Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"WOW-factor" Vintage Bedspread

It's a New York Beauty pattern, and it's reversible!
Karen Alexander sent me a note the other day to let me know about this interesting item on eBay. She is one of a few people I know who is willing to share a listing when it's something I might like, and this coverlet...I like!!

There was very little information in the listing. Here's what it said: 

"This WOW-factor vintage bedspread is done in the colors of a soft green and white. It is woven in a pattern similar to the Compass quilt pattern. Colors are green and white. The bedspread has a very soft hand and drapes beautifully. I believe the fabric would be a combination of cotton and rayon. The whiter side is meant to be the front but the reverse side is just as beautiful. Edges are scalloped. The piece measures 72" x 100". Very few blemishes on this BEAUTY...There is a cluster of very light rust spots on one corner along the edge. (This area is shown in closeup and would hang on the floor.) Also there is one 1/4" rust spot elsewhere. The back side has a few green threads popped along one short edge....(likely the "chin" area). Not certain of age....anytime 1930's-50's is likely. Both sides are shown. A STUNNING vintage piece!!!" 

Of course I bought it, but I haven't seen it in person yet and don't know whether or not there's any information about when and where it was manufactured. If there's anyone out there who may have a clue, please let me know. Will post more pictures when it arrives. 

By the way, thank you, Karen!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Patriotic Polyester Patchwork

Most sane people don't really appreciate polyester, especially in quilts. The synthetic fabric seems like a better choice for swimwear than quilting. We remember it from leisure suits and bad prom tuxedos, and the sight of vintage photos with people wearing polyester is always good for a chuckle. 

It's the strangest thing, but lately, some of the 1970's polyester quilts and tops have begun to catch my eye. This humungous quilt top from a rural Missouri estate sale, courtesy of eBay, is one of these examples. Just arrived yesterday, so I thought I'd share a few pictures of it.

I'm not sure why, but I really love this patriotic polyester patchwork top. It's bold, vibrant, and has an interesting take on the traditional Nine-Patch block. In absolutely perfect condition, I'm sure it will live longer than any of our great great grandchildren - as long as we keep it away from open flames.

It must be difficult to work with polyester when piecing a quilt top. The material is very stretchy. But the maker of this top did a nice job, with uniform, 1/4" seam allowances throughout, and fairly straight lines. 

Maybe it's the bargain hunter in me that likes this piece. It was just $9.99 - and it covers the largest wall space in my home. It is 105" x 110" - as big as some of the very old quilts from the early to mid 1800s. 

Right now it's up on a quilt stand, but if I can think of a reasonable way to display it, I'll probably hang it in my loft. I don't usually hang quilts in that spot because it gets a lot of overhead daylight from a ceiling skylight...but if polyester swimwear won't fade from chlorinated water, this top probably won't fade in the sun. So, there's something to be said about the durability of polyester. We may not enjoy wearing it, but I have a feeling the polyester quilts and tops will somehow endure. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sisters: "eBay-O-rama"

eBay purchase: 1830's Sunburst Diamonds from New England
On Friday, I did a class lecture called "eBay-O-Rama". It was my first time speaking in public on the subject of buying and selling on eBay, and we had some fun with it. In the first part, we looked at five quilts, all purchased on eBay. I gave information about the quilts, but did not divulge how much I paid for each of them.

The first quilt was an 1830's Sunburst Diamonds quilt from New England. In good condition with only minor wear in a few spots, this quilt is wonderful a sampling of early print fabrics. It has a very fine, 1/4" binding rolled from back to front, and the back/binding fabric is a fine red on white polka dot.

eBay purchase: 1840's Sprigs of Laurel Medallion from Baltimore
The second quilt was the 1840's Sprigs of Laurel Medallion from Baltimore. This quilt features a bold design I've never seen anywhere before, and was made around the time of the Baltimore Album quilts. It includes beautiful, double-line decorative quilting as well as grid quilting. The amount of Turkey red fabric in the quilt suggests it was made by an affluent family. Because of the painstaking process needed to produce this red, the fabric would have been ten times more expensive than other cotton fabrics.

eBay purchase: Crossroads quilt, c. 1870, Texas
The next quilt was a red, white, and green Crossroads quilt, c. 1870, from Texas. This rare pattern was first published by Clara Stone in 1903 and was called Cross Roads to Bachelor Hall, but the quilt is older than 1903. The pattern has other names, such as Wagon Wheels. It is densely quilted and in good condition.
eBay purchase: Esprit Amish crib quilt, c. 1900

Quilt number four was an Amish Nine-Patch on point crib quilt, which was once part of the Esprit Collection. I briefly described the Esprit Collection, and talked about how the quilt still had velcro on the perimeter of the back. Esprit used velcro to display quilts. 

eBay purchase: "Bible Story" c. 1979 by Lucy Mingo, Gee's Bend
The last quilt was "Bible Story" made in 1979 by Lucy Mingo of Gee's Bend, Alabama. I told the story about how I acquired the quilt, again without divulging the price, and also shared what I knew about Lucy. It was exciting to talk about this quilt because I had just met Lucy, she and all the other Gee's Bend quilters in Sisters had all just signed the back of the quilt, and Matt Arnett of Tinwood was in the audience responding to some of the questions and comments. 

