Friday, November 30, 2012

It wasn't just any year...

Just a short statement at the beginning, and then pictures!!
It's been a special year for collecting quilts, so I thought I'd do something special to celebrate. I'm making a book focusing on the year's acquisitions. The book will include about half of the 50+ quilts that found their way to me in 2012.

The applique counterpane that caused such a big stir in 2012.
Originally, this book was just going to be for personal use, but as I began to put things together, I realized it was telling an untold story about one year in the life of a quilt collector. That might be interesting enough, since most collectors aren't providing a play-by-play of their collecting activities, but it's something more than that. It wasn't just any year. It was a year to remember.

Pair of 1990s quilts by Andrea Balosky of Camp Sherman, Oregon 
The famous velvet fans quilt.
The tale is told mostly with pictures, as the quilts speak for themselves. What more could I really say? I'm still pretty speechless about 2012.

An award-winning quilt by Jean Wells Keenan of Sisters, Oregon.
Cover spread - this quilt wraps around from front to back, logo on back.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quilt Postage Stamps

It's been a long time since I made anything with Zazzle - I'm still waiting for them to bring back the shoes - but I thought I'd make some postage stamps for personal use. Then I thought others might like them, so I'm making a few of the designs available to the general public. All of them are quilts in my collection. To visit my Zazzle shop, click here

Friday, November 23, 2012

always more work to be done

"Ain't Bee" is a little happier today, but she knows there's always more work to be done. There's been a steady stream of comments from the quilting community about an opinion piece that appeared in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on November 15th, called "Museum needles taxpayers", in which an anonymous writer called quilting "irrelevant" in today's world. Comments have come from all across the U.S. and abroad, and these comments appear on the newspaper's Facebook page as well as the comments section of the article. Here are just a few snippets.

What do you think about the Chattanooga Times Free Press publishing an opinion that says quilts are irrelevant? And what would "Ain't Bee" do if anyone ever had the gall to suggest that the things she did were irrelevant? If you've ever watched the Andy Griffith show, you know she'd teach them a lesson they'd never forget.

To read the opinion piece in the Chattanooga Times Free Press and post comments, click here.
To post comments to their Twitter page, click here.
To post comments to their Facebook page, click here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

...on a lighter note...Why Quilts Matter!

embroidery detail, Snake Trail Fans, c. 1900, Pennsylvania
Just in time for Thanksgiving, my latest guest blog for "Why Quilts Matter" is up, and the topic is Wonderful Wools! The seasons are changing, and it's getting a little nippy outside in a lot of places across the United States. Wool quilts seem fitting for the season. They are durable, warm, and some of the oldest surviving examples of quiltmaking in America are wool.

Economy Block, c. 1810, New England
This c. 1810 Economy Block from New England is one of the older quilts in my collection, and I've slept under it a lot. It's warm in the winter without being too heavy, and in the summer it breathes enough to never be too warm. It's an amazing textile, as are many of the wool quilts I've found.

To read about these "Wonderful Wools" and hear how I got started collecting wool quilts, check out the Why Quilts Matter website- click here. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tell Them What You Think

Don't mess with Aunt Bee, and don't mess with quilters!
This blog post is a little unusual, because I'm unhappy about something. It takes a lot to make me feel this way about anything.

Today I discovered a link to an opinion piece published by the Times Free Press of Chattanooga, Tennessee last week. The piece is criticizing the funding of the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, and in the piece, the unnamed author calls quilts irrelevant.



Sue Reich had posted the link on her Facebook wall for all to see, along with the comment, "Quilts are historically the legacy of women. This guy just doesn't get it." She's right.

Here is a link to the article:

Here's the opening paragraph:

A quilt museum may seem like an ideal summer vacation destination for the Waltons, Aunt Bee or Ma Ingalls, but quilting fails to hold the interest of most Americans today. Since department stores carry a wide selection of affordable bedding, and special memories can be recorded by photographs and videos rather than by laboring over scraps of cloth, quilts have become largely irrelevant in modern culture.

When I read it, my blood pressure spiked, and I immediately tried to post a comment. Since their comments section wasn't functioning properly for me, I took to Twitter, and posted this message to their Facebook page:

SHAME ON YOU for publishing that horribly misinformed opinion piece about the quilt museum in Nebraska. SHAME!! Quilts are more vital today than they ever were. There are more the TWENTY MILLION quiltmakers in America today and it is a MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY. Quilts are one of the oldest unbroken traditions in women's artistic expression in America. And your opinion writer is calling it irrelevant? I am absolutely horrified that your publication could be so irresponsible to publish something like that. And how tragic for it to come from a state, Tennessee, that has one of the most extraordinary traditions of quiltmaking. I'm telling all my friends, and I think you'll be hearing from us.

