National Museum of American History displays luxury 19th-century silk quilts

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Friday, June 14, 2024

National Museum of American History displays luxury 19th-century silk quilts
Detail of Eva Shaw’s Crazy-patch Piano Cover. Photo: Courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is displaying nine silk quilts from the national collection along with related needlework artifacts dating from the late 19th into the early 20th centuries in the exhibition “Everyday Luxury: Silk Quilts from the National Collection.” This rare showing of silk quilts is on view July 30 to January 2020 in The Nicholas F. and Eugenia Taubman Gallery.

From the 1870s through the 1920s, the silk industry flourished in America. Paterson, New Jersey, then known as America’s “Silk City,” produced miles of silk fabric while Connecticut housed many silk-thread factories. Manufacturers marketed silk by giving away pattern booklets and thread holders. As industry competition increased, prices decreased, so much so that by the 1880s, even the girls and young women who worked in the factories could afford a silk dress for “Sunday best.”

Inspired by the availability of inexpensive silks, a new fad emerged nationwide in the 1880s for ‘crazy patchwork’ quilts. Quilt makers adopted asymmetry and layered patterning, moving away from the rigid geometric piecework of traditional quilts. Silk embroidery added dimensions and texture to the quilts. These quilts were never meant to be used as bedding. Instead, they were a statement of status and style at the turn of the 20th century. They tell a little-known story of art, industry, trends and marketing in American history.

“The quilts on display demonstrate individual imagination and skill,” said exhibition curator, Madelyn Shaw. “But beyond that, they represent America’s silk industry: thousands of mill workers, hundreds of companies, business people and designers. The quilts offer us a unique perspective on this period of industrialization in American history.”

Silk is the continuous filament a silkworm makes to create its cocoon. About 3,000 cocoons make one pound of raw silk. To turn silk filaments into yarn, cocoons are placed in simmering water to dissolve the gummy substance binding the fibers together. A worker (reeler) whisks up the ends of several filaments and draws them off the cocoons together, forming a very fine thread called “raw silk.” A process called “throwing” combines several raw silk strands into yarns strong enough for sewing, embroidery, weaving and knitting. American yarn and fabric manufacturers bought cocoons and raw silk primarily from Japan, China and Italy.

Personal sewing kits, needlework books, tools, embroidery samples, models of silkworms and educational posters are on view in the gallery. The nine quilts on display include Mary Watson’s “Biscuit” Parlor Throw, 1890–1900; Eva Shaw’s Crazy-patch Piano Cover, 1880–1890; Laura Clark’s Silk Patchwork Table Cover, 1855–1885; Martha Jane Taylor’s Parlor Throw, 1870–1880; a Commemorative Ribbon Parlor Throw, 1880–1895; a Crazy-patchwork Parlor Throw, 1880–1900; Aimee Hodge’s Crazy-patchwork Parlor Throw, 1877–1946; the Bates Family Crazy-patchwork Silk Parlor Throw, 1890–1900; and Marian Frick’s Log Cabin Parlor Throw, 1870–1890.

The National Quilt Collection now numbers more than 500 quilts and quilt-related items. Most of the collection is accessible online here.

Today's News

August 6, 2019

Bavarian State Minister of the Arts restitutes nine works of art

The National Gallery allocated Bonington's 'View on the River Seine- Morning' under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme

Pérez Art Museum Miami announces major gift from collector, scholar, and advocate Gordon W. Bailey

Boy thrown from London's Tate Modern is French tourist visiting UK

Newly discovered Proust novellas to be published in October

Olafur Eliasson's first solo presentation in Portugal opens at The Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art

Tramway opens the first exhibition in Europe of contemporary artist Nick Cave

Record-setting Urban Art Auction surpasses $2.7 million

National Museum of American History displays luxury 19th-century silk quilts

'Nothing but blood': Woman cartoonist draws Syria's Idlib

Dusti Bongé Art Foundation announces new publication

Artory announces partnerships in digital art

'Majestic' WWII Spitfire takes off on round-the-world flight

The Lisbon Architecture Triennale distinguishes Denise Scott Brown with Lifetime Achievement Award

Rare Scottish silver cup lights up August sale

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum opens Sara Cwynar's first solo museum exhibition on the East Coast

Ogden Museum announces Louisiana Contemporary Prize winners

Village People creator dies aged 82

Museum invites artists to produce site-specific works that investigate the Bauhaus and Modernism

Kunsthalle Mannheim exhibits works by Nadine Fecht

Glasgow Museums acquires works by local and international female artists

BRIC names Michael Liburd as board chair and announces four new board members

Havana comes to Harlem in new public art project this August

Frye Art Museum acquires works by four artists from the 2019 Seattle Art Fair

How to Ensure You Take High Quality Photographs for your Website

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful