Monday, May 21, 2018

Learning from the experts: New York Beauty

The history of Design "X" - New York Beauty - continues to unfold
At Spring Quilt Market I met Linda Pumphrey, author of Mountain Mist Historical Quilts: 14 Mid-Century Quilts Made New (2016 / Fons & Porter). Linda is an expert on all things related to Mountain Mist and its history, and she had a couple very interesting tidbits to offer me about Design "X" - New York Beauty.

First, the inaccurate historical account accompanying the pattern did not come from the pattern designer. It came from the owner of the inspiration quilt The designer just wrote down what the family said, rather than making it all up.

The quilt, now in the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, was part of an exhibition of quilts guest curated by Pumphrey at IQSCM, called "Inside the Wrapper: The True Tales of the Mountain Mist Quilt Patterns" from July 1 to October 23, 2016.

It was interesting to learn the story came from the family. We all know the game of "telephone operator" in which players stand in a line whispering a word or phrase to each other going down the line, and when the last person says it out loud, they all find out how much it changed. Family histories about quilts are often like that.

Somehow, the family that owned the quilt arrived at the outlandish story about the quilt being made in 1776. It wasn't. More likely the late 1800s, and the IQSCM circa date of 1870-1890 is spot-on. One clue is the fugitive dye, which now appears to be a greenish tan.

a 1930s Mountain Mist New York Beauty in patriotic colors
That fugitive dye was part of the second tidbit Linda Pumphrey had to offer. I always thought it was a green, making it a red, white and green quilt. She told me she tugged at the seam slightly to see if there was any of the original color remaining, and she saw blue! So, it was a red, white and blue quilt. That could be why the family thought it was from 1776. It was patriotic, red, white and blue.

So, now I wonder...given the circa date of 1870-1890 and the dye's original blue color, if the family somehow got the date confused and it was really from 1876. That date is plausible, and would make it a Centennial quilt, but the world may never know for sure. Thank you to Linda Pumphrey for the valuable clues to this complex and enigmatic traditional design.

Spring Quilt Market

Big trade shows and conventions are not my cup of tea. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. When people started talking about Spring Quilt Market in Portland a few months ago, I really couldn't be bothered with the whole idea.

A picnic with my girlfriend, Linda, at the beach, sprawled out on a vintage polyester quilt wearing nothing but sunscreen and a smile sounded like a much better idea. That was the plan, but the beach forecast didn't look great and it seemed like a lot of out-of-town friends would be visiting. So, I changed my mind and made a last-minute request for a credential badge.

Thankfully, my request was granted and the unplanned, four-day whirlwind tour of the quilt industry began. I was still ambivalent and had no official business at the event, but there were plenty of potential opportunities. It is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and there are tens of millions of quiltmakers in the United States, so it's kind of a big deal.

Spring Quilt Market may generate some new opportunities, but I am not exactly in hot pursuit of more work at this stage of the game. I'm much more focused on home life, being in love, and the simple things like a home cooked, candlelight dinner for two.

It is wonderful to live here in Portland, the City of Roses; but if there's no time to stop and smell the roses, why be here at all? There's a lot more to be said about the whole Quilt Market experience, but I will simply say it was great to see friends and I hope everyone had a wonderful visit. Safe travels, and I will look forward to the next time we can all be together.

Friday, May 18, 2018

#HelloPMQG & Friends

Elizabeth Hartman is one of the talented locals at 2018 Portland Quilt Market
The 2018 Spring Quilt Market is underway at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, and several talented locals are in the house!

Violet's booth is also OMGgorgeous!

Portland Modern Quilt Guild is well represented with stunning exhibits by Elizabeth Hartman and Violet Craft.

Oh Dear by Christine Yi, a fellow member of Portland Modern Quilt Guild
Christine Yi has a quilt is on display, as one of the big winners from last year's Quilt Festival in Houston.

"Fireweed" by Jean Wells Keenan

Valori and Jean Wells from Sisters are also there. Jean is in the winners' circle exhibit, and Valori has a wonderful exhibit showcasing her new line of fabrics and patterns.

