Saturday, April 25, 2015

MaryBeth and Bonnie's Excellent Quilt Adventure

Several weeks ago I was in Maryland to attend the Bonnie Hunter lecture and classes at Faithful Circle Quilters in Columbia.  What I didn't mention is Country Piecemakers, my guild in Virginia, had a field trip to the DAR Museum's exhibit Eye on Elegance: Early Quilts of Maryland and Virginia.  The plan was to take the train up, Metro to the closest station and walk to the museum.  Take a tour of the exhibit and other displays.  Lunch somewhere in the vicinity, see the Cherry Blossoms in full bloom and head back to the train and Richmond.  Except, I needed to be in Maryland the next day anyway so I drove up the day before the tour and stayed with Jenny and Brian.  It was a win-win situation except needing to take the Metro into DC by myself.  Luckily I was able to talk MaryBeth into going with me.  What follows is our exciting adventure into DC and the DAR Museum.  Warning -- this blog is heavy on photos.  If you want to see more of the quilts go to the DAR Museum website.  They have all the quilts on display and you can zoom in on them to see the details.  It's great to have that resource especially if you are into historic quilts. 
What better way to start an adventure -- a selfie on the Metro car. Look how happy we are and ready for a day of beautiful quilts. 
We met up with the rest of the guild members and walked over to see the White House which is close to the DAR Museum.  Sandie, Carmen and Dorothy are hamming it up for my camera. 
We made it to the right place!  We had three Docents who assisted with our tour.  First we saw the quilts. 
The first one on display was a Tree of Life quilt done with Broderie Perse.  Along with the quilt was a length of fabric very much like the fabric that was cut out and applied to the background fabric to make this quilt.  The grass border is unusual.  This quilt dates from 1810 or so.  Ladies, no one knows who made this quilt -- a little reminder to us to actually sign, date and list where the quilt was made.  
This was a stunning Baltimore Album quilt, circa 1846, unknown artist.  I was surprised to hear that there is some thought that these blocks might have been purchased with the pieces already cut and basted to the background.  Evidently there are many quilts that have these blocks however none have as many elements as are shown within these blocks.  I have seen many similar blocks in other Baltimore Album quilts.  
I particularly liked this block with the red and blue basket.  There was another basket where the veins of the basket had red and blue on each vein however my picture of it didn't turn out.  
This quilt has 4,445 pieces in it.  It was made by Mary Tayloe Lloyd Key (Mrs. Francis Scott Key)  in the 1830's.  Although it looks as if the half triangle squares have been placed randomly they actually are planned.  Mrs. Key lived in DC but had property in Maryland as well as a daughter who lived in Maryland.  It is likely that this quilt was stitched on in several locations when Mrs. Key went to visit the various locations.  Doesn't that sound like us?  We tend to take something to work on wherever we happen to be.  
Lighting was dim to protect the quilts so some parts of it were not easy to see.  This is not a quilt for the faint of heart.  Between the mere quantity of half triangle squares that were needed and the various compass blocks, Mary Key must have been an accomplished quilter.  
This hexagon quilt would fit right in to today's hexagon revival.  One of the things I liked about this exhibit is the little display explaining how a quilt was made.  To the left of the information is a plaque that asked folks to touch the sample and explains the process.  
I had a friend get a picture of me in front of one of the quilts.  I really did go to this exhibit.  So often I'm so busy taking pictures I don't get a picture of me.  The quilt was made by Ludwell Harrison Goosley and her daughters. It was started in 1810. The youngest daughter, Susan, added the last two borders at a later date, possibly before her wedding in 1827. I interpret that to mean that quilters no matter their time in history have UFOs. Even today it would be a good design to show off large print cottons.  
This was a stunning quilt called a Mathematical Star Quilt. (I wonder if that is a name given at a later date, just a descriptive name or the name the quilter/s gave it?)  Today, I would call it a lone star quilt. Evidently it was not signed but was probably made by Amelia Heiskell Lauck and/or her daughter-in-law Eliza Jane Sowers Lauck.  It was past down within Eliza's family prior to being donated to the DAR.  I found it an amazing quilt.  There was a lot of striped fabric used and most were fussy cut so each piece was exactly the same.  There is one diamond where the stripe is different making me think she had run out of the fabric and could only get this last piece cut from what was left. Except, on a closer look, that entire row except the left one is actually different fabric.  
Throughout the quilt that red and white stripe was carefully placed going the same way. (notice the smaller star to the right and the diamonds at the bottom of this picture.) Several diamonds are different. I would have to get a good look at the reds on all the outer star points to know whether the two left diamonds are different or the four right ones are.  This was an amazing quilt, especially thinking that each piece was hand cut with scissors and presumably hand pieced.  
After the tour of the Eye on Elegance exhibit we broke into smaller groups and saw many of the state rooms that are part of the permanent exhibits at the museum.  They had several wonderful displays of sewing items.  I was able to get photos of several interesting items although I couldn't take the time to read up on what I was seeing.  
I'm not sure if each state had a room to depict a typical room in a house from the state but we did see many of them.(Ok, did a quick check of the DAR Museum website -- 30 state rooms represent American homes between 1690 and 1935.) I have no idea what time period or location this room was from but I got a real kick out of the bed and the dining table in the same room.  Space was limited so rooms often had more than one purpose.  

