September 28, 2015

Antique Grandmother's Flower Garden Blocks

Recently, I received my second fantastic quilt history gift of the year.  A friend's neighbor was moving, had some quilt blocks she didn't want to keep, and they made their way to me.  They are super lovely!  There are 35 of them.  Hexagons are 1 5/8".

(The 5-part story of the first gift, a late 19th century quilt full of names and stories, begins with Part 1.)

What makes the blocks particularly fun is that the outer row of hexagons still has the newspaper patterns.  So I read them all, searching for provenance information - and found it.

The quilt is clearly from the Chicago area, as it includes the banner for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Daily News, and many classified ads with Chicago street names and neighborhoods and telephone numbers, and references to the Loop.  (That's the center of downtown Chicago, within the "loop" of the elevated train tracks that circle the area.)

I was also found a couple of dated snippets - 1932.

I like this lady with her 1930s-style sailor collar dress.

There also is a reference to a "big Cub gambling scandal."  I found the whole story of that, and as applies to this quilt, it did happen in 1932.

Here is an ad for James E. Bennet & Co.  I looked it up and found that he was a grain merchant.  The company had been founded under his father Thomas's name.  In 1909, James renamed it with his name.  He was very big in the Chicago business world it turns out, having served as both director of the Chicago Stock Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.  I got this information from his 1948 obituary in the Tribune. 

There are lots of paper patterns with bits of ads for guns. 

And there is this one with a sporting good company name - VL&A.  I looked them up (of course!) and found the name "Von Lengerke & Antoine", which is described as the Chicago branch of Abercrombie and Fitch. 
A place called "" has a 1939 VL&A catalog on sale for $75!

There are tantalizing bits and pieces of 1932 news and ads and classifieds - Moon Mullins comics, Vitalis hair cream, Fred Harvey's column, etc.  I had to include a photo of this ad for a show starring Maurice Chevalier.  My mom adored him, and I grew up listening to his singing.  Maybe she even saw him at this show!

The fabrics are absolutely gorgeous!  Many of them are glazed.

There are more than a few hexagons that are pieced from smaller bits of fabric.

This red and white squiggly print is pieced in all 6 of the hexagons.  The quilter was using the tiniest of scraps.  It becomes quite dizzying!

The intersection between the newspaper date and the fabrics is a bit curious, however.  My first, and then second and third, thoughts were that most of the fabrics seem to be mid 19th century.  The fabric on the outer borders, however, just doesn't fit with the rest.  My guess is that the flowers were stitched way back when.  Then in 1932, someone decided to finish the quilt and added those outer rows, using a fabric with dyes that hadn't been invented yet in 1860 and a 20th century stylized flower print.

And actually, that outer ring fabric still looks out of place to me, even more modern than the 1930s.  Either the newspaper dates confirm that I am wrong, or the later quilter had cut up old newspapers that she'd found in the same attic stash as the blocks.  Does anybody out there have any input on this?

And then, those poor, lonely blocks were put away again.

The tiny whipstitching is just as tight and precise on the newer patches as on the older patches.

Here's a gallery of blocks simply for the enjoyment of the fabrics.

Will I ever finish these into a quilt?  Probably not.  It's fun to keep the newspapers visible.  And also, quite truly, Grandmother's Flower Garden has never been anywhere close to a favorite pattern for me.  But I certainly am making an exception for these blocks.  I love them!  Thanks to the 1860s quilter, the 1932 quilter, and all the people who cared for them in between.

September 20, 2015

A House, A Book, Zippers, and Buttons

I popped in to an estate sale at this historic register house near my neighborhood as much to visit the house as to shop.  The house was built in 1860, with a single story addition just visible on the side that was built in the 1950s.

The previous owners had collected wonderful antique furniture and accessories.  Their daughter was there and said her parents had moved there after their children move along, and lived there for 30 years.  The house is in great condition, small rooms, loads of wood.

It was great fun to poke around in all the rooms.  My favorite little find is this leatherbound book, Aucassin & Nicolette and other Mediaeval Romances and Legends, translated from the French by Eugene Mason.

