National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Doll Bed Applique Patchwork Quilt Doll Bed Applique Patchwork Quilt
Rendered by Beverly Chichester (artist), c. 1937
watercolor, gouache, colored pencil, and graphite on paperboard
overall: 37.5 x 38.3 cm (14 3/4 x 15 1/16 in.) Original IAD Object: 22"square
Index of American Design
Not on View
From the Tour: Textiles from the Index of American Design
Object 17 of 17

Pieced and appliqué quilts of the nineteenth century were often made from separate blocks sewn together and quilted by women at a gathering called a quilting bee. This was usually a festive occasion for the entire community. The technique of making quilt tops in individual squares led to the development of a special kind of quilt, known variously as signature, autograph, album, friendship, or presentation quilts, made for a special friend or event. These quilts, popular during the 1840s and 1850s, were made from blocks donated by friends, who would gather at an "album party" to piece together and quilt the individual squares. As in this doll's bed quilt, probably made by a group of young people, each contributor appliquéed a design on her own square. The appliqué designs were often embellished by the contributor's signature in ink or embroidery, hence the term "signature quilt." Album quilts are characterized by their varied designs; here floral motifs are combined with animals, birds, and even a horse and rider. Unity depends upon compatibility of scale and harmony of color as well as upon orderly arrangement. In this example, the most complex designs have been placed in a row across the middle of the quilt; the simpler designs are at top and bottom. The calico neatly frames the blocks and creates a lively contrast of pattern against solid colors. Album quilts such as this one are records of cooperative efforts to honor a recipient or to commemorate an occasion; in their workmanship, patterns, and cultural significance, they are among the most interesting of American quilts.

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