Album Quilt Top

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Quilt top only – not layered and quilted.

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Quilt top only – not layered and quilted. Twenty-five appliquéd blocks, using ‘broderie perse’ (cut-out chintz), contrast with bold red and green silhouettes stitched onto plain cotton fabric. National symbols Lady Liberty and the eagle (both pictured with the Union flag) frame the central block showcasing Psalm 23.

Unlike Friendship quilts, which are constructed with a repeated pattern, Album quilts are made from blocks of different designs. Moreover, the signature emblazoned on an Album quilt block would not always belong to the person who had stitched it. The blocks on this quilt top, for example, are signed by both men and women – not necessarily the makers of the blocks but possibly the friends of the person for whom the quilt was intended.

Many of the flowers and birds on this quilt top have been cut from bolts of printed chintz and appliquéd onto a plain white background. The technique of incorporating patterned chintz pieces, in a manner similar to that used in 'découpage', was popular in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century quilts. The technique lost popularity in America around the time of the Civil War, when more conventional appliqué designs were preferred.

The central block is by far the finest. The Bible pages are printed with Psalm 23, with the page edges delineated by tight lines of embroidered stitches. Embroidery threads have been used to shape the appliquéd flowers, with the fuchsias above the Bible enhanced further by applied pieces of pink velvet.

The theme of sleep is common to many blocks on this quilt top. Quotations from several sleep-related psalms, often used at funerals, suggest that this quilt was made to commemorate someone who had died. The date of 1862 on certain blocks and the inclusion of Lady Liberty holding the Union flag could imply that the deceased was a casualty of the Civil War – perhaps a soldier fighting for the Union or someone sympathetic to its goals.

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