This may have been the Texas room.  It looked so different from the room above with the formal (and probably expensive wallpaper.) I believe this was the only state room we saw that had a quilt on the bed.  Below is a treadle sewing machine also in the room. 
Surprisingly, this machine sewed sideways! I'm not sure how comfortable that would have been but at least having a sewing machine could speed up all the sewing needed in a household. 

Eventually our time at the museum came to an end.  We all agreed it was a wonderful time but it was now noon and we were interested in lunch! Unfortunately there are not a lot of restaurants around this section of the DC.  We decided to go down to the Mall and go to the National Museum of the American Indian. Unfortunately, we didn't really decide that as we left the DAR Museum.  It was decided as we were walking -- we started going to the right, the museum was to the left.  Needless to say, when we arrived at the museum an hour later we were grumpy, tired and hungry.  This is a newer museum and I was hoping to spend a little time seeing some of the exhibits.  The cafeteria was suppose to be very good too.  
I was right behind Colleen and Mildred walking into the museum.  We were all looking forward to sitting down for a while. (Heck, we'd been on our feet since we had gotten off Metro around 9:15 or so!) I literally was one step into the museum when the whole place was evacuated.  
Sirens were blaring.  Fire trucks came streaming in.  Ambulances were waiting on the street.  And we left the museum, dog tired and hungry.  We decided to sit on the retaining wall near the museum but we were told to go across the street.  We had no idea what was going on until one of the members got a text from her husband saying there had been a big power outage in Maryland and DC which accounted for our evacuation.  

At this point MB and I decided to say good bye and find something to eat and head back to our Metro station.  The rest of the group needed to get to Union Station that was south of the Mall and we needed to get north of our location.  We hit up a hot dog vendor right by the museum although a manager came by telling the guys to quit serving meals.  Luckily the worker sold me my hot dog and water before they quit serving.  (We noticed he really never quit selling his dogs!) 

After much studying of maps and a short sit while we ate our dogs, MB and I started hiking to a Metro station on the Red Line.  Except, I was getting texts from Jenny -- Univ. of Maryland had closed because they didn't have power.  There was concern that Metro was closed also.  We were beginning to figure out where we could meet Jenny as she had volunteered to drive into DC to pick us up.  MB and I kept walking north and checking the Metro maps posted on signs around the Mall.  (Don't believe those signs completely...we were headed to one station but found a closer one by sheer luck.) After determining that Metro (or at least that line) was working we went in and sat down waiting for the train. One announcement had us worried -- problems on the Red Line.  Our thought was it would be closer to home even if it wasn't working.  

To make a long story short we found red line was working fine and were able to get on to the correct train to take us back to where we started the morning. 
For some reason we didn't look so bright and perky as we did at the beginning of the day.  We had a great day even though there was way too much drama for my likes.  We saw a tv star who I didn't recognize (MB did though) but I knew the character he had played in Third Rock from the Sun. We saw an "important car" go by with plenty of police escorts.  We got a full load of exercise.  We saw wonderful old quilts that reminds us that we current-day quilters have much in common with the ones who came before us.  We were also totally exhausted and sore!  Thank goodness we had a day to recover before we went to the Bonnie Hunter lecture and classes.  

Happy Quilting All!   


  1. Gorgeous quilts - thanks for for sharing your photos!

  2. My goodness, with all that walking, I'd be exhausted, too! I thank you for the great museum pictures.

  3. Beautiful quilts. That was quite an adventure!

  4. I'm just now getting to read this, Bonnie!! It was a fun trip and one I'm sure we're not likely to forget any time soon. The actor was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, just for the record.

    1. Oh, and on a side note -- LOVE the new banner picture!!


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