Week 3: Physical Analysis
The quilt is tremendously crunchy. Professor Turdean emphasized to me at our meeting this week the importance of “spending time with the object,” and indeed the first step in Prown’s methodology is physical analysis of the object. I was loaned a hand microscope and a duffel bag full of lighting equipment and set loose upon the museum. I admit that, as I was setting up the lights and laying down a clean white sheet for the quilt, I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Professor Turdean had instructed me to go over it inch by inch, but I didn’t want to lose the forest for the trees (or the fabric for the seams, as it were). I began by laying out the object and considering it as a whole.
I measured its overall dimensions, then its blocks, its individual pieces, and the average lengths of the stitches and seam allowances. I noted the number of stitches per piece, the types of stitching, types of fabric, and made general comments about the quilt’s construction. I was, of course, captivated by the paper backing. Since I knew so little about fabric types or printing techniques and found it very difficult to learn to distinguish them from reading a book, I focused on the much more immediately gratifying bits paper with handwritten messages on the back of the quilt. I identified each block of the quilt as a Hex Unit, consisting of 37 relatively uniform individual hexagonal pieces organized into three concentric rings and a center piece. Working from left to right, top to bottom, outside ring to inside ring, I began to “read” the quilt.