October 31, 2014

My Quilt Care Book - Update

Hey, hey!  I am sooooo excited!!!  My book on caring for antique quilts is having just kind of success I hoped for!  

I heard recently from a quilt restorer who has been using the info in my book, and having great results.  She wrote, "I've consulted your book many times, so thanks again for the great advice."  

Here are her before and after photos, and comments.  I am extremely grateful for her permission to share them with you.  Just look at her beautiful work!

"The red, black and white quilt was used and much loved by the owner and her dog.  The dog had taken several areas away from the edges. I was extremely lucky to find fabrics that were very close in color.  I was able to add a little batting and stitch in the replacement pieces."

"The sun bonnet sue was again used by the owner as a small child. She wanted her daughter to be able to use it, so I hand embroidered some new pieces of fabric."

"The last one is about 70 years old and again used by the owner.  She wants to pass down to her grandchildren, but wanted the holes repaired.  I was able to find similar fabric and make some small patches and stitch the other holes together."

I have to say it one more time:

I am sooooo happy!!!!

October 26, 2014

Favorite Quotes #6 - It's The Little Things

I've been caught up in a book by Elizabeth Goudge called "The Bird in the Tree".

It's a rather slow moving story - one that in the book group we had with homeschooling teens and their parents would have elicited the oft-heard comment, "But nothing happened."  So far, and I'm a third of the way into it, it's much more of a character study with lovely, lovely poetic descriptions of Nature and Life.  And I always love a good tale told in poetic language.

Here are a few noteworthy quotes, about art, and therefore about Life ......

This is a childhood memory of one of the characters grew up to become an actor.
"He had sobbed for an hour, sobbed himself sick and exhausted until at last, childlike, he had forgotten what it was he was crying about and had become instead absorbed in the moonlight on the floor.  It had been like a pool of silver, enclosed and divided up into neat squares by the bars of the window.  ......  In some vague way he had understood that dark things are necessary; without them the silver moonlight would just stream away into nothingness, but with them it can be held and arranged into beautiful squares."

I once saw this very thing at work in a quilt:
A friend of mine was repairing a 1930s Amish bow tie quilt, readying it to hang in a bedroom.  About ten of the bow ties had been made out of an apparently weaker fabric and were in pretty bad shape.  These bow ties were black, but since all the rest were nice pastels that matched her decor, she decided to replace them with a pastel.  She auditioned lots of different colors, testing them out by cutting the pieces and laying them over the black bow ties.  Nothing worked - the quilt was just blah without the black.  Losing that darkness and depth took away all the excitement and punch.  The black had truly enlivened all the pastels.  Sure enough, that quilt maker had known what she was doing.  Maybe she didn't consciously know she was including the dark bits of Life - but maybe she did.

by Ann Wasserman
69" x 33"
From the same character.
"Life, to him, was the fearless facing of reality and art was its illumination.  It is the business of an artist, he thought, to show how the truth, even an apparently ugly truth, can be transformed by fearless acceptance into a thing of beauty.  Living this acceptance it is hard to realize the beauty; watching it objectively we see and understand."

From the family matriarch.
"She tried very hard to teach her grandchildren how to extract the last drop of beauty out of all the small things of life, words and scents and sounds.  Many little joys, weighed against the few heavy griefs of existence, could give some sort of balance to the scales and preserve the sanity of life."

by Ann Wasserman
39" x 19 1/2"

October 20, 2014

Kampsville Quilts

What does this:

(photo IL State Museum)

have to do with this?

Answer:  Kampsville, Illinois.

Kampsville is a small town on the banks of the lower Illinois River, north of St. Louis.  It's snuggled in at the base of the river bluffs, an area with unusual vertical landscapes as compared to most of my home state.

Kampsville was my home for several summers and one spring.  I studied archeology while in college at Northwestern, and Kampsville was the hub of the NU archeology field school. And yes, there is exciting archeology to be found in the bluffs and cornfields of Illinois!  The area is rich with sites spanning 1000s of years of history, and is still an active research center and the location of the Center for American Archeology.  Here's a summary of the Koster site, where I spent most of my time.  It is the big hole in the ground pictured above.  The site was pretty famous for a while, and I even am in one of the pictures in a World Book yearbook article.  My moment of fame!

