Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pour l'Amour du Fil - next year!

Je suis heureux de dire que l'année prochaine je vais présenter mes couettes dans le "Pour l'Amour du Fil" à Nantes, France. Occasion est passionnant, et une merveilleuse façon de célébrer les 25 ans de collecte.

"New York Beauté» sera le sujet de mon livre, qui sera publié par Quiltmania. Je travaille dur sur le livre, et j'écris la plupart des essais et de produire toutes les photos.

Je souhaite seulement que je pourrais passer plus de temps à apprendre la langue française. Ma sœur est presque couramment, mais je ne sais pas si elle sera capable d'aller. Elle peut être obtenir une chirurgie de remplacement de la hanche. J'espère qu'elle sera capable d'aller.

Ce serait merveilleux d'avoir notre petite famille pour l'événement. Maman a l'intention de m'accompagner. Nous avons tous étudié le français à l'école, mais ma soeur est celui qui maîtrise la langue.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

more 70s quilts

Hexagon Diamonds, c. 1970, Oregon
Believe it or not, some of my favorite 1970s quilts did not make it to the lecture with Portland Modern Quilt Guild on Thursday. A few of them are on display at Latimer Quilt & Textile Center in Tillamook. The marvelous Hexagon Diamonds quilt, made entirely of polyester double-knit, is part of the exhibit "Masterpiece Quilts, Modernism in American Patchwork, 1810-1970" at Latimer. The exhibit runs until May 4th, and also includes the Snake Trails quilt and "Klee" by Marsha McCloskey.

Snake Trails, c. 1975
"Klee" 1973, by Marsha McCloskey
Two other quilts are hanging on the walls at my home. I probably should have pulled them down to bring to the lecture, but didn't think of it until it was too late. Those quilts are the One Patch with upholstery samples, and the Houses quilt, which I refer to as "Levittown Pennsylvania after the big paint sale" - LOL!
One-Patch with upholstery samples. c. 1970
Houses, c. 1975
These quilts will likely be part of the group to be exhibited next year at QuiltCon in Austin. I'm excited to go, and look forward to sharing these remarkable quilts.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Portland Modern Quilt Guild, 1970s Quilts

Yesterday, I presented a trunk show about 1970s quilts for the Portland Modern Quilt Guild (PMQG). I have not been doing many lectures this year because I am focusing on writing a book about New York Beauty quilts. In fact, I have turned down a at least a dozen invitations to speak over the last six months (sorry, folks!), but when PMQG President MaryAnn Morsette asked me if I could come do a talk, it was impossible to resist. I adore MaryAnn, by the way. :)

Portland Modern Quilt Guild is a dynamic group. I am a member, and last night I learned PMQG is the largest Modern quilt guild in the U.S. with 175 members! Phenomenal, especially considering the guild is just a few years old. So many talented people belong. For the talk, I wanted to offer a preview of the quilts I am planning to display at QuiltCon in Austin next year. The theme was "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s". It was a lot of fun, and I hope everyone enjoyed the quilts as much as I enjoyed sharing them. Thank you to Susan Beal (westcoastcrafty) for the Instagram pictures.

I started with an old quilt, to offer some perspective on where I came from as a collector. For the first 20 years collecting quilts, I would rarely look at anything that was less than 100 years old. So I opened with the "Start the car!" quilt, the 1860s appliqué masterpiece found just this week in Sellwood. When I said how little I paid, there was an audible gasp from the audience- that's what I love!

Here are a few of the quilts I shared.

"Wild Thing" - the first 1970s quilt I ever acquired, This quilt
was displayed at the International Quilt Festival of Ireland, 2013.
After sharing the old appliqué quilt, I showed the quilt that started me collecting 1970s quilts- the one I call "Wild Thing". Musical interlude...

After that, I showed some crib quilts, including the "Alphabet Quilt" made of calico prints. 

Alphabet Quilt, c. 1970
Then I launched in to the big, dynamic, polyester double-knit quilts. I think the audience loved them. Must thank the volunteers who held the quilts up. It was a workout!! 

