Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A trip to the Mingei

We made a quick trip to San Diego this past weekend to see family and say 'good-bye' to my dearly loved Aunt Kay.  Between family events, the unusually rainy weather had us looking for some indoor activities.  The Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park was the perfect place for this quilter to spend an hour or two.

After requesting permission, I was able to take photos of many of the quilts on display and would love to share them with you.  So, lets take a walk together through the museum!
Signature quilt top with applique
Rochester, New York, 1911 

At the entry we're greeted with this beautiful applique red and white quilt.  The sign indicated it was a gift to the Mingei Museum from Pat L. Nickols in 2012.  I did not notice any signatures on the quilt, so am a bit puzzled by it's designation as a signature quilt top rather than a sampler quilt top.

Do you ever wonder what stories these tell?  What did each of these blocks represent to the quiltmaker?  Some might be easy to identify: a tulip, an oak leaf, a basket, a music lyre, snowflakes.   Several blocks have a five-pointed star.  Others are more puzzling - is that a cemetery monument in the lower left corner?

Don't you think the center medallion block opens up the quilt and helps your eye see each of the other blocks as individuals?

Child's quilt - ocean waves variation
1890's - 1920's

As we walk farther into the museum there is a room dedicated to red and white quilts, all collected by Pat L. Nickols.  Though other quilts were simply hung on the walls, this baby quilt had Plexiglas protecting it from curious hands.

We are lucky to have stopped in, because the red and white quilt display was only going to be there one more day and taken down January 10, 2016.   The book Red and White Quilts: Infinite Variety, about the popular New York exhibition of quilts in 2011, is on sale in the museum gift shop but the $60 price tag is too steep for me.

Unique quilt with Redwork Embroidery c.1900s
This beautiful redwork quilt is our next stop. Such a delightful collection of embroideries.  Farm animals, swans, beavers, kittens, dogs, birds and flowers as well as several children.  I wonder if the portrait of the girl near the center represents the quilt maker, or perhaps the recipient of the quilt?  Did she embroider her own drawings?  or copy patterns from magazines or books?
Signature quilt - drunkards path
Mary C. Downing  c. 1896

Our next quilt is Drunkard's Path.  Look at that cute prairie-point edging!  It appears that several different solid red fabrics were used to make this quilt.  Some have held up better than others, with some shredding, and others fading to various degrees.  You can see there isn't any quilting through the alternate blocks, and I wonder if this was a summer coverlet.

This quilt is also identified as a signature quilt, though I see no names on it.  Are they using the term 'signature' to mean 'significant?' or is there a quilt label on the back that has a signature? So many things yet to learn.

Finally, a quilt not made by 'Anonymous' -- though there are way too many Mary C. Downings listed in US Census records on Ancestry to figure out which one is our quilter without more information.

On to Baskets!

The next two quilts are basket quilts.  The first is called Cherry Baskets, and each has an applique handle.  How interesting that the blocks are set asymmetrically.  Two rows to the left, two rows upright and three rows to the right.  If quilts could talk, I would ask why the quilt maker decided to use that arrangement.  Today we're so trained to make our quilts symmetrical.  I'm sure I would have felt I had to put three rows upright in the center, or more likely, have all the baskets facing the same direction. No such compulsion for quilters of a century ago! This quilt is heavily quilted throughout, with echo quilting inside the basket handles and parallel lines in the alternate blocks.
Unique quilt- cherry basket variation
c. 1880-1910
Unique quilt - grape baskets
Illinois - c.1890s

The pieced Grape Baskets are also heavily quilted, with feather wreaths in the alternate blocks and feather and cross-hatching on the borders.  Don't you love the sawtooth border?

Finally we come to two pinwheel quilts.
Unique quilt top - pinwheel or flutterwheel
c. 1890-1910

Flutterwheel, an unquilted top, is actually made up of nine-patch blocks (5 pinwheels and 4 solids) put together with sashing of the same dimension and  pinwheel cornerstones.  It has so much motion and looks so crisp!

Unique quilt - pinwheel
c. 1890-1910
The last quilt in the red and white quilt room is this adorable pinwheel quilt.  Can you see that the quilt maker joined the red and white border strips first, and then added them to the quilt?  The borders are quilted in a simple cable design which gives a nice soft contrast to all the angles and points in the pattern.

Thanks for joining me on the museum tour.  Don't you just want to dig through your stash and find some red and white fabrics to play with?  Soooo tempting!

Next time we'll go upstairs and see what quilts await us there!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jean Belle, I live in the Hillman area, not that far from Mille Lacs Lake. It is always fun to find bloggers in MN.
    The red/white quilts are awesome! What a wonderful museum visit.
    I hope your "good bye" visit wasn't too sad.