Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Where have I seen that quilt before? (2)


The French expression "deja vu" translates to "already seen" and is meant to express the uncanny feeling of recollection. Sometimes people look at the quilts in my collection and think, "Deja vu!" Chances are, they have already seen the quilts...but where? 

Perhaps you saw it at a library or a book store. Maybe you saw it in a museum or a magazine. This dazzling, 1920s velvet "Fans" quilt from New York is such a head-turner, and it famously appeared on the cover of "American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780-2007" by Robert Shaw. 



It also appeared in the second, updated edition of the book and the 2012 exhibition at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington.



New York quilt dealer Laura Fisher owned the quilt at the time of the exhibition, and I recall seeing photos of it years earlier. I bought it when it was hanging at the Whatcom, but had to wait for the exhibition to end before receiving it. 


The quilt appeared in a 2014 article about my collection in the German magazine, Patchwork Professional; but I have not shared it with a lot of publications because it was already very well known when I got it. Old quilts can be celebrities, too!

The best part about having a quilt collection is sharing the quilts, even if it seems like oversharing. People worry about oversharing in 2018. It's a thing. I never worry about it with old quilts. I want everyone to see them, even if some folks saw them before. The quilts may be old, but it never gets old looking at them.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Where have I seen that quilt before? (1)


The French expression "deja vu" translates to "already seen" and is meant to express the uncanny feeling of recollection. Sometimes people look at the quilts in my collection and think, "Deja vu!" Chances are, they have already seen the quilts...but where? 



This mid-19th century floral applique quilt was one of the most memorable discoveries of the Kentucky Quilt Project, America's first statewide quilt documentation project conducted in the early 1980s. 


The quilt, made by Mrs. M.E. Poyner of Paducah, Kentucky appeared in several exhibitions and publications since it was unearthed. It was part of "Kentucky Quilts, 1800-1900"-- the first book published by a state quilt documentation project. It also appeared in "Passionate About Quilts" by Shelly Zegart.



The quilt traveled extensively with the "Kentucky Quilts" exhibition when it belonged to Hardin Pettit, an avid collector of Kentucky folk art and Americana. It later belonged to Shelly Zegart, and was on tour with the "Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War" exhibition when I acquired it from Shelly. It was also in the catalogue. 


The quilt's latest appearance is in the new book, "Inspired Free-Motion Quilting: 90 Antique Designs Reinterpreted for Today's Quilter" (2018, C&T Stash), co-authored with Mandy Leins.


The best part about having a quilt collection is sharing the quilts, even if it seems like oversharing. People worry about oversharing in 2018. It's a thing. I never worry about it with old quilts. I want everyone to see them, even if some folks saw them before. The quilts may be old, but it never gets old looking at them.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Goodbye Instagram!


Instagram's ongoing security issues and lack of technical support finally prompted me to say goodbye to the social media outlet. Over the weekend, an unauthorized person from the other side of the planet gained access to my account, changed the name, and deleted the account. The biggest problem was instagram's response:






















That's right, they didn't respond at all. But I did. When offered the option of starting a new account, I said, "Thanks, but no thanks!" I wish Instagram the best of luck in its future endeavors. Or not.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

orange in quilts

"Fruity Beauty" 2015 by Bill Volckening, quilted by Jolene Knight
Historians looking at today's quilts 100 years from now will likely be struck by the amount of orange, but quiltmakers have had a long love affair with orange.

applique quilt, c. 1850, Mary Couchman Small, West Virginia

According to The Quilt Index Fabric Dating References, orange was popular in the middle to late 19th century and specific shades of orange can be good clues for dating quilts of the period.

