Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bon Jour!

At this year's annual International Quilting Association's show, there was a most extraordinary exhibit.  The French Guild France Patchwork exhibited thirty quilts from their last bi-annual contest, "Quilts de Legende" or Legendary Quilts.  The quilts are all reproductions of antique quilts from Europe, Australia, and the United States.  The rules for entry state that every quilt must be an exact reproduction of an antique quilt, using fabric as true to the original as possible, and they must be made entirely by hand:  no machine piecing, no machine quilting, no machine assembly, no machine binding.  Every stitch in the quilt must be done by hand.  Knowing this makes the quilts, indeed, legendary -- and makes me respect, even more than I do now, all of the quilters of yesteryear that have preceded us.  At this exhibit, I had the pleasure of meeting the President of the French Guild of France Patchwork, Catherine Bonte, pictured below.  She was absolutely delightful and so proud and happy to share the work of her compatriots.  Catherine is standing in front of one of the most remarkable quilts in the exhibit.

Bath, pictured below, was made by Louise-Marie Stipon of Le Conquet, France.  It is a most amazing piece of work - particularly since it was entirely hand made.

Of note is the fact that the number of half-square triangles in the blocks vary.  The block below has a five-by-five matrix of half-square triangles.  Sometimes the colors stay the same across the diagonal rows...

And sometimes they "mostly" stay in the same color family.  The block below is a seven-by-seven matrix of half-square triangles. 

The block below is an eleven-by-eleven matrix of half-square triangles.  Remember... these blocks are all the same size!  Putting these blocks together is not a simple combination of 1 inch, 1-1/4 inch, 1-1/2 inch, etc. half-square triangles.  The ability of these quilters to make this quilt boggles my mind since the blocks have no common denominator to size the half-square triangles in them!

Here's a block that is a six-by-six matrix of half-square triangles. 

Most of you have seen an antique quilt where the maker "pieced" a half-square triangle or a square because they were putting scraps to good use.  The maker of this quilt faithfully reproduced the scrappy piecing that existed in the original quilt; check out the block below and you will see several half-square triangles that were pieced as they were in the original quilt.  Yes, I have to say... these are legendary reproductions of quilts!

And this will give you an idea of the size of the center block in the quilt -- the one that is a fifteen-by-fifteen matrix of half-square triangles, surrounded by a border of six more rows of these miniature half-square triangles.  I cannot imagine me ever doing such work -- especially by hand -- and having it be nearly as exquisite -- or accurate; and yet every one of the quilts in this exhibit hung perfectly straight and flat with no ruffles or distortion.

Here is a close-up of the quilting in the sashing strips:  triple cross-hatching!

Here is another quilt from the exhibit, Alabama, by Marie-Francoise Gregoire from Vaux-sur-Mer in France.  It was inspired by a medallion quilt from Alabama, circa 1800-1825.   

Here is a close-up of the outer border.  As you look at it, remember:  these quilts are pieced and quilted entirely by hand -- without paper foundations or machines!

Below is Alice Springs, made by Annick Tauzin of Floirac, France.  Annick based her quilt on a "Persian applique," circa 1840, from Australia.  Bear in mind that "persian applique" is a term that we generally hear in French, not English:  broderie perse.  This quilt was one of the first that I saw this year that had hexagons in it -- after seeing this quilt, I began seeing hexagons EVERYWHERE!  In a future blog, I'll show all the surprising places that hexagons showed up.

Here is a close-up of the center of Alice Springs.  Note the fine quilting - and the small broderie perse flowers.

The quilting in this quilt was amazing -- I like studying the hand quilting in old quilts because I learn a lot from it.  The quilters of yesteryear didn't always care how long it took to finish something, so they had no problem going the extra mile.  They did lots of triple cross-hatch stitching.  And in this quilt, you can see (below) where the quilter did a triple echo around the broderie perse flowers -- and then added a quilted flower in the open area.  I like both of those ideas and may do some of that in my own quilting in the future.

Here is a close-up of the border; I like the idea of adding unique shapes to each border.

And, again, look at the quilting in this border.  It makes me want to work harder on my own hand quilting efforts.

