Made by Hand

Made by Hand

Made by Hand Exhibition

Made by Hand highlights the skillful needlework and dazzling designs of America’s material culture. The quilts, made prior to 1870, represent rare and unusual examples, such as the stenciled bedcover, as well as standard star designs and mid-century appliqué.

Popular patterns and layouts were shared by friends, mailed to family members, and inspired by exhibits seen at county and state fairs. As the fabrics and supplies needed to make fashionable quilts became more widely available at reasonable prices, quiltmaking increased accordingly.

Made by Hand is drawn from research for the latest catalog of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum: American Quilts in the Industrial Age, 1760-1870. This new, comprehensive catalog of the IQSCM Collection, edited by Patricia Crews and Carolyn Ducey, features more than 600 quilts.

About

Works in the Exhibition

Works in the Exhibition
Baltimore Album Quilt

Baltimore Album Quilt
Maker Unknown
Circa 1845-1855
Probably made in Baltimore, Maryland 
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, 1997.007.0320

A distinctive style of album quilt featuring elaborate appliqué designs flourished in Baltimore, Maryland between 1845 and 1854. A group of women linked by church membership sold designs and patterns as pre-cut and basted blocks for buyers to complete at home as quilt tops and completed quilts. Dates, places, inscriptions, and signatures could be added to each block in ink. Baltimore Album quilts were often created as gifts, and presented on momentous occasions such as a marriage or the birth of a child.

Embroidered Bedcover

Embroidered Bedcover
Maker Unknown
Dated 1816
Probably made in New Hampshire
Ardis and Robert James Collection, 1997.007.0607

This colorful bedcover was embroidered with at least thirteen different shades of thread spun at home from local wool. The twill-woven blanket itself may have been produced at home as well. Though not quilted or pieced, the bedcover echoes the designs of early American wool quilts in which large, stylized flowers frequently appear. A variety of embroidery stitches (outline, herringbone, cross-stitch, etc.) was used to create the plethora of motifs as well as initials and the date 1816, all of which are framed by a swag border.

Feathered Star Quilt

Feathered Star Quilt
Rebecca Ellen Slyh Richards (1830-1890)
Dated May 21, 1852 
Probably made in Franklin County, Ohio
Gift of Robert Hughes, 1997.009.0001

Rebecca Slyh was almost 22 years old when she signed and dated this floral-bordered quilt in tiny cross-stitch letters and numbers. She added an inscription that includes her own version of a well-known prayer. 

The quilt’s pattern incorporates three devices characteristic of the central Ohio region: pieced feathered stars (8-point stars accented by a border of right-angle triangles), floral appliqué borders, and stuffed quilting designs. Richards’s quilting measures a dense 14 to 16 stitches per inch.

Medallion Quilt

Medallion Quilt
Isabel Beall (1812-1899)
Dated June 8, 1839
Made in Belmont County, Ohio 
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, 2005.049.0001

This striking quilt was made on the Ohio frontier by Isabel Beall, who signed and dated it 1839. A fine example of the framed central medallion style—the predominant American appliqué style from the 1790s through the 1820s—the quilt illustrates a significant change in American quiltmaking as women began to design their own appliqué motifs and execute them using imported calico prints rather than larger-scale chintz fabrics. The cross-stitch embroidery contained in the center wreath of flowers and birds reads: “ISABEL BEALL / JUNE 8 AD / 1839.” 

Beall did not marry. She lived on her family’s Belmont County farm in the Northwest Territory of Ohio throughout her adult life.

Printed Whole Cloth Quilt

Printed Whole Cloth Quilt
Maker Unknown
Circa 1790-1800
Made in the Eastern United States
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, 2006.050.0001

The knobby branches in the trees of this whole cloth chintz quilt are typical of the arborescent forms imported to the West via Indian palampore bedcovers in the 1600s. By the 1790s, such “exotic” Eastern influences were prevalent in British textile design, and these kinds of fabrics were mass-produced in the United Kingdom and widely exported to the United States.

Star of Bethlehem Quilt

Star of Bethlehem Quilt
Lucy Maria Shephard Parker Loomis (1825-1907)
Circa 1853
Probably made in Massachusetts and Maryland
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, 2007.022.0001

An inked inscription on the back of this quilt reads: “Lucy Shephard Loomis / Baltimore Md. / 1853.” The quilt was likely started in Massachusetts, where Shephard lived until she was married, and then completed in Maryland. 

