What Was She Thinking?
The one-of-a-kind quilt that Kate Adams purchased came without a name. When asked what she planned to call it, she replied, "Right now I'm calling it 'My Wonderful New Quilt!'"
Kathleen McCrady's reproduction of Kate Adams' quilt. Kathleen calls her version, Basket of Lilies (What Was She Thinking?)
The thick-stalked flowers twist and turn capriciously, towering above little baskets that appear far too small to hold their bulk. Larger blossoms float freely between the top-heavy baskets, anchored by Crossed Canoes that are themselves wedged in with a bold striped fabric. Browns, pinks, and a variety of greens cavort together in a stew of checks, stripes, and prints on the quilt’s surface, backed by a surprising purple stripe. Considered separately, the elements of this pieced and appliquéd quilt seem utterly at odds. Considered together, they combine to produce a delightful whole that charms the viewer with its whimsy and playfulness.
Kate Adams (see “Kindred Spirits”) saw the quilt at a vendor’s booth during International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, California, last year. She kept returning to the booth to look at it, fascinated by its fanciful quirkiness. Kate waited until the last possible minute to make up her mind, but as the show was closing, she decided that she simply had to buy it.
The vendor knew little of the quilt’s history, but placed its provenance in Pennsylvania and dated it to around 1875. One can’t help but wonder about the person who made it. Given the quilt’s age, the quiltmaker was most likely a woman. Certainly, she was a skilled draftsperson who was hardly timid about color and design choices. Undoubtedly, she had a child-like exuberance that spilled over into her creation. Sadly, all we can do is speculate about this anonymous artist.
When Kate showed her purchase to Kathleen McCrady (see “Template”), Kathleen, too, was charmed by the quilt and wondered about the person who made it. “What was she thinking?” Kathleen asked, looking at the way the blocks were put together. As an expert quiltmaker herself, and one who has drafted many a pattern, her curiosity was piqued. She decided that she simply had to reproduce it.
“Those old one-of-a-kind quilts have so many creative elements that catch my eye,” Kathleen says. “You wonder what made [the quilter] think to do what she did. Did she draft the pattern? How did she think to use five points in many of the lilies and align them to the right or left, creating a different direction for the stems? What made her think about laying some of her potted lilies on their sides instead of lining them up in straight rows? Then with those off-setting blocks that use larger pieces, she still used the eight-pointed star (but with only five points), again aligning them to the right or left. We don’t often see such bold geometric fabrics used in the outside triangles. Our ancestors were very talented, creative people, and they went ‘outside the box’ many times. It is inspiring to me.” Kathleen calls her version of the quilt Folk Art Lilies (What Was She Thinking?).
I wonder if the maker of the original quilt ever dreamed that her work might one day inspire other artists. I’d like to hope that she did. Somehow, that would lessen the sting of anonymity for the creative woman who left this happy curiosity for us to enjoy so many years later. And I think she’d be glad to know that her quilt has found a home with someone who will appreciate it for many years to come.
Click here to return to top.
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor
See other archived columns here