Friday, October 19, 2018

My Favorite Things: Surface Texture

Almost 30 years ago when I first started collecting quilts, there was something strange about the pictures of historic quilts in print media. Most of the pictures appeared to show little or no surface texture.

I love seeing the surface texture created by quilting, but capturing it in a photo is a challenge. The photos I saw in publications looked like they were lit straight-on with studio strobe, which tends to flatten out the surface a lot.

In my first book, "New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" (Quiltmania/France), I spent a lot of time on photography. It took an entire month to shoot photos of the 70 quilts that appear in the book; roughly two hours each day shooting, and several hours editing.

The narrow window of shooting time was around the "golden hour" when light poured in to the studio and bounced off the walls in all directions. The natural light was perfect for capturing surface texture.

Recently I wrote an article for Quilting Arts Magazine, with information about how I photograph quilts and edit the photos. The article was in the August/September issue of the magazine. The only photo I didn't take was my portrait, taken by my fiancé, Linda.

In the article, I talk about my studio, and how I prefer to use daylight to show the surface texture of the quilts. Usually I set up and wait for the perfect light before taking photos.

I also took all the photos of the antique quilts in the new book, "Inspired Free-Motion Quilting: 90 Antique Designs Reinterpreted for Today's Quilter" co-authored by Mandy Leins (2018, C&T/Stash Books).

Since the book is about quilting, it was important to show the quilting and the surface texture in the antique quilts. Surface texture-- it's one of my favorite things!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Create Whimsy Interview

"Old quilts have information we do not find anywhere else."

Recently I did an interview with Create Whimsy, an online community celebrating creativity and the stories of makers. There is a related interview with Mandy Leins, co-author of our new book, "Inspired Free-Motion Quilting: 90 Antique Designs Reinterpreted for Today's Quilter" (2018, C&T/Stash Books). Many thanks to Create Whimsy for featuring us! To see Mandy's interview, click here. To see my interview, click here.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Intervista - ArteMorbida

Non parlo italiano, ma voglio ringraziare ArtMorbida Magazine per l'intervista. È stato bello passare un po 'di tempo a parlare della collezione e delle trapunte in America. Clicca qui per leggere l'intervista, in inglese o italiano.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

plaids in quilts

Plaid fabrics are popular with quiltmakers today, but there is nothing new about plaids in quilts. 

"Plaid Shirt Guy"
No need to throw shade if you didn't know. If you look at old quilts, you'll find plaid fabrics. Here are a few of my favorite quilts with plaids.

Monday, September 17, 2018

What is Wonky?

Several years ago, I gained a new appreciation for the word wonky at a quilt guild meeting in Portland, Oregon. Of course, I'd heard the word before, but not in that way.

Someone said, "It's wonky!" referring to a quilt she made, and there was a small eruption of laughter. An error in geometry caused something to look askew. However, by calling it "wonky" she owned it and got everyone else to see the humor in it.

The word wonky seemed to have layers of meaning among quiltmakers, and there was onomatopoeia in the way they said it, with special emphasis on wonk. 

They could use the word to laugh at themselves, or give themselves permission to make an error and own it. They could use it to embrace accidents, both happy and unhappy.

From that point forward, I loved the word wonky and associated it with quilts. Most of the antique and vintage quilts I collect have something wonky about them, even if things look right from a distance.

Some of my favorite quilts are wonky. They have those human elements that say, "this quilt was made by hand, and it may not be perfect, but who is perfect?"

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Obsession du jour - "Which quilt is your favorite?"

People ask me this question all the time. "Which quilt is your favorite?" It's a tough question.

More than 20 years ago, Shelly Zegart published her book, "American Quilt Collections, Antique Quilt Masterpieces" -- a book highlighting many of the premiere collections and collectors of great, antique quilts. I received a copy from Shelly in 2001. It was the first quilt book in my library, and it included one quilt for each entry, accompanied by written information about the quilt and the collection.

The book got me thinking. What would it be like to be a quilt collector? At the time, I only had two or three quilts and did not think of myself as a collector, but my first quilt was definitely a masterpiece.

Over the years, there were all kinds of quilts from various time periods. Becoming enthralled with new discoveries was practically an everyday event.

Each quilt led down a rabbit hole of historical information. One day I could be researching pictorial hexagon quilts or ships in the Spanish American War, the next day I could be learning about the early wool mills of Rhode Island or Queen Lili'uokalani of Hawaii.

So, I do not know which quilt is my favorite. It changes daily, each day is a new day and each quilt is the obsession du jour.

A lot of my obsessions du jour are posted here, on my blog, or on Facebook. Stay tuned for more great antique and vintage quilts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Happier Times in America?

Does this 1930s pictorial quilt tell a story of happier times in America, or does it simply long for happier times? The stock market crash of October, 1929 set the tone for the 1930s, the Great Depression, when widespread poverty and unemployment devastated American families.

a cheerful, 1930s quilt from Kansas
The 1930s were also known as the "dirty thirties" because of the Dust Bowl, a severe drought with dust storms, which affected ecology and agriculture throughout the plains and prairies of North America.

1930s Double Wedding Ring
Cheerful colors and patterns such as Double Wedding Ring and Grandmother's Flower Garden were on trend in the 1930s. Popular pastel colors were tangerine, lavender, sky blue, pink, Nile green and butter yellow. Considering how difficult life was, it is intriguing to think about the happy colors in American quilts.
Bicentennial quilt by Barbara McKie
The 1970s may seem like happier times almost 50 years after the fact, but it was another tumultuous decade. The Bicentennial in 1976 was a high point, but there were significant low points such as the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and the energy crisis.

Pieced star, c. 1976
Patriotic quilts were popular in the 1970s, in large part due to the Bicentennial, but the feeling of patriotism was not the general tone throughout most of the decade.

1850s floral applique quilt

Elegant quilts were popular during the Civil War period, even though it was among the most bitter periods of American history.

Popular colors were Turkey red, overdyed green, cheddar orange and double pink-- and of course, a lot of white.

sunny, 1930s Giant Dahlia quilt
Some of the most beautiful quilts were made in troubled times, and I find it so interesting. It is almost as if quiltmakers decided the world was not beautiful enough, so they had to make it better with gorgeous quilts.