Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Giant Dahlia

 "The Giant Dahlia" is one of several large medallion quilt patterns designed by Hubert ver Mehren of Des Moines, Iowa. A flawless example of this quilt just arrived, and I'm smitten.

The Iowa Button and Pleating Company, based in Des Moines, Iowa, was ver Mehren's primary business. By the mid-1920s, he sold embroidery designs on stamped textiles under the name Home Art Studios. Working with his wife, Mary Jacobs, ver Mehren eventually sold patchwork patterns, creating full-size, medallion quilt patterns and kits. 

An unknown maker made this quilt in the 1930s. It represents one of ver Mehren's most famous designs. Often imitated, The Giant Dahlia quilt has very specific, immediately recognizable characteristics such as the phenomenal art deco edge finish, completed with facing that initially looks like a knife-edge or pillow-edge finish. The beautifully mapped-out quilting is also very specific. Dimensions are 78" x 78". 

custom Vans

custom lace-up Vans with the image of a velvet quilt from my collection
Four years ago, I was completely smitten with Zazzle's custom Keds. I designed a lot of them, and was ready to start selling them when Zazzle abruptly discontinued them. I only managed to order one pair at that point, and they had the blue denim design from my Wonkyworld wallpaper.

Zazzle Keds from 2012 with my Wonkyworld wallpaper design
There was a message on the Zazzle web site indicating they would soon offer custom sneakers again and keep us posted with e-mail updates. That was 2012. I never heard from Zazzle again.

an 1830s quilt top gives these slip-on Vans a lux look
beachy Vans slip-ons for a vacation in Hawaii?
quilty Vans lace-ups, perfect for puddle jumping around Portland
So you can imagine how pleased I was to discover a similar service from Vans. You can customize two different styles, one with laces and the other a classic slip-on. Of course, I had to play around with the customizer, and came up with a bunch of ideas using quilts from my collection. Lots of possibilities. Which style should I get first?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bicentennial Raffle Quilt, Barrington, Rhode Island

Bicentennial Raffle Quilt, 1976, Barrington, RI, 80" x 95"

I've had my eye on Bicentennial Quilts lately, and here's an interesting one. It is a 1976 raffle quilt made by members of the West Barrington Community Church in Barrington, Rhode Island. An 11-year-old girl from Riverside, Rhode Island won it in the raffle at a church bazaar and picnic, and she slept under the quilt until the 1980s when she went off to college. The quilt had been packed away ever since then.

The red and white polka dot fabric squares in the centers of the stars include appliquéd states. Some are threadbare, but you can still make them out. The quilt is 80" x 95" and all cotton. It has some neat fabrics, and great embroidery detail across the center sash. Especially wonderful that it came with some provenance. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

My Books Make Great Gifts!

The Holiday season is just getting started, and we're already wracking our brains to find the perfect gifts for friends and family. Here's the perfect gift-- one or both of my books!

The first book is "New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" (Quiltmania/France, 2015). It is a coffee table book, charting the history of the New York Beauty motif with 70 fully illustrated examples from 1850 to the present.

New York Beauty is among the most complex American quilt patterns, and it has an intriguing history. This book, written in both English and French, is special gift for a variety of readers and is currently on sale. Visit the Quiltmania US site to learn more about it. Click here.

There is also a limited edition New York Beauty bag available
My second book is called "Modern Roots, Today's Quilts from Yesterday's Inspiration" (C&T / Stash Books, 2016). It is a project book for quiltmakers of all experience levels, with 12 patterns inspired by quilts made between 1840 and 1970.

The quilts are surprisingly modern, and modernism is the book's focus. It is a quality I recognized in quilts from day one. Old quilts offer a wealth of information, ideas and inspiration for today.

1870s "Crossroads" quilt found in Texas
Indiana Puzzle, c. 1935, Sarah Nixon, Verona, NJ
This book is reasonably priced and widely available at bookstores, online, and through the C&T website. Click here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How do I document my collection?

2010: one of my first quilt books with highlights from my collection
On yesterday's American Patchwork & Quilting podcast, Pat Sloan asked how I document my collection. One of my favorite ways is to make self-published, print-on-demand books. 

two of the self-published, print-on-demand exhibition catalogues
I self-published my first book about quilts in 2010 using Blurb, and my first exhibition catalogues around the same time. Starting in 2012, I published an annual book with acquisitions from the year. This year, 2016, is my 5th one. 

