Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bicentennial Quilt & The Returnee

At Thursday night's Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting, Mary Fons gave a talk about the Great American Quilt Revival of the 1970s, and how the period led the quilt industry to be what it is today. Right up my alley. Or, as I like to say lately, "da kine I like."

We chatted about it later at Radio Room, and I revealed my recent epiphany. Those zany, madcap polyester quilts I'd been collecting were actually the quilts of the revival.

The 1970s came sharply into focus for the quilt world in the last few years. Maybe I had something to do with that, but surely I am not the only one who figured out all roads led back to the 1970s.

Recently I bought an interesting Bicentennial quilt. I'd never really thought of collecting Bicentennial quilts, since many of the really great ones will never be sold, but this one caught my eye for a couple reasons. First, I liked the design; second, the price was very low.

I lived in Jersey in '76
Almost as soon as the auction ended, I saw another one on eBay.

It was over $170 more than what I paid (I gave less than $30 for mine). The mattress-pad quilting should've been a giveaway that the quilt was mass-produced, but seeing another one confirmed it.

I wasn't unhappy to have a mass-produced Bicentennial quilt. In 1976, the Bicentennial was hugely marketed, and there were many products. All I needed to do was identify the manufacturer, if possible. Sometimes it's hard to do, because tags are usually removed. Luckily, I found a record on The Quilt Index.

Louisville Bedding of Louisville, Kentucky produced the quilt based on an original design by Albert G. Fleming, who made quilt for Bedford Public Library, Cuyahoga county, Ohio; which conducted a fund raising raffle with the quilt as a prize. The winner of the raffle donated the quilt to the White House. The design was reproduced with screen printing, mass produced and marketed. 

While enjoying Mary's lecture, I thought, "should've brought those Bicentennial quilts for show and tell!" But I did bring a neat, c. 1900 patchwork quilt, also patriotic in red, white and blue. It's one I'd sold/traded with another collector a couple years ago, and recently we swapped back. Quilt boomerang, we call it. I am happy to welcome back the returnee.

Here's that quilt. Yeah, it's amazing. I think Mary liked it, too. She was trying to get pictures of it, I noticed. The quilt originally came from Laura Fisher in New York, and is a wonderful, early example of a Bargello style quilt with a zig-zag design. Somehow, it looks so much more fresh and modern than most of the Bargello quilts made in the last 20 years, and it is also an optical illusion quilt. Just ten colors, but what an incredible use of color. Glad to have it back. It's a great example of how some old quilts look surprisingly modern.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Thank You, Benton County Museum!

Yesterday was the final day of "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" at the Benton County Museum. I am already thinking ahead to what's up next. Before I do that, I'd like to send out a great big thank you to everyone who was part of the experience, especially my friends at the Benton County Museum.

Thank you for inviting me back. I thoroughly enjoyed our second exhibition together at the museum. "Beauty Secrets: 150 Years of History in One Quilt Pattern" in 2011 was the first-ever exhibition of quilts from my collection, and it brought a whole lot of good luck. It was a culminating experience, but at the same time, a whole new chapter.

A lot of things have happened since 2011. When I look back on this amazing journey, which I am still on, I am especially thankful for the role the Benton County Museum played. The 2011 exhibition started a chain reaction of events, which ultimately led to the publication of my first book, "New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" (Quiltmania/France) earlier this year.

When I received the return invitation last year from curator Mark Tolonen, I was in the middle of working on the New York Beauty book. That whole month, I photographing the quilts and editing the photos, a very big project. I would soon head down a whole new path with the 1970s quilts, and the museum that brought me such good luck would be part of it, once again at the beginning.

My next exhibition will open in January at Latimer Quilt & Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon, and will explore a very special group of scrappy patchwork creations with explosive, tropical color. Stay tuned for more details as we approach the date. 

It's a Wrap: Back to School Blog Hop Recap

Sam Hunter of Hunter's Design Studio
It's a wrap! The Hunter's Design Studio Back to School Blog Hop has reached its conclusion, and you can still read all the great blogs posted during the month of September and a little of October. Sam Hunter was very kind to wrap up the event by linking all the posts in one place. Now you can follow the links directly to each Back to School post. Very user friendly, and much appreciated.