"Fans" c. 1975
Diamonds, c. 1975
"Double Wedding Ring" c. 1975

"Woven Pattern" c. 1975
Several people came up afterwards, and said they enjoyed the talk. I was happy they enjoyed it. The quilts of the 1970s may be barely vintage, but they are so exuberant and fun! I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to share these quilts at QuiltCon, next year in Austin, Texas. 

When the first QuiltCon took place in 2013, Roderick Kiracofe displayed 15 quilts in a special exhibit called "Modern Historical Quilts" - I was very envious, but at the same time, inspired. When I saw he was exhibiting vintage quilts, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Lucky for me, I was able to do that. (Thank you, Rod!!). Looking forward to QuiltCon!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

the "Start the Car" quilt

applique quilt, c. 1860, found in Sellwood, 74" x 94"
Mom and I enjoy going to antique shops together, and there's always an amusing dialogue. She will say, "There's a lot of it!" and "Hard to believe someone bought it the first time." We always have a good time with antiques.

Yesterday, I learned a new expression from Madge Ziegler, who heard it from Karen Dever.

"Start the car!" 

Karen is a quiltmaker, collector and historian who lives in Moorestown, New Jersey, where my family lived for years. We met through mutual friends in the quilting community, and I have enjoyed our Moorestown connection. According to Madge, Karen's original version of this expression was "Harry, start the car!" I think Harry is her husband.

What a hoot! The reason for learning this wonderful expression yesterday was a quilt I found at an antique shop in the Sellwood district of Portland. Sellwood has some fun antique shops, although there are fewer shops than when I first visited the neighborhood 16 years ago. I get there a few times a year, and usually don't find much. The antiques shops in Portland are mostly vintage, and the selection of available quilts is usually pretty sad.

oh look, a quilted "fylfot"
Yesterday's outing was really just to get out of the house for a few hours. I thought I would look for items with sun motifs, since I am hoping to include something about the motif in my book. The sun is really the central motif in the New York Beauty design. Before I left the house, I found a neat little Civil War snuff box on eBay.

Civil War snuff box found on eBay
I never find quilts in Sellwood, and wasn't even looking for quilts. So, imagine my surprise when I spotted this stunning 1860s appliqué quilt. That's where the "Start the car!" expression comes in.

When I saw the price, I nearly fell over. It was a steal! Without going into too much detail about that, I can say I have spent a lot more money on dinner for two than the quilt. It was really hard to believe. I was flabbergasted!

Trying to contain my excitement, I looked around to make sure I wasn't on Candid Camera, tucked the quilt under my arm, and headed toward the register with a poker face. The clerks were nice to hold up the quilt so I could get a picture of it, but they really had no idea what a remarkable find it was.

I quickly paid and left, and dashed to the car as soon as I was out of view. It was raining, so hopefully I didn't look too out of place running with a package in my arms, but passers by must have wondered why I was beaming. If something like that ever happens to me again, it's good to know there's a suitable expression for it. Thank you, Karen and Madge! When Mom comes to visit this summer, she'll know exactly what I mean if we're looking at antiques and I say "Start the car, Mom!"

More info about the design: Sandra Starley shared a link to a wonderful blog by Barbara Brackman, where you may see several examples of the motif. Click here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I collect books...

after receiving the 1995 Uncoverings, there are only two editions missing
from my collection
I collect books, and guess what? I read them! Well, you didn't think I just looked at the pictures, did you? (L.O.L.)

The 1995 Uncoverings received yesterday from Audrey Waite is simply wonderful. I just read Merikay Waldvogel's remarkable paper about Mountain Mist. Pattern "X", the New York Beauty is still a bit of a mystery, but it was fascinating to read about Frederick J. Hooker, Margaret and Ruth Hayes, Phoebe Edwards, and the letters saved by Margaret Hayes.

bookshelves, around 2008
In the summer of 2008, my home was remodeled and the design for the great room included some book shelves. At the time, I did not know how I would fill those shelves. As it turned out, I should have built more shelves. Perhaps when the other half of the house is remodeled...

bookshelves, 2014
Those shelves are nearly full now, and what a joy it has been collecting all those books! Many of the books were written by people I have met. Many are personally signed. In 2008, those authors were just names. Now they are friends, acquaintances and colleagues. The top shelf on the left includes self-published books, magazines with articles about my collection, and books with quilts from my collection. I'm sure it will also be full soon.

