find any credence to my theory of Lucretia being the quiltmaker? YES!! From The Quilt Encyclopedia Illustrated by Carter Houck, 1991, the following..
“In the second quarter of the [19th] century, full bed quilts were pieced of silk in much the same patterns used for pieced cottons….In the next quarter century silk dress scraps were used in many smaller parlor throws. Simple designs, such as pieced stars and Log Cabins, were favored.”
“In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, some very fine silk quilts were made that can only be described as ‘dressmaker quilts’ because, where the history of these quilts is available, it is known that the makers worked with scraps from their daily business, either in clothing factories or as ladies’ dressmakers.”
I had supposed that Lucretia, being a dressmaker in 1900, had saved scraps from her work in order to use such a large variety in the quilt. I also learned from NEQM that women could buy ‘scrap bags’ for use however they wanted.
3. Why was the pink silk so damaged? Not entirely sure but it could have been a lower quality material. They gave me a “Care of Silk Quilts” sheet to take home and some hints are there. “…even though a piece of silk may appear in perfect condition, it can be extremely fragile.” The best storage conditions were not observed for most of the quilt’s long life which ultimately damaged it. The condition of the quilt was given a “poor” rating by the documenters.
Also when I was there, a family brought in a silk quilt that was AWESOME. The library people were excited to see 2 silk quilts in one day. They called the director to the work room to see this one. It was all small diamond shapes, cut from silk ribbons, in a star pattern (like a Lone Star). It was large, maybe queen bed size. And it was octagonal! Maybe it was used as a tablecover. It was not quilted but it was completely hand sewn with teeny stitches. All the points matched! And most of the pieces were fussy cut! Really amazing. The director put in a plug for donating it to the museum. The family had some excellent history to go with it. Always good to have provenance for antiques.
And I got to see the current exhibit at the museum which was SAQA Masters. Wonderful.