• What is Adirondack About Adirondack Quilts?

    Even though similar quilting patterns and techniques appear all over the country, the study of Adirondack quilts and comforters tells a unique story of life in the region.

    Scrap quilts tell of a high value placed on thrift. Comforters with thicker batting than quilts speak of cold mountain nights during long winters. Many quilts show evidence of the artistic inspiration quilters have gained from the Adirondack environment.

  • Album quilt

    by Huldah Harrington, Wevertown, N.Y.
    Photo by Richard Walker

    Like other quilters of her time, Huldah Harrington (1808-1896) pieced blocks at odd moments throughout the year whenever she had time and some scraps of fabric. Periodically, she would sew them together as a top and finish a quilt or comforter. The top of this quilt seems to be one that incorporated blocks from five different projects.

    The back of the quilt is also a leftover. It is homespun linsey-woolsey fabric—probably a blanket made on the Harrington farm. It is inscribed and dated "H.H. 1856."

  • After the Microburst

    wall hanging by Edith Mitchell, Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y.
    Private Collection
    Photo by Richard Walker

    Although she worked more than a century after Huldah Harrington, Edith Mitchell also used "leftovers" in quilts. In 1972 when she purchased Blue Mountain Designs at Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y., she acquired bins of designer fabric left from a sewing enterprise. Having grown up during the Great Depression and learned the value of thrift, she wanted to put the fabric to good use, so she began making quilts. Edith Mitchell became a respected quilter and teacher during the 1970s and 1980s.

    Nature, as well as her sense of thrift, inspired Edith Mitchell's work. "Making a quilt frees me up intuitively to develop an idea," she wrote. "Living in the Adirondacks I take the beauty of my surroundings and transform it to fabric." This wall hanging commemorates the aftermath of a severe thunder- and wind-storm on July 15, 1995.

  • Lightweight spread in "Goose Tracks" pattern

    ca 1880
    Unknown maker and location
    Photo by Richard Walker

    Quilters Learned Early

    A young girl may have made this spread for a doll or a new sibling.

    Before the Second World War, girls typically started piecing at an early age as a way to learn sewing skills. The six blocks that make up this spread are not skillfully pieced, suggesting that it was a beginner's project. It has also been remade; the backing, which is folded over to the front and chain-stitched in place with red embroidery thread, is of a newer fabric than the blocks.

    Red was a popular color for quilts in the nineteenth century, in part because it was one of the first "fast" colors that didn't fade or run. Even after synthetic dyes became widespread in the 1870s, "Turkey red" remained a favorite among quilters who intended their pieces to last. The complicated and expensive dyeing process for Turkey red didn't actually come from Turkey. It remained a trade secret in the eastern Mediterranean region until it was mastered by dyers in Western Europe in the mid-eighteenth century.

  • Crib-sized comforter in the "Mosaic" pattern

    by Ione May Noftsier Roggie, Naumberg, N.Y.
    Photo by Richard Walker

    Recycling Equals Stewardship

    This quilt is a good example of a functional bedcover made from recycled materials. The colored patches are from feed and flour sacks. In the 1920s, manufacturers began offering bags for animal feed and flour in colors and prints that were eagerly sought after for making clothing and quilts, especially during the Great Depression.

    The batting in this comforter is made of milk strainers. In the 1950s New York State health regulations mandated that farmers strain fresh milk through a square of cotton flannel when pouring it into a milk can. The milk strainers could be used only once, so a dairy farmer quickly accumulated a large store of them. After being washed, they could be used for dishrags, washcloths, and batting in quilts. Mrs. Roggie's daughter had the job of rinsing out the flannel strainers. She remembered disliking the job because they felt slimy.

    The quilter, Ione May Noftsier Roggie (1905-1977), grew up in a Mennonite community in the western foothills of the Adirondacks. American Mennonites have a strong tradition of quilting for charity at home and around the world. They also believe in the good stewardship of God's gifts—including milk strainers and feed sacks.

  • A Sight for Sore Eyes

    wall hanging by Louisa Woodworth, Long Lake, N.Y.
    Private Collection
    Photo by Richard Walker

    Painting with Fabric

    Pictorial quilts, composed like representational paintings, are fairly recent phenomena. Also very modern are the techniques used in this piece.

    Louisa Woodworth used three different techniques in this multimedia art quilt: fabric layering and appliqué, hand painting, and free motion embroidery. "Free motion" refers to machine embroidery that is hand-guided. The piece took approximately 180 hours of construction time.

    "This piece was inspired by the path that leads down to the beach of my mother's home in Long Lake, N.Y.," writes Woodworth, "my place of serenity and restoration. It was made at a time when I was living away from Long Lake so it was also a ‘therapy piece.'

    "All my designs come from my love and connection to the Adirondacks. I am a sixth generation Long Laker, my ancestors being guides and guideboat builders… The quilt is titled A Sight for Sore Eyes [because] my sister Laurinda, who was living in Virginia, used that phrase every time she came home."

  • Black Bear in Afternoon Sun

    wall hanging by Betty de Haas-Walp, Johnsburg, N.Y.
    Private Collection
    Photo by Richard Walker

    Adirondack Wildlife in Adirondack Quilts

    An unfortunate black bear is immortalized in this quilt.

    One summer afternoon, Betty and Don Walp were driving to town on their weekly run for groceries from their home in the woods near Johnsburg, N.Y. Suddenly a large black bear ran out of the trees and into the road, too quickly for them to stop. The collision didn't hurt the Walps or their car, but it killed the bear. The couple felt bad about the death of the magnificent animal, so Betty, an accomplished quilter, made this wall hanging as a birthday gift for Don. It imagines the bear as it was in life, wandering the Adirondack woods in the sunlight.

    Betty Walp says, "The Adirondacks certainly inspire me, how fortunate we are to be a part of it."