I absolutely adore Valori Wells.
We caught part of Valori's schoolhouse yesterday, and enjoyed learning more about the fabulous new collection. We loved hearing about her "Trip Around the World" quilt, which includes all the fabrics she ever designed-- 40 collections over a 20-year period. Amazing!

This Trip Around the World includes every fabric Valori ever designed.
I was delighted to see Christina Cameli's new eco bags, coming soon from C&T Publishing. They previewed the bags during a C&T schoolhouse yesterday, but we got to touch them today. Hello Gorgeous!

The bags are made of recycled plastic, and I can't wait to buy them. Coincidentally, C&T/Stash Books is the publisher of my second book, "Modern Roots" and the soon-to-be-released free motion quilting book co-authored with Mandy Leins.

Linda and I hadn't been to a Quilt Market before, but I'd been to Festival a couple years ago when I was exhibiting at the Texas Quilt Museum. Yesterday, we got to visit with Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O'Bryant Puentes in the VIP Suite, and we ran into industry superstars around every corner.

It was fun trying to explain who they all are and what they do, but my mind was fried by the mid-afternoon. Mostly, I was proud of the local peeps --- #HelloPMQG -- and happy to see friends from near and far.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Diagonal Grids in Hawaiian Scrap Quilts


Recently I noticed something intriguing about Hawaiian scrap quilts. Many of them incorporate diagonal grids as design elements.

These diagonal grids are often secondary designs created with string-pieced blocks, typically foundation pieced in diagonal strips on a cloth foundation.

The blocks are directionally alternated to create diagonal grids, diamond or windowpane designs.

Using a cloth foundation is a practical solution when working with unwieldy, bias-cut strips and garment fabrics made with a variety of fiber types.

Sometimes the grids are made of geometric units, such as squares and triangles. Four-Patch and Broken Dish blocks appear frequently. 

It is interesting to see the variety of elements quiltmakers would use to create a diagonal grid, but it also makes me wonder. Is the diagonal grid a prevalent design element in Hawaiian decorative arts?

If so, where did the diagonal grid originate? Why did it resonate so powerfully with Hawaiian quiltmakers?

I looked for diagonal grids in kapa cloth designs but didn't find enough examples to make a definitive statement. It is worthy of further investigation.

Other home furnishings such as woven lauhala grass baskets and floor mats include diagonal grids.

Diagonal grids also appear in pineapples, especially graphic design renditions of pineapples.

Some of my favorite quilts include square blocks with diagonal piecework, creating an overall diagonal grid.

There are also several quilts with Economy Blocks, or squares within squares made with pieced triangles and squares. I love the play between square and diagonal grids in these quilts.

One of my absolute favorites is a quilt that just arrived last week, with diagonal black sashing framing squares pieced with triangles, or Broken Dish blocks.

I will think about this one as I search for more ideas related to the use of diagonal grids in Hawaiian decorative arts. 


Friday, May 11, 2018

Two more Hawaiian scrap quilts

Two more Hawaiian scrap quilts are headed my way. How could I resist? The first one with the black sashing between blocks is super graphic, a real eye dazzler.

The second one is more of a typical Hawaiian scrap quilt with string pieced blocks forming a diamond windowpane grid.

The use of color is so striking. It's because of the materials -- scraps from aloha shirts, muumuus and other garments produced with beautiful, tropical fabrics. I'm looking forward to seeing these two gems in person.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Coming soon...more Hawaiian scrap quilts!

A few years ago, I learned about the distinct tradition of scrap quilts made in Hawaii and started collecting them. Along the way, I made friends with a vintage reseller in Honolulu who periodically lists scrap quilts. She notifies me every time she has any, since she knows I collect them. There are ten scrap quilts in the latest batch, and they will arrive here soon. Here's what they look like.

When I first started writing about the tradition of scrap quilts in Hawaii, I was struck by the exuberant use of color, particularly the juxtaposition of hot and cool colors. The quilts looked very Hawaiian, even though they did not look anything like traditional Hawaiian applique quilts. To read more about it, click here.