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.


  1. These are both beautiful quilts. So happy for this quilt's time to shine!!

  2. Ooh that minty blue-green, Tiffany blue-like color is one of my favorites. Is it because it's a color that was big in the 70s that draws me to it as well, I wonder? It just makes me happy!

  3. I love how you share the stories that the quilts evoke for yoy, more more!!

  4. I love this color palette as well, but those points would drive me crazy. They violate one of the driving reasons I enjoy quilting so much: the challenge to achieve a sense of precision and order in life, even in the craziest of quilts.

  5. I love the top three rows. Row 3 starts to get a little odd, with the first two blocks on the left, row 2 is even more off, and by row 1, it's almost off the rails! Whatever it took to get it long enough. I wonder what giant used it?

  6. I love the pinwheel pattern. Those colors, wow!