March 13, 2013

January 25, 2009 An art deco quilt design

One of our quilts has probably the most art deco styled geometric pattern of any I’ve seen. Thanks to some help from a fellow member of MAQSG (Mid-Atlantic Quilt Study Group), we were able to determine that the quilt was professionally designed. Hubert Ver Mehren’s designs were published in the DesMoines, IA Register, and were often available in kit form, sometimes pre-cut, sometimes outlined on uncut fabric, and sometimes only the pattern. We had some help from Sue Miller, who’s done the most extensive research on Ver Mehren and published an article on his work in Uncoverings 2000. vol. 21 of the journal of the American Quilt Study Group.

ver Mehren Chrysanthemum quilt

We bought this quilt here in eastern PA about 8 years ago, mostly because it was so different from anything we’d seen before. Using all solid colored fabric in a geometric design reminiscent of the broken star pattern, it was intensely captivating. When we realized that the central star had eleven points, we thought it even more remarkable. According to Sue, this is Ver Mehren’s Chrysanthemum pattern, a copy of which was printed in the Register as below:
Chrisanthemum pattern

You may notice that the original pattern has a 12 point central star and a narrower border section. In addition, our quilter has apparently changed the border layout somewhat, as the sections in red have three protruding points each, rather than just two, and there’s no transitional area between the red points and the green. There’s also a bit more white space between star and border than called for in the pattern.

Apparently Ver Mehren’s intricate geometric patterns were often difficult to piece, and it was therefore not unusual that in endeavoring to assemble a 12 point star, the quilter found her star complete with only eleven. Additionally, apparently the central junction of all those points was rather sloppy, so she added a disk in the middle to cover the disarray.

Sue said that she believed this pattern was available only as a paper pattern, so the color and fabric choices were most likely those of the quilter – we found the use of an orange-red in the star and a deep red in the border was a not unfortunate choice but added an additional level of interest. The quilt is quilted as shown in the pattern, and hand bound around all those little points. Sue also mentioned that even with the modifications, this was the first and only example of this pattern that she’d actually seen “in the cloth.”

More pictures of this quilt can be seen on our website here.

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