Wednesday, November 27, 2019

a rare gathering

At Thursday's Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting, photo by Karen Lee
The November meeting of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild last Thursday night was a rare gathering. The guild, one of the largest local modern quilt guilds in the world, has meetings once a month at St. Andrews church on Alberta, and plenty of other activities during the year. As expected, the November meeting was a beehive of activity, but this time, I was the featured speaker.

I shared 27 quilts form the collection

I haven't been on the lecture circuit in years, but thought it would be fun to do another lecture for the guild. Linda and I are both members, but Linda hadn't seen one of my lectures before. The first time I lectured for the guild was several years ago when Christina Cameli was President, and the group met in a small room at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in the Pearl District. I did another lecture on the 1970s quilts a few years later, but that was three or four years ago now.


The appearance was rare, and so were the quilts. I brought 27 quilts representing the history of quiltmaking in the United States from the pre-Revolutionary War period to present day. The oldest piece was a blue resist quilt made with 1760s fabric featuring a whimsical floral design. Only a few museums have examples of this type of quilt, but the one I have is especially remarkable with a binding made from a second blue resist fabric.


During the lecture, I pointed out that my collection has its strengths and weaknesses. There are a lot of mid-19th century quilts, both pieced and appliqued, but not a lot of Victorian Crazy quilts.  That's not to say there aren't any Victorian period quilts. The quilts I have are just a little more unusual than the examples we're used to seeing.


There are also a lot of 1930s and 1970s quilts, but throughout 30 years of collecting, I tried to collect with one eye on the unusual and the other eye on modernism.


These days, I don't do lectures often, but speaking to the group brought back happy memories of sharing quilts with large groups of mostly women; necks craning to get a better look, and audible gasps whenever another spectacular quilt was unfolded.


Thank you to the Portland Modern Quilt Guild, the officers and volunteers, and everyone who attended the meeting. Although it is rare to see me doing a lecture, it was a pleasure to share the quilts, and I hope everyone had as great a time as I did. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

back home again


This 1970s polyester quilt recently returned home after a long road trip. During the last two years, it was traveling with "Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century" -- an exhibition based on the book of the same title.


The exhibition appeared at The Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio, April 28 to June 17, 2018; The Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, New York, June 29 to August 19, 2018; and the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington, June 1 to August 25, 2019.

QuiltCon 2015, Austin, TX

The quilt came from an eBay seller in Georgia and was exhibited for the first time at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas. It was one of two quilts from my collection appearing in QuiltCon Magazine that year.


To welcome the quilt home, we napped under it, and our cat Lulu also got a little quilt time before it went back into storage.

Monday, October 21, 2019

color theory


Color theory is at play in this delicious 1970s Mountain Mist New York Beauty, acquired last week from a seller in Vancouver, Washington. Intensity shift is the name of the color vibration phenomenon, an optical illusion. In a nutshell, when opposite colors of equivalent value are placed side by side, the colors tend to shift as the eye and the brain try to determine which color is lighter and darker. We learned all about it in Two-Dimensional Design class in Freshman Foundation at Rhode Island School of Design. Way back in the day! And I still remember. Gerald Immonen would be so proud.


Two other examples of the Mountain Mist New York Beauty are part of my collection. One is the contemporary 1930s colorway of burnt orange and yellow on white, and the other is the more traditional red and blue on white.


The red, white and blue colorway came from an inspiration quilt, now part of the Mountain Mist collection at the International Quilt Musein in Lincoln, Nebraska. Having lived with the two 1930s examples, which are also part of my first book, it's exciting to see such a dynamic color combination in the 1970s quilt. It's also fun to recall color theory lessons from college.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Mrs. Poyner's Quilt


Last year, I wrote a series of blog posts called "Where have I seen that quilt before?" and the first quilt featured was this gem, made by Mrs. M.E. Poyner of Paducah, Kentucky some time around the Civil War. For more background on this quilt, click here and here.


Today, I learned something I didn't know about the quilt. In the latest edition of QuiltFolk, featuring the great state of Kentucky, Mary Fons wrote an article about beloved friend and mentor, Shelly Zegart. In the feature, there was a photo of "Quilt Day Winners" from the Kentucky Quilt Project, and one of the quilts Mrs. Poyner's quilt!

