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Quilts: Flora Botanica

July 12 - October 12, 2008


A new quilt exhibition at the Spencer Museum of Art considers the sources of inspiration for many of the classic botanical patterns in American quiltmaking. Quilts: Flora Botanica opens Saturday, July 12 and continues through October 12, 2008 in the museum's Kress Gallery.

Botanical images have been among the most popular in American quilts. Rather than drawing directly from their gardens, most quiltmakers drew from centuries of folk art traditions. The abstractions we see as fruits and flowers can be traced to many cultures on many continents, including Greek mythology, the Judeo-Christian Bible, and Islamic, Indian, and Persian traditions. This exhibition examines sources and symbolism in floral pattern from various perspectives. Using other objects from the museum collection, the exhibition frames the artistic and cultural context in which the quilts were made, with references to Indian and Germanic folk arts, politics and popular culture.

Two particularly important quilts with the three-dimensional embroidery known as "stump work" will be on display. The exhibition will also focus on the concept of a teaching art museum providing inspiration using six contemporary copies of the antique quilts stitched by local artists from the Kaw Valley Quilters Guild. A pair of quilts, one from 1850 and one from 1930, will showcase master-quiltmaker Rose Kretsinger's use of the museum's quilt collection in the early 20th century.

The exhibition was organized for the Spencer by Barbara Brackman, an internationally known textiles expert and Lawrence resident who is the Spencer's honorary curator of quilts, in collaboration with Susan Earle, SMA's curator of European and American art.


Gallery wall labels from the exhibition

Introductory label
Quilts: Flora Botanica
Botanical images have been among the most popular in United States quilts. Rather than drawing directly from their gardens, most quiltmakers drew from centuries of folk art traditions. The abstractions we see as fruits and flowers can be traced to many cultures on many continents, including Greek mythology, the Judeo-Christian Bible, and Islamic, Indian, and Persian traditions. This exhibition examines sources and symbolism in floral pattern from various perspectives. Quilts range in age from the late-18th century to the recent past, including several new quilts drawn from the old patterns in the Spencer collection.
This exhibition was organized by Barbara Brackman, the Spencer's honorary curator of quilts. The quilt collection here inspired her interest in antique quilts. Over the years she has drawn many patterns from their traditional designs. Some of these designs have been stitched by her friends in the Kaw Valley Quilters' Guild, including Georganna Clark, Gloria Donohue, Cindy Korb, Doris Lux, Julie McEathron, and Gail Stewart. Their copy quilts are exhibited here.
Christina Hays Malcom
circa 1820-before 1884, United States
Sunflower quilt, circa 1840-1884
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Miss Iva James, 1972.0125
Christina Malcom made this quilt for her son Jonathan, stitching his name on the back. Though she was born in North Carolina, she spent much of her life in Indiana, a state whose sunflowers seem to have inspired her unusual quilt. Floral designs provide inspiration for many quilts, yet few quilters actually drew from nature. This quilt seems to be an exception. She carefully observed the broad, almost heart-shaped leaves, the sturdy stalk, and the golden petals.
Julia A. Chalmers Smith
circa 1825-?, United States, New York
Sunburst quilt, circa 1840-1880
cotton, piecing, quilting
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0915
According to a label relating family history, Julia Chalmers made this quilt before her marriage in Galway, New York. The complex pieced design was named Sun, Sunburst, or Rising Sun in twentieth-century quilt pattern literature. We can also view it as a sunflower, an abstraction of nature's geometry.
Susan Black Stayman
1828-?, United States, Illinois
Moss Rose quilt, 1853
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Miss Mary Stayman, 1949.0024.01
Susan Stayman won awards at the 1866 Kansas State Fair for "two fancy patch quilts, of entirely original design." This splendid quilt may have been one of them. Family stories say it also won a prize at an Illinois fair in 1855. Her daughter called it Moss Rose, which to Victorian gardeners meant a variety of hybrid rose with a sticky, aromatic "moss" on the stems and leaves.
Roses were quiltmakers' favorite floral images. Few are as detailed as this representation with thorns and naturalistic buds. The border features a simpler wild rose, a five-petaled flower. Stayman may have drawn roses directly from her garden, but three similar quilts have been found in Iowa, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. A truly "original" floral design is rare in nineteenth-century quilts.
