Thursday, May 26, 2011

Upcoming Events!


There will be quilts and more quilts for the remainder of 2011, with several upcoming events in the works. In early July, I'm speaking at the Quilter's Affair in Sisters. Last year was my first time visiting Sisters during Quilt Show week. Ricky Tims took the stage, and he and Alex Anderson appeared at the evening picnic and the quilt show. When I saw Ricky's performance, I said to myself, "I'd like to do that some day, and I'd show lots of great old quilts!"



Little did I realize that "some day" would be 2011. Not long after last year's quilt show, Jean Wells Keenan and I were talking about a photography project. We were talking about how the show had come of age after 35 years running, and I asked if she would consider including old quilts in the future. She offered me the opportunity to speak and share quilts, and I'll be doing a daytime talk about eBay and an evening presentation on old quilts. The Gee's Bend Quilters will also be in town, so it should be an exciting time! To check event information and ticket availability, click here.


On August 5th, the exhibit "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" opens at the Benton County Mueum as part of Quilt County. It is my first full-scale exhibit of quilts, and the first time the Benton County Museum will feature works from one private collection during Quilt County. This exhibit will offer a chronological view of quilt history as seen in examples of one extraordinary design. There will be a catalog, as I've mentioned in earlier blogs. It will be 40 pages, printed in full color, and hard cover. There is a new Quilt County website under development: http://www.quiltcounty.org, and the Marys River Quilt will host a presentation with me on Thursday, September 22nd at the museum.


Also in September, I will be displaying quilts and doing two talks at the Northwest Quilting Expo at the Portland Expo Center. I'm planning a display of old quilts and thinking about including quilts that are 100 years old or older. During the talks on Friday and Saturday, I'll speak about some of the rarest and most extraordinary quilts in my collection.

In the midst of all this activity, there are a few other projects. I'm trying to lead the Oregon Quilt Project in its efforts to regroup following the relocation of one of our key volunteers. We're talking about bylaws, policies, procedures, etc. During the interim, I will also help keep the Columbia-Willamette Quilt Study Group going. Mary Bywater Cross and I have been working on plans for a July 16th event, which is about to be announced. The quilt study group will meet at the Oregon Historical Society, where there will be historic and recently made quilts on display. Oh yes, and I've been involved in the behind-the-scenes activities with that, too. Mary, too!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trailing Leaves Kit Quilt


Here's a quilt that's been lost in the shuffle for a while. It's a Trailing Leaves kit quilt, and it was a gift from a friend in Florida several years ago. When I first received the quilt, I did a little research on it and asked my friend a lot of questions. It was a family heirloom, but there was nobody in the family who would have appreciated it, so it came to me. 

Thanks to kit quilt connoisseur Rose Werner, the quilt had been identified as "Trailing Leaf" #9128 by Lee Wards. The pattern was published in the Lee Wards catalog between 1962 and 1968. An earlier version of the pattern was published, #7402, from 1953 to 1958, which was available in greens and grays only. This quilt, the later version, was available in an "Autumn Leaves" color combination that included golden yellow, greens, dark brown, tan, and red. The green/gray color combination was discontinued after 1964.

This quilt was made by Frieda Ruder Moser, born March 19, 1900 in Hugsweier, Germany. She was the mother of Margie Hutinger, the person who gave me the quilt. Moser came to Kidron, Ohio in 1925, sponsored by her Aunt Caroline Tschantz. She worked as a housekeeper for a nearby Swiss farm family. It was important for her to learn English, and she was determined to speak without her German accent. The youngest son in the Swiss family was Hutinger's father, Glenn. They were married on November 2, 1927, and had three children. Margie was the youngest.

Moser made the quilt in her living room in Dalton, Ohio some time in the 1960's. 

