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Quilts and textiles


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Common Quilt Terms
Applique A technique in which a shape or design is cut form one fabric and hand or machine stitched onto another fabric. The background fabric remains visible.
Batting The middle layer of the quilt. Its primary function is to give warmth.
Block The unit of design in a quilt top. It can be pieced or appliquéd. Blocks are most commonly square.
Border The fabric or fabrics that frame the quilt top.
Colorways Fabrics of the same design, but printed in different colors.
Foundation A piece of fabric or paper serving as a base onto which small pieces of fabric are sewn. The foundation is not seen in the completed work. Foundation can also refer to piecing in this method.
Medallion A style of quilt in which a large central motif is the focus of the design.
Pattern The printed instructions for making a quilt. Pattern is also the name of the design of a block, fabric, or quilting motif.
Piecing A technique in which fabrics are sewn together with seams using a running stitch.
Quilting The stitching that holds the layers of the quilt together. Quilting can also refer to the process of creating the quilt.
Scrappy A wide array of fabrics are used in a quilt top. Often, the fabric pieces are left over from previous quilts.
Stash The wide array of fabrics quilters collect for current and future projects.
String piecing A technique in which small pieces of fabric are sewn onto a fabric or paper foundation. The use of this technique allows a quilter to make use of small or oddly shaped pieces of fabric which are not suitable for more regular patchwork.
Tie technique of securing the layers of a quilt together with knots of yarn, floss or ribbon.

Photo of String Plate reproduction quilt
String Plate Quilt

Mary Worrall, designer and piecer,
Kari Ruedisale, machine quilter

2001, East Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan
Cotton and cotton/polyester batting, 72” x 90”
MSUM Teaching Collection TC2001:4
Circular patterns like this one are also known as “Dresden Plate,” “Wagon Wheel” or “Wheel of Fortune.” The string piecing in the “wheel spokes” of this particular quilt, however, is unusual. String piecing traditionally involves sewing pieces of fabric onto a fabric or paper foundation. The technique allows a quilter to make use of small or oddly shaped pieces of fabric not suitable for more regular patchwork.

This “String Plate” quilt was made in a palette similar to Ethel Adair’s original piece. The plated were pieced from the many 1930s and 1940s reproduction fabrics currently enjoying popularity on today’s market. Small pieces of fabric were pieced to a foundation to create the wedges. Then, these wedge segments were sewn together to form circles. The circles or “plates” were then machine appliquéd to the background fabric using a buttonhole stitch.

Photo of the original String Plate quilt
This quilt only appears in the exhibit as an image on a text panel.
String Plate Quilt

Ethel West Adair (1901-1993)
ca. 1945, Oklahoma
Cotton, 67” x 84.5”
MSUM 2000:1.1
North American Indian and Native Hawaiian Collection
Gift of Lynda Chenoweth

Cherokee quiltmaker Ethel West Adair was born in 1901 in Wagner Prairie in what was then known as “Indian Territory.” She was married to Mack Adair Jr. for fifty-six years and had eight children who survived infancy. Her early life was spent in Oklahoma, where she later returned with her husband in retirement. In 1941 or 1942, Ethel moved to California, where she became a nurse’s aide. Following her husband’s death in 1986, Ethel moved to Arizona, and finally settled in California to be near her children.

At her home in Oklahoma, Ethel had a ceiling frame that she could raise and lower for quilting. When the weather was warm, the frame was sometimes moved to a veranda. Many long hours creating family treasures were accumulated while at the frame. Ethel stitched quilts for all of her immediate family and many of her grandchildren.

Photo of Star of Bethlehem reproduction quilt
Star of Bethlehem Quilt

Beth Donaldson, designer, machine piecer and machine appliquer;
Kari Ruedisale, machine quilter
Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan
Cotton with cotton/polyester batting
78” x 94”
MSUM Teaching Collection #TC2001:1
The reproduction of this traditional “Lone Star” was made easier by using rotary cutting and strip piecing techniques as well as machine piecing, appliquéing, and quilting. The calico fabrics of the original are typical of the era and today it is easy to find reproduction fabrics of similar calicos. Irregularity in the shapes and placements of the appliquéd flowers are part of this quilt’s original appeal.

Photo of original Star of Bethlehem quilt
This quilt only appears in the exhibit as an image on a text panel.

Star of Bethlehem Quilt

Margaret (or Anna) David
ca. 1920
Peshawbestown, Leelanau County, Michigan
Cotton with cotton batting
76” x 91”
MSUM 6615.1
North American Indian and Native Hawaiian Quilt Collection
Gift of Elizabeth and Vernon Keye

The original quilt is similar to several others made in the early 20th century by Odawa women from Leelanau County, Michigan. It is probably that Native Americans began quilting in the Great Lakes region after the establishment of Catholic missions in the 19th century; it is known that quilting took place at the Immaculate Conception Church in Peshabestown. The star and floral motifs used in this quilt are typical components of Odawa designs in earlier porcupine quillwork and beaded pieces of the region.

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