Catherine Johnston Roberts’ Carpenter’s Wheel, late 1870s, demonstrates that illusionism was an element of nineteenth-century quilt making as much as it was in the twentieth century. The juxtaposition of the three colors of diamond shapes—brown, black, and cream—create the optical illusion of three-dimensional snowflakes, connected by a string of two black diamond shapes. In the voids the quilter has sewn an equally elaborate design of iris in vases. The stitching itself creates texture by following the outline of the design, creating “stuffed” shapes, as well as tiny stitches creating a textured ground.
Mary Maxtion’s Single Log Cabin (Courthouse Steps Variation), 1987, pursues illusionistic intent by structuring the length of the strips from longest to shortest from the edge of the quilt into its center. Her juxtaposition of colors and patterns enhances the sense of dramatic recession into space.
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