"Mom and I lived in a small house, with very little walking room between the couch and a couple of chairs," said Hutinger. "She was a perfectionist, and spent many, many, many hours making all the buttonhole stitches on the leaves and sewing them and the stems unto the main piece.  She did a lot of her sewing while watching her soaps in the afternoon and other programs in the evening. She had her own quilt frame, and it was a real challenge to move around or through the living room when she first set it up.  Crawling under it was the only means of passage in those early days.  I was teaching in another town and only came home occasionally. I always hoped she had made significant progress, so I could walk instead of crawl. I remember her keeping track of the hours she spent piecing the quilt and quilting it.  She figured if she sold it, she would only be making pennies an hour."

Moser died of stomach cancer on November 2, 1977, and is buried in the Salem Mennonite Cemetery in Kidron, Ohio. She had given the quilt as a gift when Margie married her first husband, on October 7, 1966. Margie kept the quilt in a safe place until 2005, when she decided to give it to me. I have cherished the quilt ever since, and vowed to maintain its story. I feel badly for not sharing it sooner, but here it is! It's special in many ways.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Beauty Secrets - Second Draft


I received first draft copies of the "Beauty Secrets" catalog on Friday, and worked through the weekend on revisions for the second draft. One of the biggest changes was with the book design. The softcover copy seemed like it needed more substance, so I decided to offer the book as a hardcover with dust jacket. The addition of the dust jacket required copy and photos to be placed on the flaps of the dust jacket (pictured above).


At this stage, one of the most useful tools I've found in the Blurb Book Smart program is the full book preview, which allows me to see thumbnails of the whole book together on one screen. This tool has helped me make some design decisions with the layout. I could see what was flowing, and what was not, and ultimately decided to reformat the layout on most of the text pages. The new layout includes large slices of each detail photo running along the sides of the pages.


This new design element serves as a visual cue for the introduction of each new topic in the story of the evolution of the pattern. It also allows readers to get a peek at an enlarged area of certain quilts, and the details are often enlightening. Picture quality is something I'm working on, as well, and seeing these images in print has given me a good idea about where I am and where I need to be.


After making several changes to the layout and substituting a few images with improved quality, I ordered another printed draft copy to review. Should be here in about a week. By the time I reach the third draft, I think I'll be satisfied. If all goes as planned, I anticipate making the catalog available shortly before the scheduled opening date of the exhibit at the Benton County Museum. The exhibit, "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" will be on display at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon from August 5th to October 1st, 2011. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beauty Secrets: First Draft Complete


The first draft of "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" is complete, and so far, the catalog looks like it will meet all my expectations. Right now, it's looking like a 40-page, full-color printed publication, which will include all of the quilts I plan to exhibit at the Benton County Museum from August 5th to October 1st. plus a few extra quilts that will not be exhibited.


I am self-publishing the catalog through Blurb, a print-on-demand publishing company that allows individuals to print one book at a time, or hundreds of copies. Blurb is a favorite among visual artists because of the variety of book formats, flexibility in page layout, and print quality. It works well for me because I can order small numbers of printed copies for preview before making the catalog available to the public. Blurb's services include free design software with templates, and online sales.


Having worked in print media in the past, it's always a disappointment to receive a final printed copy and find errors or things that could be done better. With a print-on-demand service, it's not a big problem. I can make changes to the book at any time, and can order drafts for proofing as I fine-tune.

One of the most important elements of the Beauty Secrets catalog will be the photography, and as soon as I see the first draft in print I'll be able to make all the necessary adjustments. Originally, I was going to work with a professional photographer, but ended up doing the photography myself to avoid travel and keep the costs down.


Earlier this year, I went through the same process with the "Small Wonders: Doll Quilts by Andrea Balosky" catalog, and pretty much nailed it down after two drafts. The catalog continues to be available, even though the exhibit only ran for a month. Doing that project gave me the confidence to do all the photography and layout for this catalog, too. I'm sure I'll work with traditional book publishers some day, but until then, I'll probably do my own books this way.

So, I'm hoping to make the catalog available shortly before the exhibit opens in August, and will post updates through my website, blog, and Facebook.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Rescue Quilts: Tragedy? or Opportunity?

