02 October 2009

Menswear Quilts, New England Quilt Museum

This image is from the exhibit publicity postcard.
Portrait necktie quilt, anonymous maker, private collection.

Quilt made from suiting and other wools; the heaviness of the fabric makes quilting difficult so the quilt is tied through at intervals with gray yarn.

From television's Mad Men to the Star Trek prequel movie, the culture's lately been re-examining men, and their wardrobes, in the imagined past and the imagined future. For an authentic look at haberdashery textiles, check out Master Pieces: Haberdashery Textiles in Antique Quilts, on view at the New England Quilt Museum from September 24-November 15, 2009; more info can be found at http://www.nequiltmuseum.org/

Museum Director, Connie Colom Barlow, and lecturer/curator Laura Fisher.
In front is a menswear quilt Laura allowed us to touch and examine
There are remnants of bright decorative embroidery at every seam.

I attended the opening lecture by guest curator and Board member Laura Fisher; she's coined the phrase "menswear quilt" and noted that these quilts are a hard sell, as she put it, because they're not like the "pretty" quilts we're so used to. Due to circumstances beyond her control, Ms. Fisher was unable to accompany her thoughtful text with a formal visual presentation. Ms. Fisher, reading from lectures notes, is obviously very knowledgable, but it was like going back in time to 19th century Harvard, when Professor Charles Eliot Norton, summoning up images only with his words, held forth on art history in a pre-Kodachrome, pre-Power Point era. Ms. Fisher does have an informative website: http://www.laurafisherquilts.com/

The quilts are cultural artifacts - made of military uniforms, ties, shirtings, suit fabric samples and even knit socks. Like the quilts of Gee's Bend, these items uniquely reflect a time and a place; a few rise to the level of work of art. As documents of contemporary textiles, however, the quilts are wonderful, as are the accompanying swatch books and advertisements shown in display cases. If you are interested in what men wore back in the day, check it out.

I think these fabrics would have been used for boy's clothing.
In addition to baseball, other fabrics featured dogs and toys.