So, I am asking you, my friends and readers of this blog, to let the Times Free Press of Chattanooga, Tennessee, know how you feel about this opinion piece. I realize it's the day before Thanksgiving and we've all got a lot to do, but it's not a lot to ask and I don't ask for things from you often. If you can't get to it today, put it on your to-do list for after the holiday. We need to let them know that quilts are highly relevant, and the newspaper has an obligation to its readers to publish responsible opinions.

To read the opinion and post comments, click here.
To post comments to their Twitter page, click here.
To post comments to their Facebook page, click here.

Thank you all, and when you're giving thanks around the Thanksgiving dinner table tomorrow, I hope you will express your appreciation and love for quilts and quiltmakers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20th Century Quilts Lecture

Snake Trail Fans, c. 1900, Pennsylvania
Last night I did a lecture for the Westside Quilters of Hillsboro. It was my second time visiting the group. The first time, which was last year, I presented 19th century quilts. This time it was 20th century quilts, and I brought a big pile. Here's what I showed, in chronological order.

Inscribed Commemorative Fundraising Quilt, c. 1910
One Patch Variation, c. 1910
Layered Fans, c. 1920, New York
Double Wedding Ring, c. 1930
Barn Raising Log Cabin, c. 1940
Tumbling Blocks, c. 1940
Upholstery Sample Bricks, c. 1960
Klee, 1973, by Marsha McCloskey
Irregular Nine Patch on point, c. 1970, Texas
American Flag, 1976, Florida
USA Map, c. 1970, Texas
Wavy Bricks, c. 1970
Bible Story, by Lucy Mingo, Gee's Bend, Alabama, 1979
Night Flight, 1982, by Andrea Leong Scadden, aka Andrea Balosky
Jerry's Garden, 1995, Andrea Balosky
Cross-Currents Study #3, 1995 Andrea Balosky
Cross-Currents Study #2, 1994, Andrea Balosky
It was a whirlwind tour of the 20th century, with a special focus on the 1970s and later, the work of Andrea Balosky who lived and worked in Camp Sherman, Oregon for many years.

One of the interesting considerations when viewing 20th century quilts is the rise, decline and resurrection of the quilt industry. In the early part of the 20th century, specifically in the 1930s, the industry walked hand-in-hand quiltmakers. There were published patterns, fabrics were widely available, and quiltmaking was very popular. From the mid to late 40s and into the 1960s and 70s, the industry had slowly declined, but that all changed around the Bicentennial, when quiltmaking rose in popularity once more. Today, we're still riding the wave, and in recent years there have been new inventions, wide availability of fabrics and notions, and plenty of information about how to make quilts.

Love the Westside Quilters, and I wanted to thank them for allowing me to go at the beginning of the meeting so I could get back to my poor, ailing kitty. Can't wait to go back and spend more time with this group!

Friday, November 16, 2012

On the Exam Table

Layered Fans, c. 1920, New York
I'll admit, I left the Layered Fans hanging on the rack for a day. It made me happy to see it hanging up. But today as I was setting up for some appraisals, the stand came down and the quilt went on to the exam table.

It's in pretty good condition. There is some minor fading, staining on the back, a couple loose seams, and migrated batting. But what an incredible work of art! I keep looking at it and wondering, "what was she thinking?" The design is intensely graphic, and although the materials are seen more often in the Victorian era, the quilt is really an art deco masterpiece.

Most intriguing is how the quilt changes in the light. In overcast daylight, it seems to have cool tones. In sun and under electric lamps, it's much warmer. The supple velvet picks up the light in mysterious ways. It has an aura about it. Once you see this quilt, you never forget it. Many thanks to Laura Fisher of Fisher Heritage in New York for offering this gem.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Weeping Willow Whitework Trapunto

My heart was racing at the end of this auction for a wholecloth whitework trapunto quilt, offered in today's Discovery auction at Skinner in Boston. I "discovered" it just before going to the conference at Colonial Williamsburg, and after seeing a number of presentations on whitework counterpanes, I was convinced this quilt was something significant, worth pursuing. Bidding was spirited, and as usual, I bid aggressively and just kept going until it was over. At the end, it was just me and another internet bidder, and I wonder if it's someone I know.