I am still looking for the 1996 and 1999 editions of Uncoverings, by the way. If anyone out there has duplicate copies available, I would love to buy them.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Previously published information is always helpful, even if it does not reveal any new information. Publications have dates and show research progress at specific points in time. The April 1981 Quilter's Newsletter Magazine article, "The Great American Quilt Classics, New York Beauty" contained a lot of information that was later disproved. A 1995 Article by Barbara Brackman was much closer to today's research.

Mountain Mist New York Beauty, c. 1930
I received the January/February 1995 issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine today, and was very interested in Barbara's article, "New York Beauties, from the Rockies through Tennessee and Texas". It was illuminating, in more ways than one. The article showed exactly where quilt history research about the New York Beauty design was almost 20 years ago, and the research was much closer than it had been in 1981.

Today, I also received one of the few editions of "Uncoverings" I had been missing, the 1995 edition. Audrey Waite was very kind to offer it to me when she saw my post about collecting all the American Quilt Study Group research journals. The 1995 edition includes a paper about Mountain Mist by Merikay Waldvogel, whose research is impeccable. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Did you know I was an avid collector of periodicals, research materials and ephemera? Today I also received a 2006 booklet called "New York Beauty" by Cheryl Phillips and Karla Schulz, which included plexiglas templates. Very cool!

If you're reading this blog and know of any other periodicals that may support my research, I hope you'll let me know. I want to send a big thank you to all the people who already have directed me to good information. It improves the quality of my research, and will ultimately be reflected in my upcoming Quiltmania book about New York Beauty quilts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

more pieces for that other collection

from "Precision Pieced Quilts Using the Foundation Method"
Last week, I blogged about my collection of ephemera and books, the support materials for all my research about the patchwork design most commonly known as New York Beauty. The post, called "...the collection people didn't know about..." can be found here.

Following that blog, I thought I would continue posting about new additions to this collection as they arrive, and talk a little about what these items mean.

After mentioning the 1992 American Quilter article by Jean Wells in my blog last week, my friend Madge Ziegler recalled another early source of information about foundation piecing using the New York Beauty design. It was a 1992 book called "Precision Pieced Quilts Using the Foundation Method" by Jane Hall and Dixie Haywood. My copy arrived today, and it supports idea that foundation piecing was being introduced to the New York Beauty design through the mass media around 1992.

The other piece was a magazine clipping with a quilt called "Diana's Rose"- a fairly recent variant of the designs with appliqué elements. According to the seller, the quilt design was to pay tribute to Princess Diana after she died- so the pattern is 1997 or later.

The name of the magazine and date are not included, so if anyone recognizes it, let me know. I have a small collection of similar clippings, and they relate to two of the antique quilts in my collection. What was once a rare variant may be seen more often from the current period in history, because it was reintroduced by several designers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Double Irish Chain, c. 1840, Lambertville, NJ
"For it is in giving that we receive." -Saint Francis of Assisi

Yesterday I received the catalogue from the "Common Threads" exhibition, celebrating the tricentennial of Hunterdon County, N.J. The exhibition was a very special project, curated by longtime friend and mentor Judy Grow, the curator of the Hunterdon County Historical Society.

Judy and I met more than 20 years ago, when she was the owner of Frames & Framers, a do-it-yourself and custom picture framing workshop across the highway from Quakerbridge Mall in New Jersey. Whenever she was in the shop, we chatted about a variety of topics from her husband's magnificent artwork to my involvement with swimming.

One day, Judy had one of her quilts hanging in the shop, and we got to talking about quilts. I told her about my quilt, the red, white and green "New York Beauty" from Kentucky. She was very interested, and asked if I would be willing to lend it for a quilt show at the Prallsville Mills in Stockton, New Jersey.

At first, I was uneasy about the idea of lending the quilt. It was by far my most valuable possession, and irreplaceable. At the same time, I had absolute confidence in Judy, and wanted other people to enjoy the quilt. So I decided to lend the quilt for the show. It was the first time I ever shared a quilt publicly, and it was the same quilt I had hidden from my mother for years, fearing she would give me a hard time for foolishly spending my money. None of my fears had any merit whatsoever, as I would learn.