Quilters can appreciate Stayman's masterful handwork. She used a blanket stitch (also called a buttonhole stitch) to cover the patches' raw edges. It is unfortunate she chose the solid pink fabric for her wild rose border because it's lost much color over the years. The green and Turkey-red cottons were more reliable.
Susan Black Stayman
1828-?, United States, Illinois
Dahlia Wreath quilt, 1855
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Miss Mary Stayman, 1949.0025.02
This appliquéd quilt must be the other of the pair of "fancy patch quilts of entirely original design" that won acclaim at the 1866 Kansas State Fair. The needlework is certainly exceptional with quilting measuring 12 stitches to an inch (measured on the top of the quilt). Quilters are usually content with eight or nine stitches per inch.
Stayman looked to folk art traditions where this flat, eight-lobed shape has long represented the rose, a powerful cultural symbol. The name Dahlia Wreath is from the family. Other published names are Wreath of Roses and Kentucky Rose.
Stayman's concept of original design probably differed from ours. Hundreds of similar quilts survive. Within folk art's strict boundaries she created small innovations, for example, the specific arrangement of 32 leaves on each wreath and the border geometry, a clever pattern of modular arcs forming a running vine.
Rena Coon Thomas
United States, Illinois
Rose of Sharon quilt, circa 1870-1890
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Mrs. Minnie S. Moodie, 0000.0037
About 1930, Minnie Moodie, first curator at the University of Kansas's art museum, donated this quilt to the Thayer Museum, as it was then known. She called it Rose of Sharon, a metaphor from the King James Version of the Bible.
"I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys." (Solomon 2:1)
The pattern relies on several design conventions typical of Germanic folk arts. Cookie-cutter shaped roses bloom in triplicate, growing from a vase here abstracted to a tiny triangle. The smaller flowers viewed in profile might be buds, but are often seen as lilies or tulips.
The red and green palette was a standard color scheme for quilts, also popular in German traditional arts. Quilters were willing to pay extra for Turkey-red cotton because it did not bleed or fade. However, the colorfast dye was hard on the fibers. Use and washing over the years can cause it to shred.
Artist Unknown
United States
Flower Pot quilt, circa 1840-1870
cotton, appliqué, quilting
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0907
The unknown quiltmaker exercised a good deal of creativity within the constraints of traditional folk art. Stylized florals sprout from a footed urn in the typical red and green color scheme. Drooping tulips neatly fill the square block format.
Sallie Casey Thayer, whose eclectic collection was the original basis for the Spencer Museum's archives, donated dozens of quilts to the University of Kansas around 1915. This well-worn piece from the Thayer donation provided inspiration for Doris Lux's new interpretation.
Doris Lux
Meriden, Kansas
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Flower Pot, 2007
Loaned by the artist
Artist Unknown
United States
plate, 1867
earthenware, slip
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.3084
A Pennsylvania-German artist decorated a redware plate with a stylized floral about the same time the quilt was made.
Artist Unknown
United States
Sagebud or Goose Tracks Variation quilt, circa 1840-1875
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0936
This lively quilt features a geometric pieced design bordered with an appliquéd floral vine on just two sides. Today's quiltmakers speculate that seamstresses making such quilts planned to cover a bed pushed up to the bedroom wall, saving time and stitches by sewing only what would be displayed. Today's aesthetics frame quilts as art on the wall, so Gail Stewart's recent interpretation features a symmetrical border.
The border's floral images, possibly roses and tulips, can be traced to many ancient cultures-Islamic, Indian and European. The border tulip seen in profile is abstracted further into geometric shapes in the blocks. Similar patterns are called Sagebud or Lily Pond. Others see bird footprints in the block, and use names like Goose Tracks and Duck Paddle.
Gail Stewart
Overland Park, Kansas
Goose Tracks , 2007
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
Loaned by the artist
Grandmother of Willis C. McEntarfer
United States
North Carolina Lily quilt, circa 1840-1860
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Willis C. McEntarfer, Hoyt, Kansas, 1973.0120
The grandmother of the donor used the favorite fabrics of the mid-nineteenth century quiltmaker to create a geometric design echoing the stylized triple florals of traditional Germanic ornament and earlier Persian and Indian imagery.