This quilt, called Cubes (Baby Blocks in English), was made by Catherine Guy who lives in Saint-Heand, France.  It was based on a quilt made between 1855 and 1875 and has more than 3,000 pieces in it.  The pattern for this quilt was published in American and British women's magazines circa 1850-1860. 

Check out this close-up of some of those blocks.  Over and over again, as my friends and I examined all the old quilts at the Houston show, we kept hearing ourselves say, "we are far too timid in our fabric selections!"  Would you ever have put a gingham check into this quilt if you were making it?  I know I wouldn't have... but perhaps I am just too, too timid, and need to step up my game a bit.

Botanical Page (Page Botanique in French) was made by Louise-Marie Stipon, who hails from Le Conquet, France.  Her quilt was based on a quilt dated 1885 that was made in Illinois.  Look at the number and type of leaves in the design.  You'll have to ignore that bothersome pole in front of the quilt; I simple couldn't photograph around it.

Here is a close-up of the berries and leaves (below).  But what I really want you to look at is the extraordinary quilting in this quilt.  The background is filled with quilting that covers every 1/8th inch of open area. 

The next quilt, Clarissa, is one that many of us have seen in books.  Made by Aline Jouline of Chaillevette, France, Clarissa is based on the Windmill Blades block in the spirit of Clarissa White Alford's quilt (circa 1885-1890).  The original quilt resides at the Shelburne Museum in the U.S.

I had not taken the opportunity to look at photos of the quilt, and notice the detail in the blocks.  I had thought they were all like -- and they are, to a certain extent, but the value of the quarter-square triangles and the air-castle blocks within each block varies a bit.  The block below has four air-castle blocks in the center.

This block has matching quarter-square triangles in the two outer rows and four half-square triangles of two different fabrics in the center.

This block has matching quarter-square triangles in the outer row, but the inner ones vary quite a bit.  The visual variety makes your eye dance across the surface of this block.

This block is quite different from the others -- the outer two rows are quarter-square triangles, but their values give the block an interesting look.  The center four squares are each half-square triangles, making a pinwheel.  It's neat to see such differences amongst all of the blocks.

Diamonds with Flowers (Losanges de fleurs) was made by Dominique Husson from Arvert, France.  It was inspired by an American quilt (circa 1840).  The flowers each are centered in one-inch hexagons.  Yes -- there are many more hexagons in this exhibit!

In this close-up, you can see the care taken to fussy-cut fabrics for these blocks -- I love the rosebuds in this block, surrounded by leaves.

Here's a close-up of another block.  This whole notion of fussy-cutting fabric in hexagons is starting to grow on me, though, as I walked the aisles of the show, I swore I'd never take on making a hexagon.  Ever, ever, ever (thank you, Taylor Swift!).

The border fabric used in this quilt is wonderful; its coloration was perfect for the quilt.

Double Feathered Star (Double etoile plumetree) was made by Gabrielle Paquin of Orleans, France.  This quilt is the artist's own interpretation of the classic Feathered Star block.  And wow - pieced by hand! 

Framed Medallion was made by Anne-Marie Huguen of Le Conquet, France.  It is a mariner's compass block surrounded by many triangles, and was inspired by Mary Tayloe Lloyd's quilt (circa 1835-1850) in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Museum in Washington, D.C.  Imagine making this by hand... and then imagine making it 160 years ago without all of our modern tools, gizmos, and gadgets at hand!

The quilt below was called Replica to Replica. Ursula, Doris, and I!  (or De replique en replique. Ursula, Doris et Moi!).  It was made by Simone Patouillard of Sorbiers, France.  The quilt was inspired by an antique quilt given to a woman named Ursula by her family when she moved to Texas in 1873.  A woman named Doris came upon the old quilt but because of its poor condition, it was impossible to attempt any restoration;  Doris loved it enough to make a copy of the quilt in 1986 - and then Simone made a copy of the copy in 2011.  Isn't it interesting to see how quilts give birth to children?  (and yes, Becky, I've had "the talk" with my fabric... so that it will quit reproducing when I'm not looking!).  This quilt has a very dynamic look to it; I wish everyone could see it in person.

More hexagons!  This quilt is named "Hexagonal Star" and was made by Renee Elie of Royan, France.  It was inspired by an antique quilt dated 1830.  It has 9,988 three-quarter inch hexagons, each made using the English paper method.  Each hexagon has a flower centered in it.