After we looked at all the quilts, I passed out a handout with a quiz on the first page, and said, "I bet you all didn't expect a pop quiz today, but don't be afraid, it's a fun quiz!" The objective was to match each of the five dollar amounts provided at the top with each of the five quilts. There were some good guesses, but I don't think anyone got all of them right. And I'm not going to give away the answers, because I can see myself doing this talk again some time. 

We wrapped up the talk by going through the res of the handout, which included my top ten tips for buying and selling on eBay, as well as samples of the listing creation page and completed auction. The whole presentation was very interactive, especially when we talked about the ins and outs of eBay, and I responded to all questions as we moved through the materials. And, as if by magic, we ended at 2:30 on the dot! It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to sharing this talk with other groups in the future. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sisters: Old Quilts

These two quilts were on stage as people filed in to the auditorium. 
A few folks have asked which quilts I showed in Sisters, so I thought I'd do a blog about the quilt selection with some notes on the presentation. Today's blog is about the "Old Quilts" lecture I did at the Sisters High School auditorium on Wednesday evening. If you couldn't make it, or if you were there and would enjoy a recap, here's what I brought...

This quilt is probably familiar to anyone who's been following my blog
For the evening lecture on Wednesday, I had about an hour and 15 minutes to show quilts. Typically, I could show maybe ten quilts in that amount of time because there's always so much to say about each quilt. I had 16 planned, to be displayed in pairs, and would try to keep the audience awake after a long day of classes and workshops.

The second quilt in the first pair was the younger of the two, c. 1810.
With the first pair, I said, "Take a good look at these quilts. They are probably among the oldest American pieced quilts you'll ever see." We just don't see quilts like this in Oregon. They weren't made here. The glazed wool Star Medallion was made around 1800 in Rhode Island, and the Economy Patch was made around 1810 in New England. To give a little perspective, Oregon officially became a state in 1859.

The first quilt in pair two was the Mary Couchman Small Album.

The second quilt in pair two was this Silk Diamonds masterpiece.

The second pair included what I like to refer to as my "OCD" quilts, as they are two of the most obsessive-compulsive examples I've seen. I called the Mary Couchman Small Album quilt the "quilt with a million stitches" while explaining how the echo quilting is done in rows separated by 1/8th to 1/16th of an inch at 10-12 stitches per inch. Quiltmakers always seem to enjoy the Silk Diamonds, too. From a distance, it looks like a Tudor style stained glass window, but when you get up close, you see multicolored feather stitching around each patch. Just phenomenal.

First quilt in pair three, an optical illusion One-Patch variation.
Second quilt in pair three, a silk Barn Raising Log Cabin.
The third pair played with optical illusion as the primary visual effect, and I decided to show both quilts because I thought they would look good up on stage and from a distance. A cotton One-Patch variation from around 1910, made with just ten different fabrics, created a blurry effect as part of a zig-zag, Bargello style design. I said, "If you're looking at this quilt and think you need to get new glasses, don't worry - your glasses are probably just fine."

When I said the Log Cabin was all silk, the comment got one of my favorite reactions - a collective audible gasp from the audience. It took me a little by surprise, and I said, "What? Did you think it was cotton?" Apparently, they did. I don't recall ever showing this quilt during a lecture, so the reaction was unexpected. As an optical illusion quilt, it has a layered translucency.  There were a few more gasps when I said I'd found it on eBay for about $150, followed by laughter when I divulged that I'd received a $300 lender's fee after lending it for display in the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival a few years ago.

The first of the fourth pair was this folky Snake Trail Fans
I like to keep the audience "in it" when I'm speaking, and I've realized these audience reactions are a good way of keeping a lecture in check. There were a few yawns after such a long day, but not too many, so I continued the brain-banging quilt show with two smaller quilts. Both were representative of quilts made for display rather than bedding. The first was a wool Snake Trail Fans from around the turn of the century, 1890's to 1900's.

The second in the fourth pair was Andrea Balosky's Night Flight, 1982
The second in the pair represented a big jump in time to 1982, just on the cusp of the Art Quilt movement. Andrea Balosky's "Night Flight" was perhaps her earliest masterpiece. She went on to create a stirring, memorable tribute to the good people in the world with her mind-blowing "Small Wonders" quilts, and I was going about a mile a minute trying to tell the whole story about what these quilts meant to me, and how meeting Andrea changed my life and opened my horizons to more recently made quilts.

