Thursday, May 23, 2013

Solid Colors in 20th-Century Quilts

Poppy by Marie D. Webster
from her 1915 book 
Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them

Copy of Webster's Poppy
Marie Webster had a good deal of influence on the look of twentieth century quilts.
One important style characteristic was the use of solid color fabrics rather than prints.

She advocated pale colors rather than the saturated Turkey reds and chrome yellows that had been the standard for applique.

Webster's quilts began to appear in the Ladies Home Journal in 1911.

Edward W. Bok 1863-1930

Edward Bok, editor of the Ladies Home Journal for 30 years, was a fan of modernism, advocating liberal thinking in social issues,

publishing the work of modernists such as Maxfield Parrish,

featuring home designs by Frank Lloyd Wright between 1901 and 1907, and encouraging needlework designers to update traditional techniques.

"The New...." was a regular feature.

Marie Dougherty Webster 1859-1956

Webster's quilts were examples of "The New Patchwork Quilt." It took several decades for her influence to be felt, but she did create a new style of appliqued quilt. 

Detail of Webster's Morning Glory Wreath
in Ladies Home Journal in 1912.

One reason for the lag between idea and fad was the lack of solid color cottons for quilters to work with. To get the colors she wanted Webster advocated appliqueing with linen. The quilt above from the collection of the Indiana State Museum is Webster's model, done in linen and cotton.
See the quilt here:

Webster's Granddaughter Rosalind Perry in her book A Joy Forever Marie Webster's Quilt Patterns explained the inspiration:
"By choosing linen, muslin and solid color cottons, she reflected the Arts and Crafts preference for sturdy materials with a hand-woven look."

This quilt from about 1890-1920 
was probably once a dark green on red.

But linen was expensive and hard to work with. In 1911 solid color cottons were not reliably colorfast.

It's hard to know what this one looked like when it was new. The synthetic dyes, particularly the solid blue background here, were apt to fade from light or bleed in washing.

Greens were the least reliable, the most fugitive.
Women were unwilling to invest time in applique if the fabrics were likely to fade.

After 1925 we start to see Webster's ideas about color
become popular with new cottons dyed with new synthetic dyes.
Solid pastel cottons are a hallmark of the New Patchwork Quilt.

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