It was published in 1910, reprinted in 1912 and 1915.  So that makes this sweet little volume 100 years old.  The handwritten dedication says: "To Marion   Would that I might go with this book in more than spirit!   Jane   Sept 1925".  And Marion wrote her name at the top:  Marion V. Griffith.

And as concerns sewing, I scored 5 metal zippers for use in vintage clothing restoration, and a length of (I think) hand-tatted lace.

And, the delicious mystery of a little baggie of buttons......

Some of my favorites.  The little ones lower left are shell.  Such a lovely glow and subtle colors!

September 15, 2015

Missouri Daisy

I received an email query about the name of this quilt block.  I've seen flower blocks with gathered petals before, but usually the gathered pieces are rounded not straight-edged like these.

I did find a block with this shape petals in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Quilt Patterns.  It's called either Golden Glow (if it's made in gold and white) or Missouri Daisy.  Both were published in the 1930s. 

The similar block with rounded petals has been published as Missouri Daisy, too, and also as Star Flower, Sunflower, or Star Dahlia.

The range of fabrics looks like the blocks were made from the proverbial "deep scrap bag."  I think I see fabrics from the1930s, maybe even a few from the 1920s, through the 1960s!

The stories this woman was telling me during our discussion were so entertaining that I asked her if she'd like to share them on my blog.  These are her words (several e-mails edited together by me for flow) and her photos. 
My quilting interest was started when at age 10 I was "allowed" up in the bedroom of my grandmother's house to see her working on a quilt in its huge frame!  She made many quilts, I still have one of hers.  

For the 100th anniversary of her birthday I documented as many of her quilts and other handwork as I could find.  Including the wedding dress she made for herself. That was before computers, I sent instamatic cameras to 9 aunts who then took pictures of what they and their children owned.  Gramma made a quilt or pillow cases for every one of the 36 grandchildren, when they graduated from high school.

I bought these quilt blocks on eBay in 2010.  To me they were very unique, I had not seen a block with gathering or sheering in them.  The seller said they came from an estate sale in Indiana, but was not able to give further details.

I wrote to Ann and she helped me identify the pattern and its names.  Thank you Ann!!  I have since found some examples online, but the woman who created these, seems to have created, to me, a wonderful variation. Compared with other blocks, she seems to have exaggerated the angle of the "petals" with their sharp angle rather than a more rounded look.  Her work is precise, consistent and I love her fabrics.  They are all hand pieced with ten tiny stitches to an inch. I can imagine  these scraps as dresses, shirts and aprons.  Nothing wasted!

Further proof my mystery quilter was an expert.  As I said her stitches were tiny and consistent but she also used NO knots, just back stitched and I had a terrible time when taking one of her blocks apart!  These were meant to stay together! Also after washing a few more blocks it is obvious that some fabrics are new, still have crispness to them and some fabrics are from used clothing, limp from washing and thinner.

I wanted this quilt to be hand quilted and use vintage look muslin for the background and sashing.  I attempted to fit plain square blocks into the vintage quilt blocks.  I decided to applique the blocks on foundation fabric because I couldn't fit her points in square blocks and because I was worried about stress on the vintage fabric.  I hand stitched them to a background piece to provide support for the vintage fabrics. I did not have a sample of how to set them in the quilt. This is my version. I see now that most times they were set so that two points came together rather than one point like mine.

I thought a good name for the quilt would be "Hand to Hand" as I wanted to give credit to the creator of the blocks.  I hope by quilting I honor my Grandmother and the unknown woman who worked such beautiful blocks but didn't have the time to make her own quilt.

I took one apart and this is the pattern I figured out.

I usually quilt small items, table runners, Christmas tree skirts, or baby quilts as gifts.  This is my first large quilt, and it is a double bed size.  Most of my quilting is done by hand.  I have tried machine quilting but it doesn't have the same appeal.  For me, the act of hand quilting returns me to thoughts of Gramma Sholly (nee Stella Weber 1901-1974), it is a nice feeling.