Think of the focus required to make sure that every single one of those 9,988 hexagons has a flower in it.  Could you do it?  Would you?  It sure is beautiful -- once my friends and I started looking at these quilts, we could not stop.  I've never seen an exhibit that I went back to look at... four or five times.

And there were MORE hexagons!  This quilt was named Honeycomb (Rayon de miel) by its maker, Liliane Verger of Royan, France.  It was inspired by an English quilt; quilts such as these were much appreciated in England in the Victorian age (circa 1840).  The hexagons were all made using the English paper method.

Here's a close-up of Honeycomb.

Francoise Bertrand of Meschers, France, submitted The Ladies of the Ocean (Les dames de l'ocean) to the Legendary Quilts exhibition.  This is a group quilt, inspired by a quilt made in 1840.  Can you imagine making all these Lady of the Lake blocks (as it is more commonly known in the U.S.) by hand?  And then... can you imagine daring to take on this quilt as a group?  Whoa - I'd have to have some very trusted hand piecers before I'd even think about it!

Here's a close-up.  Note that the quilting is not in the ditch, as I might have done it.  Rather, it is simple cross-hatching that cuts through the center of each half-square triangle.

There were far more pieced quilts than appliqued quilts in this exhibition, but here is a nice applique quilt called May Bouquet (Bouquet de mai) by Anne-Marie Schmitt of Denas, France.  This quilt was inspired by an 18th century English quilt made of silk.

Here's a close-up -- the tiny berries in some of the cornucopias are wonderful!  Note the nice quilting in this quilt.

The next quilt was a dramatic contrast of browns, tans, golds, and reds.  Louise-Marie Stipon of Le Conquet, France, named it "Medallion with Double Triangle Squares (Medaillon de triangles et carres).  The quilt was inspired by an 1870s quilt from Massachusetts that now resides in the American Folk Art Museum in New York.   Again, please ignore the tape shown across the front of the quilts - it prevents viewers from walking too close to the quilts - and I can't get it out of my photographs, doggone it!

Part of what made this quilt so dramatic is that its striking geometry was also carried into the quilting designs used.  Those cross-hatching lines in the border triangles are quilted; this was not a plaid fabric.

And the center block of the quilt was softened with lovely quilted shapes.  Note the double quilt lines in each little square, as well as along the border strips.  Oh my, what precision there is in this quilt!

The Mohican Track (La piste du Mohican) was made by Marie-Hosephe Veteau from Steinsoultz, France.  She says her work was based on the Drunkard Path pattern from the beginning of the 19th century.

Take a close look at the quilting in her quilt... and don't forget that she pieced this entirely by hand.  Bravo to expert workmanship!

Mosaic Quilt was made by Isabelle Etienne-Bugnot of Soisy-sur-Seine, France.  Isabelle was inspired by a quilt made circa 1840 that she saw in the DAR Museum.  The piecing was done using the English piecing method.

Navy Geometry (Geometrie marine) by Cecile Lacoste of Gorges, France, uses the mariners' compass design (circal1855-1875).  The workmanship in this quilt was phenomenal.

Here's a close-up of the block (note the lovely quilting)...

And here's a clsoe-up of the close-up.  Again... this was all made by hand.

Observatory Street (1692 rue de l'Observatoire) was made by France Aubert from La Queue-lez-Yvelines, France.  This quilt was inspired by a Lone Star quilt from Mississippi, circa 1875-1885.  It has 1,692 pieces.  It's simply stunning - and not to belabor the point, it was entirely hand-pieced.  No matter how many times I say that, it's hard to recognize it could be done, and done so perfectly, since I couldn't even begin to do something like this by hand.

This next quilt was delightful.  Called The Life of Phoebe Cook (La vie de Phoebe Cook), Jocelyne Picot of La Roche-sur-Yon, France, replicated some cute scenes.  The quilt shows the life in a small town in Ohio in 1872.

These three close-ups give you a much better idea of how cute this quilt was the ladies' skirts are often ruffled in three dimensional applique - and everyone's hair was hand-embroidered in place:

The picture below shows you Poison by Agnes Carretier of Gujan-Mestras, France.  Her quilt was inspired by a circa 1880 quilt bought in an antique shop.  Forty diamonds were pieced together and framed with double pink and poison green borders.  In the photo you can see that the quilt was laid on a floor mount, and the old original antique quilt lies across the top portion of the reproduction quilt.  It was a nice touch to see "mother and daughter" together.