Condition isn't the best. There are stains, yellowing, and places where the stuffing is coming out, mostly on the back. But the condition didn't really matter as much as the motif and the design. I believe it's a weeping willow, and if it is, it probably was made for a very special purpose. Weeping willows have much significance. They were sometimes a symbol of fertility, and other times a symbol of mourning. They were also associated with mysticism. All of the associations that have popped up are very intriguing.

Also enlightening is a note I came across in Robert Shaw's "American Quilts, The Democratic Art, 1780-2007" which said whitework quilts with an overall design are rare. That's something I didn't realize after seeing so many of them in the lectures at Williamsburg. It almost seemed like there were a lot of them, but there really aren't. Can't wait to see it in person. Photographing it will be tricky!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Hello, Gorgeous!"

Every once in a while, something so unique comes along it's difficult to pass up. That's how I felt about this iconic Layered Fans quilt, c. 1920, from New York. If it looks familiar, it is the quilt on the cover of Robert Shaw's book, "American Quilts, The Democratic Art, 1780-2007" and it is in the book on page 243. When I opened the box, I said, "Hello, Gorgeous!"

In the book it is described as: Layered Fans, c. 1920, New York City. Cotton and velvet, pieced and tied. 70 x 66 inches. Collection of Laura Fisher / Fisher Heritage. (I bought it from Laura).

"This flamboyant Fans Variation was found in New York City. The arrangement of the fans gives the three-dimensional illusion of several layers of piecing piled on top of each other. These range from the complex center "square" with a circle, to ever-expanding "layers" that combine rounded half-circle fans and partially elongated fan segments until the quilt's full dimension is achieved. The top is attached to the back with string ties, rather than quilted." 

With another buying season coming to a close, this magnificent Layered Fans Variation was the perfect exclamation point! I've awaited its arrival for months. It was part of the "American Quilts, The Democratic Art" exhibition at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington, which ended a couple weeks ago. If (when!) the exhibition travels to other locations, so will this quilt. It's a privilege to own it, but an ever greater privilege to share it.

Dyeing Doilies

Another random idea: a while back I saw a quilt made of vintage doilies, and I thought it would be fun to make my own version with hand dyed doilies. I found two inexpensive, crocheted cotton doilies on eBay, and they arrived while I was in Williamsburg. They were sitting on the counter staring at me today, when I got an idea.

I had some Easter egg dyes on hand, so I mixed them up and applied them to the doilies with Q-Tips. When I got to the red, I used a paper towel to dab it on. My fingertips were red for the rest of the afternoon. I dried them under light on some newspaper, and love how they turned out. The only thing is I've got to air them out. The smell like vinegar. LOL! If I can get the stank out, I'll use them in another project.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Last Day in Williamsburg: DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum

A lovely silver gilt urn was one of the first things I spotted
After 2+ days looking at remarkable quilts, I decided to poke around the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum and look at some of the other displays. There were so many amazing objects to be seen. My head was spinning, and I must go back some time to see more. Here are some pictures of what I saw.

One of these Moravian flasks appeared on Antiques Roadshow years ago
Leeds Pottery Horse Figure, c. 1825, England
View of the regional furniture display
Another view of the regional furniture display
Charming school chair/desk. Looks more comfortable that the ones I used.
A handsome couple, but I'm afraid I didn't get their names...
Charles Wilson Peale's iconic portrait of George Washington
Early 1800s quilted handkerchief panel
Detail: panels were usually cut after printing, but this one remained whole
Embroidered work bag, c. 1675, England 
Beautiful quilted bonnet in pristine condition
What a spectacular collection they have! Every time I go to a museum of this caliber, I look closely at the methods of displaying objects. The quilt display was especially interesting to me. They were all displayed in cases, upright, and most were on panels set at a slight angle. This method of display takes a lot of the stress off the object, and I've seen it done before, but never throughout a whole exhibit.

Can't wait to go back. It's hard to believe it was only my first time visiting Colonial Williamsburg. I lived on the East Coast for more than 30 years, but somehow didn't get to places like Williamsburg and Winterthur. Had I known how great these places were, and how relevant they would be to me as a collector, I'd have gone frequently. If you haven't visited Colonial Williamsburg and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, put it on your bucket list.