The first quilt I ever rescued is an 1870's Rocky Mountain Road
A few years ago, I bought a badly damaged Rocky Mountain Road / Crown of Thorns quilt through eBay. The quilt came from a seller in Indiana, and I bought it primarily because it's a pattern I collect. At the time, I didn't have a clear idea about what to do with the quilt. I just knew I needed to save it.

Several years later, during an open discussion with members of the American Quilt Study Group's Yahoo group list, I asked about the origins of the term "cutter", and it triggered much passionate response. Some admitted to having cut damaged quilts for crafting projects in the past, but had since changed their stance. Others expressed a strong desire to see these quilts rescued, and as a group we coined the term "Rescue Quilts" as an alternative to "cutter" quilts.

I purchased this quilt just yesterday through eBay
There are probably a lot of people who would look at these quilts and think, "What a tragedy!" I like to think of them more as an opportunity. But what possible opportunity could severely damaged quilts provide? The Benton County Museum, where I will display several of the "New York Beauty" quilts this summer, has a very unique collection of quilts called the Cockrell Collection. The unique thing about the collection is it was assembled for educational purposes, and contains several examples with condition issues.

A wonderful crib quilt from Tennessee, also found on eBay.
The Cockrell Collection of quilts inspired me to assemble my own collection of quilts for educational purposes. I call them Rescue Quilts, and all of them have significant condition issues. However, all are quilts I believe should be preserved and studied because they are either very unique or display characteristics of a masterpiece quilt. In the future, I hope to exhibit these quilts as a group and send a strong message to the world about the importance of preserving our quilt history. I'm also tossing around the idea of asking quiltmakers to reproduce certain examples to see what they might look like in pristine condition.

Any takers?


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Melting Pot" by Jana Schmitt


I smiled when I saw the title of this lovely little snake trails variation of a New York Beauty made by Jana Schmitt of Waterloo, Iowa. I had found the quilt on Etsy last week, and really liked the mix of colors and overall design. The package arrived today, and the title on the label was "Melting Pot" - coincidentally, the same title I used for my first quilt book, which was self-published through Blurb last holiday season for friends and family. As soon as I got the quilt out of the box, it was having its picture taken, and I must say it's certainly photogenic! Here are a few more pictures. Enjoy!!




Monday, May 9, 2011

Antiques Roadshow, June 4th, Eugene - What to Bring?

"I don't know a lot about it, but I think it's really old - like, 200 years old!"
A few years ago, I went to the Antiques Roadshow in Salt Lake City. I brought the Mary Couchman Small Album Quilt with Lyre Medallion and a Rocky Mountain Road / New York Beauty quilt from Virginia with zig-zag borders. After standing in line for hours, I finally got to see the appraiser, who said my quilts were the nicest ones she'd ever seen at the Roadshow. Then she sent me on my way - no TV appearance.

At first, I was a little confused. How could they say these were the best quilts they'd ever seen, and not put them on TV? I wasn't as concerned about appearing on TV, myself, since I'd already done that a few years earlier on the Food Network. I just wanted the Roadshow to feature more quilts, since we don't see enough quilts on the show.

Eventually, I started to imagine how a show producer might think. Was there a story to go along with the objects? Could the appraiser tell me things I didn't already know? Would I be shocked or surprised to hear what they were worth? No. At the time, I hadn't yet discovered the identity of the maker of the Album quilt, and I pretty much knew the value of the quilts.

"My mom bought it for me. She knows I like antiques and old quilts."
So, I'm going to attend the Antiques Roadshow again on June 4th in Eugene, Oregon at the Lane Events Center, and I'm still deciding what to bring. Right now, I'm thinking of bringing two of the oldest quilts in my collection - the Economy Patch quilt from New England, and the Star Medallion from Rhode Island. Of course, I may change my mind, bet these are the two quilts that seem to make the most sense to me right now because they are very old and very rare. Both are supposed to be from the first quarter of the 19th century. I also think they'd look good on TV, if I get that far.