Potomac was made by Aline Joulin of Chaillevette, France.  Her quilt was inspired by an old American quilt.  What a wonderful variety of fabrics are in this quilt!

Starlit Night (Nuit etoilee) by Ghislaine Lucas of Le Conquet, France, was inspired by a child's quilt.  The size of the original motif was reduced but the size of the quilt was increased.  The Ohio Star block and the Courthouse Steps log cabin block work well together in this quilt.

Here's a close-up of the two blocks and the lovely cross-hatch quilting in them...

And another close-up.

And here was a surprising idea for quilting in a wide border:

Marie-Jospehe Veteau of Steinsoultz, France, chose a funny name for her quilt:  Upside Down (Sans dessus dessous).  The quilt combines lone stars and mariners' compasses - and a nine-patch border.  The quilt was inspired by a circa 1840 quilt.

And here is a close-up of the center star.  I love the idea of having a star that has an "invisible" inner star in itself (the tan in the white).

Stars or Baby Blocks (Etoiles ou cubes) was made by Marie-Paule Nedelec and Anne-Helene Nedelec and Anne-Helene Nedelec of Chateaubriant, France.  Their quilt was inspired by a circa 1880 Kentucky quilt.  Within each block, you may see either a star or three baby blocks.

Check out the stars... or baby blocks... in this close-up.

You can see the quilting in the above quilt - 1/8th and 1/4 inch echo quilting.  The borders, on the other hand, has "zig-zags" quilted across them in triple-row stitching.  Amazing, simply amazing, isn't it?!

Sunbeam (Un rayon de soleil) was made by Ewa Guerin of Bourges, France.  This quilt was inspired by a quilt in the Shelbourne Museum.

Note the quilting within the leaves and the flower, below -- and I hope you can see the "extra flower" quilted in the background between the leaf and the top flower.

The Nest (Le Nid) was made by Anne-Marie Schmitt from Genas, France. 

Check out the close-ups below.  The background fabric in the center of the quilt was an interesting and unusual choice.  The center nest block, part of which is shown below, is based on an original design by Ellen Heck.  If you have ever had the pleasure of taking a class from or seeing any of Ellen's quilts, you are fortunate; I consider Ellen to be one of today's finest applique artists!

The next quilt as a small one - I would estimate it was about a square yard.  It was called Traboutis and was made by Penelope Roger of Orleans, France.  This quilt was a personal creation made by using back stitches in a combination of trapunto and "boutis provencal" (and if you google boutis provencal, most of the links are in French, not English!).  Trapunto and boutis quilting are both variations of stuffed quiltwork. 

The center of this quilt was simple...

but the quilting was what overwhelmed me.  Look - it takes my breath away!

To give you an idea of scale... check out my finger, below.

This Winding Blade Quilt by Christine Imbaud of La Rochelle, France, is based on a quilt made in Virginia circa 1860. 

And a close-up...

Last, but not least, here is a picture of me and Jeanne Sullivan.  We got to spend some time together at the Houston quilt show; I took a class from her a few years ago, and she is a fabulous teacher.  Her BRAND NEW book, Simply Successful Applique, is fantastic -- she has plenty of photos, detailed instructions, multiple methods... all giving you one of the best tools on the market for either learning applique, or taking it to the next level.  If you can't find it in your local quilt shop, check out Amazon; I highly recommend it!

And here is a photo of me and Gaye Ryon; we met at the quilt show when she told me that I saved her life.  How, you might ask?  Well... when her husband was diagnosed with cancer, she told her doctor that she refused to start taking anti-depressants, and instead chose to make my Monster quilt.  It cheered her through the ordeal - so much so that her friends also made Monster quilts and they had a special exhibit of Monster quilts at their quilt show in Salt Lake City.  I'm happy to know that quilting makes people happy; it has certainly gotten me through stressful times, and led me to the best circle of friends and support that any human could ever hope to have.  Gaye - it was great to meet you - you radiate joy!!

