Quilt Gallery

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Historic Deerfield

During my most recent trip to Massachusetts I visited Deerfield, a village first settled in 1669 by the English who were attracted to the rich alluvial soil found along the Deerfield and Connecticut Rivers. To this day the town retains its original plan, a number of 18th and 19th century homes on their original sites, and much of the land continues to be farmed. Historic Deerfield was founded in 1952 as a "living history museum," dedicated to preserving the cultural history of the area along with buildings, furniture and other decorative arts.  Similar to Colonial Williamsburg, though on a much smaller scale, the village and its houses, barns, and shops serve as the museum.  Most furnishings are displayed in situ, in the context of their original use, rather than as gallery pieces, thus giving a good idea of what life was like in the past.  Photography is not allowed indoors, except in the Flynt Center gallery, so I have a limited number of photos.

Sheldon House

Stebbins House

I, of course, was particularly interested in the textiles such as bed quilts and hangings, samplers, and clothing and accessories. Much of the workmanship on these pieces is exquisite. Note how the stars on this 19th century quilt are all of a consistent size with nice sharp points, and how the quilting is done with tiny, even stitches.  The Ohio Star block is one of my favorites.  I have used it in several of my quilts and will likely use it for the corner blocks of my compass quilt.  (More about that in my next post).

Cotton quilt, 1830-50

The Historic Deerfield collection includes some beautifully vibrant needlework pieces such as this idealized, bucolic scene, "Shepherdess in Landscape with Gentlman and Animals.

Pictorial needlework, c. 1780, silk, wool, linen

I have always admired this style - how can one not be cheered by the optimism displayed in such a scene?  I think it would be fun to work a piece in this genre, in a bright palette with wool that fills the entire canvas.  Quite a contrast to the cotton on linen piece that I completed in 2006.

Pear Orchard Farm,* cotton on linen

Mourning pictures were another popular needlework genre two hundred years ago and included a variety of symbolic elements, such as weeping willows and urns, which indicated death.  Eliza Ely of Saybrook, Connecticut, incorporated both of these into her 1807 piece and left space to add the name of a loved one upon his or her death.  She used silk and silver metallic thread for her stitchery.  The watercolor is thought to have been done by the framer and the ink faces and figures by a more experienced artist.

Mourning needlework

Here is another example of the weeping willow and urn symbols, this one on a gravestone in the Northfield, Massachusetts, cemetery.

Gravestone of Aaron Lyman, 1841

Like many cemeteries, the one in Northfield is a lovely place to walk. We often stop in cemeteries when we are rambling around unfamiliar places, and never fail to learn or see something interesting.

Northfield Cemetery

*Design by Kathy Barrick-Dieter

1 comment:

  1. I've been to Massachusetts but I missed this place. I love the quilt you showed us. It inspire me. Beautiful place