Her block is known in today's quilt lexicon as North Carolina Lily, a name that really doesn't reflect where the quilts were made. In 1929 Ruth Finley published a romantic if dubious story that cast the name in print: The "lily in its migration from coast to coast acquired eight different names, evidently bestowed in honor of the wild lilies native to each region....It was called 'The North Carolina Lily', all through the South except in Kentucky and Tennessee were it was known as 'The Mountain Lily....."
Finley's inspiration was a wildflower native to the southeastern woodlands. The Carolina Lily (lilium michauxii) is a spotted orange flower similar to what Kansans call tiger lilies.
Artist Unknown
United States
Star and Crescent quilt, circa 1840-1865
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0904
Here we have a faded beauty, a once impressive masterpiece by an unknown maker who used a floral vine border to frame pieced blocks in a design published as Star and Crescent or Star of the West. Details include a corded insert (piping) in the binding and around the patchwork center, indicating a date of 1840 to 1865, when similar piping was a popular feature in women's dresses, still stitched by hand.
American quilters loved Turkey red for their quilts. The imported fabric did not bleed from washing or fade from light, but abrasion easily wore the surface. This quilt must have been used and washed often, resulting in much fabric loss. Mid-century greens do not often fade, but a well-meaning owner may have bleached the quilt.
Julie McEathron
Lawrence, Kansas
Star and Crescent, 2007
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
Loaned by the artist
Artist Unknown
United States
Check quilt, circa 1790-1825
cotton, piecing, quilting
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0914
Florals have long been the most popular imagery in printed cottons. The two block-printed fabrics in this early quilt were fashionable for clothing and furnishings. Naturalistic sprays and bouquets are arranged in a style fabric historians call "floral trails," an arrangement imitating nature. The blossoms, however, are rather fanciful abstractions that may represent tulips, roses and carnations, Western ornament's standard blooms.
When Sallie Casey Thayer donated this quilt, one of the oldest in her collection, she indicated that it had belonged to the family of founding father Alexander Hamilton. It is definitely old enough to have graced a bed in his home (Hamilton died after a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804) but there is no other evidence of that association.
United States
Four Patch quilt, circa 1820-1840
cotton, piecing, quilting, embroidered initials
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0934
The unknown quiltmaker embroidered her initials "M.A.C." on the reverse of this quilt that reflects changes in printing technology. About 1800 fabric manufacturers invented faster methods with one important innovation being the roller or cylinder printing press. Roller prints gave seamstresses more variety at lower costs. Fabric designers created pattern with small repeats suitable for the roller and generated new ideas for the mass market. Floral designs were plotted into regularly spaced grids that designers call "foulards." Geometrics, particularly printed plaids, became popular.
Artist Unknown
United States
Hexagon quilt, circa 1825-1850
cotton, piecing, quilting
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0926
The earliest published quilt pattern yet found in America shows how to make this design, called hexagon, six-sided and honey-comb patchwork in an 1831 girls' magazine. Another early name was recorded in an 1856 novel describing "Job's troubles, that is to say, innumerable bits of red, yellow and varicolored calico, cut in hexagonal form" In the 1930s the pattern was revived as Grandmother's Flower Garden.
The unknown quiltmaker used an indigo blue calico to create consistent "paths" in her garden. For the border she cut a green furnishing print into strips. The chintz features flowers arranged in striped sets between architectural columns hung with bouquets. These "pillar prints" reflect American fascination with classical design in the early nineteenth century.
Catherine Grabill Landis
United States
Windmill quilt, circa 1880-1910
cotton, piecing, quilting
Gift of Misses Maude and May Landis, 1949.0016.01
Industrialization in the fabric mills eventually caused a design standardization reflected in the calicoes here, simple prints only suggesting florals. Catherine Landis seems to have been more interested in creating effects in color and patchwork than in showing off a variety of fabrics. Her bold coloring makes it difficult to analyze the patchwork pattern, a simple pinwheel block of dark and light triangles paced on point.
Her relatives, sisters Maude and May Landis, donated this quilt and much more to the University of Kansas. Their names live on through scholarships in nursing and mathematics.