I am getting all nostalgic now, with memories of great times combining science, sun, dirt, friendship, and adventure.  My nostalgia was piqued by a reunion visit with a friend from that time of my life.  We met in Kampsville when she was visiting her daughter who was a field school student like me.  She fell in love with archeology and eventually became the organizational hub for the whole program.

While in Kampsville, she often visited the local quilting circle, and eventually bought several quilts from those quilt-y ladies.  This was in the 1970s, so long ago that I was not yet a quilter.  She pulled out her Kampsville quilt collection and let me photograph it for you.

Single Irish Chain, c. 1970

 Six-Pointed Star, c. 1860

Six-Pointed Star or Sunburst, c. 1860

Texas Star (or Dolly Madison star or Hexagon Star), c. 1940s

Dresden Plate, c. 1940

Grandmother's Flower Garden, c. 1970

I'm really enjoying this walk down Memory Lane!  I still love anthropology and archeology, rivers, digging in the dirt ..... and now quilts, too.  

October 10, 2014

Twinkle, Twinkle

Twinkle, Twinkle, Kathy's Star

This happy quilt came to me with several tears and some weak and splitting fabrics, which I patched.  The owner is taking the quilt to someone in her area that does long arm machine quilting, who can help replace at least some of the missing quilting.  The thread has weakened and snapped throughout the quilt.

There's nothing unusual to tell about the repairs.  It's the design and story that make this quilt special.

Here's the inscription on the label:

Machine pieced by her mother, Margaret Holden Lee
Machine quilted by her stepfather, Bill Lee
Completed February 11, 1994
Merriam, Kansas
Made especially for Kathy Chiavola

The original label was typed, and the ink has just about totally washed out.

I made a new label by typing it into the computer, printing on paper, and then tracing onto the fabric with a Pigma pen.  Here a photo of the transfer process from a previous post.

Kathy is pretty sure her mother designed the block.  Its basic structure is a 9-patch, with the squares divided to make tinier 9-patches and star points.  Very creative - and a fun design made with relatively simple piecing.

The Quilt Alliance recorded an uplifting and inspiring interview with Margaret Lee about her life as a quiltmaker.  My favorite part is this:
QA: What do you think makes a great quilter?
ML: Oh, the one that picks up a needle and has fun quilting. [both laugh.]

Reading this interview inspires me to remind you of my recent post about my friend Barbara and her oral history business.  And here we have a marvelous example of how recording the people and events in our lives can make memories that live on and on.

As always, it's wonderful to have a quilt with an inscribed date. And wouldn't we all love to have a quilt block designed just for us and made with so much love!

October 6, 2014

Three Pine Trees

The quiltmaker's name was Jeanette Cooper.  She was the second wife of the owner's great-grandfather, Herbert Dudley.  His first wife had died in childbirth and Jeanette was employed as the housekeeper.  She then married Herbert, and the owner's grandmother was their only child.  Jeanette died just two weeks before the owner's mother was born, in July 1933.

An additional family story tells that Jeanette's stepmother had tried to poison her when she was a child!  She certainly added some interesting tales to the family "story book."

In step with the unusual events of the life, the quilt has a unique setting.  Perhaps those green bars are meant to represent the ground.  Maybe the three trees represent her family of three.

The quilt is very well pieced and quilted.  The scalloped edges add interest to balance out the large areas of solid white.  Instead of batting, there is a layer of white cotton between the top and back.  Perhaps this was made as a summer quilt.

There was one large hole through all 3 layers.  I patched the front and back, inserting a third layer of fabric between them, and re-quilted.  I shaped the patch (on the front) to meet piecing and quilting lines to help disguise the new fabric.  I'm usually not so fussy about patches on the backs.

No one knows how the hole came about.  I've seen holes like this before that were caused by someone using bleach or some strong cleaner to remove a stain.  (A word to the wise - beware of strong spot removers!)