Needless to say I was delighted to receive the "Common Threads" catalogue yesterday, and so happy for Judy, but I also learned something. Lambertville is in Hunterdon County. I felt a little silly not knowing that, because I spent lots of time in Lambertville when I lived in the Princeton area. I'd always thought it was part of Mercer county.

Then I remembered a quilt- a red, white and green Double Irish Chain made in Lambertville in the 1840s. Mom gave me the quilt years ago, and I wasn't sure where it was. When I located it, I posted pictures for Judy on Facebook. It was never my intent to dangle the quilt in front of Judy after missing out on lending it for the exhibition. Truth of the matter was, I wanted to see if I could find a permanent home for it. Secretly, I hoped there would be an opportunity to donate the quilt, even though it missed the big dance.

Mom and I talked, and we are happy to say the quilt is on its way home, a gift from both of us to the Hunterdon County Historical Society. Even though it missed being in the exhibition by a week, Judy's efforts caused the quilt to surface, and inspired the gift. When an exhibition reveals objects such as this quilt, it is a job well done. For me, it was a chance to pay tribute to the gifts I have received. One of those gifts was the important lesson I learned from Judy all those years ago: share the quilts!

Hexagon Flowers, c. 1970s
"For it is in giving that we receive." Yesterday evening, I went to the Northwest Quilters meeting, and one of my guildmates, a lovely lady named Anne, came over during the break to thank me for looking at some quilts she was trying to sell a few weeks ago. She brought me one of the quilts as a thank you, a gorgeous hexagon flower quilt that I had admired when looking through her collection.

I was overwhelmed by her generosity, very thankful, and stunned to receive such a beautiful gift just hours after deciding to donate the other quilt. There was something magical about the whole experience of yesterday. If you ever have the opportunity to give a gift, don't ask questions. Just do it. There really is no way to describe the feeling of joy, and that may be the greatest gift of all.


I absolutely love this quilt, made by Nancy Tanguay of Warren, Connecticut, and quilted by Monika Krall of Trail, British Columbia. It's so happy, it sings to me. What is it singing?

The quilt is a pictorial rendition of the New York Beauty design, and a wonderful addition to the collection. The first time I saw a pictorial quilt made with New York Beauty blocks was a few years ago, when the Oregon Quilt Project was documenting the iconic Wedding Garden quilt by Jean Wells of Sisters, and I have searched for a pictorial New York Beauty ever since. 

One of the things I love most about Nancy Tanguay's quilt is the big, shining sun in the sky. The sun is a central motif in the New York Beauty patchwork design, but very few people have actually used the design to render the sun. What a brilliant idea, and I also love Monika's swirling quilting. 

Worth noting, Nancy and Monika teamed up to create another quilt in my collection, which was actually the first 21st century New York Beauty I added to my collection a few years ago. That quilt appeared in Quilters Newsletter, and was also part of my exhibitions at the Benton County Museum and the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles. 

It was a very important piece to add to the collection because it opened up the whole discussion about how the New York Beauty design evolved with the introduction of foundation piecing in recent years. Having a pictorial is like putting an exclamation point at the end of that sentence. Thank you, Nancy and Monika- the two of you make me very happy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

I'm Looking forward to ____________

I'm looking forward to _________ (fill in the blank).

1) Mom's visit this summer. She is coming from Maine, and we are going to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Her friends Robin and Bill Carter are coming along. Sisters is such a magical place, especially around quilt show time. The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show is a bucket-list event. How fortunate we are to have this wonderful event here in Oregon every summer.

2) my book. Years of writing, blogging and self-publishing led to the extraordinary opportunity of writing a book with Quiltmania. The book will be about my "New York Beauty" collection and will be the culminating experience of 25 years of collecting and learning.

3) upcoming exhibitions! Once the book is done, I will prepare to exhibit 50 of the quilts at Pour l'Amour du Fil in Nantes - this time next year!! The article in the latest issue of Quiltmania, issue #100, is a very brief preview of things to come. Before I go to France, I will debut my "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" collection at QuiltCon in Austin, and will also be the featured guest at the Milwaukie Center's 21st Annual Airing of the Quilts.

