Thursday, June 22, 2017

Throwback Thursday: This Week's Playlist


Oldies week, in more ways than one. Old quilts and favorite old songs. Thank goodness for music! I have been at the computer editing photos...photos of old quilts, of course! Here's what I've been listening to this week.









Good music for editing photos. Here's a sneak peek at the one I am working on today. It's taking hours and hours, all day really, but it's worth it!




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Antique Alley Sales Heating Up

Sold at Antique Alley: Sun Mirror
Sales are heating up toward the end of my fourth month as a dealer at Antique Alley in Portland. I stopped by yesterday, and the staff greeted me with a handful of receipts.


The last time I was at the shop, I moved things around in the booth and case. There's so much stuff at Antique Alley, it's a little overwhelming at times, so they recommend shuffling inventory. I also pulled a few quilts from the booth to allow other items to be more visible.

I'm in Booth C-1. Here's the booth when I first opened
Soon I will go back with more new items, some glassware for the case and of course more quilts.

I'm also in booth F-3
Antique Alley is located in the lower level of the 42nd Street Station, 2000 NE 42nd Avenue in the Hollywood District of Portland. Hours are 10am-6pm Monday through Friday, 10am-5pm Saturday and 12-5pm Sunday. I'm in booth C-1 and case F-3, so I hope you'll come visit if you're in the area. For more information, click here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Textile Hive Interview


Recently I sat down with Mimi Loughney of the Textile Hive for an interview and it is featured as part of their June Threads. We looked at several quilts and talked about collecting, quilt history and a very cool pair of shoes that arrived moments before Mimi did.


Thank you to Mimi Loughney and the Textile Hive for highlighting my collection. To read the interview, click here.
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Girls' Day at the Museum!


You never know who will visit the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. Last week, it was the International Advisory Board. This week it was a group of 22 girls and the "My Doll and I Get Groovy" class led by Sheila Green. Many thanks to Sheila for posting these photos. Oh my gosh, so adorable!


According to Sheila, when asked what they thought when they first saw the exhibition the girls said, "Colorful!"


In addition to viewing all the exhibitions including mine, there were snacks and crafts. The girls got to deck out their dolls in groovy threads.


I was about their age when the quilts were made, and it caught me a little off guard in a good way to see a whole group of them in the space, mesmerized by the quilts. What could be better than that?

"Off the Grid, The Bill Volckening Collection" will be on display at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum through August 27th. For more information, click here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

picture quality

"After" photo: a rare, early geometric pieced quilt from Rhode Island, c. 1800
It's always nice to improve with age. This year, I have been quietly redoing photos of some of my quilts. Many of the photos were taken several years ago, and my skills have improved since then. Take a look at the "before" photo.

"Before" photo
The "before" photo really wasn't bad, but there were some things I didn't like about it. The lighting was a little uneven, especially along the top edge, and there was too much contrast. In the "after" photo, it is easier to distinguish the subtle colors-- three soft green triangles along the top border, versus the pale gold damask in the points of the stars.
"After"
By the way, the quilt is a rare, early example of geometric patchwork in America. It was made around 1800 and came from Rhode Island. I love having such a wonderful, old quilt from Rhode Island, having spent some time there in the 1980s as a student at Rhode Island School of Design. I can picture this quilt on a tall four-post bed in one of the elegant homes along Benefit Street.

Friday, June 16, 2017

1979: The Year the Rotary Cutter was Born


Yoshio Okada of the OLFA Corporation in Japan invented the world's first rotary cutter in 1979. The invention came 23 years after Okada's breakthrough invention, the snap-off blade cutter.




The OLFA Rotary Cutter revolutionized how people cut fabric, from scissor cutting to rolling a circular blade over the material. 



According to the OLFA website, their rotary cutters are used around the world today by quilters. When I was searching for information online today about the origins of the rotary cutter, I was looking at images of OLFA cutters and thinking, "Gee, those look familiar!" Sure enough, I have two (pictured at top). One of them is displayed in the neat Rotary Cutter Coat made by Dawn White

So, that's the story of the rotary cutter. Are you surprised it was born in the 1970s? I'm not.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Cottons in the 1970s

Stars with Bowtie orphan blocks, c. 1970
In the 1970s, polyester was the fabric of our lives, but what about cotton? Quiltmakers who were active in the 1970s recall quilting cottons were not always easy to find, and there wasn't much selection.

