Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wisconsin Quilt Museum - Part 2

This is a continuation of our day trip to the Wisconsin Quilt Museum a few weeks ago, to see the "Trends and Traditions" exhibit, which has now closed.  If you missed part one, which featured the double wedding ring quilts of Victoria Findlay Wolfe, you'll find it back a couple of posts HERE.

The second part of the exhibit featured traditional quilts made during the first half of the twentieth century, although some of them seemed to have quite a "modern" vibe to them, I thought.

"Muscatel Grape Quilt" designed by Mary McElwain, appliqued by Genevieve Peters Wainwright, begun in 1937 and completed in 1989, quilted by the Ladies Aid Society of the Community Church, Fontana, Wisconsin
The featured quilter in the traditional quilts display was Mary McElwain of Walworth, Wisconsin, who designed and sold quilts, quilt patterns and kits.  She started out in 1912, in a corner of her husband's jewelry store, and then expanded from there.

I'm going to include some of the signs that told her story throughout this post.  Click on the photos to make them larger and more readable, as necessary.

"Gypsy Tears" quilt, a/k/a Drunkard's Path
Close-up of hand quilting, quilted 11-13 stitches per inch.
The pattern for the "Gypsy Tears" quilt was printed on a batting wrapper, like the one shown below, which indicated "Pattern furnished courtesy of the Mary McElwain quilt shop."
This next one was one of my favorites of the whole "Traditions" exhibit.  I just loved everything about it, the colors, the pattern, the quilting—oh my!

It's called "Pine and Wreath" or "Trees and Garlands," made in the second quarter of the twentieth century.

"Pine and Wreath" or "Trees and Garlands"
Norm enjoyed seeing the quilts, believe it or not.  Maybe he didn't enjoy having his picture taken as much, though.

"Daisy Chain" made circa 1935
This one, called "Daisy Chain," was made about 1935, and was one of Mary McElwain's favorite designs, as noted in the blurb below. 

Close-up of "Daisy Chain" applique and quilting
"The Laurel" made circa 1937-1938
The fine handwork of these quilts just blew me away!
Close-up of "Oak Leaf and Acorn" quilting and applique
"Oak Leaf and Acorn" made circa 1936
"Modern Rose Quilt" or "Peachy Posey" made around 1936

Double Irish Chain Quilt
It was fun to read one person's account of being a quilt turner in Mary McElwain's shop:

How interesting to see this 1941 invoice for a quilt from Mary's shop.  An entire quilt for $31.36!  I like the line that says "Color...gorgeous."  At least I think that's what it says, what do you think?

I hope I haven't overwhelmed you with too many photos.  It was just so interesting to see all of these quilts (and more), still so compelling and colorful and beautiful after all these years. 

Close-up of "Horn of Plenty" quilt
I'm so glad for places like the Wisconsin Quilt Museum and the opportunity to appreciate the quilts of the past, as well as modern day quilting.  It was a great visit!


  1. Here lately P, your blog has been an absolute feast for the eyes! Thank you so much for taking the time to share this wealth of the quilting world with us! Hi Norm! LOL

  2. What a wonderful thoughtful post - thanks for sharing this exhibit (both parts) with us!!!!

  3. I'm kicking myself for not getting over there before the exhibit closed. The photos you've shared are gorgeous! The invoice for quilting is especially interesting. It looks like it is for quilting and binding a customer's quilt and $31 is pretty substantial for the time. In 1940, minimum wage was 30 cents. A car cost $800. Today minimum wage is 24 times that, and a $20,000 car (25 times their cost) is pretty common. That calculates to a quilting cost of $775 for a full size quilt. She certainly didn't undervalue her work!

  4. The Grape quilt is lovely. It’s so intricate and look at that quilting!

    Imagine the labour involved in making Daisy Chain? And I adore that border on the Irish chain too.

    Fancy being able to buy a quilt for 32 bucks. I guess that was a lot of money back then but its still blowing my mind at how cheap that sounds.

    I enjoyed your post – great to see some antique quilting and quilts.

  5. I bumped up the invoice to 250% so I could read it. The lady from Minn isn't buying a quilt, she is having her gorgeous flimsy quilted. There is no cost for a quilt, just a description. It's all charges associated with quilting and binding. I can't tell if it's hand or machine quilting - but that's it.
    Thanks for a very interesting post.

  6. I am fascinated by the showing of the quilts from the 1930's! The quilt I'm working on is from the 1920's and it's very different from these in the photos! I'm still fascinated by the intricate stitching in the quilting of the quilts. Was it done by machine?


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