This month's blog seems to have come to an end.  Next month I will share what I've been working on this past month (as well as the coming month) - and I'll show you two quilts that I bought at the Houston show.  They are both antiques -- one of them required some extensive (but easy) repair work and I'll take you step-by-step through it.  There were some surprises along the way!  I'll also be showing you some more quilts -- there were so many lovely quilts at the Houston show; I'm SO glad I live just down the road.
Until next month... happy quilting!
(c)2012 Susan H. Garman  


  1. Thank you so much for sharing these incredible quilts. I always look forward to reading your blog and seeing your fabulous quilts and wish I was at Houston this year.
    Hugs, Jan Mac

  2. An absolute awe inspiring post.
    Everyone of the quilts is a true work of art and perseverance .
    Every women who made these needs congratulating.

    Quilting not only saves lives. It saved my sanity with dealing with my husbands Alzheimer's for 12 years.

    I just couldn't take all this post in and will using it for a reference tool for many years to come.
    Thank you

  3. Thank you for sharing your trip to the Houston Market. I know that women from times gone by had many trying times in their lives and I am sure quilting was a great release for them. I sometimes wonder what they were dealing with when they sat for hours quilting. Thank you for your commentary on the show because many of us can't get out to be there. Chris

  4. beautiful, beautiful quilts. Thank you so much for sharing them. I love working by hand and sometimes make them completely by hand including the binding. It is such a treat to see there are others out there in quilt land that do the same thing. We quilters (most of us) (I believe) in America are in too much of a hurry and so many are only making "modern" quilts which can be done very quickly. Quilters do not take the time to relax and actually enjoy the whole process of quilting.

  5. Thank you Sue for doing this for us (the people who couldn't go to Houston). What a wonderful exhibit and you have done a great job showing it to us. Just exquisite.


  6. Gosh, Sue, I am overwhelmed! So many great quilts. I've seen many of the Legendary Quilts in Quiltmania, but I really appreciate the first photo with a person in it as well. I had no idea of the small scale of the pieces! Amazing.

    Engligh paper piecing, by the way, is easy and addictive. Many days now I look at my sewing machine, and then I look at my easy chair with the paper pieces ready to go beside it, and you can guess what I choose!

  7. These are stunning! The concept was incredible, and yet, they were able to recreate these masterpieces! I can't pick a favorite, as they are all magnificent! Totally amazing! Thank you so much for sharing them.

  8. These quilts just made my jaw drop. They are simply amazing. Well, maybe I shouldn't say 'simply' but amazingly incredible instead. Thank you so much for taking all the pictures and for showing the close-ups with them. This is a post I'm sure I'll go back to over and over. I'm looking forward to your next post (as I do every month).

  9. I am overwhelmed at the creativity and workmanship!! What a feast - thanks for sharing.

  10. Thank you for sharing your visit with us. It was great to see the reproduction quilts. Very inspiring!

  11. Thank you for sharing the photos of those breathtaking quilts!
    I tend to hand piece all my quilts so it was a huge treat to see these masterpieces getting the attention they deserve!

  12. oh how i enjoyed this trip...thank you for posting!

  13. Thank you so much Sue for sharing these amazing quilts. Awe inspiring!

  14. Sewing and in particular patchwork and quilting is the best therapy I know of,ever,ever,EVER. I am so in awe of such wonderful creations and I am a hexagon freak and want to make them all. I look forward to your posts.

  15. I am so blown away. Spectacular! And to find it on this day in the US when we change clocks and have an extra hour. Know how I will spend it.

  16. Thank you much for posting the quilt photos. I spent lots of time looking & taking picures myself. These quilts are amazing and it was great that the group shared their quilts with us. The exhibit will help prompt me into working more on my hexi quilt.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful exhibit. I enjoyed the detail and appreciate the care you took to include all the names of the quilts and makers. So inspiring!

  18. Thanks for this wonderful posts. I have visited all the legendary quilts exhibitions in France and these quilts are just amazing.... The exhibition in France is every other year and I think that next one is in 2013!!! Can't wait to see what beauty these ladies will have stitched and quilted this time!
    Thanks also for all the details both in photos and commentaries as I have discovered a few things I had miss when visiting the exhibition in France!

  19. Stunning! Thanks for all the inspiration.

  20. Stunning! What an inspiration. Thanks for showing these.