November 15, 2018

Melrose History Quilt, December 2018


Way back in spring 2015, I received a query for information on repairing an inscribed quilt.  And as they say, the rest is history.

Just for fun, I looked up some of the names on, and the owner ended up deciding to leave the quilt with me so I could fully research it.  That was magic #1.  My research points to Melrose, MA, as its home, and 1897-8 for its creation.  See History Comes to Life on a Quilt on this blog, to read lots more details about the quilt and about Melrose.  At the bottom of this post are links to the whole set of posts about this amazing saga.

Magic #2 was receiving an order for my book from Alanna Nelson who lives right there in Melrose.  Magic #3 is that she is an avid quilter and knitter and event planner.

So for the last several years, I've been continuing the research, with the help of a Melrose librarian and contact with some of the family members and descendants, and Alanna has been creating a celebration focused on this quilt.  Oh, and I also did finally do the repair work.  Soon I'll be taking the quilt there, and participating in two weekends of events!

You can read about these upcoming events on the Melrose History Quilt website.  And down at the bottom of the home page, you'll find a space to sign up for the newsletter to keep you abreast of the plans.

I'll be there on Saturday December 1, Friday December 7, and Saturday December 8.  During the intervening week, I'll be in New Hampshire visiting family, and holding a workshop/get together on December 3.  You can contact me for details about that.  The quilt will be on display in Melrose on the other Saturdays in December, but I'll be coming back home.

In preparation, I've been solidifying all my lists.  I also wrote to people who have public trees for these families on Ancestry (where I've done the bulk of my researching).  Several people responded with some wonderful stories, some gorgeous family photos (a few of which are included below), and some new info, through which I've identified a few more people.  Here are the "final-for-now" results.

There are 227 names on the quilt.  I have located information on 184 of those people, and there are 43 that I couldn't find.  The quantity of information ranges from family contacts with stories and photos, to many links to census pages and other records (marriage, death, enlistments), to nothing more than a one-line entry in a Melrose directory.

The quilt was likely a fundraising project.  All the names are written by the same hand, so it is not a signature quilt.  Fundraiser quilts are known from this time and other decades.  People paid to have their name included, and then usually there was also an auction or raffle to sell the quilt in the end.  Often, date, place, and event are also included on the quilt, but not in this case.  Town histories include the incorporation of Melrose as a city and a renovation of the Methodist Episcopal Church around this time.

As I try to narrow in on the date that the quilt was made, I'm realizing that there will likely never be anything more definite that a range, unless some new source comes to light that actually describes the quilt and tells why and when it was made.  For one thing, there probably was a year or so during which the quilt was being made, and the names list may or may not have been updated during that process.  Also, for example, people may not have donated to have brand new infants added or may have added names to the quilt in memoriam. 

I'm pretty sure that names of new infants and married surnames of women couldn't have been entered on the quilt before the events happened.  The latest such incontrovertible dates on the quilt are the birth of Grace Everson on March 21, 1897, and a fairly large gap until the marriage of William and Jennie Howes on June 28, 1898.  In that gap though, there are three marriages and two births that transpired in families that are named on the quilt.  But those new infants and married names are not written, in fact one of the new brides is written with her maiden name next to her husband-to-be.  So I'm assuming that their names were put on a list before the wedding.  There is no indication of births or deaths that happened later on in 1898 or in 1899.

I'm hoping to see lots of New England friends and family while I'm there.  And I'm hoping to meet new friends, too!

Part 1 describes the quilt and the initial research.  Part 2 details how I narrowed down the dates, and relates some of the interesting family stories I began finding.  Part 3 tells the story of the Phinney, Dyer, and Hersey families.  Part 4 has general observations on life in the late 1890s.   Part 5 sums up my research.  Part 6 shares the first information from librarians and historians in Melrose.  I wrote a little aside about the fun of being able to look at original records online.  And, since the quilt did initially come to me for repair, and I did eventually stop reading census forms and do the repair work, and wrote up the techniques and choices involved.  And then I went back to the research, and continued to find lots of great information. 

October 26, 2018

The Fine Art of Fiber

It's that time of year again!

Next weekend is the annual Fine Art of Fiber show at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Thursday 11/1, 6:30 - 9 p.m.
Friday 11/2, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. + fashion show at 11 a.m.
Saturday 11/3, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. + fashion show at 11 a.m.
Sunday 11/4, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

As I say every year, it's a great show every year!  The show is presented by the North Suburban Needlearts Guild, Illinois Quilters Inc., and the Weavers Guild of the North Shore.  Soooooo many kinds of fiber art are represented, and soooooo many styles and ideas.  In addition to the exhibit itself, there are a boutiques of items made by guild members, a silent auction, and fiber art and quilts for sale.

The Garden is lovely at all times of year, so if the weather is good, plan for an enjoyable walk while you're there.

Admission is free, but the usual Garden parking fee applies.  Make it easy on your budget and come with a few friends - the fee is per car.

I'll have two little quilts on exhibit, both in the Something From Nothing series.  You can catch a glimpse of them both (and my Egyptian camels) in the photo.  One was seen in June at the EvanstonMade show, and one is hot of the presses, completed last night.

All the details are on the Garden website or the show website.  The show website also has photos from previous shows, so you out-of-towners can have a virtual visit.

October 23, 2018

Potholder Quilt with Disney Friends

The owner's great-grandmother made this quilt in 1974 for his mother.  It was made from the fabrics of dresses from his mother's childhood.  The dresses were originally handmade by his grandmother and great-grandmother, and then repurposed for the quilt.  So it is indeed a special memory quilt!

Here is the dated label.

October 8, 2018

Twisty Turny Genealogy Research

So, here's how I had fun on a cool, grey, damp Saturday afternoon.

I’m taking the next step in the research into the names on a quilt that was most likely made in Melrose MA, in the late 1890s.  The story of all the previous work is on this blog, starting with Part 1 and linking along for several more posts.

Alanna Nelson, a Melrose fiber enthusiast and community builder, has taken it upon herself to plan a "homecoming" for the quilt in December, with all sorts of creative associated programming.  The quilt and I will be there, of course! 

October 1, 2018

That's One Magnificent Button!

For me, buttons are just about the coolest things in the world.  I am constantly amazed by how many kinds of buttons people have managed to design and produce over the course of time.  Absolutely amazed.

Well, this one stands out from the crowd.  This one is magnificent. 

It resides on this lovely suit.  Just one button.  Demanding all the attention.  But there's more than just this button to appreciate.

September 27, 2018

The Social Justice Sewing Academy


I must admit that the quilt repair process can get kind of boring when it gets down to the actual sewing.  Once I figure out what needs to be done and how to do it, it can be pretty repetitive.  One resource I fall back on a lot is listening to podcasts.  And one interview that really sparked my interest was with Sara Trail, founder of the Social Justice Sewing Academy, on the Just Wanna Quilt podcast.

September 17, 2018

Yes, Yes, More Buttons

You guys, I just can't say no to a batch of mystery buttons.  No matter how bland it looks at first glance, there are sure to be treasures in amongst the basics.  And if one or two treasures are peeking out, I'm a goner.  And so.....

This batch came from the giveaway table at my local needlework guild.  There are always people de-stashing and we reap the benefits.  It'a a great, albeit dangerously tempting, tradition.

And here are my favorites: