Birmingham Album Quilt, by Beverly Hicks Burch

When I first started quilting, one of the things I dreaded most was applique. It was like Chinese water torture or fingernails on the chalkboard. I primarily stuck with machine piecing and hand quilting…and believe me it took a while to get use to that hand quilting. But, I discovered something that as guild president I would occasionally share with other members…especially new members who were verging on discouragement…the more you do something the better you get at it, and the better you get at it, the more you like it.

Well, I was soon taking that little pearl of wisdom and applying to yours truly when I got bit by the applique bug. I can’t remember exactly what first lured me into the world of applique, but once I entered the door of Baltimore Album Applique there was no turning back, especially when I attended a lecture by Elly Sienkiewicz, the Queen of Baltimore Album Applique.

It’s a fascinating subject. The original quilts originated in Baltimore, MD in the 1840s and were a unique type of quilt. Generally mostly applique, you could also consider them a sampler quilt because almost every block in the quilt is a different design. In a few instances some blocks might be repeated in the corners. Most of these quilts were signed, but again there are exceptions.

The applique designs were usually elaborate and floral in nature, but as time progressed, so did the designs and it wasn’t unusual to find, ships, baskets, animals and birds appliqued into the story of these quilts. Many of the techniques used created dimensional designs resulting in quilts with wonderful textures. Later the themes became patriotic and some women began to incorporate symbolism from the Masons and the Odd Fellows.

Many are truly works of art, especially when you consider the tools our ancestors had to work with.

So…I had to create my own album quilt…

Fortunately by then I had honed my applique skills…I had discovered “freezer paper applique” and other methods that made applique a whole new ball game. So I was ready to take on some of the dimensional techniques. The result was what I call Birmingham Album Quilt.

Birmingham Album Quilt A

Birmingham Album Quilt - Detail 3

The flower is made using a technique called ruching.

Birmingham Album Quilt - Detail 5

Birmingham Album Quilt  - Detail 4

Birmingham Album Quilt - Detail 6

Birmingham Album Quilt - Detail 7

Birmingham Album Quilt - Detail 8

Birmingham Album Quilt - Detail 9

© 2011 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

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