Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Eagle Quilts

Eagle quilts were a popular genre in the early 1800s - no doubt in celebration of our new country and its emblem.  I was attracted to quilts with eagles and my opportunity to make one came in 2006 when the topic for the Biennial Quilt Study of the American Quilt Study Group was "Pre-1840s Bed Coverings".   The format for the AQSG Quilt Studies is to choose an antique quilt in the topic category and study the antique quilt by making your own interpretation.  The interpretation could be an exact replica or simply "inspired by" the original.  A size restriction is imposed in order to facilitate displaying the quilts at Seminar so the interpretation could be a part of the original or simply scaled down.

The quilt I chose to interpret was made by Anna Catherine Hummel Markey Garnhart (1773 - 1860) of Frederick, Maryland.  From 1815 to 1830, Anna Garnhart made 11 quilts for each of her grandchildren.  At least nine of these quilts survive.  All feature extensive use of reverse applique and sumptuous fabrics.  At least four and possibly seven of the quilts feature a central eagle of her own design, possibly inspired by the eagle printed on an imported china pitcher she owned.  The other quilts feature flower baskets in the broderie perse style of applique.  The quilt I chose has both and eagle and a flower basket.

Anna's quilt can be seen at the Quilt Index website:  http://www.quiltindex.org/.  Search for Anna Garnhart.

I chose to interpret only the center medallion of the DAR quilt.  Being faithful to Anna, I used reverse applique for the eagle and stars.  I was half-way through the leaf border surrounding the medallion using regular needle-turn applique when I realized that Anna had probably used reverse applique for her quilt. My quilt is 40'' x 32'' and I call it "Remembering Anna Garnhart."

Remembering Anna Garnhart
One thing should be noted.  I worked from two  photographs of the quilt.published in two different DAR sources.  After the quilt was completed, I discovered another photo and found that the eagle was facing in the opposite direction of my quilt and the photographs I had used! Yikes!  I contacted Alden O'Brien, Curator at the DAR, and she confirmed that in Anna's quilt the eagle is indeed facing in the opposite direction of mine!

Last year, Sue Wildemuth of Illinois contacted me with the news that she was working on an interesting project called "Eagle Motif Wallhanging Decade by Decade".  She wanted to collect a wallhanging inspired by an eagle quilt from every decade through 2010 and asked if I would like to take part.  The quilt was to be no larger than 24'' x 24''.  I loved the idea and the 1820s decade was not taken yet so Anna's quilt was the perfect inspiration.  I loved making it again with a few changes to accommodate the size. This quilt is called Anna's Eagle.  And it gave me the opportunity to place the eagle facing in the right direction this time!

Here is Sue's blog:  http://sew-eyeoftheneedlequilthistory.blogspot.com/

Anna's Eagle

And, recently I found that I could have saved a lot of time and energy because Wyndham fabrics has produced a fabric line inspired from the DAR collection which included a panel of Anna's quilt.

Printed panel of Anna's quilt

Looks like Wyndham got the eagle facing the wrong way too!