Quiltmakers at Work, or Hey, There’s a Menagerie on my Petticoat

A mermaid, a lion, a griffin (or is it a leopard?), a fish, two stags, three rabbits, three different birds and what might be a dog. That’s the list of intricately stitched figures found around the border of Sarah Halsey’s amazing quilted petticoat.

Made in 1758 (the date is stitched on the griffin/leopard and Sarah’s initials are found on the lion’s rump), this beautiful vibrant red petticoat would have been designed to show beneath overskirts or short gowns. In addition to being gorgeous, this petticoat’s quilting made it practical for New England winters. It was almost like wearing your bed quilt when you went out, albeit much more stylish.

I’m thinking of quilts, and especially quilts you can wear because we are hosting costume and textile historian Lynne Z. Bassett this week. Lynne will be sharing her special expertise on quilts, but also tying them to our costume collection to suggest the important ways in which the fabrics of clothing and quilts tell the stories of women’s work and creativity. Lynne’s programs are made possible by Connecticut at Work, the year-long conversation on the past, present and future of work life in Connecticut created by Connecticut Humanities. Her public lecture and day-long intensive workshop use  the rich resources of the CHS to explore quilt making as women’s work and women’s creative outlet, how women’s work then and now can be undervalued, and how museums work to preserve textiles and to present women’s history. I hope you will join us and see the quilted petticoat for yourselves!

Here are all the details on the Quiltmakers at Work programs:

Special Presentation: New England’s Early Quilts and the Labor of Quilting

Tuesday, March 11 │ 5:30 – 7:00 pm
$5 CHS members │ $10 non-members │ tickets available at the door

Costume and textile historian Lynne Z. Bassett will provide a broad introduction to quilt-making in the colonial and Early Republic eras that will trace women’s inspirations for their designs, as well as the impact of the Industrial Revolution on quilt production. The second half of the presentation will use women’s diaries to study the labor of quilting, how common cooperative labor was in quilt-making, and how romantic nostalgia about quilts and quilt-making colored the historical understanding of quilts and the labor of quilt making for 150 years. For more information, please call (860) 236-5621 x289 or email jennifer_steadman@chs.org.

Quilt Study Day with Lynne Z. Bassett

Wednesday, March 12 │ 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
$60 CHS members │ $75 non-members │ pre-registration required

Join renowned costume and textile historian Lynne Z. Bassett for a Quilt Study Day at the Connecticut Historical Society. The CHS’s collection of New England colonial and Early Republic quilts is unparalleled in its scope and depth. This day-long program will provide an extraordinary opportunity to learn about these important artifacts of women’s lives and labor through informative presentation followed by extensive examination and discussion sessions featuring key example quilts and related costumes. Limited enrollment and an open format will allow each individual maximum access and participation. Lunch included. To register, please call (860) 236-5621 x289 or email jennifer_steadman@chs.org.

Both these programs are sponsored by: CTatWork_AProgramOfLogo_CMYKJennifer Steadman is the Adult Programs Manager at the Connecticut Historical Society


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