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Newsletter July 2016

Jesse Jackson Smith's signature on the Chester Criswell Quilt
Jesse Jackson Smith’s signature on the Chester Criswell Quilt

The Lonely Bridegroom of the Chester Criswell Quilt

When my daughters organised a surprise signature quilt for my 60th birthday they discovered one of the issues quilt makers face – whose block goes where? Balancing the quilt blocks visually is one challenge but putting family members in the right places is also a delicate operation.

Lynda Slater Chenoweth’s book “Philena’s Friendship Quilt” is a good example of carefully placed signed blocks. This Quaker quilt was made in 1853 for Philena Cooper Hambleton. The Hambleton blocks form a letter “H” in the centre of the quilt, and the Cooper blocks make two crescent C’s. Other relations are paired and placed around the edges of the quilt.

When I began researching my Chester Criswell quilt I did not notice any patterns in the placing of the blocks. Mary McClellan Criswell’s wreath block was next to the centre and was balanced by an identical block made by her good friend and possible bridesmaid Martha Lamborn (for the record, Mary was Presbyterian and Martha was a Quaker). It wasn’t until I discovered that Joseph and Agnes Smith were in fact the groom’s brother and the bride’s sister that I realised Mary’s immediate family was in the first ring around the centre block. The arrangement wasn’t as precise as Philena’s quilt was there was some pattern.

So, where was the bridegroom’s block? Jesse Jackson Smith’s block wasn’t in the first family ring; it was off in a corner of the second ring from the centre, a knight’s move away from the bride. Not many of Jesse Jackson’s family were represented in the quilt which is why I have always called it a bride’s quilt and not a wedding quilt.

Mountain Mist from the IQSCM

Each month the International Quilt Study Center and Museum IQSCM share online a quilt from their extensive collection. The July 2016 quilt is Shadow Trail from the Mountain Mist Collection. The name Mountain Mist was coined by the Stearns and Foster Company and has been well known to quilters for nearly 90 years.

George Stearns and Seth Foster started the Stearns and Foster Company in Ohio in 1882. Their product was cotton batting, made in sheets with a uniform weight and thickness to be used for upholstery, surgical supplies and quilt batting. Before the invention of batting sheets quilters had to spread overlapping cotton bats on the quilting frame being careful to distribute the bats evenly without gaps or lumps. Too much batting made quilting difficult; not enough made a thin flat quilt without texture.

In 1929 the Stearns and Foster Company chose the name ‘Mountain Mist’ for their batting. Each roll came with a free quilt pattern inside the wrapping and a 15 cent coupon towards a future purchase. Some of the patterns were copies of old quilts; quilters were hired to design new patterns and the Mountain Mist pattern collection encouraged a new generation of quilters.

In 1935 the company published the Mountain Mist Blue Book of Famous Quilt Designs. Regular revisions of the Mountain Mist catalogues helps present day valuers find dates for vintage quilts.

The Mountain Mist collection was acquired by the IQSCM in 2012 and contains more than 150 quilts used to inspire patterns or made from patterns as well as documentation and Mountain Mist wrappers. Scroll down the quilt of the month page to see a short video of quilts from this collection.