Saturday, October 20, 2012

Medallion Quilts

I recently purchased Gwen Marston's new book "Liberated Medallion Quilts".  I am a great admirer of Gwen's work and I knew this new book would be a great treat!  It is filled with lots of wonderful medallion quilts by Gwen as well as a whole slew of very talented quilters.  But I was really surprised to find a picture of one of my all time favorite medallion quilts right across from the introduction, a quilt top made by Martha Washington which is part of the Smithsonian collection.  I made a replica of this quilt a few years back;  not-with-standing the difficulty in finding appropriate vintage prints and minus the last border (I'm still searching for the right print) here it 'tis...
The inspiration to make this replica, I hope, is self evident?!  It is a cool design!  When I first saw the picture of this quilt I was just idly flipping pages.   I stopped for a closer look and when I read the details I was really in awe.  I had not considered the idea that Martha Washington was a quilter?!  Well duh!  Most women of her time were seamstresses of one kind or another, it was a practical fact of life.

When I first saw this quilt I thought how contemporary it looked.  I made a quilt using this layout as a pattern only with contemporary fabrics.  I showed it at my guild's Show n' Tell and asked if people thought it was a new or old pattern and everyone agreed it look new!  I think the use of stripes and simple applique shapes (circles and ovals)  gives the design a very contemporary look.  But as Gwen points out in her book, Martha was probably just being practical (or "liberated").  Fitting borders like those above is a lot easier than making perfectly fitting pieced borders.  And I think the applique was simple for the same reason.

Besides the above vintage fabric version I have made 3 other contemporary fabric versions of this quilt. Here's the most recent one which has a "Paris" theme.

 I have modified the layout somewhat but the general features are still evident.  Medallion quilts are a great way to feature that fabric that you just can't bring yourself to cut up!  cheers, CW


  1. I love your medallion quilts! I remember seeing Martha's quilt in Gwen's book and couldn't believe how modern it looked. You did a lovely job of replicating it.

  2. They do really look completely different though I can see the similarities in the pattern.
    I think I liek the idea of medaillon quilts, you can add border upon border whenever you feel like it, it's not like you have to make 20 basket blocks and fit them together, you can let the quilt grow over years, whenever you come across the right fabric for the next border (or probably in Marthas case whenever another garment was worn out enough)
    Yet antoher thing to add to my list for later ...