"Chrome orange, or antimony, was commonly used in appliqué, especially in Pennsylvania, from about 1860 to 1880. Thus, this dye can help to both identify both the date and location in which a quilt was made."
1860s floral applique quilt with cheddar orange
"This dye was often made in the home from store-bought powder, however, the high lead content of the dye made it (in retrospect) a dangerous substance with which to work. While the color was called antimony or chrome orange in the nineteenth century, historians and collectors often call the color ‘cheddar’ today." - The Quilt Index.

sunburst cornerstone with "cheddar orange" from an 1860s pieced quilt
Pepper Cory wrote a wonderful article, "Cheddar Quilts" for Quilters Newsletter in 2014. An album quilt from my collection, made by Mary Couchman Small of West Virginia in the middle 19th century was included with the article, which is well worth tracking down if you're interested in reading more about orange in quilts.


Several of the most memorable quilts in my collection include the color orange in various shades. The interesting thing is orange is not really making a comeback. It never went away. 

Here are a few of favorites from my collection. 

late 19th or early 20th century pieced quilt
Victorian period quilt with orange and orangey-red
1930s "Giant Dahlia"
applique quilt from Hawaii, c. 1930
Mountain Mist "Jack 'O Lantern" quilt, c. 1935
1930s Mountain Mist "New York Beauty"
1970s polyester quilt with orange
1970s polyester quilt with orange
1970s Hawaiian scrap quilt with hot orange and pink
Star quilt (2015) by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, quilted by Jolene Knight
Medallion (2014) made by officers of Portland Modern Quilt Guild

Turn and burn...


"Turn and burn" is an expression used by restaurant folks. You might hear it on a busy Saturday night when the servers are "turning and burning" their tables to seat as many consecutive parties as possible. The trick is to make the guests feel happy, satisfied, and not rushed at all.


Turn and burn was the plan for this quilt. It cost less than dinner for one at Sayler's Old Country Kitchen, so I was going to grab it and sell it right away. Then it arrived, I took its official portrait and changed my mind. It's a keeper.


I love the vibrant polyester double knit fabrics, the yellow ties and the mix of solid and pattern.


I especially love the bold, large design-- just two oversized blocks with wide, solid borders. The scale reminds me of some of the quilts I see being made today...modern quilts. Once again, everything old is new. I am happy I decided not to turn and burn this quilt. One day I may sell it, but I'm holding on to it for now.

Friday, October 19, 2018

My Favorite Things: Surface Texture


Almost 30 years ago when I first started collecting quilts, there was something strange about the pictures of historic quilts in print media. Most of the pictures appeared to show little or no surface texture.


I love seeing the surface texture created by quilting, but capturing it in a photo is a challenge. The photos I saw in publications looked like they were lit straight-on with studio strobe, which tends to flatten out the surface a lot.


In my first book, "New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" (Quiltmania/France), I spent a lot of time on photography. It took an entire month to shoot photos of the 70 quilts that appear in the book; roughly two hours each day shooting, and several hours editing.


The narrow window of shooting time was around the "golden hour" when light poured in to the studio and bounced off the walls in all directions. The natural light was perfect for capturing surface texture.


Recently I wrote an article for Quilting Arts Magazine, with information about how I photograph quilts and edit the photos. The article was in the August/September issue of the magazine. The only photo I didn't take was my portrait, taken by my fiancé, Linda.


In the article, I talk about my studio, and how I prefer to use daylight to show the surface texture of the quilts. Usually I set up and wait for the perfect light before taking photos.

I also took all the photos of the antique quilts in the new book, "Inspired Free-Motion Quilting: 90 Antique Designs Reinterpreted for Today's Quilter" co-authored by Mandy Leins (2018, C&T/Stash Books).


Since the book is about quilting, it was important to show the quilting and the surface texture in the antique quilts. Surface texture-- it's one of my favorite things!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Create Whimsy Interview


"Old quilts have information we do not find anywhere else."

Recently I did an interview with Create Whimsy, an online community celebrating creativity and the stories of makers. There is a related interview with Mandy Leins, co-author of our new book, "Inspired Free-Motion Quilting: 90 Antique Designs Reinterpreted for Today's Quilter" (2018, C&T/Stash Books). Many thanks to Create Whimsy for featuring us! To see Mandy's interview, click here. To see my interview, click here.