This time, I'm not planning to present myself as a collector. I'm just a random guy who's always liked antiques, especially old quilts. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I've never had either quilt appraised, so I honestly don't know for sure what values an appraiser might put on them. The Economy Patch was a Christmas gift from my parents a few years ago, and it was found in New England. I use the quilt on my bed, I've heard it's really old - maybe 200 years old. My cat has been known to nap on it, and that's all I know about it.

For the Rhode Island quilt, I'll say, "My mother bought it for me," since technically, she paid for it. I believe it came from Rhode Island, was told it may be over 200 years old, and didn't ask what she paid for it.

When the appraiser tells me what they might be worth, I'll be surprised - I may not even need to act. Hopefully, this approach will land one of them on TV. I know all quilt lovers would love to see a really old, unusual quilt on Roadshow. Whatever happens, it'll be fun. Wish me luck! 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Beauty Secrets" Catalog Underway


I'm off and running! The catalog for my upcoming exhibit, "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" is underway, and so far, it's looking good. I'd started an earlier version of the catalog several months ago, but for some reason it didn't seem to be working. So I let it rest for a while. Since then, I've added a few more quilts to the collection, finalized the group that will be on display, and fine-tuned my ideas about what I'd like to include in the catalog.


The exhibit will resemble a quilt history timeline as seen through the evolution of one quilt pattern, from 1850 to today - so it's really more like 160 years of history. In the catalog, quilts will be presented in chronological order and grouped in small chapters, each with brief introductory text and pictures of the quilts. I've only been working on it for a day, but it's about 2/3 complete. In a way, I guess you could say I've been working on it for the last 22 years, ever since I bought my very first quilt.

Back cover.
So far, the project has been like a stroll down memory lane. Many of the quilts have graced the walls of my homes over the years, and it's truly remarkable how much I've learned since beginning research less than two years ago. "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" will be on display at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon, from August 5th to October 1st, 2011. The 40-page, full-color printed catalog will be available at the museum, and online through Blurb.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Snake Trail Beauty


When it comes to recently made quilts by living artists, I'm a big fan of Etsy. I've bought several great items through Etsy, including the vintage Mountain Mist New York Beauty seen in yesterday's blog, an autographed copy of Uncommon Threads by Gayle Pritchard, and three recently made quilts, which have essentially launched my collection of New York Beauties into the 21st century.


Just yesterday, I found this gorgeous little wall quilt, a Snake Trail configuration made with New York Beauty blocks. Jana Schmitt of Waterloo, Iowa made the quilt with a variety of colorful print fabrics and batiks. Schmitt, a creative type who has enjoyed making things as long as she can remember, started quilting in 1996 and hasn't stopped since. She also knits, crochets, and does colored pencil drawings - and now that her triplets are in college, she has spare time to create.


The quilt is about 39" square, complete with ID label on the back and sleeve for hanging, and it was only $150 - a bargain as far as I'm concerned. Once the quilt arrives, I'll have four New York Beauty quilts and one top made between 1999 and 2011 in my collection. These pieces represent how the pattern evolved following the groundbreaking work of Karen Stone, who radically reinvented the New York Beauty pattern in the early to mid 90's, triggering a huge wave of new quilts. It's amazing how much the pattern has evolved during the last 150+ years!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Elusive Beauty

The elusive 1930's Mountain Mist New York Beauty
Ever since I first learned about the Mountain Mist New York Beauty quilt pattern and the quilt it produced, I've wanted to add one to my collection. Quilt historian Mary Bywater Cross is the person who first told me about this quilt during the production of my short documentary film in the summer of '09. Problem was, I hadn't seen any available over the last two years. I'd seen a several available years ago, but at the time I wasn't really dialed-in to 20th century quilts because they weren't 100 years old or older and therefore not considered "antique". Silly me.
An original, vintage Mountain Mist pattern.
Once I realized the significance of Mountain Mist, which essentially coined the term "New York Beauty", I had to have one of these quilts. I'd found a vintage pattern about two years ago, but not the quilt. Around the time I began actively searching, Stella Rubin had one on her web site, but it had been sold before I discovered it. Mark French had one, too, but once again it was gone before I knew it. I've scoured all the web sites of quilt dealers, and of course eBay, for this elusive beauty almost every day since the summer of 2009 and finally I found one yesterday!

