Thursday, July 10, 2014

Modern/Not Modern: Anna Good's Thistle

Double Irish Chain with Thistle, 1925
Anna Gleissner Good (1865-1926), 
Emporia, Kansas
Collection: Helen F. Spencer Museum of Art at the 
University of Kansas

Anna's Thistle quilt was made for her grandson Bill. Her inspiration was a pattern in the Priscilla Patchwork Book advertised as "bound to appeal to masculine taste." The pamphlet was a compilation of needlework designs that had recently appeared in the magazine Modern Priscilla.

A cover in 1926, depicting an
up-to-date young woman decorating
a lampshade with contemporary abstract florals
and an old-fashioned ruffle.
The image, like the name Modern Priscilla,
captures the magazine's mixed message of modern vs.tradition.
Notice her Colonial Revival pincushion.

I used Anna's Thistle as the example of that mixed message in my book Making History: Quilts & Fabric from 1890-1970. My caption reads:
"A colonial table, a graphic quilt, and a lacy negligee make strange bedfellows in the perfect boudoir pictured in Modern Priscilla in 1928."

The magazine designer offered a modern take on
patchwork, a simple thistle with a good deal of open space
punctuated by minimalist squares.

Anna seems to have liked the thistle

but viewed the open space as a vacuum to be filled.

She alternated a shortened version of the thistle with a
checkerboard block to make an Irish Chain,
a pattern she probably noticed in the same pamphlet.

In Making History I wrote
"Her blend of tradition and modernism might have dismayed the magazine's editorial staff, but she nicely summarized the vernacular approach to incorporating modernism into patchwork."

I have never seen a spread made from the Modern Priscilla
pattern---it seems to have been an idea that did not appeal to readers.
I did see a set of blocks for sale once, but the magazine pattern was not for blocks.

We used the thistle in our book Emporia Rose for wool patchwork.

And Karla Menaugh used Anna's layout for
a simpler applique. 

Read a preview of my book Making History here:

And see a preview of our new book Emporia Rose: Applique Quilts here:

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