4) magazine articles. Soon there will be an article in Patchwork Professional, a German magazine. There will also be an article in American Quilter about the Kentucky quilts from my "New York Beauty" collection. I wrote the article especially for American Quilter and the Kentucky based American Quilters Society.

5) visiting the DAR Museum. The Achsah Goodwin Wilkins appliqué counterpane will be displayed at the DAR Museum in Washington, D. C., as part of a major exhibition of quilts from Maryland and Virginia. I will be attending the event to help celebrate the gift of this object to the museum, and look forward to seeing it in its new home.

6) more projects! There are so many ideas flying around right now, it's crazy. It is wonderful to be approached by so many smart, talented people who want to work together. I now have a bucket list of potential collaborative projects. Hard work really does pay off. But the thing about hard work is, it generates opportunities for more hard work. I say, "bring it!"

If you had to fill in the blank for "I'm looking forward to ____________" what would you have to say? Leave a comment below, and I will look forward to hearing your good news!

Friday, April 11, 2014

readability, and my first Oregonian article

applique counterpane, c. 1820, Achsah Goodwin Wilkins 

I love having the opportunity to write for a variety of publications. My first article written for The Oregonian is now online and will appear in print before end of the month. The article is about investing in collectible quilts. Click here to read it.

Today I posted a link on Facebook, and there was some interesting discussion about reading levels. I wanted to talk a little about that in today's blog. When you work in journalism and publishing for a long time, there are certain practices that are part of the process, but it's easy to forget, people usually do not know about these practices. Running readability tests on finished copy is one of those practices.

Mass media publications are typically written at an eighth grade reading level, and that is not meant to be an insult to anyone who is educated beyond the eighth grade. I appreciate it because it makes newspapers and magazines very quick and easy to read, and easily digested.

For me, the most interesting aspect of readability statistics is how the reading level relates to an academic writing style. Last week I was reading an online article written by two quilt historians. The article was barely readable in my opinion. After the Facebook discussion today, and running a readability test on my own copy, I was curious to see how my writing compared to the other article.

my article
article written by quilt historians
When I compared the two sets of statistics, it was easy to see why the article written by the quilt historians was such a struggle to read. First, it was twice as long as the typical magazine or newspaper article. There were more sentences per paragraph and many more words per sentence than in my article.

Most enlightening were the readability statistics. The Flesch Reading Ease score was below 40 in the article written by the quilt historians. In my article, it was already on the low side at 56.2. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for my article was 9.3, ninth grade. The other article was written for a 12th grade level.

That's a very significant difference. It speaks directly to the reasons why quilt history has such difficulty reaching the mainstream, and is also why I am able to easily communicate to a mass audience. As a side-note to the discussion about readability, it is worth mentioning that most mass media outlets use AP style, whereas academic writing uses Chicago style.

During the last year, as opportunities have come my way more and more often, folks have said they do not understand why some people seem to have all the luck when it comes to getting published. It's not luck. Readability is one of the main reasons why I get many of the opportunities that others do not. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

romanticism, and romantic regionalism

pieced quilt, unknown maker, cottons, c. 1880, Texas
If you have followed this blog, you may have heard the term "romanticism" mentioned, but may not have known exactly what I meant by it. Romanticism is defined as a movement in arts and literature that originated in the late 18th century, emphasizing inspiration, subjectivity, and the primacy of the individual. Romanticism was a reaction against the order and restraint of classicism and neoclassicism, and a rejection of the rationalism that characterized the Enlightenment.

"Ossian receiving the Ghosts of the French Heroes" 1800-1802
by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson - not exactly reality
(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)
In art history, it is very clear what constitutes romanticism. The painting "Ossian receiving the Ghosts of the French Heroes" by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson is a good example. Although figures are rendered with realism, the painting does not represent reality.

"The New York Beauty quilt design did not originate in New York. That was the first thing I ever learned about the complicated patchwork pattern."