Mrs. Poyner's quilt (upper right) was one of the Quilt Day Winners!
I was blown away, but at the same time, unsurprised. I'd always wondered which quilts were the quilt day winners in Kentucky. It's like the stuff of legends, even though I could find out easily...if I could just remember to ask Shelly about it.


Some background: In 1980, Shelly Zegart spearheaded the effort to document quilts in Kentucky, which was originally the idea of collector and dealer Bruce Mann. Sadly, Mann was killed in a car accident before he could make the dream come true. So, Shelly made it happen. As it turned out, the landmark survey was the first statewide quilt documentation survey in the United States.


Kentucky ran a series of Quilt Days, inviting everyone to bring their best quilts. As extra incentive, there were cash prizes offered for the best quilt brought in each day by the general public. I can only imagine the look on Shelly's face the day collector Hardin Pettit walked in with Mrs. Poyner's quilt. What a discovery it was!


Today, the quilt is famous as a quilt can be. It's been in a number of publications and traveled far and wide for exhibitions. People in quilt history circles have most likely seen it before...in any number of places. Thank you, Mary Fons and QuiltFolk for revealing something I did not know-- a cool fact about the quilt and its long journey.

Friday, October 11, 2019

"...rainbows are so overdone..."


Recently, I heard someone say, "...rainbows are so overdone..." when discussing trends in modern quiltmaking. The interesting thing is, while many quilts have all the colors of the rainbow, rainbows as pictorial elements are uncommon in quilts, especially in examples made before the 1960s or 1970s.


This pictorial hexagon quilt from Pennsylvania has a unique rainbow, which comes to a point like a roof. It is one of several intriguing elements in the larger image. The quilt was made some time around the turn of the century, c. 1900, and seems to represent secular Christian beliefs.


Another pictorial quilt, made in the 1930s in Ohio, has a rainbow in the upper left, arching over a green mountain. The quilt combines a variety of patchwork elements seen in block style quilts, creating the image of a log cabin with an American flag flying out front. The rainbow is representative of an idealist image of the American homestead.


Rainbows start to appear in quilts more often in the 1960s and 1970s, but they are still uncommon. This 1970s pictorial quilt has a rainbow emerging from a cloud in the sky, with the sun, snowcapped mountains and a field of green at the base. Like the 1930s quilt, the image is representative of idealism, Shangri-La, a perfect world.


Another 1970s quilt with a rainbow is most likely a published pattern or a kit. I have seen several of these quilts around. They were made as wallhangings. Even though they look like one-of-a-kind originals, they are not.


Next week, one more quilt with a rainbow motif will arrive. It is coming from an eBay seller in Connecticut, and although it is a block style quilt, the blocks are pictorial with moons, stars, suns and rainbows.

rainbow fabric I made using Spoonflower fabric printing on demand
Over the years, I have acquired almost every antique and vintage rainbow quilt I've seen for sale. These quilts always jump out because they are so unusual. So, to the person who said rainbows are "overdone", that may be the case with today's quilts, but it's a rarity among antique and vintage quilts.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

southern quilts

applique quilt, c. 1860, Mrs. M.E. Poyner, Paducah, KY
What makes a quilt southern? Is there a distinct, regional style associated with the southeastern United States? Quilt enthusiasts have been exploring the topic in a new Facebook group started recently by the preeminent quilt historian Barbara Brackman.


The group, started in September, is called "QuiltHistorySouth" and already includes over 400 members. It is a unique opportunity to interact with Barbara Brackman, who is posting photos and topics of interest, such as recurring motifs, color combinations and dyes.

Thus far, topics have included the unusual leaf design seen in these two quilts
This group seems different from a lot of the other quilt related groups on Facebook. There's less drama. It could be that I've blocked most of the people who were causing problems in other quilting forums in the past, but also, Barbara's presence keeps the conversation on point. Her blog posts have always been wonderful, but Facebook is more interactive. I love her curiosity about quilts. That's something we share. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

head turner!


This fabulous, 1970s polyester quilt just arrived from an eBay seller in DeBary, Florida, and it's a head-turner. Made with raw-edge machine applique using a zigzag stitch, the child's size quilt includes both print and solid fabrics in a variety of bright colors and pastels.

The quilt is 40" x 51" and in good condition with some minor stains and a couple snags in the polyester. At this point, I have so many 1970s polyester quilts in my collection, it has to be something very unusual or special to turn my head. This one's special. The original, improvisational medallion design looks like a big, fancy bow tied around a colorful gift. of course, I'm thrilled with it.