The first of the fifth pair was the first quilt I ever purchased
The second in the fifth pair had an early sashing variation
With a quick set change, part two of the program was underway with eight New York Beauty quilts. I spoke about the pattern name, how the name came to be, and possible names for the pattern before Mountain Mist called it "New York Beauty". The first in the pair was the very first quilt I ever bought, a red, white, and green masterpiece that I called New York Beauty for the first 20 years I had it. I always get a few laughs out of the story about keeping this quilt a secret from my mother, having feared her reaction to spending so much money on something like a quilt.

The second quilt was another masterpiece, with an early sashing variation lush, decorative quilting, and pencil marks! When talking about the pencil marks, I made a point of saying how exciting it is to find pencil marks on an old quilt, even though the quiltmakers of today make every effort to remove pencil marks when making a quilt. "When I see pencil marks, I'm like both Keno brothers packed into one," I said, practically jumping up and down with excitement.
The MacMillan family quilt was first in the sixth pair

Next up were two more early variations on the pattern, both with flattened points. First was the MacMillan family quilt, and here's where I must thank Sam, the one-man technical and lighting crew, who is going into his senior year at Sisters High School. Sam did a great job lighting the quilts, and the quilting designs showed well.

The second in the sixth pair was this heavier quilt from Tennessee
The lavishly decorative quilting in the MacMillan family quilt, made in 1868 in Monroe County, Kentucky, was contrasted by the more utilitarian, large grid in the 1865 quilt from Tennessee.

First quilt in seventh pair - a very rare variation
Second quilt in pair seven, a one-of-a-kind original
Two more variations were displayed in the seventh pair, including the very rare 1870's example from Kentucky with vines and pomegranates in the sashing, and the 1870's Virginia quilt with indigo, madder red and over-dyed green print fabrics, plus a wonderful zigzag border on two sides.

First quilt in the final pair, c. 1940 from Ohio
The last official pair included a patriotic, red, white, and blue quilt made in Ohio around 1940, which I said was "pretending to be" one of the classic quilts. However, when you get close, you see the quilting stitches are anything but masterful. I used the terms "wonky" and "toe-grabber" and thanked quiltmakers as a collective group for introducing me to these humorous terms. "The quilting in the red, white and blue quilt was probably the craziest thing I'd seen until I saw this next quilt," I said, getting another rise out of the crowd.

Second quilt in final pair, a wildly wonky time-span quilt.
Interestingly, several people commented to me afterwards, saying their favorite quilt was this wildly wonky time-span quilt. First made around 1860 and reworked around 1940, my comment during the lecture was, "crazy things happened to this quilt." Obviously it had a rough life, but also evident is the transformative effort to save it. It was a talking point to the importance of preserving quilt history, as well as my philosophy about viewing quilts as works of art.

I wrapped up the lecture with a short slide presentation with detail shots, but before we got to the slides, I couldn't resist bringing out two bonus quilts. The first was a New York Beauty made in 2010 by Nancy Tanguay of Warren, Connecticut, and I wanted to show it to give the audience a point of reference for the modern evolution of the New York Beauty quilt pattern.

In showing this example, I talked about Karen Stone, and also how Sisters played an important role in the evolution of the pattern with the work of Valori and Jean Wells. "Using the New York Beauty block as a pictorial element - Brilliant!" I exclaimed when talking about Jean's iconic "Wedding Garden" quilt. She came up afterwards and was surprised by what I'd said. She'd never really thought of her quilts as being part of a broad, historical progression ("oh, but they are!!" I thought). "I just made them because I liked them," she said. We don't always realize when we're making history, and I was more than happy to give her some historical insight into her own contributions.

Last quilt of the night was Lucy Mingo's Bible Story, c. 1979.
For the last quilt of the night, I paid tribute to the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend who were in Sisters for the Quilter's Affair and Quilt Show. I brought out Lucy Mingo's "Bible Story" quilt. When I was speaking, I thought it had been made in the 80s or 90s. Two days later, when Lucy was looking at the quilt, she said, "1979." I rushed through the story hitting as many of the important points as I could. Time was running out!

Three days later, while wandering around among thousands of people in the streets at the Quilt Show, there were several times when I thought I heard someone calling my name. Good thing I was wearing sunglasses - the puzzled "did I hear my name?" look on my face would've been amusing. But each time it was someone - invariably a very lovely lady - who wanted to tell me how much they enjoyed hearing me speak about the quilts. Toward the end of my walk through town, I met a group of Australian quilters who had seen the "Old Quilts" lecture. They gushed, and I blushed. I was completely humbled and overwhelmed - and by the way, the Australian quilts were jaw-droppingly gorgeous, as were the ladies who made the quilts.

