Thursday, February 25, 2016

Quilt Your Heart Out, Episode #2: Labeling Life

Today's the day! I am a guest on the second-ever episode of Quilt Your Heart Out, a brand new podcast with Marianne and Mary Fons, produced by Heather Kinion. We talked about labeling quilts, among other things, so I thought I would share a photo of one of my labels.

My friends Gail and Gregg at Phantom Chicken do amazing screen printing work. They do not offer label printing as a service, but we're friends, so I was able to convince them to do a few labels for me. Permanent is good, and information is important. Usually I also include the date, too. The thing I wanted to point out about this label is the inclusion of the name of the long-arm quilter. Clearly, at the time I had the label made, having Jolene's name on the label was more important to me than the date.

You can hear more on today's podcast, but I have one other nugget. If you piece your quilt backs, try piecing your label into the back. Plan it all out ahead of time, and make the label part of the whole plan for the quilt. It would be difficult to remove, and it sure wouldn't fall off. A lot of quilters are piecing their backs today, and I hope to see more of them making great labels and piecing them into the backs. I also hope to see a few rebels piece their labels into the quilt top.

Thank you, Marianne, Mary and Heather for inviting me to be a guest on the show. If you need me, just call, and I'll be there. For listeners, if you have questions or need pithy advice about old quilts or quilt history, you can call them in.  Phone: 1-773-273-9120 to reach the Quilt Your Heart Out line, and leave a brief message with your question. To listen to today's podcast, click here.

Monday, February 22, 2016

something to talk about

As many of you already know, I missed QuiltCon. My heart said "no" to that idea, and told me to go to St. Vincent's Hospital, where I landed in the cath lab with an angiogram and a stent to open a blockage in my left anterior descending artery. Just six days before the big Five-Oh. Perfect!

There were needles, vials, plastic tubes, wires, IV bags, barf bags, plastic urinal jugs, pills, a bed that was way to small, and a machine that would start beeping every time I tried to roll into more comfortable position and crimped the tube. Not a happy camper.

When I look at this picture today, I think, "Oh, the poor night nurse!"
A no-show at QuiltCon, friends started sending messages asking where I was. I tried to let them know, but my phone battery was very low. I had appointments, coffee dates, dinner dates and lots of other plans to cancel. My friend Chris, who luckily was in town from Boulder visiting his family, came to the hospital with my laptop. He and I were together playing pinball when my symptoms started. As much as I hated to post what was going on, it would be the easiest way of getting the word out.

The last thing I meant to do was alarm everyone, but now I can appreciate how a selfie in a hospital bead and the words "heart attack" could seem alarming. When I first realized I needed to go to the hospital, I didn't collapse or lose consciousness at any point. I even drove to the hospital myself. I was more annoyed than anything, and sad to think I would miss QuiltCon. There were more than 200 replies to the Facebook post in the first hour. The morning nurse said she didn't even know that many people.

She was surprised when I told her what I did, and why all those people knew me. By the end of the day, more than five hundred replies streamed in from all around the world, just on that one post. What great medicine that was! I'm home now, recovering and following doctors' orders. Last year everyone was talking about the 1970s quilts. This year they were talking about why I wasn't there. Talk about giving them something to talk about!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quilt Your Heart Out Podcast

Marianne and Mary Fons are always working on something wonderful, and their latest project is a new podcast called Quilt Your Heart Out. I will be a guest on one of the very first episodes, when I will respond to a question about one of my favorite details when finishing quilts. Thats all I can say for now, but I will post an announcement when the podast is airing.