Loomis added appliqué flowers, birds, and butterflies around the central star and filled the quilt’s background with finely quilted parallel lines.

Stenciled Bedcover
Probably made by Lucy Martin Vilas (1800-1838) 
Circa 1820-1838
Probably made in Randolph, Vermont
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, 2008.004.0001


Lucy Vilas is believed to have created this piece of American folk art featuring a stand of peach trees flanked by smaller bushes and a border of grapevines. Some elements of this summery design—the vines’ curling tendrils, some stems, and the ground or grass—were painted freehand, while the fruit and leaves were stenciled. Using a coarse brush, Vilas spread pigment to the edges of the space created by the stencil, or negative template. This stenciling technique was also used by itinerant male artists in the early nineteenth century to decorate walls, floors, and even ceilings. 
Stenciled grapevines similar to those found on this quilt appear as border designs in the “Stencil House,” originally located in Columbus, New York, and now at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont, and in the Farmersville Tavern of Farmersville, New York. 

Whitework Whole Cloth Quilt

Whitework Whole Cloth Quilt
Betsey Morrison Goodell Williams (1788-1865)
Dated 1820
Made in Clinton, New York
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, 2008.038.0001

The centerpiece of this stuffed and quilted bedcover is a cornucopia filled with flowers and feathered stems. A curved wreath frames the central image, and a vine of alternating grapes and leaves fills the quilt’s remaining space. The maker inserted extra batting into the quilted forms to create a sculpted effect. 

Two plaques at the top center of the quilt contain inscriptions that read, “B.M. Goodell / Clinton,” and “1820.” Genealogical research indicates that B. M. Goodell was Betsey Morrison Goodell, who was born in Westmoreland, New York in 1788. 

Indigo Resist Quilt

Indigo Resist Quilt
Maker Unknown
Circa 1825-1850
Probably made in the Hudson River Valley, New York
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, 2010.051.0001

Indigo print fabrics were made using special techniques, and two different methods were used to create the prints in this quilt. The fabric with the pineapple motif in the quilt’s center panel was made using a resist dye technique in which a paste applied to the cloth before dyeing resists the chemical reaction that turns the cloth blue. The areas with the paste remain white, or their original color. The fabric used in the quilt’s triangular “Flying Geese” border was made using a discharge process in which a substance (often bleach) removes pigment from a previously dyed fabric.

The quilt’s center panel was pieced from numerous small fragments that were likely recycled from bedhangings or other home furnishing textiles.

Medallion Quilt

Medallion Quilt
Mary Taylor
Dated 1824 
Possibly made in New York 
Gift of Marilynn and Ivan Karp, 2011.067.0001

An inscription below the central chintz motif of this medallion quilt reads “Cornelia P. Clark. From her friend Mary C. Taylor, 1824.” The quilt’s format varies from the typical chintz medallion design. Instead of a large single element, Taylor grouped ten chintz motifs and fourteen tiny blossoms in the center of the quilt. For her inner borders, she cut a floral print fabric into two separate borders. An uncut length of the same fabric frames the quilt.

Day Dress

Day Dress
Maker Unknown
Circa 1835
Made in the United States
Gift of the Robert and Ardis James Foundation, 2003.003.0426 

Soft colors and floral patterns were distinctive features of 1830s day dresses. The period’s fashionable silhouette included sloped shoulders, a rounded bust, a narrow waist shaped with boning, and a full, bell-shaped skirt. The chintz fabric imported and used to make the dress retains only a hint of the original violet color that created diffuse stripes.

Works in the Exhibition

Featured Media

Featured Media
Featured Media

Further Reading

Further Reading
Further Reading

American Quilts in the Industrial Age, 1760-1870, highlights the dazzling designs and intricate needlework of America's treasured material culture.

From whole cloth to pieced quilts to elaborate appliqué examples, all reflecting various design movements such as neoclassicism and Eastern exoticism the contributing authors address the development of quiltmaking in America from its inception in the 1700s to the period of the U.S. civil War. With full-color photographs of nearly six hundred quilts, American Quilts in the Industrial Age, 1760-1870 offers new insights into American society.

Now available for purchase in the Museum Shop.

Event Date
Friday, January 5, 2018 to Sunday, April 29, 2018