Olive Batchelor Wells
1822-1893, United States, Ohio
Garden of Eden quilt, circa 1856
cotton, wool, linen, appliqué, embroidered, beaded, stump work, quilting
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. C. Wells Haren, 1978.0071
Olive Batchelor Wells created a unique masterpiece telling the Biblical tale of Adam and Eve's expulsion from paradise. Among the embroidered inscriptions is a hand pointing to the title "The Garden of Eden." She labeled the three-dimensional central flower "Plant of Renown," a reference to a line from the Biblical Book of Ezekiel: "And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land"
The flower might be viewed as a promise of an abundant harvest, but Wells likely saw symbolism described in this early-nineteenth-century sermon:
"Christ gets a great many metaphorical names and descriptions in scripture; sometimes he is called a Rose, sometimes he is called a Sun, and sometimes he is called a Door, sometimes he is called the Tree of lifehere he is called a Plant, and a renowned Plant"
The Plant of Renown and the rose image offer the Old Testament hope of a future Redeemer.
Wells used a variety of needlework techniques. Particularly unusual are Adam and Eve in an old-fashioned embroidery style called stump work in which three-dimensional figures are attached to the surface. Many of her flowers were gathered in another three-dimensional technique called ruching.
Extraordinary as this piece is, quilt historians found one similar in an Ohio museum. A neighbor in Painesville, Ohio, used the same lettering, fabrics and techniques to create a patriotic quilt. Both were shown at the 1856 Lake County Fair, attracting notice from the local newspaper. "There was among numerous other beautiful ones, a Worked Quilt representing the Garden of Eden, in which were Adam and Eve, the tree of forbidden fruit, &, &, which attracted much attention."
-- The Whole Works of the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine (Philadelphia: William S. & A. Young, 1836) pg 340-341
-- Ricky Clark, George W. Knepper and Ellice Ronsheim, Quilts in Community: Ohio's Traditions (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1991) Page 140-143.
15 Artist Unknown
Pictorial quilt, circa 1790-1810
cotton, linen, silk, wool, raffia, paper, piecing, appliqué, stump work, embroidering, ink
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Harold D. Hedges in memory of Mr. & Mrs. R. Lockard, 1980.0019
This early English quilt is quite unusual in its depictions of small scenes from everyday life. Each character in the center and border is portrayed in a type of three-dimensional stump work known as a "dressed picture," figures cut from paper and clad in fabric. Over the past two hundred years the paper bodies and silk faces have deteriorated, but embroidered and tucked details of their costume remain. Note the wool uniforms of the "redcoat" soldiers fighting in the Napoleonic wars.
Quilt historian Nancy Hornback writes: "Some of the scenes, viewed in sequence, seem to tell a story: a woman and a man meet; he proposes; he goes off on a ship; they marry, she gets news of peace; he rides home; she presents him with twins." She interprets the center area, the oval medallion, as a wedding party. The churchyard is framed by a pair of classical columns hung with floral vines, much like the pillar prints of the era. She has identified several possible makers in the donor's family of vicars, farmers, and military men who lived in Yorkshire in England's north.
The patchwork coverlet, like many early English quilts, was never meant to be quilted. Before the piece came to the Spencer collection the donor's aunt, worried about deteriorating fabrics, attached a bedsheet backing and brought the edges over the front for support.
Artist Unknown
United States
Four Block Tulip quilt, 1840-1900
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Edith Benson, Lawrence, 1970.0206
This four-block quilt by an unknown maker shows real skill in the appliqué stitches and unusual design. The blocks were probably made between 1840 and 1880 and set together, bordered and quilted at a later date. Quilting stitches and quilting design (a one-inch grid) reflect lower standards for needlework typical at the end of the century.
The pattern is often viewed as a bud or a tulip, but its basic identity relates to the pomegranate used for centuries in Asian and European decorative arts. The fruit is split in profile, often depicted with remnants of the blossom on top and the leaves below.
Pomegranates have rich symbolism in many cultures. In Jewish metaphor the fruit is considered to have 613 seeds-corresponding to the Torah's 613 commandments. The Muslim Koran mentions it as a gift from Allah. Christian symbolism suggests it as the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden (a possible reason for the quilt pattern name Love Apple). It was also a forbidden fruit in Greek myth where Persephone brought about winter's curse by eating its seeds.