From the Quilt Your Heart Out website:

Pithy Advice on Patchwork + Relationships
This weekly podcast hosted by nationally recognized mother-daughter quilting team Marianne Fons and Mary Fons will launch in February, 2016. Quilt Your Heart Out is the first-ever listener-interactive podcast specifically designed for quilting enthusiasts. Check out how to ask us a question — you may have some time on air! We’ll see you in February, and in the meantime, quilt your heart out. ~ Marianne + Mary

at the Radio Room in Portland when Mary was visiting
We had fun chatting when recording the segment, and producer Heather Kinion did a fine job keeping us all in line, even though we got to talking about things other than the original question. I adore Marianne and Mary, and it's always fun to talk with them. Stay tuned for an announcement about the air date. I will post it here when we know. To get a preview, click here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Celebrating Black History Month

This year, I am celebrating Black History Month in a very special way. I played matchmaker, assisting in the journey of an important, historic quilt made in the late Victorian period by Mrs. Henretta (Bond) George Washington Turnbull in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Karen Gelbard, a weaver who lives on the coast of Oregon, brought Turnbull's quilt in for an evaluation. She was looking for a new home for the quilt, which was owned by a friend. It had descended through the family, whose ancestor was the original recipient. Turnbull was born into slavery and was employed as a nurse by the family, whose son had club feet. While she cared for the boy, she made approximately 16,000 English paper pieced, silk hexagons.

Thurnbull's masterpiece quilt appears in the latest issue of American Quilter Magazine, in an article written by Karen. In brainstorming ideas for how to find the quilt a home, I suggested writing about it for one of the magazines. I offered to do the photography for free, and pitched the piece to American Quilter. They said yes right away. It took some time to get a spot on the calendar, but I am so thrilled the magazine arrived in time for Black History Month. What happened next was even better...

restoration is planned for this incredibly rare piece of history
The ink on the magazine pages was barely dry when I received a note from Carolyn Mazloomi, looking for the quilt and expressing a serious interest. She saw my name in the article, and hoped I knew where the quilt was. When her e-mail arrived, I got goosebumps. It was magical.

Carolyn is a prolific artist, writer, and independent curator. She founded the Women of Color Quilters Network in 1985. In 2014, she was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. If I had to make a list of the people who should own Henretta Turnbull's magnificent hexagon quilt, Carolyn would be at the very top.

Carolyn Mazloomi appeared in "Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics"
My introduction to Carolyn came through Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics when the series was in production. Shelly Zegart sent me a DVD previewing the series, and I made a donation. That's why my name appears in the credits. In the preview DVD, Carolyn gave an interview, and I was drawn to her, so I asked her to be my friend on Facebook.

"Bible Story" 1979 by Lucy Mingo
Not long after Carolyn and I started communicating, I purchased a Gee's Bend quilt from Kyra Hicks on eBay. The name on the back was Polly Raymond, written in thick, black magic marker. I asked Carolyn if she knew anything more about Polly Raymond, and that was when she revealed the quilt's true story. Carolyn was, in fact, the original owner of the quilt. She bought it from the maker. It was another goosebump moment, and led to a meeting with the quilt's true maker-- Polly Raymond's mother, Lucy Mingo.

Meeting Lucy Mingo was my ultimate "Fan Boy" moment. I was speechless. She and all the ladies from Gee's Bend who attended the Quilters' Affair and Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show lined up and signed the back of the quilt. Quiltmaking is community in Gee's Bend, now known as Boykin, Alabama. There were probably several people involved with the making of Lucy's quilt. It was very special to have a whole group of women sign it.

Lucy's quilt launched me into African-American quilt study. Later, the important discovery of the chintz medallion attributed to Achsah Goodwin Wilkins offered a rare opportunity to learn about the role of African-American women before abolition. The masterpiece silk hexagon quilt made by Henretta Turnbull was somewhere in between. She was born into slavery and lived through abolition. Turnbull left us with a truly exquisite work of art.

I am so grateful to be a small part of this story during Black History Month, also the month of Valentine's Day and my 50th birthday. I may be a quilt magnet, but I'm also a matchmaker, and this was a match made in Heaven. Thank you, Karen, Carolyn and American Quilter Magazine for giving me something great to talk about this year, in celebrating Black History Month

Monday, February 15, 2016

Meeting Yvonne Porcella

I don't go into "Fan Boy" mode very often, but I sure did in 2013, when Yvonne Porcella came to my exhibition of "New York Beauty" quilts at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles. It was September 8th, 2013, and I was giving a tour of the exhibition "Collecting New York Beauty Quilts" for supporters and friends of the museum.