Many, many thanks to Jean and Valori for inviting me to speak, to Ann Richardson who put on another remarkable quilt show, and all the volunteers, participants, and residents of Siters who made the week such a huge success. I hope I can help maintain the presence of old quilts in Sisters by returning for future lectures and classes. As I was getting ready to hit the road, I realized there are quilts for sale - the ones with the yellow slips - so in the future, I think I may go to Sisters prepared to do some buying.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sisters: "Uh-May-Zing!!"

Quilts from Gee's Bend were hanging outside The Stitchin' Post
If you've never been to Sisters, Oregon, for the Quilter's Affair and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, you must go! What an amazing experience. Not just amazing, "Uh-May-Zing!!" This year was my second year visiting Sisters during Quilt Show, and what a memorable experience it was.

I realized I couldn't fit my whole collection in the car anymore.
The drive to Sisters was just gorgeous. Not a cloud in the sky.
The first event for me was the evening lecture at Sisters High School on Wednesday. "Old Quilts" was the topic, and I brought along 16 rare and unusual quilts to share. I displayed the quilts in pairs, and thanks to several local volunteers and Stitchin' Post employees, the set changes were quick and seamless. 

Two very old quilts I showed during my "Old Quilts" lecture
The first eight quilts represented a survey from 1800 to 1982. There was a big gap between 1900 and 1982, but the young quilt was "Night Flight" by Andrea Balosky, a visionary quiltmaker who worked for many years in nearby Camp Sherman. The second eight quilts were all New York Beauties. Judging by the reaction, I doubt many had seen so many of them in one place, especially such nice ones. I wrapped up the talk with two extra quilts and some detail shots projected on the big screen.

Sisters and the Central Oregon region are absolutely gorgeous at this time of the year. Nestled in the high desert, the town of Sisters is flanked by snowcapped mountains in all directions. I enjoyed the scenery on Thursday, along with a visit to the High Desert Museum

Lucy Mingo signs the quilt she made many years ago - 1979, she thought.
On Friday I had a class to teach - "eBay-O-rama" - but the first order of business was: find Lucy Mingo! Eight quiltmakers from Gee's Bend, including Lucy, were in Sisters doing workshops, an evening lecture, a book signing, and other special events. A nice lady overheard me asking about Lucy at the registration desk, and led me straight to the classroom where the Gee's Bend quilters were doing the workshop.

Matt Arnett was there, and Lucy came right over. I gave her a copy of  my "Beauty Secrets" catalog, and before I knew it she had a red marker in her hand and was ready to sign the quilt. While I was talking with Matt, Lucy was busy waving all the other ladies from Gee's Bend over to sign the quilt. Wow!! I was just floored. Not only was I in the presence of these amazing women, but they all signed the quilt!! The following day I also got all of them to sign a copy of "Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt" for me.

Two of the five quilts I showed during "eBay-O-rama"
Unfortunately, I couldn't linger around. I had to go get set up for my "eBay-O-Rama" class in the auditorium. The presentation started with five quilts, all purchased on eBay. Then I surprised everyone with a pop quiz. The objective was to place a dollar amount next to each quilt. We had fun with the quiz, and followed up with tips for buying and selling on eBay. 

The big event was Saturday, when the whole town of Sisters was literally decorated with quilts and thousands of visitors filled the streets. Lucy Mingo and the ladies from Gee's Bend sat on the front porch of The Stitchin' Post signing books, and there was a 20-foot long line at every register. Owner Jean Wells Keenan brilliantly converts the classroom space at the back of her shop to retail space for Quilt Show day, and the place was full of happy shoppers.

Sisters T-shirt quilt displayed behind The Stitchin' Post.
The quilt show was incredible. I didn't get the number of quilts, but I'm sure there were more than last year's record 1300+ quilts. The influence of Gee's Bend was present, too. Authentic Gee's Bend quilts were on display outside The Stitchin' Post, and Gee's Bend style quilts were all over the place.

One of my favorite quilts, inspired by Alice in Wonderland
A wonderful rainbow star raffle quilt
Ducks meet Beavers
A quilt by Jean Wells Keenan
Detail of quilt by Jean Wells Keenan
Viewers enjoying some amazing decorative quilting. 
A favorite from the Teacher's Tent
Australian quiltmakers displayed several jaw-dropping quilts
Andrea Balosky's Small Wonders quilts on display at Bedouin.
I spent a couple hours walking around Sisters, and I'm sure I only saw about half the quilts on display. That had to be good enough, though, because it was time to hit the road. It was another spectacular day for a drive, and I couldn't stop smiling the whole way. "Uh-May-Zing!"

Great view of Mt. Washington on the drive home
There were daisies by the side of the road