Hooray for Molly Schiessl, owner of Fourth Corner Fine Quilt Gallery in Ashland, Oregon! She had exactly what I was looking for, and as soon as I discovered the quilt, I offered to buy it. I'd gone to visit Molly at her lovely shop several months ago, bought several quilts, and found her to be charming, fair and extremely knowledgeable. Many of the other dealers I've bought from have been in the business for decades, but Molly started relatively recently, about 6 or 7 years ago. My impression is she's a very quick study and certainly holds her own when it comes to knowing about quilts. If you're buying from Molly, you can definitely buy with confidence.

Instructions for making the Mountain Mist New York Beauty.
The Mountain Mist New York Beauty is a very specific quilt. It is burnt orange and yellow on white, set on the diagonal with slightly blunted points. It has 13 points and two half-points on most of the sashing strips, usually ten shorter points and two half points on the quarter circles, and two-color LeMoyne stars as cornerstones. The pattern is also seen as a red, white, and blue quilt sometimes, a color combination suggested by Mountain Mist as a more traditional approach.

The quilt I've purchased has a couple of noteworthy features. First, there are only nine points and no half points on each of the quarter circles, undoubtedly a variation chosen by the individual who made the quilt. I've seen several different quilting designs in other examples, but never the interlocking circles suggested by Mountain Mist in the original pattern. This quilt has that specific quilting design, which makes me very happy. In many ways, it's as pure an example as I've seen.

It's an important piece in the evolution of the pattern, and therefore, an important piece within my collection. Needless to say, this quilt will definitely be part of my upcoming exhibit, "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon, from August 5th to October 1st. A big thank you to Molly Schiessl for making the inclusion of this quilt a reality.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Found in Paducah


Passing notes during class can get you into trouble, but sometimes it's a good thing. Just after the lunch break during the appraisal skills course in Paducah, a classmate passed me a business card from a local antique shop just around the corner from the National Quilt Museum, and written on the back was a note about a New York Beauty quilt top available for sale at the shop.

I didn't realize it at the time, but the card came from fellow blogger and candidate for appraisal certification, Siobhan, also known as Yankee Quilter, who I met a couple days later at the Rotary Antique Quilt Show. Siobhan's main blog is called Scraps and Threadtales.

After class, I was planning to visit with Mary Kerr, so I asked if she wouldn't mind going with me to the antique shop before heading to Whaler's Catch. We found the shop, went inside, and the quilt top was still there, folded up and sitting on a table toward the back. After opening it up and looking at the price tag, I knew I was going to buy it but automatically went into haggle mode.

"It's pretty nice," I said within earshot of the man at the cash register, "but $190, I don't know...what do you think?" I'm sure Mary was familiar with the drill because she went along with it. Then, I turned to the man at the register and asked, "Is this the best you can do?" When he said he could do $175, I agreed to buy it, happy with the small discount. The truth of the matter is I would've bought it even if he hadn't dropped the price, but haggling is instinctual.


The top is a New York Beauty, c. 1935, with wonderful, scrappy print fabric points and solid blue and yellow on a white background. The block design is diagonal rather than squared, and the piece is in very good condition. The top is a little ripply and there is a bit of "tenting" in a couple of the stars, an effect seen when the pieced diamonds don't lay completely flat at the intersecting point. I imagine it could be quilted out, although I'm not really planning to quilt this piece.

Right now, I am considering displaying it basted on a quilt rack in my show at the Benton County Historical Museum. That is, if I can figure out how to set it up on a rack. I still don't know how to thread a needle, so I may need to enlist one of my quilting friends for that! This top is the 36th textile example in my collection of New York Beauties, and I'm thankful that it was brought to my attention. I hadn't really planned on buying anything in Paducah, so passing notes in class may have gotten me into a little trouble, but it was a good kind of trouble!