Yvonne and I were Facebook friends, and I knew she was battling cancer. I hoped she would make it to the event, and was overjoyed when she walked in the front door. I gave her a big hug, thanked her for coming and told her how much I admired her.

She also signed my book. I was probably a foot taller than Yvonne, but I looked up to her.

My mother and sister attended the gathering at the museum. One of Yvonne's quilts was on display in a space leading to the main gallery.

My sister, a breast cancer survivor, spent a lot of time talking to Yvonne at the museum before the supporter's dinner in the garden at Nancy Bavor's home. I sat between Mom and Yvonne at dinner, and Joe Cunningham was at our table, with guitar. Roderick Kiracofe was also there. Joe serenaded us, then I shared a badly damaged New York Beauty quilt, talking about the importance of quilt preservation and museums like the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles.

It was a banner day, and Yvonne was with us the whole time. When the evening was winding down, she announced it was time for her to go, and we walked her down the hill to her car. That was the last time I saw Yvonne Porcella in person. I may have stolen another hug after making sure she reached her car.

We kept in touch on Facebook, and exchanged greetings recently. She put her health battles out there, but they did not define her. She sometimes poked fun at her own situation, and saw color everywhere-- even in the transfusion line. Yvonne's optimism never wavered. She fought hard with such courage, dignity and faith; and she left us with an incredibly vibrant, important body of work.

In December, 2014, I won a quilt made by Yvonne in a Quilt Alliance benefit auction. The quilt was called "The Best" and afterwards I discovered I had outbid Victoria Findlay Wolfe for the quilt in the final moments of the auction. Sorry, Victoria! Here is a link to the blog I posted at the time. The quilt is radiant, just like Yvonne. She used silks, and loved mixing silks with cottons.

Yvonne loved the color red, and probably would've appreciated the humor in passing away just before Valentine's Day. An announcement on Facebook opened the floodgates, and messages have been streaming in from around the world.

There have been many wonderful tributes. Alex Anderson, Ricky Tims of The Quilt Show celebrated Yvonne's life by offering the 2010 Quilt Legend episode for free. Click here to see the video. I watched the video, and it was wonderful to reflect on my own experience meeting Yvonne Porcella while having a virtual visit at her home. Rest in peace, dear, sweet Yvonne!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

QuiltCon 2016 Magazine

The digital edition of QuiltCon 2016 Magazine is now available, and my article "Sweepins': The Rise of Improvisational Quiltmaking in America" is included. The four-page feature article discusses the history of the improvisational style in American quiltmaking, while celebrating the appearance of Gwen Marston as Keynote Speaker at QuiltCon 2016.

Gwen loves old quilts! Sisters, Oregon, 2012 (photo by Kristin Shields)
I met Gwen in 2012 at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Shortly after the event, a fellow member of the Northwest Quilters offered me her spot in Gwen's Liberated Medallion workshop and Folk Art Quilting Retreat with Gwen and Sue Spargo in the Fall. So, I went.

Center Star, 2013, quilted by Tomme Fent
In the workshop, I started a small, improvisational quilt called "Center Star" - inspired by the famous Center Star quilt in the collection of the American Folk Art Museum and done in Gwen's liberated style. At one point, I was having trouble with my Featherweight, so Gwen reached underneath and pulled out a silver-dollar sized piece of lint from under the bobbin. "Maybe you should get the machine serviced," she said slyly, holding up the piece of lint. We laughed.

"Wild-Eyed Susans" 2013
In Sisters, I also began work on a wool quilt, "Wild-Eyed Susans" during the Folk Art Quilting Retreat. Both projects were finished within the year, exhibited, and published. The wool quilt even received an award in my first judged show, the Pacific West Quilt Show.

