Baltimore Album quilt revival – onto the fourth decade

I am a proud member of the Baltimore Applique Society.  I know I’ve mentioned it before but last night’s meeting was one of the best I have attended.  BAS is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013 and the program chair is doing a terrific job of securing speakers that could turn even the biggest applique cynic into an applique lover.  Elly Sienkiewicz was the program speaker and she was fantastic.  She wove her own history working with album quilts into the history of quilting generally and the Baltimore Album genre specifically.  Along with that were musings on what draws us to these quilts and she finished up with members of the audience sharing what is so appealing about album quilts to them.  For me, it’s difficult to pick a precise reason.  On some days, I see one of those quilts and just want to drink in the riot of color (and touch all the quilting).  Other days, I am enamored by the control of a red and green quilt.  Still others, I find peace in stitching my own blocks or relief that, with so many things out of control, I am master of my own needle and thread.

Above is a photo of Elly with seven current and past BAS presidents.  These women have been very brave taking on leadership of that organization.  I’ve been a member through at least four of their terms and each has her own style and ideas but all have done the job well.

If you ever took a Baltimore Album quilt class you likely used one or more of Elly’s books as a text or source of designs.  I took my class with Mimi Dietrich in 2000 and I confess to not finishing my quilt.  But I learned many skills and acquired nearly all of Elly’s books.  Yesterday, I took some time to browse through them and reveled in the history and eye candy they contain.  If you aren’t familiar with them, visit your guild library and see if they have copies of Baltimore Beauties and Beyond: Studies in Classic Album Quilt Applique, Vol. 1 and 2, and Papercuts and Plenty (Baltimore Beauties and Beyond: Studies in Classic Album Quilt Applique, Vol. 3) for a place to start.  The photo at the top of this post is Elly with her quilt from Papercuts and Plenty.


This block, above, is from one of Elly’s quilts.  It’s the one I blame for me not completing my quilt started in the applique class I took.  Everyone has their favorites among the variety of blocks used in Baltimore Album quilts.  Mine turned out to be roses, eagles and ships.  Once I completed my own rose block I decided I wanted to pitch all the rest.

This block (above) has all those funky flower petals done in reverse applique.  Most of the time when I am with people who see something complicated done in reverse they will ooh and ahhh.  But, really that shape is a little easier done in that method.  Still, I think it looks cool.

This is Elly’s copy of Dena Katzenberg’s Baltimore Album Quilts which is the exhibit catalog from the Baltimore Album quilt exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1981.  I loved seeing her book which had post-its all through its pages and had been taped and re-taped to hold it together.  I can’t tell you how gingerly I open my own copy because the book is so hard to find now and, if you do, the price is dear.  Oh, and under that book?  It is Elly’s original Spoken Without a Word.  She has a new edition coming out in fall 2013.

Well, thanks for sharing my musings about BAS and the album quilt revival.  I’ve switched from doing a Baltimore Album reproduction to the Mary Mannakee (not Baltimore, but a Maryland quilt from the same county where I grew up).  Yes, I went straight home after the meeting and started appliqueing.  I should have a finished block to show by this weekend.

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  1. what a interesting post.
    I've done an album style quilt and love it to this day.
    My group in Illinois reproduced the MM quilt each of us doing a block and raffling it. I didn't win, but the woman who did was thrilled and it was fun to be part of the group project.
    I've taken several workshops with Elly = what a lovely woman she is

  2. I found your blog today. It's beautifully done! I also follow many of the same blogs! Thanks for sharing. – Debra (

  3. Eagles and ships are something that attract me to Baltimore style quilts. An interesting view and read today. I wouldn't have thought of doing those petals reverse applique style but I can see where it might ease the stitching process.

  4. How exciting to read this this morning! I think some of the draw of these quilts and blocks is they tell a story of sorts. I admire the quilts immensely.

  5. What a fantastic evening, I would have loved to have been there for the talk. The quilts are divine, no wonder your fingers were itching to stitch.

  6. Just thought to let you know that I have put a link to your blogpost in my latest post regarding my Baltimore Album block. I do love your quilt, and looking forward to your Mary Mannakee too!
    All the best

  7. I hope you had a fantastic time. It sounds like you did. 🙂

    Seeing a room filled only with these beauties has stayed in my memory. I was at the Baltimore museum. I can still see it and I remember how I felt the first time.

    Today quilters are making great examples. Glad love of this lives on. Thank you Elly.

  8. Wow -would love to have been there and heard what Elly had to say – I have so many of her books! I am making my first Baltimore Album quilt right now and have just finished the exact same block that you have shown in the second last photo – such a thrill to see it there. Interesting that you say it would be easier in reverse applique- that is not what I did but I can see what you mean! I have a blog and am about to post my block if you would like to
    Thanks for a great post!

  9. Thank you soooo much for sharing your wonderful evening. I too had an "Elly" book as the text for my very first appliqué class nearly 20 years ago and have since collected many others. How brilliant to be able to hear Elly speak and enjoy her journey first hand! Can't wait for her revised edition to come out – must lay my hands on a copy of that!!

  10. I am always in awe of Baltimore Album quilts/quilters. It is so much and such precise work! I have some of Elly's books, including some old ones. Never made a Baltimore Album Quilt, but her books are wonderful to look at and have some great applique lessons and tips in them.

  11. I bet you hardly slept after being at such a wonderful lecture, the inspiration was probably swirling through your mind all night. I took a class from Elly last fall,more just to listen to her then to stitch the class block. Great post and great pictures!

  12. Thanks for sharing these amazing photo's and evening events with us! I'm a huge fan of Elly's and Baltimore Album quilts. This was a wonderful treat!

  13. oh how I wish I could have been there , I have always been drawn to these quilts , the reason I learned how to appliqué. Still haven't made one!
    LOL someday perhaps. thanks for sharing your night with us. wow to see these quilts in person must have been a real treat.

  14. Hello, I just discovered your blog and I'm loving it. Your quilts are beautiful! I also have a love affair going with repro fabrics and quilts. I will definitely be a regular visitor!

  15. I took a class with Elly about 15 years ago…..she's such a wonderful teacher and lovely in every way! I learned so much technique from that class, and was in awe of her talent! I'll bet her lecture was simply amazing! Thanks for sharing this!

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