January 23, 2015

Eye On Elegance exhibit

"Eye on Elegance: Early Quilts of Maryland and Virginia" is the title of the current exhibit at the DAR Museum in Washington DC.  The museum has long been known for its spectacular quilt collection, and here it is on view.  Simply amazing quilts!  Every one is good enough to be on a book cover!

There is an online tour of the exhibit, a great-looking catalog, and several short videos on quilt styles on YouTube.  This is quilt history at its best.  Great research and superior, beyond superior, quilts to see.

The online tour would serve well as a really good introduction to the wonderful world of exquisite needlework and "mistresspiece" quilts for newcomers to the quilt world.  And it is a joy to watch over and over for those of us who have been looking at antique quilts for years.

The exhibit runs through September 5, 2015.  Sadly, I don't have a trip to DC on the calendar this year, but this exhibit makes me want to change my plans!

January 20, 2015

Capital T and Cuba

The name of this block is Capital T.  The quilt was purchased in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, about 30 years ago.

The name "Lee" appears on the quilt in several places, and it's dated 1896.  I always love a dated quilt, because it's a window into patterns and colors available in that era.  Well actually, it's a window into that era and the ones before, because quilts were so often made out of scrap baskets, many of them quite deep.

Where this gets particularly fun is the fabric with crossed flags.  One is obviously the US flag.  The other, as near as I can tell, is the Cuban flag.  

This is incredibly interesting!  My little bit of research shows that America began to pledge support of the Cuban rebels fighting for independence from Spain in .... 1896!  The US and Spain actually declared war in 1898.

Given recent political events, this quilt and the story it tells become even more fun!

As for the repairs:

 Choosing fabrics to patch the worn spots was sometimes pretty easy, in these two blocks for example.

Some choices were a bit trickier, for example, trying to find something for this plaid in brown and soft red.  The tan fabric with tiny woven colors at the bottom of the photo was close, but pretty pale.  The tan and red print on the left was too golden.  I bought it for, and have used it, in 1860s era quilts.  But it's not so good here, a few decades later.

I ended up choosing a brown on tan leaf print.  It looked very similar in color and texture to a different fabric in the quilt.  Sometimes that is the best way to go - have the fabric coordinate with the overall color mix on the quilt instead of with the specific fabric being patched.

Here's a Miracle Moment.  The quilt had been repaired at some earlier point in its life.  In this block, just one triangle had needed help then, but now two more were splitting.  And guess what, I have the exact same patching fabric on my shelf!  (This actually then dates the repairs, since I think I bought this fabric in the 1980s.)

Interestingly, some of the earlier repairs were done by patching on one large piece over the whole T.  I chose to patch according to the original piecing, with one large, and five small triangles.  That avoided appliquéing inside corners.  I figured it wasn't too much extra stitching, since many of the edges were overlapped by other triangles.

So there it is - a combination of historical document and fabric miracle!

For those of you who are really into fabric history, here are photos of some of the fabrics.  While you're enjoying all the Ts, don't forget to examine the delicate shirting print in the background white.

The black and white check is printed, not woven.

The tomato soup red T is one of those that used to have a black or brown print, which is now a regular pattern of little holes due to the corrosive dyes of the era.

The brown stripe on the left is woven and textural.

I love this moss green one on the right.  But then, I always like a good green!

Check out the "dated quilts" tag for more tours of quilts with inscribed dates.  

January 14, 2015

Sewing Room Overhaul for the New Year

Well, this wasn't really a New Year's Resolution.  I've been working up to this for about two and a half years now!  (Dated by a post on October 14, 2012, on which I reported step #1.)

The room had become nearly impossible to work in, let alone walk through.  The terrible clutter was "caused" by:
Kids joining our family.  I had been using 2 bedrooms, and then squished everything into this one.
Quilt repair business expanding (yea!), plus also adding in costuming and vintage clothing repair.
Business things squeezed into snips of available time, plus cleaning is not my forté.

Here are before and after photos.  Yes, I am being brave enough to share the ugly before photos!  

The biggest change was to move my acid-free quilt storage boxes upstairs to my daughter's mostly empty closet.  This freed up a good deal of space, under tables and in the sewing room closet.  I put an empty dresser from her room underneath the worktable for projects in progress.  I didn't get rid of a ton things, just a few garbage bags full.  It was mostly putting away and restructuring.

The results are absolutely lovely.  The airy openness is beautiful beyond belief.  It was definitely a time warp experience, eg. uncovering projects planned and started 20-ish years ago that I now have absolutely no desire to complete, a real measure of how I have grown as a person and an artist over the intervening years.

It's still a very full room.  But it's now possible to walk between the tables and I don't have to gingerly reach under the ironing board for fabrics, and so on.  Here's the tour:

And here are the acid-free boxes in the upstairs closet.  The righthand side holds costuming supplies.

This is a lovely perk to having my kids grown up and moving along in their own lives in other cities......and I'm glad to occasionally find some perks to help me adjust a bit more happily to the empty nest.

January 7, 2015

The Arts: Visual Meets Verbal

A short while ago, I got a most wonderful email.

A woman wrote that she had seen and enjoyed my quilts at an exhibit a couple of months ago, and shortly thereafter, at her poetry group, had heard a newly written poem that matches one of my quilts.  She shared a photo of my quilt with the poet, who then asked me if she could update the first line of her poem to include the title of my quilt.  I said, "Of course!"

I asked for permission to share both the poem and the story here, and permission was kindly granted.

The Moon Rises Full
Date: 1993
Size: 19" x 33"
Materials: Japanese cotton, silk, net, organza. 
Techniques: machine appliquéd and quilted.

The poem, by Barb Njus:

The moon rises full tonight
Against the darkening blue
Like a promise
Whole again
Out of reach

Wow, isn't this the kind of response and connection that artists wish for?  Synchronicity is just the best!  Thanks so much, Barb and Robin!  I am deeply touched. 

The exhibit, in Elgin IL, was in conjunction with a showing of the movie The Red Tent and a 10-day series of healing events and celebrations surrounding the feminine aspects of Life.  Here's a quote from the flyer that really drew me in:

A call to all who envision a world built around cooperation rather than competition.
A world we want to leave for our children, & stretching far into the future.

Yep.  That's me.

For those of you in the Elgin area, here is contact info for more Red Tent events and community building.

By the way, the events were held at a most amazing place:

There's an organization called Artspace whose mission is to create places for artists to live and create and for community revitalization through arts experiences.  Elgin's Artspace is a renovation of a beautiful, old building, as most are.  It now includes exhibition spaces, studio spaces, and artists' apartments.  Such a brilliant idea!  It warms my heart to know that there is such goodness afoot in the world.