Nine Patch quilt top, New York, c. 1830
Improvisational style seems like a recent trend in quiltmaking, but the roots of improvisational style run deep. The article discusses the rise of improvisational quiltmaking, from the early 19th century "make-do" patchwork to the scrap quilts made of cutaway fabrics from the garment industry.

Prior to the turn of the 19th century, American bedcovers were elegant wholecloth, applique and embroidered works. The less formal, scrap quilts came later, and coincided with the establishment of the textile and garment industries in America. The signature wedge-shaped patches came from cutaway scraps. Today, people take classes with teachers like Gwen, learning how work in an improvisational style replicating the cutaway shapes.

"Sweepins'" article featuring Kristin Shields' magnificent "Love in the Digital Age"
When I heard Gwen would be the Keynote Speaker at QuiltCon 2016, I thought it would be fun to write about the history of improvisational quilts for the magazine, and share the story of meeting Gwen. One of the other attendees in her workshop and retreat was Kristin Shields of Bend, Oregon. Kristin's magnificent "Love in the Digital Age" quilt is featured on the first page of the article. I got great quotes from Mandy Leins and Siobhan Furgurson, too.

"Center Star" - masterfully quilted by Tomme Fent
"Center Star" is part of the article. Gwen saw pictures back when the quilt was first completed, and she was so impressed she thought about having some of her own tops machine quilted. That was really something, considering her strong preference for hand quilting.

Quiltmania Magazine, France, 2013
Generation Q Magazine loved the quilt, publishing it twice. Quiltmania also published it, and it was on the invitation and gallery guide for the biennial men's exhibition at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in 2014, which was juried by Bill Gardner, Editor-in-Chief of Quilters Newsletter.

MANifestations 2014 invitation
I wanted Gwen to see the quilt in person, but being in the magazine is even better than being in the show. QuiltCon has good attendance. It's only up for a few days, though. More people will see the quilt in the magazine, where they can read about its connection to Gwen and its place in American improvisational quiltmaking tradition. To get the digital edition of QuiltCon 2016 Magazine, click here

Thursday, February 11, 2016

En Français

Lors de la visite de Nantes, je rencontré Pascale Berbonne, rédacteur en chef d'un magazine appelé Pratique du Patchwork. Elle m'a demandé si je voulais écrire un article sur les courtepointes de polyester, et elle est ici.

L'article est de six pages, et comprend plusieurs courtepointes jamais été publiés auparavant. Quand j'écrire sur les couettes, je cherche à montrer de nouvelles choses à chaque fois.

Merci Pascale! Ce fut un plaisir, et je l'espère, vos lecteurs apprécient l'article. Il était amusant à écrire, et je l'ai aimé prendre un nouveau regard sur la collection de polyester.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Arrival

This gorgeous thing arrived on my doorstep the other day. It came from an Etsy seller in Naperville, Illinois. It is from the middle to late 1800s, my guess is c. 1870, and the maker and exact location of origin are unknown. It is all cotton, all solid color fabrics, and entirely stitched by hand. Dimensions are 78 X 100, a nice large size!

There are six complete blocks through the center, and 9 half-blocks around the edges. The pieced cornerstones are especially complex. Each has 33 pieces, and there are ten complete cornerstones including one in each corner of the border. There are more than 5,000 pieces in the quilt, including the appliqué.

Speaking of the appliqué, it is very unusual to see applique elements in this motif, which is most popularly known as New York Beauty even though that name was applied more than half a century after this quilt was made. Very few of these quilts have appliqué, so it was a special touch. I think it found a good home. 

Monday, February 8, 2016


The opening reception of "No Girls Allowed" was on Friday. It was the second time one of my quilts was part of the biennial men's exhibition, and my first time visiting the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

It was just an overnight trip, but it was comfortable. I stayed at the new Westin at Denver International Airport. It's really cool. Golden wasn't too far, and it was a gorgeous drive. There was snow on the ground but the roads were clear. The welcome sign in Golden was a stone's throw from the museum.

