Saturday, August 26, 2017

"Queen City Quilts" Exhibit Celebrates Amoskeag Mills

Today we traveled to Manchester, NH to visit the Millyard Museum which has a new exhibit "Queen City Quilts," a collection of quilts from the Manchester Historical Association. Upon entering the hall where the quilts are on display, one first sees a beautiful quilt made by the Amoskeag Quilters Guild of Manchester. I grew up in Manchester and so I remember some of the (former) business establishments whose names were embroidered in gold metallic thread:  such as "Pariseau's," a dry goods store that sold clothing, "Ferreti's," my mother's favorite place to do grocery shopping, and "New Hampshire Fire Insurance," where my sister worked. The quilt is like a walk down memory lane and the quilters certainly did great work!

The quilts show great variety in their construction and their coloration. A Friendship quilt that was signed by parishioners of a church is actually made with a counterchange of solid red and muslin patches in a pattern commonly known as "Drunkard's Path." Then, in red, green and white is a quilt sometimes called "Peony" or "North Carolina Lily" - although it is not an exact replica of either pattern and the configuration is quite delightful. The tiny green leaves appear to have been "stuffed" for a trapunto effect.

One of the "stars" of the show is a cigar band quilt common to Victorian times. Some of the cigar bands are from the Sullivan Cigar Company where my aunt's husband worked for a time when he was quite young and was an immigrant from the Netherlands. I'm sure that was before he entered the U.S. Army and accompanied Admiral Byrd on two expeditions to the Antarctic. He was in charge of the sled dogs. But, I digress.

There is a Log Cabin quilt, unusual in its construction which included black sashings. Some beautiful floral embroideries grace four of the inset triangles on the edges. The Crazy Quilts included in the exhibit are from the late 19th century (the heyday of the Crazy Quilt was in the 1880s). They are in excellent condition with only minor areas of shattered silk. I was enchanted by one of the Crazy Quilts that features an embroidered motif of a girl, in purple, sitting on a fence, the same design that is presented on the cover of my book Redwork Embroidery and Needlework Traditions in Europe and America.

Then there is a ruffled, monochromatic quilt that depicts the portrait of "The Hermit" of Manchester with an alternating block of "The Brook." The quilt was done with a photo transfer process called cyanotype (??).

A quilt with 44 examples of different "delaine" fabrics (a combination of muslin and wool), produced at the Amoskeag Mills, is also on display, as is a doll quilt in a Nine Patch variation that was supposedly made by a five year old child - a statement that is hard to believe due to the expert piecing of it and fine hand-quilting. Her name is "anonymous."

One quilt that has everyone perplexed as to its construction method is a bed size quilt made of strips of fabric prints. The quilt is very "busy" and colorful.

It was fun to re-visit the rest of the museum as we had not been there for awhile. I enjoyed seeing the textile exhibits, including a fabric gingham sewing bag that had Sunbonnet Sue figures embroidered on it. The fabric matches some buttons also produced by the mill. In the textiles area, there is a video about the mill workers and their various ethnic groups. Manchester was certainly a melting pot of various groups drawn to work in the mills. The names of streets and monuments around the city are testament to the ongoing influence of them.

The quilt exhibit will be in place until October 21, 2017. Be sure to visit it, if you can! With all of its other fine exhibits, the Millyard Museum is worthy of a visit. It tells the story of early Manchester, settled by Indians, via extant artifacts. On display is also a miniaturized version of the statue of Molly Stark, wife of General John Stark, that is located in Wilmington, Vermont. A swatch of Molly's wedding dress is also displayed. There is so much more but you can discover all of it for yourself when you visit!

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