January 11, 2017

Buckeye Beauty - A Quilt and A Story

Quilt blocks with this geometry combining half-square triangles and 4-patches go by many names depending on the placement of the colors and the arrangement of the blocks.  This arrangement is called Buckeye Beauty.  (The quilt is way too big (13 x 13 blocks) for me photograph the whole thing!)

The quilt's owner tells this story:

The quilt was a Christmas present to me from my grandmother, Lillian Faatz, in December 1982. I was 25 years old and had just finished grad school and had my first apartment. I believe my grandmother made all of the blocks that make up the quilt. She was a member of a quilting group at the First United Methodist Church of Carbondale, PA for many years. As long as I can remember she would make quilt blocks for the group. Generally, they made quilts which they donated to people who needed but could not afford them. It is possible that some of the blocks were made by other members of the group, but I don't think that is likely.

My grandmother was born in 1896, so when she made the blocks for this quilt she was in her mid 80s. Once she had assembled all the blocks, the end product was hand-quilted by the members of the quilt group.

I used the quilt from January 1983 through 1997 when my wife and I upgraded from a queen bed to a king. At that point we stored the quilt in a closet. The resulting damage was a result of mice getting into the closet. At the time, we had two indoor-outdoor cats. While normally people have cats to catch mice in the house and destroy them, we had the opposite problem. Our cats would bring mice in from outside and let them go in the house. Then they would hunt the mice in the house ... Unfortunately - the cats didn't always catch all their mice - and hence the damage to the quilt.

It's great to have this story about Lillian Faatz and her longtime love of quiltmaking, and the good work of the women of the Carbondale, PA, church.  The quilt is clearly made from a collection of scraps from several decades. 

There are probably 4 decades represented here.  The orange and blue print at the top of this photo looks to be 1940s, the purple and white calico is likely 1970s, and the other prints fall in the decades in between.

But the fabric that made me look twice is this one:
A ducks and strawberries print!?  Yup!  This fabric just makes me giggle.

Lilian made her Buckeye Beauty as a scrap quilt.  At first glance, I thought this was a two block quilt, one block with half-square triangles making a square on point, and one block with four-patches making an X.  But the color placement made me realize that this is actually just one 4-patch block.  It has two each half square triangles and smaller 4-patches of each fabric with white.  Then, half the blocks were rotated 90-degrees, to create the overall pattern that fooled me into seeing two different blocks!

To finish the quilt, Lilian pieced half blocks as borders around the quilt, and in doing so, finished the shapes created where the blocks join together.   So clever!

And another fun little note.  I have almost exactly this white on green floral in my stash.  I bought it in my early quilting years, which began in 1978.  You have to look really, really closely to see that it's a bit different.  This fabric was in fine shape everywhere, so I didn't get to actually use my (almost) perfect match.

Here are several more shots showing the range of colors and prints on the quilt:


Thanks to the quilt owner for writing and sharing his grandmother's story!

January 4, 2017

Buttons! Oh, Boy! Oh, Boy!


Well, for the last couple of weeks I've been pretty much sedentary due to a broken bone in my foot.  I have found the silver lining!  I resorted all my buttons!

Up until now, I've just had them divided according to whether I had just one or several of them.  That's been helpful when looking for replacement buttons for vintage clothes.  It worked well enough until I started going haywire at estate sales and coming home with button jars and boxes one after another.

So I sat around yesterday and sorted them by color as well.  The piles filled up my whole work table!  I really think I have enough buttons....

Even though I do need a good selection so I can find replacement buttons for the vintage clothes, and even though I do sometimes put buttons on quilts....  Even though I do use them, even though I love playing with them....  I'm on a self-imposed button buying hiatus. 

It did cheer me up quite a bit.  Lots of buttons are almost as satisfying as lots of fabric!  Hee hee.

Nineteenth Century Handwriting

Yesterday, I got back to researching the history of this inscribed quilt.  (Enlarge photo to see the names.  The ink is fading away....)  You can read the results of my research so far in a series of posts called History Comes to Life on a Quilt

I've gotten most of my information via the ancestry.com website.  Being able to look at all the original census documents is such a treat!  Well, during my sleuthing yesterday, I came across the most gorgeous handwriting I've ever seen.

The couple I was looking for is #7, Francis H. Merrill and Mary I. Peirson.  I already knew that Francis was known as Frank, and that he's the Frank H. Merrill on the quilt.  There are many members of the Merrill family on the quilt, including both an Isabel F. Merrill and an Isabel P. Merrill.  I found Isabel F. easily as one of Frank's siblings, but I couldn't find an Isabel P. Merrill on the census records anywhere.  I was finally able to identify her as Frank's wife thanks to a most wonderful librarian who has scoured the town records and sent me many great resources, including a compilation of obituaries for names that appear on the quilt.  Lo and behold, there is a Mary Isabella (!) Peirson Merrill.  Mary went by her middle name, Isabel, and is inscribed on the quilt as Isabel P. Merrill. 