Stars, Janis Pearson, Gresham, Oregon, 1972
Four years ago, I wrote an article about the 1970s quilts for American Quilter Magazine. In the article, I asked Janis Pearson, maker of a lovely Star quilt made of calicoes, about the availability of cottons. She produced a list of every shop in Portland, Oregon that sold cotton fabrics at the time. There were not many, despite a lot of sewing activity.

Crazy Quilt, Harriett Carlton Swett, Carthage, Maine, c. 1970
I was curious, so I counted the 1970s quilts in my collection. There were almost 200 quilts, and roughly 20% were made of cotton. A lot of the cotton quilts were calico, but there were other cotton fabrics such as solids, corduroys and even barkcloth and upholstery weight fabric.

Interacting Pyramids, Barbara McKie, Connecticut, 1974
corduroy quilt, c. 1970
Upholstery fabric samples, c. 1970
One-patch with calicoes, c. 1970
There were other observations about the cotton quilts, entirely unscientific but interesting nevertheless. A number of the cotton quilts were signed or identified by maker. Several of those makers were still active in 2017.

"Modern Peony" Fern Polk, Arkansas, c. 1970
Considering the effort it took to find cottons in the 1970s, the makers of cotton quilts were particularly invested in keeping their information with the quilts, as well as maintaining a long-term involvement making quilts.

Nine patch with hearts, c. 1970
Through the huge uptick in American quiltmaking during the 1970s, cottons were making a dramatic comeback. Serious quiltmakers demanded cottons. They went to the shops, bought all the calicoes and other cottons normally used for garment making, and ultimately made cotton the fabric of our lives.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

a quilt and three songs


When I first discovered this quilt, I gave it a nickname: Wild Thing. It reminded me of the Troggs song.


The quilt triggered two remarkable waves of collecting, 1970s quilts, and a few years later, Hawaiian scrap quilts. Now the quilt reminds me King Nawahi's "Honolulu Bound". In January, I traveled to Honolulu in search of more scrap quilts.


Today, the quilt also reminds me of "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" from Michael Jackson's Thriller. 


"Yeeeeeeehaa!!"

Even though the song is really about rumors, it is also about being real. "If you're gonna be startin' somethin', you got to be startin' somethin'." Rumor has it, I've started somethin'!

IQSCM International Advisory Board Members visit my exhibition
Although "Wild Thing" is not part of my exhibition in Nebraska, I think of it as bonus content. These days, it hangs loose with the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt group, which is its own branch of the 1970s collection.

"Off the Grid, The Bill Volckening Collection" will be on display at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum through August 27th. For more information, click here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Victoria's video tour


Victoria Findlay Wolfe is a magnificent tour guide. She visited my exhibition "Off the Grid: The Bill Volckening Collection" at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and posted a video tour. Knowing how much she loves polyester quilts and color, I was happy to see her enjoying the display. Thank you, Victoria!

"Off the Grid, The Bill Volckening Collection" will be on display at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum through August 27th. For more information, click here.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

virtual reunion of the "Double-Knit Twins"

The Double Knit Twins - 2013 - Generation Q Magazine
Last week there was a meeting of the International Advisory Board at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, and several friends were there. Among them was Victoria Findlay Wolfe. We had a virtual reunion.


She and I are the Double-Knit Twins, aptly named by Generation Q Magazine in an article by Tracy Mooney in 2013, because we love polyester quilts. Victoria's connection to these quilts is even more personal than my own. Growing up in Minnesota, she slept under polyester quilts her grandmother made.


Victoria topped my list of people who really needed to see this exhibition, so I was thrilled she got to go. She posted this picture, and in my absence she found a picture of me on the wall. I do plan to go soon, but have a little work left on my third book. More about that another time...

Saturday, June 10, 2017

seeing the future


"I can envision a whole museum space full of them, 
and the effect it would have on viewers." 
                                                                    -blog post from 2011

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Yesterday I came across an old blog post from 2011, written around the time I started actively collecting 1970s quilts. In the post, I envisioned "a whole museum space full" of the quilts.


How did I see that? It was a silly idea at the time, not even a goal, but the last decade created the perfect storm for a widespread appreciation of 1970s quilts.


The quilts of the 1970s began surfacing in the marketplace at some point during the last ten years. They were popping up a lot more starting around 2011, and I didn't feel like it was because I was looking for them. It was hard not to notice them. When scrolling through pages and pages of quilts on eBay, the polyester quilts were so vivid, they jumped out.