In quilt history, romanticism is not always as easy to pinpoint. The New York Beauty quilt design is a prime example of how romanticism got its foot in the door, even after much of it was scrutinized and disproved by historians. The origins of this design have remained murky, and much of the misinformation in recent years is directly attributable to romantic regionalism.

Quiltmania #100 - "Collecting New York Beauty Quilts" article
The opening of my article in the current issue of Quiltmania Magazine (Issue #100) says, "The New York Beauty quilt design did not originate in New York. That was the first thing I ever learned about the complicated patchwork pattern." It is a very important statement because it establishes that we have known since 1989 (or earlier) that the origins were not in New York. But the statement does not preclude the widespread acceptance of New York Beauty as the genre name.
New York Beauty, Mountain Mist, c. 1930, Kentucky
The patchwork design is thought to have originated in the southeastern United States, and that is one of the main reasons why romantic regionalism still affects the study of the design. The widespread popularity of the name New York Beauty is very well established, and I have addressed it. The Quiltmania article and the essay in my "Collecting New York Beauty Quilts" (2013, Blurb) catalogue from last year's exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, include the most up-to-date ideas.

My 2011 "Beauty Secrets" catalogue - out of print for a reason
My previous exhibition catalogue, "Beauty Secrets, 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" (2011 Blurb) included some of the romantic regionalism, which is why the book is now out of print. One of the pieces of information that did not hold up to later scrutiny was the statement, "The most prevalent names before 1930 were Rocky Mountain Road and Crown of Thorns."

Where did that statement come from, and why was 1930 a key point in the history? In short, the statement came from a very superficial reading of the available information, such as documentation records on the Quilt Index, and I accept full responsibility for going along with that and not asking enough questions. It happened in a much earlier stage of my research, but I still wish I could take it back. The year 1930 was important because that was when Mountain Mist released the New York Beauty pattern.

Mountain Mist New York Beauty Pattern, Stearns & Foster, Ohio 1930
How did romantic regionalism become part of the discourse? There has been a small, vocal group of historians who felt the name New York Beauty was inappropriate for a quilt with southern origins, despite it being by far the most widely recognized name. Other names have been suggested, and touted as more historically accurate, particularly with regard to the 19th century. However, none of the other names was definitively traceable to a time earlier than the beginning of the 20th century.

So, how was I able to get to the bottom of it? By looking a lot more closely at documentation records, understanding how names were designated during the documentation process, and learning more about the primary resource for identifying pieced quilt designs, Barbara Brackman's "Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns" - one of the most brilliant quilt history research projects ever done, but also one of the most misused and misunderstood books.

Why would I say such a thing? Isn't that like...blasphemy? Back in December 2013, I exchanged e-mails with Barbara Brackman regarding the recent discovery of a reference to the term "New York Beauty" in a diary from 1854. During the e-mail exchanges, I said her book "...continues to reinforce the idea that universal pattern names were more of a 20th century thing..." in the context of historians assigning 20th century names to 19th century quilts. She agreed, and encouraged me to keep telling people.

pieced quilt, unknown maker, cottons, c. 1880, Kentucky
formerly part of the collection of Phyllis George
The quilt from the Phyllis George collection was discovered by the late Bruce Mann in Kentucky. It appeared in George's book, "Living With Quilts: 50 Great American Quilts" (Gt Pub Corp, 1998), and in the book it was called a New York Beauty. We cannot change the reality that this information appeared in print. We can address it, but assigning another 20th century name is not the solution.

So, how does all of this discussion tie in with my research, and how does it affect the way I describe the quilts? Very simply, if I have a quilt made by an unknown maker and no published pattern source, I do not profess to know what the maker called it, as some folks have suggested I should do. Instead, I will call it a "pieced quilt" and "later called New York Beauty" to reference the name most readers would recognize.

Civil War montage (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)
Now is a good time to talk about romanticism because I am writing a book about these quilts and need to look at romantic regionalism with as critical an eye as possible. The War of Northern Aggression is still being fought over the name of this quilt design, and it's time for that war to conclude. Since most people call it the Civil War, and most people call the quilt New York Beauty, it may be time for the few remaining confederate troops to concede.

Thanks for reading!