Pieces of Time: Quilts from the KSU Historic Costume and Textile Museum
May 28, 2010 – September 12, 2010
Marion Pelton Gallery
A patriotic flag quilt will star in this exhibition, which includes over a dozen American quilts from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries.
The top piece for the exhibition’s featured flag quilt was purchased by Robert Weir around 1940. Weir gave the piece, which he discovered in an old trunk at an auction, to his sister, Mary Catherine Weir Gardner of Topeka, Kansas. She appears to have had it quilted soon after for about $30 ($466 in today’s dollars).
“Like so many quilts, this one has had a somewhat checkered career, from perhaps aristocratic origins to a trunk at a public auction,” Robert Bishop and Carter Houck have written about the quilt in their 1986 volume All Flags Flying. The quilt may have been begun in Maryland: Its eagle motifs bear a strong resemblance to examples produced in Baltimore in 1840-50. Two flag motifs bearing twenty-nine stars are presumed to date around 1847, when the twenty-nine star flag became official with Iowa’s addition to the Union. Additional flag motifs showing thirty-one stars probably date around 1851. The differing flag elements testify to “how long it often takes a quilter to complete such a large piece of work,” Bishop and Houck have said.
The flag quilt’s maker used plain weave calico fabrics. The eagle motifs are constructed of three appliquéd layers of printed, brown calico fabric. Other appliquéd features include cantons, shields, branches and leaves, and cornucopias.
Gardner’s estate donated the quilt to K-State’s Historic Costume and Textile Museum in 1992.
“Pieces of Time” includes sixteen additional American quilts and quilted children’s blankets from 1840 to 1950. Each work celebrates the art of the needle and fabric.