As a side-note, 1970s quilts appeared well after the vintage and collectibles marketplace for mid-century modern objects was established, and they were definitely outside the style box. They were anything but sleek, and their space-age materials looked rather dated 40 years later. Interestingly, they still fit in with mid-century modern decor. It makes sense if you think about it. The quilts are essentially made of plastic, but they have soul.


Looking at quiltmaking in America today -- a multibillion dollar industry with more than 20 million people involved -- many of the stories started in the 1970s when the industry got a big kickstart, and millions of people tried making quilts for the first time. Forty years down the road, batons were ready to be passed, but to whom?

"Catenary" by Carolyn Friedlander, Lake Wales, FL
The arrival of "Modern" quilting shored up the future of quiltmaking. The movement and later the Modern Quilt Guild organization mobilized people globally. Many of the new quilters had creative experience but not necessarily quiltmaking background. A new aesthetic emerged, and with it came an expressed desire to break from tradition. Soon it would become clear, tradition was difficult to escape.

photo: the Modern Quilt Guild, 2013 QuiltCon
Quiltmaking tradition appeared in a number of ways during the formative years of modern quilting. At the first QuiltCon in 2013, Roderick Kiracofe shared a select group of "Modern Historical Quilts" from his scheduled release at the time, "Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar 1950-2000". The vintage quilts spoke to attendees, who were especially fond of improvisational style.

photo: the Modern Quilt Guild, 2014 Portland SewDown
Then, it was my turn. In 2014, I connected the dots between vintage and modern with a lecture at the Portland Sew Down, where I showed a group of surprisingly modern looking quilts made between 1810 and 1970. Maybe, just maybe, quiltmaking tradition was worth a closer look!


I followed up with a special exhibit of 1970s quilts at QuiltCon in 2015, and articles in QuiltCon Magazine this year and last. Modern quilters, especially the younger people, had a distinct sense of nostalgia for the quilts of the 1970s. They grew up with those quilts. The special exhibit got a lot of attention. It included quilts that looked remarkably similar to quilts juried in to the show. Some of the similarities were so uncanny, it seemed the quilts of the 1970s foreshadowed modern quilting.

Seeing the future is possible. It takes a tremendous amount of determination and effort, and the stars need to align, but stranger things have happened. In my original blog post from 2011, I refer to puzzled expressions when I first showed a polyester quilt at a guild meeting. Many of those expressions are now smiles. Thats how I know we accomplished something.
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Friday, June 9, 2017

color memory

Pinwheels, polyester, unknown maker, Pennsylvania, c. 1970, 85" x 106"
One of the quilts in my exhibition, "Off the Grid, The Bill Volckening Collection" at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, was kind of a surprise choice. The quilt was never exhibited before, even though it was one of the first 1970s polyester quilts I collected.


The large Pinwheel quilt landed on my doorstep on October 4th, 2011, not long after another quilt made with the same block pattern arrived. I blogged about the two quilts at the time.


Like a lot of other 1970s quilts, the Pinwheel quilt was not a demonstration of sewing skill. The points didn't meet up, and some of the blocks were wonky and off-kilter. There was always something about the quilt, the way it glowed from the inside, but it was hard to put into words.


It had more questions than answers, and that's something I felt would be important in the exhibition. Writing a description for the museum placard eventually got me to put it into words. I selected it for the exhibition because of the way it triggered a specific color memory.


One of the things that initially drew me to the quilts of the 1970s was the color, and how it reminded me of my childhood. The minty blue-green color in the Pinwheel quilt, similar to Tiffany Blue, was the color of my favorite night light as a child.


It was called the Sylvania Panalescent night light, and it was shaped like a little TV screen. When plugged in, it glowed a turquoise blue-green or cyan color. When I was falling asleep at night, every thing I could see in the darkened room was that color. It was the last color I saw before dreaming.


The unheralded polyester Pinwheel quilt never made the cut before, and it had a lot to do with size. It is 106" long, which is almost nine feet tall when displayed vertically. The galleries of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum could accommodate the larger quilts, and that was when this quilt started to jump out to me. It was a surprise choice, but it was ready for its time in the limelight. Or was that nightlight?

"Off the Grid, The Bill Volckening Collection" will be on display at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum through August 27th. For more information, click here.