A friend who I've known since the early 1980s came to the reception. Before we met up, I went over to the museum to get oriented. The first people I met were Rod Daniel and Jim Carnevale, who were standing outside the museum. They traveled from their home in Placitas, New Mexico to be there.

Rod Daniel with his quilt, "Ain't That American!"
Rod's quilt, "Ain't That American!" is really more like a collaboration. Jim took the photograph, and Rod made the quilt using the image. In October, Jim and Rod will celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. They are two of the nicest people you'd ever meet, and they make a great creative team.

It went with the color of the "Wow Wall" (quilted by Jolene Knight)
My quilt was on the wall just inside the front door. The museum staff calls it the "Wow Wall" because it is the first thing you see when you go inside. It is visible from the street, even when the museum is closed.

Around the corner was the gift shop, where I was happy to find a stack of my books and the Pour l'Amour du Fil event bags for sale. Later this year, I will exhibit at the museum, so I am glad to know they will have these goodies on hand.

Jack Edson with his quilt, "Eakins, Flute Player"
Before the reception, we gathered at the museum's office, a large space connected to the museum's future galleries. It is a short drive away from their current location. We were recording segments for the audio tour, and when I arrived, several of the artists were already gathered around a large conference table with curator Irene Berry. It was great to meet everyone and hear their stories.

Jack Edson was there, and I have wanted to meet him since first seeing his work. Jack's quilts are inspired by classical art, and they stand out from all the other pixelated, patchwork portraiture I have seen. He came from upstate New York for the reception, and traveled with Bill Stearman, also part of the show. Bill came all the way from Ontario, Canada, and his quilt, "At Peace" was a show stopper-- simply beautiful!

"The Whole Thing" by Tim Latimer of Lansing, Michigan
One of the first quilts I saw in the gallery was a beautiful wholecloth stuffed work quilt by Tim Latimer of Lansing, Michigan. Tim was not at the reception, but everyone was talking about his remarkable hand-quilted masterpiece. When people first discover Tim's work, they are always amazed by the quality and surprised when they discover a man made the quilt.

"Did You Wash Your Beak?" by David Taylor of Steamboat Springs, Colorado was facing Tim's quilt, and was also a tour-de-force. David, Tim, and all the others are much better at sewing than I'll ever be, and I greatly admire their work.

"Sir Lancelot" by Richard Tims, Wichita Falls, Texas
Never before had I been to a quilt show that included works made by two generations of men. When I first saw the invitation for "No Girls Allowed" I wondered if there was an error. The names Ricky Tims and Richard Tims both appeared, but it was not a typo. It was a father-son duo! Richard, Ricky's father, pieced the beautiful, earthy "Sir Lancelot" top from patches cut by Ricky. It was one of the last quilt tops Richard made before he passed away in 2015.

Self Portrait by Ricky Tims, LaVeta, Colorado
The reception was very well attended, a packed house; and the museum staff and volunteers did a fine job hosting the festivities.

The main gallery before it was too packed to take photos
It filled up a lot after I took this photo

I wish I'd had more time in the gallery before the reception. It was hard to get pictures after the doors opened. The place was packed, and the quilts were stellar.

In the Groove by Leo Ransom, Sherman, Texas
Put a Ring On It by Michael Michaelski, Brooklyn, New York
After returning home, I noticed an interesting thread in one of the men's quilting groups on Facebook. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was recently digitized, and there was talk about how many male quilters got started making quilts around the time of the Names Project. My friend Collin posted the link.

one section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt
He made two panels for the AIDS Memorial Quilt back in the day, and eventually took up quiltmaking more seriously about a year ago. Several men in the Facebook group also made panels. Many men started making quilts because they were memorializing family and friends who died from the devastating disease, and that was an epiphany. People are drawn to quiltmaking for a wide variety of reasons.

"No Girls Allowed" is the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum's 13th biennial exhibition of quilts made by men is on display through April 26th. For more information, click here.