Thank you Sam, and everyone else who participated and read along. To see the list of Back to School blogs with direct links, click here.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


It's been an epic year, and when I look back on it, I will remember the epic 1970s polyester Tile Blocks quilt from Louisiana.

It was displayed at QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas, when I debuted my "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" exhibition.

QuiltCon 2015, Austin, Texas
Last year, it appeared in print, in a magazine called Patchwork Professional from Germany. This year it was in Quilters Newsletter.

Patchwork Professional, Germany, 2014
Quilters Newsletter Magazine, 2015

It's everywhere, it's everywhere! Pretty cool, considering the quilt was plucked from eBay in October, 2013. If you have followed this blog, you saw it here first.

When it arrived it was an edge-finished quilt top, likely used as a single-layer bedspread. Each patch was hand-stitched to the black rick rack between the patches. It is 112" x 120" and is 100% polyester double knit with a cotton backing and sleeve added recently for display purposes.

I love hanging it over the banister whenever it's home. The thing is huge. It fills a room with color.

Today is the LAST DAY to see the exhibition "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon. TODAY ONLY - 'til 4:30!! For more information about the exhibition, location, hours,  and other venues showing quilts during Quilt County 2015, click here.

Friday, October 2, 2015

"Levittown, Pennsylvania, After the Big Paint Sale"

Sometimes I give my quilts little nicknames. This 1970s House Quilt is one of those. I call it "Levittown, Pennsylvania, After the Big Paint Sale." For those readers who do not know Levittown, it was a planned community in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and only six models of homes were built, all single-family dwellings with lawns.

Levittown, PA (before the big paint sale) 
It probably would have been helpful to paint the house a distinct color when living in Levittown, where all the houses pretty much looked the same.

this quilt was once part of my collection and sold a few years ago
House quilts, also called Schoolhouse quilts, appeared some time around the third quarter of the 19th century. They are often two-color, red and white or indigo and white, and pieced. Sometimes they come in varied colors like the Schoolhouse quilt from New York, once part of my collection and sold a few years ago to a collector in New York. It is interesting to look at this quilt and the 1970s quilt side-by-side.
two house quilts, c. 1890-1910 (left) & c. 1970 (right) - see the difference?
The older example has more muted colors and each block is two-color. The newer one is more vibrant, with six different solid color fabrics in each block. The older quilt seems to predict Pop Art half a century early, even though it manages to have a traditional feel. The newer quilt seems heavily influenced by Pop Art.

Even though I joke about the quilt being Levittown, Pennsylvania, After the Big Paint Sale, it is not from Pennsylvania. It came from an eBay seller in Texas, part of the early wave of 1970s quilts I collected between 2011 and 2012. Being able to place it in historical context with other house quilts told me a lot about the 1970s. The quilt is 79" x 94" and made of cotton-polyester blend fabrics, all solids.

There are just two more days to see the exhibition "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon. TODAY & TOMORROW - THROUGH SATURDAY ONLY!! For more information about the exhibition, location, hours,  and other venues showing quilts during Quilt County 2015, click here.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

another spin on the hexagon

In yesterday's blog I featured Hexagon quilts. Well, here's another spin on the Hexagon quilt; but these hexagons are surrounded by narrow, interlocking, trapezoidal strips on all six sides, creating a complex, visually sophisticated design.

The pattern is called Woven Pattern and it appeared in a book called "Quilt Patterns for the Collector, with Keys for Drafting" by L.K. Meeker of Portland, Oregon, 1979. According to Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns it is #425.7.

The quilt came from an eBay seller in Georgia. It is 76" x 92", the top is 100% polyester double knit, and the backing appears to be a pre-quilted bedspread with botanical / tall grass print in browns on off white.

The quilt is tied with colorful yarn, which is much more evident when you see it in person, and there is a wide variety of fabrics and colors.

There are just a few more days to see the exhibition "Modern Materials, Quilts of the 1970s" at the Benton County Museum in Philomath, Oregon. THROUGH SATURDAY!! For more information about the exhibition, location, hours,  and other venues showing quilts during Quilt County 2015, click here.