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Baltimore style applique quilts

Updated on March 8, 2016
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Quilter, author, tutor, columnist, Jan T Urquhart Baillie has been enthusing others with her passion for quilting for more than 30 years.

Fancy flowers, baskets and swags

A fad that persisted in the 1980s in Brisbane, Australia, was making Baltimore style applique quilts

At that time there were a couple of tutors who were teaching a quilt in this style to their students. Every quilt show had a couple of these, almost identical, with perhaps a slight colour variation here and there.

I used to say that I had a recurring nightmare that I would be asked to judge a quilt exhibition in which there were 50 swagged applique quilts on one side of the hall and 50 Giant Dahlia quilts hung down the other side!

I decided to do something about this and began my 'Basket of Fancy Flowers' classes.

The image is a block from album software by Electric Quilt

Unique designs for my students

not clones

In the Basket of Fancy Flowers classes, students learned all the many fancy applique techniques seen in the Baltimore style quilts from the 1800s, but only made one basket block.

They could choose a basket from the many patterns that were available for these quilt blocks, and then we explored as many techniques as we could, to produce our fancy flowers sampler — for that's what it was.

My reasoning was that they could then design a Baltimore style quilt using these techniques, but that their quilts would be unique and not clones of each other.

Baltimore Album Quilts

a timeless tradition

Baltimore Album Quilts originated in Baltimore, Maryland in the 1840s. They have become one of the most popular quilt styles and are still made today.

These quilts are made up of a number of blocks, each block appliquéd with a different design, which were often floral as in the reproduction block pattern shown here.

Many other motifs are also used, such as eagles and landmarks, bibles, sailing ships, people...

Another reproduction quilt block showing an inscription.
Another reproduction quilt block showing an inscription.

History of the album quilt

quilts of blocks made by many

In the beginning, these quilts of appliquéd blocks were often designed by the maker. In time, patterns by accomplished designers were used.

As the community of Baltimore was quite prosperous in the mid-nineteenth century, Baltimore Album quilts reflected this, as most were made with purchased new fabric.

Fabric prints were especially produced in multi-coloured 'wavy' designs, popular for the woodwork on ships' hulls, and for realistic birds. These prints were vibrant, and were snapped up eagerly by the society women of the day.

As the popularity of this quilt style grew, women far beyond Baltimore began making these album quilts.

Most Baltimore Album quilts were signed with the maker's or by the donor of the fabric for the block. The discovery of an indelible ink (India ink) made it possible to ink flowery poetry and sayings in beautiful script, together with a signature on each block.

It appears making these quilts were especially popular with young women, and were special quilts called presentation quilts.

Many of the blocks in these quilts were made by different people, who wanted to help in the making of the gift quilt.

The doyen of this style - is Elly Sienkiewicz

You can go on retreat with Elly and have a ball.

Classic Album Quilt Applique on Amazon

Baltimore Beauties and Beyond: Studies in Classic Album Quilt Applique, Vol. 1
Baltimore Beauties and Beyond: Studies in Classic Album Quilt Applique, Vol. 1

The wonderful patterns and techniques of Elly are a treat to read and learn from. Her research is impeccable, while the galleries of quilts are fabulous to see. Love this book, and the next volume.


The Basket Quilt

How it came to be

Renoir style 'arty' wallhanging

that's what the plan was!

Selecting a hand-dyed fabric of Tina Sutton's in a murky blue-grey and rust, I had this notion of a Renoir background behind the flowers. It was to be a small wall hanging, not a large quilt.

I started the applique in Brisbane in 1990, and finished the quilt in 2004, at Somerset Park, near Maitland.

Instead of a block with a basket of flowers, it now has pieced baskets around it and borders on borders. I really am pleased with the end result, though.

A long WIP! (Work-in-progress.) I don't have UFOs. (Un-Finished Objects.)

That's me dressed in Colonial costume at a festival in Brisbane in 1991, stitching some of the flowers down.

The centre of the medallion - the basket of fancy flowers

Some of the Basket Quilt's fancy flowers - Ruched chrysanthemums, folded roses

Broderie perse applique - another popular style of the time

Motifs are cut from floral prints and applied to the quilt block.

The popular use for this technique was for birds cut from printed fabric.

Rick-rack flowers and ruched ribbon

The rick-rack braid is gathered in V's along its length, pulled up and arranged into flowers.

Detail of a folded rosebud - with its whiskers embroidered

Often, these details were drawn in India ink, an indelible ink from The Orient.

Album Quilt software on Amazon

Electric Quilt Baltimore Album Classic Applique Patterns for EQ software
Electric Quilt Baltimore Album Classic Applique Patterns for EQ software

I reviewed this software for The Electric Quilt Company in my column, Computer Quilts. Great to use, and the wealth of design and pattern is well worth the (reasonable) price tag.

My column is in Down Under Quilts magazine


More block patterns - From Classic Applique Baltimore Album software

Plaited handle - on the basket

And the Base

Blocks with squares of scraps - Square in a Square and Four Patch blocks

Scrap Basket block - made using paper foundation piecing

Borders of patchwork baskets - flowers on prints in these baskets

All the baskets are different plaid fabrics; a toile print in the top half of each scrap basket block gives the illusion of a dark border.

Many borders in rounds

Squares on point, four patch blocks,

Square in a Square blocks, plain fabric borders, Jinny Beyer print borders, a toile print in the top half of each scrap basket block, makes a mock border.

You can see effect of this darker 'border' inside the cream on point squares in the second last border.

All to complete what is now a medallion quilt, not a small wall hanging.

It does hang on the wall in our bedroom, even so.

We have recently moved our room around and it is to hang in pride of place directly opposite the door into the room, where it can be seen in all its beauty.

The Basket Quilt - Double bed size 1990 - 2004

The design in EQ - an early version of the quilt design programme

The basket quilt plan in early version of EQ
The basket quilt plan in early version of EQ

© 2009 Jan T Urquhart Baillie

Tell me what you think about the quilt.

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    • profile image

      Nash 2 years ago

      I lielratly jumped out of my chair and danced after reading this!

    • profile image

      Norbert 2 years ago

      What a wonderful way to keep alive her moemry. And, what a beauty tribute. My grandmother is a quilter, too and in her earlier years, she would craft beautiful quilts for me and my siblings. I always said as a teenager that one day I'd spend the time with her to learn how to quilt, but never did. She's now 90+ and unable to use her hands to quilt, however, I would like to eventually learn the art just to keep that moemry of her alive.Jessica recently posted..

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 7 years ago from So Cal

      Wow, that's incredible. Beautiful work. Great detail in the pictures.

    • JanTUB profile image

      Jan T Urquhart Baillie 7 years ago from Australia

      @VictoriaHolt: Thanks for those nice words, Victoria

    • VictoriaHolt profile image

      VictoriaHolt 7 years ago

      I'm just learning how to quilt. These are amazing! I love the close up photos of the ruched ribbon flowers...those are stunning.