These are the twists and turns of research that are at first frustrating and then quite enjoyable!  This time, it was a double enjoyment - one for the problem solved and one for the beauty of the handwriting that solved it.

The legibility and style of the handwriting on all these records varies greatly.  This one is the blue ribbon winner as far as I'm concerned.

December 30, 2016

Favorite Quotes #14 - Martha Graham

Inspiration for the New Year of living and creating:

Martha Graham gave this advice to Agnes de Mille shortly after she choreographed Oklahoma! in 1943.  The story is that de Mille was curious as to why this work had captured the critics' attention even though she thought much of her other work was much more complete and valuable.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”

Here's to all of you and your very own vitality, the light of your life!

Signature on a Victorian crazy quilt

December 24, 2016


This is Celestina.  She was born at my house, as a special treat for my friend Debbie's birthday.  I'm really happy with her!  She is inspired by the Waldorf-style creations at The Puppenstube, a place Debbie loves very much.  Debbie is really fond of blue and white patterns, hence the clothes and jewel that Celestina picked out.  She has fuzzy grey hair, just like I do. 

She now lives at Debbie's house, with lovely friends, stones, art, and other magical items.  I visited her there today.  She asked that I send her photo out along with my wishes to you all for a sparkly and loving holiday, whichever of the winter festivals of lights is the one that you love to celebrate.

Thanks to all of you that read my blog and best wishes to all in the coming year and thereafter!


December 20, 2016

Heirloom Quilt with Family Photos and Some Flashy Peacocks

One of my favorite parts of the quilt repair biz is when someone brings a family heirloom quilt and shares the story and occasionally even photos of the quiltmaker.  More often, people tell me sadly that none of their offspring care very much about "old things" or the family history.  But here's a quilt brought to me by a young woman who is very, very much in love with the family story.  Warms my heart!

Here is her story of the quilt and the quilter. 

Attached are photos of my Manx great-grandma. The first one is from just before she left the Isle of Man, she is in her early 20’s. The second photo was from the early 60’s.


Eleanor Jane Cleator was born in the Isle of Man on August 11, 1891. She was known by family and friends as Janie.

She migrated to the United Sates in 1915. Upon arriving she married her sweetheart from the Isle of Man. They settled in Kansas.

She was a woman of her times. Doing all a housewife and mother did. She raised 2 children, tended the family vegetable garden, raised chickens, tended house, cooked everything from scratch and more.

When the cooking and cleaning were done there was no rest for her. She spent her evenings quilting, knitting, sewing, doing embroidery and crocheting. Everything was practical. Quilts were made from old worn out clothing. Sweaters, hats, mittens and such were not bought but knitted. And the home was decorated with furniture made by her husband and decorated with embroidered fabric and crochet doilies and tablecloths made by Janie.

I am not sure where she learned her crafts. Her mother died when she was 8 and a few years later she had a step mother. So perhaps it was mainly the stepmother that taught her and, of course, necessity. Janie’s only daughter and my grandmother only learned to knit, but never with the skill that her mother had.

I never got to met her. She died when I was one. I currently own many items made by her including a quilt, 2 button down sweaters, 3 embroidered and  framed images of flowers, some crocheted items, and a stool that was made by my great-grandfather with an embroidered cover made by Janie.

And about the quilt itself:

I found the name of the pattern, Pointed Tile, in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.  It's kind of fun, because it's not an actual block.  It's an overall pattern made up of squares and what might be called house-shaped pieces. 

The fabrics are a really nice collection of 1950s and 1960s prints.  I'll start with my favorite - these great peacocks and roses on a flashy magenta background.

In the rest of these photos, you'll see such 1950s color combinations as salmon pink-olive green-grey and the prints with repeating square medallions which I always call men's pajama prints.

Big thanks to this lovely young woman for taking the time to send the family story and sweet photos of her great-grandma and letting me share it all with you!

Here's another quilt I repaired, a c.1890 crib quilt, with the story and family photos supplied by the quilt's current owner.

December 13, 2016

Log Cabin Magnified

This quilt is one of a collection of family heirloom quilts that I've been repairing. 

Years ago, I worked with the Illinois quilt documentation days, one of the projects that produced so many statewide data bases and books.  I remember some talk about quilts with extra large blocks like this being regional styles in some areas.

The quilt was made in Louisiana.  I'm dating it to the 1950s.  These photos show colors and prints that are really indicative of that decade.

To paraphrase Dorothy in Oz - Turquoise, salmon, and grey!  Oh, my!