English embroiderers borrowing fanciful images from India, China, and the Muslim world decorated textiles with pomegranates in their Jacobean-style crewel work. Spanish conquistadors brought the image of La Granada to New Spain where we still see it in the Navajo squash blossom.
Mary Ann Seeling Kile Elliot
United States, 1831-1915
Princess Feather quilt, circa 1840-1950
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Barbara Kile Zernickow, 1986.0243
The Princess Feather with its radiating arms was one of the most popular nineteenth-century appliqué designs. Spencer's collection contains several examples including one dated 1818, an early use of the image.
Quilt pattern copywriters have linked the design to the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales in which three ostrich plumes represent the heir to the British throne. The future King Edward VII made a popular tour of the United States in the 1850s as Prince of Wales when this quilt top was likely made. It may be that Mary Ann Elliot's inspiration was the romance of British royalty, but a more homely reference-and one just as familiar to nineteenth century gardeners-was an American plant commonly called Prince's Feather. Amaranthus hypochondriacus, which has showy red and green leaves like our Christmas poinsettia, looks very much like this windblown design. Author Willa Cather referred to the colorful wildflower in O Pioneers, describing "the windteasing the prince's feather by the door."
Christina Hays Malcom
United States, Indiana, circa 1820-before 1884
Princess Feather quilt, 1873
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Miss Iva James, 1972.0123
Princess feathers, amaranth
Christina Malcom quilted her son Jonathan's name and the date 1873 into this quilt, one of two she made for him. We know little about her. Jonathan and his father William came to Kansas in 1884 after their wives had died in Indiana, bringing about 25 of Christina's quilts. The Spencer has thirteen, donated by his niece.
This variation of the popular Princess Feather design features florals hanging rather precariously from the whirling feathers. Naturalistic leaves lie in the corners of each of the four blocks. Several similar quilts survive in Kentucky and Indiana. Can this be a regional pattern handed from quilter to quilter?
Martha Biggers Burn
United States
Rose and Bud quilt, circa 1840-1870
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0906
This quilt, stained and yellowed with age, is an important record of pattern and sewing skills that were almost forgotten by the end of the nineteenth century. At first glance the roses with rings of buds look to be appliquéd, but closer examination reveals the block to be pieced. Pieced roses, a difficult feat of needlework, date to the years 1840 to 1860.
The floral image circled by smaller motifs is often called Whig Rose. In 1911, a magazine writer claimed, "The Whig Rose and the Democrat Rosewere planned for political quilts. They came into existence during the Harrison-Tyler campaign [of 1840]." The name Whig comes to us from England. Although today we hear a ring of pomposity, Whigs viewed themselves as populists supporting a strong Congress in the face of autocratic Presidents, particularly Democrat Andrew Jackson.
Elizabeth Gunckel
died 1888, United States, Ohio
California Rose or Democrat Rose quilt top, circa 1870-1887
cotton, appliqué
Gift of Elizabeth A. Hazlett in memory of Emma Kunkel, 1982.0060
How does a Whig Rose differ from a Democrat Rose? Today's quilt writers apply the names interchangeably to nineteenth-century rose patterns, but quilt historian Florence Peto, writing in the 1940s, discussed the differences. A Democrat Rose had cockscombs around the central flower. She speculated that the comb shape represented the Democratic rooster. We're familiar with the Democratic donkey, but the rooster was the image party's symbol in the mid-nineteenth century. A Whig Rose then would be a rose without the combs. One occasionally comes across a quilt with the Whig symbol-a raccoon.
This quilt top was made in Ohio by a member of the Gunckel family (also spelled Kunkel) who moved in 1885 to the German-American community in Eudora, Kansas. The corner blocks are a different green today because the maker used two differently dyed cottons. The corner greens were probably colored with natural dyes, blue overdyed with yellow. The others were probably dyed with a synthetic green, a new dye that became available about 1875. Cottons dyed with early synthetic dyes have a tendency to fade to a khaki shade.
Rose Frances Good Kretsinger
United States, Kansas, 1886-1963
Democratic Rose quilt, 1926
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Mary Kretsinger, Emporia, Kansas, 1971.00092
Rose Kretsinger was a professional designer with a degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she took classes from Alphonse Mucha and other leaders in the Arts and Crafts movement. She began making quilts inspired by antiques during the 1920s. This piece was drawn from a damaged quilt belonging to the hired girl who worked in the Kretsinger's Emporia home.
Contrasting it to Elizabeth Gunckel's version of the same design made 50 years earlier, we can see Rose's skills in making subtle changes to folk designs. By extending the stems and standardizing the flower placement, she has created a secondary wreath-like pattern that vies for the viewer's attention.
Her handwritten notes refer to this quilt as Democrat Rose. In bipartisan spirit she and Carrie Hall called it Antique Rose in their 1935 book The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America.
Artist Unknown
United States
Crazy Quilt, circa 1880-1900
silk, cotton, piecing, appliqué, embroidered, painted
Gift of Dr. E. M. Owens, 1940.0004
Quilters working after 1880 grew weary of conventionalized florals in red and green as changes in technology and taste created new needlework fads. Commercial patterns replaced folk art traditions and hand-to-hand pattern sharing. Inexpensive silks and renewed interest in embroidery inspired needlewomen to lavish time on the purely decorative Crazy Quilt.
Floral vignettes in paint and stitches reflect a new fascination with Japanese design in the cat tails and fans. We see traces of European arts and crafts principles in the sunflower image and the naturalistic golden rod. Painted flowers were popular on Crazy Quilts for reasons given by a reader who wrote to the Ohio Farmer in 1884: "I painted flowers on some of the blocks. They are much prettier than embroidery and not so much work."
Elizabeth Paulina Shinabarger Waddle
United States, 1838-1913
Crazy Quilt with Sawtooth Border, circa 1880-1910
silk, cotton, acetate, piecing, embroidered
Gift of Mrs. Paul Roofe, 1982.0124
Elizabeth Waddle used a variety of textured silks such as velvet, brocade, chenille, satin and taffeta to make her Crazy Quilt, decorated with a few naturalistic florals. We recognize white lilacs, lily of the valley and a nosegay of rose buds. She may have drawn from life, but several pattern companies sold embroidery designs just like these, especially for Crazy Quilts.
Virginia Randles
United States, Ohio, 1912-1996
Millefleur quilt, 1989
from Paperweight Series II
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Dr. Leland P. Randles in memory of his wife, Virginia, 1996.0134
In the 1970s Virginia Randles was one of a group of artists in Athens, Ohio, who recognized the need to showcase textile arts based on the quilt's form. With Nancy Crow and Francoise Barnes she organized Quilt National, a juried exhibition for quilts designed to be viewed on a vertical plane-textiles generally called "art quilts" today.
For her Paperweight Series she drew from traditions in Italian glass. The millefiori or millefleur paperweight is a glass globe embedded with shapes and colors reflecting a "thousand flowers."
Artist Unknown
Millefleur Paperweight & Beads
Anonymous loan
French basket
Margaret Cane
United States, Ohio
Sugar Bowl or Basket quilt, circa 1850-1867
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Mrs. L. E. McPherson 1980.0038
This quilt has a note stitched to the back indicating that the top was brought from Delaware County, Ohio, to Lawrence in 1867 and quilted here. The pieced baskets, popular after 1850, are placed so there is no top or bottom, a view more suited to a bed than a wall.
The quilt owes much of its primitive charm to the spindly vine border. The leggy climber reaching for light seems drawn from the natural world rather than from any lush, imaginary garden. Gloria Donohue captured the naïve quality of the original in updated fabrics.
Gloria Donohue
Olathe, Kansas
Sugar Bowl or Basket, 2007
cotton, piecing, appliqué, quilting
Loaned by the artist
Artist Unknown
United States
Princess Feather with Bowknot Border quilt, circa 1840-1900
cotton, appliqué, quilting
William Bridges Thayer Memorial, 1928.0922
This worn quilt from Sallie Casey Thayer's donation illustrates one of the goals of a teaching collection like that of the Spencer. Museums conserve objects for future generations. Many might view this stained quilt with its shattered fabrics as something not worth saving, but the design, in particular the quirky bowknot and swag border, offers inspiration to later generations. In the 1920s Rose Kretsinger seems to have been inspired by the border for her New Rose Tree quilt. In the twenty-first century Georganna Clark recreated the design as a small wall hanging. (The pattern for Georganna's quilt is available in the Museum Shop.)
Georganna Clark
Lenexa, Kansas
Princess Feather, 2007
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Loaned by the artist
Rose Frances Good Kretsinger
United States, Kansas, 1886-1963
New Rose Tree quilt, 1929
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Gift of Mary Kretsinger, Emporia, Kansas, 1971.0103
Rose Kretsinger is considered one of the twentieth century's master quiltmakers. She studied the old quilts at the University of Kansas Art Museum, believing new commercial trends produced quilts she called "tiresome." She may have borrowed her composition from the antique Princess Feather quilt, modifying the elements of bowknot and swag to more conventional proportions. Because the quilts here inspired Rose, her daughter donated the Kretsinger collection of 15 quilts to the museum.
Cindy Korb
Tonganoxie, Kansas
Emporia Rose, 2003
cotton, appliqué, quilting
Loaned by the artist
Cindy Korb's Emporia Rose is a sampler of patterns found in quilts made by Rose Kretsinger and her circle of friends in the years 1925-1950. The wreath in the alternate blocks was inspired by the central wreath in the New Rose Tree.
J. F. Cazenave or Nicolas André Monsiau?
After the Fall, late 1700s-early 1800s
à la poupée, stippling, color engraving on paper
Source unknown, 0000.0768

Public Programming

July 13
Quilting Demonstration: 2-4 PM / Central Court / Area quilters from the group Sew Whatever will demonstrate their work. Visitors are encouraged to observe and ask questions.
July 19
It Starts With Art! Children's art appreciation classes for ages 5-14.
"A Stitch or Nine": Uncover quilts in the Flora Botanica exhibition and piece together an art quilt! /10:30 AM & 1:30 PM / Central Court & galleries / $ / To enroll, contact Jessica Johnson, SMA Education Department, 785.864.0137 or smakids@ku.edu or visit our website to enroll online.
July 20
Gallery Talk: Barbara Brackman on Quilts: Flora Botanica / 2 PM / Kress Gallery / Brackman is honorary SMA curator of quilts. / Following the talk, Brackman will sign copies of her recent book Making History: Quilts and Fabric from 1890-1970.
July 27
Quilting Demonstration: 2-4 PM / Central Court / Featuring area quilters from the group Women Who Run with Scissors. Visitors are encouraged to observe and ask questions.
August 3
Quilting Demonstration: 2-4 PM / Central Court / Featuring area quilters from the group QBCs (Quilting, Books and Conversation). Visitors are encouraged to observe and ask questions.
August 10
Quilting Demonstration: 2-4 PM / Central Court / Featuring area quilters from the group High IQs (Independent Quilters). Visitors are encouraged to observe and ask questions.
August 17
Quilting Demonstration: 2-4 PM / Central Court / Featuring area quilters from the group Kansas Capital Guild Members. Visitors are encouraged to observe and ask questions.
September 11
Gallery Talk: Barbara Brackman on Quilts: Flora Botanica / 5:30 PM / Kress Gallery / Brackman is honorary SMA curator of quilts.
October 4
It Starts With Art! Children's art appreciation classes for ages 5-14
Block it Out: Using quilt blocks as a guide, students will design a pattern filled with people, animals or more /10:30 AM & 1:30 PM / Central Court & Galleries / $ / To enroll, contact Jessica Johnson, SMA Education Department, 785.864.0137 or smakids@ku.edu or visit our website to enroll online.

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and this book:

Making History: Quilts and Fabric from 1890-1970, authored by Barbara Brackman, is a 128 page catalogue published in 2008 by C&T Publishing. ISBN-10: 1571204539, ISBN-13: 978-1571204530. Amazon.com says of the author: "Barbara Brackman has written many books about quilts and their history; her most recent is Facts and Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts and Slavery. She designs reproduction fabrics for Moda and consults for museums. A member of the Quilters' Hall of Fame, she lives in Lawrence, KS." (right: front cover of Making History: Quilts and Fabric from 1890-1970)


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