Floral Quilts

Flowers have always been an important design element in quilts. Floral quilts have been always in fashion, whether appliqued or pieced or as quilting designs. It is interesting to see how many quilt block names have been named as either flowers or elements regarding gardening.

Early Floral Quilts

During the earlier part of the eighteen century in the colonies, appliqued quilts in the “Broderie Perse” style, large broderie perse 1floral designs were cut from chintz fabric pieces and appliqued onto quilts, medallion style. Large urns containing flowers were often the central motif of these style quilts, surrounded by flowers or birds applied to the rest of the quilt. Many times, vines and flowers appliqued onto the borders echo the central motif. The price of chintz fabrics and the skill required to invisibly applique the cut flowers made these quilts “best quilts”, and often, one yard of the precious fabric was enough to provide enough floral motifs to appliqué onto the large quilts typical of this period.
In England, coverlets with floral motifs were also popular during this time period. Renowned novelist, Jane Austen austenquiltand probably her mother and sister Cassandra pieced a coverlet composed of diamond shaped patches that surround a central larger diamond from chintz fabrics, slightly over sixty different prints. Lattice strips separate the diamonds. The colors are placed in a radiating manner and the coverlet is not quilted. The coverlet is on display at the family home in Chawton Cottage.
Floral motifs also appear in whole cloth quilts, as quilting designs.

Floral Quilts in the Nineteenth Century

During the nineteenth century, floral quilts continue their popularity. During the middle years of the decade, in ba quiltBaltimore, appliqued quilts became the fashion, in spite of the trend of pieced quilts elsewhere. The Baltimore style quilts contain appliqued blocks, joined together with or without sashing strips. These quilts introduce a floral design new to quilts up to then, three-dimensional flowers appliqued onto quilts. “Ruched” is a word derived from the French, meaning to gather or ruffle. Flowers are made from strips of folded fabric cut on the bias, which is gathered with a running stitch creating “V” shapes from edge to edge of the strip, then the ruffled strip is coiled to resemble an old fashioned rose with many petals. Once ruched, the flower is held to the quilt top with invisible stitches. Ruched flowers can also be made from a fabric circle cut larger than the desired diameter of the finished flower, tucking the edges down and appliqueing it to the base fabric of the quilt by taking random stitches while distributing the extra fabric to create small tucks that provide texture. Ruched flowers became popular again during the late twentieth century as the Baltimore style quilts were studied and recreated after the publication of several books on the subject by Elly Sienkiewicz.

Late ninteenth century “crazy quilts” also incorporate flowers and floral motifs. Sunflowers and lilies became a popular motif in this style of quilting, as they were the symbol of the Aesthetic Movement. Art for art’s sake is reflected in the quilt style, as the crazy quilts are merely decorative objects. Floral decorations in furniture and and china are copied and embroidered on crazy quilts. Oscar Wilde popularized the sunflower and lily, wearing them in his lapel as he lectured around the country. His influence shows in crazy quilts called “Oscar quilts” in which these two types of flower are favorite motifs as embroidery designs.

Twentieth Century and Beyond

The early twentieth century’s quilt revival sees floral quilts regain popularity once again. From quilt patterns with ef1floral names, like Grandmother’s Flower Garden, in which hexagon pieces are sewn together to form rosettes, to appliqued floral patterns published by newspapers and ladies magazines. Nancy Page, one of the quilt pattern authors of the thirties, published several floral patterns in newspapers all over the country. The appliqued floral quilt blocks are stylized, following the Art Deco decoration style of the twenties and thirties.

Another famous series of blocks during this decade were Eveline Foland’s “Memory Bouquet”. It is composed of twenty floral blocks published in both the Kansas City Star and the Detroit News during 1931-32.
Another stunning quilt of the early to mid twentieth century is the “Calico Garden”, made by quilt collector and historian, Florence Peto. This small quilt features Nine Patch blocks and appliqued floral blocks made with antique floral textile samples. It is a crib quilt composed of small three inch blocks on point. The nine patch blocks feature a August 05 053flower “fussy cut” in the center patch and the appliqued flower blocks also have fussy cut flowers in some of the pieces. The border contains broderie perse flowers appliqued in eight clusters, one in each of the borders. The quilt is housed at the Shelburne Museum and a pattern is available for purchase.

During the latter part of the twentieth century and the early decades of our century, flowers on quilts are still as popular as they ever were. Paper piecing techniques allow for very detailed flower blocks to be sewn with ease. There are many floral block paper pieced patterns available for download on the web. Sharp angles and small pieces are much easier to sew by using a paper foundation.
Fusible appliqué techniques also allows for faster, easier to sew floral blocks. Flowers remain a classic theme for quilts, as they have ever since women started making quilts.

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