It had been a while since I’d thought about four-block appliqué quilts–specifically, the funky, folky kind. But when Laura Fisher showed us the red, cheddar, and green floral four-block appliqué we showcased in “Flowering Abstraction” in the August issue, I was inspired to resurrect, and maybe even finish, a four-block UFO of my own. Thoughts of the anonymous quilter who made Laura’s quirky and wonderful antique gave me the courage to show my own Pick a Peck of Funky Peppers to you all in my “Life Lines” column.
About the time the magazine hit the newsstands, I saw an exhibit of late-nineteenth century Pennsylvania quilts at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. The quilts in the exhibit are from the same era, and possibly locale, as Laura’s wild one. The exhibit is awesome (if you’re reading this on Friday the 27th, you’ve got just one more day to see it). The quilts are on loan from a collector named Carolyn Miller, who clearly has an eye for the cream of the crop. And all the while I was oohing and aahing over the bold scherenschnitte eye-poppers and the mathematical precision of a bulls-eye patchwork masterpiece, guess what was lurking around the corner? Yup. A funky, folk-art four block. This big (90 inches square), bold, brave Whig Rose has a palette that has been variously described as “almost awful” and “it makes your teeth hurt.” You can’t really grasp the true impact of the colors on screen. Try to picture chrome yellow, dark teal, Pepto-Bismol pink, and maroon. The blocks are actually square, but the way the motifs are positioned makes them look rectangular.
There’s so much we’ll never know about this piece and the quilter who made it. The quilt is in pristine condition. Is that because it was saved for “best,” or because it was too hard to look at? I wonder if the jumbo motifs, coupled with the jarring color choices, mean this was a beginner’s project.
Or was her quilt life the only place a hard-working farmer’s wife could live with wild abandon?…Jan Magee, The Quilt Life