In October of 2013 Dianne, one of my fellow bloggers on the Rebel quilt blog, posted this quilt which wowed me! I was amazed by the effect of the wide sashing with split elements. She created this as part of a quilt challenge to use a vintage drapery fabric featuring cowboys, horses and desert scenery. It is always a challenge to use a single piece of fabric printed with an overall “theme” and to make it come alive in a dynamic quilt top. But I was awed by what Dianne had created. I stored the memory of this quit and its unusual setting away in my visual catalog for possible future use.
Amy Rollins, one of my quiting cohorts, presented me with a vintage feedsack at our July, 2015 guild meeting. When I looked at it I saw that it had numerous WWII visual references like Churchill and FDR huddled together, place names of famous battles like Pearl Harbor, and other motifs from the 1940’s. I was intrigued. When I was born in 1945 my father was serving in the US Army. He was stationed in the Philipines–another one of the places named on this unusual feedsack.
The first thing I checked at home the next day was to note the width from selvage to selvage. Since it was 36″ wide I had another clue that this was, in fact, an old textile kept in very good condition. In my own girlhood, fabric was usually sold from 36″ wide bolts. Someone had carefully hem stitched the two cut edges. The fabric was the loosely woven (often 200 threads per inch) common to historical feedsacks. Upon closer inspection at home I noticed this printed along the edge, “Kent’s-Cloth of the United Nations-233” which sent me to the computer for Internet research.
I learned that this fabric is older than I am! It was printed in 1942 in Buffalo, NY (near where my Dad was born and raised) by the Perry Kent Mills. It is printed in red, yellow and blue with 38 war or battle symbols, slogans from the time, and caricatures of the three leaders of the Axis powers Tojo (Japan), Mussolini (Italy), and Hitler (Germany). It is a powerful example of an everyday propaganda piece from tha time in US history. I do have a hard time imagining how it was used, since it has no signs of wear or use.
This all brings me to my challenge: How was I going to use this fabric in a way that respected the integrity of the repeat design and would not be boring? I wanted to preserve this unusual artifact. It probably had a better chance of continued survival if I did make a quilt featuring its WWII motifs.
I went to the Rebel website and looked again at Dianne’s quilt–this would be my inspiration. I studied her color use–my background was lighter which made it even more challenging. The wide sashing gives this quilt its visual interest. Up close you can inspect the variety of designs and references in the feedsack. But it is the large cornerstones and the sashing that give this quilt personality. The wide, but split, sashing and the variety of fabric choices in those split segments are the elements that demand attention here. When I showed the top at the local Modern Quilt Guild, Natalie McCrory pointed out that those split sashings looked like propellor wings when viewed from a distance. I agreed and realized how appropriate since aircraft powered by propellors were central to the war efforts around the world.
Choosing which fabric from my stash to use for the sashing, cornerstones and the borders was both fun and challenging–I looked for variety of color and texture as Dianne had done in her original. The only fabric I purchased for this project was the dark blue woven plaid–I found it in a thrift store shirt and knew it would be right for this project when I spotted it. I expanded on the red, yellow and blue of the original feedsack to include shades of blue and a deep red mixed with golds. Some of the fabrics are even batiks. Choosing the light fabrics was a special problem since my background was so light. The lights in the split sashings needed to provide contrast (medium-lights) and some interest, but not dominate since there was already a lot going on visually.
When I discovered the wide border fabric I was excited by how it seemed to repeat some of the “feel” visually of the feedsack, that is repeating and uniting the blocks with the border. Then I decided to split that border and insert the dark blue plaid to pull it together. This was the very technique (of splitting a wide border by an insert) I had blogged about in my previous post “Challege Collaboration”–what fun! My next challenge is to baste it and quilt it. Thanks again Amy!