I record the pattern name if known, materials, maker if known, date, location of origin or place found, and dimensions. Each quilt is represented by a full view color image and sometimes a detail shot. 
2012, my first annual collection book
There is an introductory message from yours truly at the beginning of each annual, so if someone was to pick up a copy, they would hopefully be able to figure out what it was all about.
2013, my second annual collection book

By 2013, quilts were appearing in other publications, and it was helpful to have the basic statistics in a place where I could easily retrieve them.
2014, my third annual collection book
In the last two years, the annual books have become more personal, with the inclusion of photos from the year as well as quilt pictures with basic information.

So, that's how I document my quilts. I am working on some other books, such as a large catalogue of my 1970s collection and a collection overview. Some of my past books are now out of print, but several are still available. To check out the selection, click here.

If you missed yesterday's podcast, it is available on iTunes, and at this link. Thank you to Pat Sloan and Aperican Patchwork & Quilting for inviting me to be on the show.

Early Christmas

Streak of Lightning from the collection of Kaye England
Last week, Mom asked what I wanted for Christmas. I'd just heard from Kaye England, who was selling some antique quilts from her Quiltmania book.

Mom and I met Kaye last year in Nantes, France. We were all there for Pour l'Amour du Fil. As soon as we got to our hotel rooms, my phone rang. It was Kaye, and she seemed to know who I was, so I went with it. She wanted to get together for dinner, and that sounded good to me.

Casa di Gio, but our glasses were full!
We had dinner together every night, and gathered with a larger group on the final night. Our favorite spot was the most convenient, an Italian restaurant across from the hotel called Casa di Gio.

Dinner with Mom, Kaye England, Kimberly Rado, Dijanne Cevaal & friends
After a few days, the three of us were like a little family. Kaye had one of the special exhibits at the event, and I had a large exhibit with 50 quilts on display.

Kaye's special exhibit in Nantes

It seemed serendipitous for Mom's Christmas gift to come from Kaye's collection of antique quilts. The quilt is a Streak of Lightning. It is 66" x 70" and came with a circa date of 1870.

The circa date could also be a bit later, depending on what we can learn about the fabrics. It looks very modern for a quilt that is well over 100 years old. So, Merry Early Christmas to me! Thank you Mom, and thank you Kaye!

Monday, November 21, 2016

NOT a cutter!

This mid-19th century applique quilt had seen much better days when I found it in a vintage shop in Portland yesterday. It was folded in four on a tabletop with a chair standing on top of it. There was an old platter under the chair, a lamp base on top of the chair, and some kind of farming or gardening tool hanging from the ceiling, precariously mingling with the back of the chair and the lamp base.

"How can you tell the difference 
between a cutter and a saver?"

The price tag on the quilt said "cut it up" since the condition was rough. So, let's talk about that. How do we know when it's OK to cut up an old quilt and when it's not? When you've handled and viewed a lot of quilts, you develop a sense.

Mary Kerr's "Twisted" special exhibit in Houston
I was curious about how to convey this information to others, so thought I'd ask Mary Kerr. Mary is well known for working with vintage materials, having authored books on the subject and displayed quilts in venues across the US, most recently at Quilt Festival in Houston.

Mary Kerr (left) and Lori East (right)
"How can you tell the difference between a cutter and a saver?" I asked.

"The difference is up to the owner really," said Mary. "How much work, time and space are you willing to put into an object? Can we learn from it? Can it be preserved?"

the quilt was this way when I bought it, but worth saving
I liked Mary's answer because it considered a variety of potential outcomes for the quilt. It could be restored. It could be a study piece, or it could be material for a project. Looking at the photo of my quilt, she added, "In my world this is a saver because of the rarity of design and the quality of the appliqué. It is lucky you found it."

"New York Beauty" from the 1860s, worth saving!

Is there a good way to know what's unusual and worth saving and what is not? How do I know? The answer is pretty simple. I look at a lot of quilts, and have for decades.

Here's a good exercise: go to eBay, search for "antique quilt" and page through the results. You'll start to see trends, similarities, even homogeniety: lots of quilts in certain patterns from specific periods.

