The Zadock Pratt Museum has just released a coloring book for adults, essentially a collection of historical quilts accompanied by text and drawings that provide a unique perspective of the region’s settlement history. Inspired by the 2018 exhibition titled “Undercover Stories,” the book was partly funded by The A. Lindsay and Olive B. O’Connor Foundation and The Nicholas J. Juried Family Foundation. All text and drawings are by Suzanne M. Walsh, who curated the exhibition.
© Zadock Pratt Museum
Coloring books for adults have been around for decades but have become quite popular in recent years, as a stress relief activity. In 2015 Crayola launched its own line of adult coloring books, for the first time in its more than a century history. The company also expanded its variety of colored pencils and markers, including the ones with extra fine tip, to fit a wider range of projects. Coloring a book is not only a relaxing activity but it’s also a means of self-expression and a creativity jump-starter. Some users frame their artworks to display and share with family and friends. The richness of possibilities is motivating.
The Zadock Pratt Museum’s Collection of Twenty-Six Catskill Historical Quilting Designs is more than a coloring book. It’s also a reflection of Early America coded in the quilting designs of the women who moved to the region which eventually became the Schoharie and Greene Counties of New York State. In a note prefacing the book, Ms. Walsh explains: “the women of mixed Palatine and Dutch heritage arriving in Schoharie Kill in the 1700s found themselves living during the time when the screams of the mountain lion were a chilling reminder of just how wild this frontier outpost really was; nonetheless, with brave hearts and steady hands they cut and stitched their quilts with the astonishing skill and imagination they passed to their descendants. Some of their legacies are found in this book today.”
Quilting has been described by scholars as “the art of necessity.” When textiles were scarce, women patched old blankets, coverlets, and table runners with cloth they had available and ready to use. European settlers brought this practice to the New World, and it flourished here and took on a new life. A utilitarian activity at first, quilting did eventually become an American folk art.
According to Lisa J. Allen who writes about the history of quilting in America, “In the 100 years between 1750 and 1850 thousands of quilts were pieced and patched, and many of them are preserved. Many of these quilts were so elaborate that years were spent making and quilting them. It is no wonder they are cherished as precious heirlooms and occupy honored places in homes and museums. Those early quilts provide a glimpse into the history of quilting as well as the history of the United States.”
American Folk Art Museum in New York City has an impressive textile collection, and has begun the New York Quilt Project to locate, document, preserve, and create an archive for New York State quilts. Dr. Jacqueline M. Atkins, a curator who worked at the Folk Art Museum, wrote the introduction for the The Zadock Pratt Museum Coloring Book, and shared “the thrill of the hunt, as one is never sure just what new and exciting quilts, patterns, and designs will turn up in addition to renewing acquaintances with many old favorites.”
Among the 26 quilts included in the book, our favorites are the Japanese Fan (a 19th century feed sack quilt), Honeycomb (a coverlet dated 1929), and the Friendship Quilt (dated around 1850s). The Japanese fan motif became popular in the U.S. after the Centennial International Exhibition that took place in Philadelphia in 1876, as related by Atkins; Catskill artisans quickly incorporated the motif in their work. The Honeycomb quilt block known by other names as well, most notably Hexagon, but also Mosaic or French Rose, may be in fact one of the oldest known quilt blocks in America. The Friendship Quilt was created by several women as a solace for a loved one who would move West. Each block was sewn in secret by a friend or a relative who signed their name in ink or embroidered it on their finished block. During the 1850s it became popular to embroider the name rather than sign it in ink, a practice that would help historians date the quilts.
© Zadock Pratt Museum
The Zadock Pratt Museum’s Collection of Twenty-Six Catskill Historical Quilting Designs can be ordered by phone at (518) 299-3395, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail at Pratt Museum, PO Box 333, Prattsville, NY 12468. For questions about this project, you may contact Suzanne Walsh at (518) 937-6120 or email@example.com. All funds go to support the Museum’s mission. To learn more, visit zadockprattmuseum.org.