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Pictures from Paducah

Another amazing, patriotic redwork block. 
Sue, who reads my blog and frequently posts comments, asked for more pictures from Paducah...so here we go! I wish I'd taken a lot more, but this group is the rest of the best of what I got. I've also included pictures of the other quilts I decided to bring along, including the Strip Quilt with Nine-Patch Medallion by Lucy Mingo of Gee's Bend, Alabama, and the miniature non-traditional quilts by Andrea Balosky. As you can see, we saw a wide variety of quilts ranging from early 1800's to present. Enjoy the pictures!

This One-Patch quilt features a variety of early print fabrics,
most likely from the second quarter of the 19th century.
Detail from a Mariner's Compass block. The blue fabric intrigued me.
Another One-Patch with print fabrics from the late 19th century.
Early 19th century smaller scale floral chintz fabric.
Circular sunburst blocks with early Turkey reds and chintz print fabrics.
This wonderful early 19th century fabric showed some deterioration in
the dark color, which happened when the quilt was washed. The dye
mordants often contained sulfates, which would eventually oxidize.
My new friend Carol Beck shared this dazzling star quilt, which has
madder red, over-dyed green, and chrome yellow print fabrics.
Kitty Ledbetter, a Victorian history scholar from Texas, shared a variation
on the Thousand Pyramid pattern. The yellow-orange sashing is unique.
The wonderful, scrappy New York Beauty top I bought in Paducah.
The owner of this beautiful, late 19th century wool quilt considered it to be
a crazy quilt, but learned it was really more like a fans variation.
I had some room in my carry-on, so I brought along this quilt made by
Lucy Mingo of Gee's Bend, Alabama around 1979.
This gorgeous mid 19th century quilt top has an unusual setting that is
similar to an orange peel design. 
I also shared three of the miniature quilts made by Nyima Lhamo, aka
Andrea Balosky in 2011. These two came from the recent Alzheimer's Art
Quilt Initiative (AAQI) sale, and feature bright, solid fabrics.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Some Pictures from Paducah

An ombre print fabric, most likely from the 1830's or 40's.
Everyone who visits Paducah, Kentucky, in April for the American Quilter's Society annual show is treated to whirlwind tour of stellar quilts. For me, participating in the appraisal skills and fabric dating classes, it was a whirlwind tour of antique and vintage quilts. The week-long experience was all about sharing. I learned a few things, shared a few things, and at the end of the week I think I learned something from everyone I met. All of the instructors were simply unbelievable! There was so much information, it would be impossible to do it justice in a blog, so I thought I'd share some pictures instead. Enjoy!!

As part of the Dating Fabrics class, instructor Linda Honsberger shared
a lovely late 18th century dress with delicately printed floral fabric.
I was very tempted to buy this whimsical 1830's wholecloth chintz quilt
from Cindy Rennels, but one of my classmates got to it before I could
decide. Instructors Carol Butzke and Gerald Roy show it to the class.
Next time I'll ask them to smile. :)
In one of the appraisal skills courses, there was much side discussion about
early 19th century woven tape bindings. Sometimes called Trenton Tape,
these tapes were most often associated with Trenton, New Jersey,
but also made in other places.

These red fabrics were called "Turkey" reds, but to many of us, the sashing
fabric looked more like a warm-toned madder red. Turkey red, made
with an elaborate, multi-step process, usually has more of a bluish tint.

Linda Honsberger shared this incredible printed fabric, which looked
very much like a copper-plate engraving most often done on paper.
Solid fabrics are often difficult to date, so there was much discussion
about my handsome little Amish crib quilt from the Esprit Collection.
Another incredible printed fabric from Linda Honsberger's collection
was said to be used in one of Mamie Eisenhower's dresses.
Bears gone wild, from a redwork block quilt, was a class favorite.