The Double Wedding Ring in this auction listing is a good example of a potential cutter. It is probably in good enough condition to save, but it's not rare. There were many Double Wedding Rings made with white backgrounds, but there's something else about this quilt. It's mass-produced, most likely in China in the 1990s. I've seen a lot of them. One dead giveaway is the "knife-edge" finish, but there may also be a separation of the seam where the tag once was.

1840s crib quilt, worth saving!
Siobhan Furgurson's quilt top, made after the original rescue quilt
You will also see quilts that make you stop, look, and say to yourself, "That's different!" and that's exactly the type of quilt I love, regardless of condition. Many years ago I bought an old crib quilt in poor condition with an unusual design, and my friend Siobhan Furgurson is working on a reproduction of it. The quilt was being sold as a cutter, but I thought it was far too unusual for that.

One final note: when in doubt, phone a friend. I've had several friends text me seeking advice about quilts found in vintage shops, and usually I can tell them a little more about it without much effort. There are many people who can help. So, look for what's unusual, and what's not, and when in doubt phone a friend when asking yourself if a quilt is a cutter or a saver.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Tune In Monday: American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast, hosted by Pat Sloan

I'll be back on the air Monday when I will be a guest on the American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast, hosted by Pat Sloan. It will be my second time as a guest on the show. The first time was more than five years ago, and much has happened since then. Imagining some of the things Pat might ask about, I thought I would answer some questions ahead of time by posting a very brief recap with some visuals.

To get it out of the way, we'll start with a frequently asked question: "How did you first become interested in quilts?" For the answer, click here.

2011: Benton County Museum, Philomath, Oregon
So, what's happened with me since 2011? There were exhibitions...eye opening ones.

2013: San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, San Jose, California
2014: Latimer Quilt & Textile Center, Tillamook, Oregon
2015: Pour l'Amour du Fil, Nantes, France
2015: Benton County Museum, Philomath, Oregon
2016: Latimer Quilt & Textile Center, Tillamook, Oregon
2016: Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Golden, Colorado
2016: Texas Quilt Museum, La Grange, Texas
There were magazine articles...lots of them.

Quilters Newsletter 2013
American Quilter 2013
More magazines..
...and more...
...and more!
Patchwork Professional, Germany 2014 
Generation Q 2015
Simply Moderne, France 2016
Modern Patchwork 2016
Quilters Newsletter 2016
And in my spare time, I wrote a couple books.

"New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" Quiltmania 2015
"Modern Roots, Today's Quilts from Yesterday's Inspiration"
Stash Books / C&T Publishing 2016 
Of course, there were also lots of great quilts-- antique, vintage and recently made.

c. 1970
c. 1870
c. 1930
c. 1860
c. 1760-1800
c. 1920
2015 by Gail Weiss
c. 1820, Achsah Goodwin Wilkins
2008, Buda Bee Quilters, TX
c. 1970
What else might Pat Sloan ask me about? "Do you make quilts?" is always a good one, and the answer is yes, but not many, and I have a lot of help! Here are a few of my creations, from 2013 to present.

"House of Wonky" 2013
Viewer's Choice Blue Ribbon
"Small Wonders" Challenge
Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show 
"Julie Silber" 2013
"Wild-Eyed Susans" 2013
Honorable Mention, Innovative Small Quilts
2013 Pacific West Quilt Show
"Oregon July" 2014, Quilted by Jolene Knight
Second Place, Long Arm Hand Guided Quilting
41st Annual Northwest Quilters Show
"Oregon July" 2014, Quilted by Jolene Knight (front)
"Oregon July" 2014, Quilted by Jolene Knight (back)
"Fruity Beauty" 2015, quilted by Jolene Knight
What am I working on now? Some top secret projects: a few magazine articles, another book in the pipeline, and some creative projects. I'm working on a Cat Face Quilt, inspired by Melissa Averinos, and on-deck is some block printing, inspired by Valori Wells.

Cat Face Quilt, inspired by Lulu and Melissa Averinos (in progress)
block print and plate, inspired by Valori Wells
block print whole cloth quilt design mock-up, inspired by Valori Wells
On a personal note, I am doing well. After some health issues this year, I lost 60 lbs., and gained access to a world of clothing I never imagined.

before and after
Surprised to fit in 34 waist trousers at Calvin Klein in Freeport, Maine

So, tune in on Monday, November 21st - click here - and if you miss the show, it'll be available on iTunes after it airs.