January 28, 2013

Quilts in Everyday Life

Quilts in Everyday Life, 1855-1955: A 100-Year-Photographic History by Janet E. Finley
(I have no connection with the author or publisher at all, just thought I'd say it's a dandy book.)

I think I heard about this book via the Quilt History List.  I took a peek at it, and was sold on it right away.  It presents items from Janet Finley's huge collection of antique photos that include people and quilts.  So cool for me!  Quilts, clothing history, and social history all combined in one handy book!  The changing ambiance of the photos over time gives such a wonderful view into the "march of history" on all sorts of levels.

Not only that, the glimpses into homes and private scenes and street scenes are all very touching as well as factual.  It feels right somehow, to look into these old, old faces, many of them now anonymous, and give these people some recognition and credit for a life well-lived.  Personalities are sometimes very apparent, from sedate to out-of-the-box.  And, some of the folks are identifiable, and do have some pretty fun stories attached.  

It's like having a little peephole into daily life of long ago.  I'm always so curious about what the past was really like.  It's something we can't ever know, unless someone does invent time travel.

There's also a lot of photography history information.  It's not a topic I know much of anything about, but I do have some old family photos, some dating back into the 1800s, and I'm inspired now to pull them out and see how they fit into the info in this book.

Here's a review, from the Denver Post.  And here's another review, from the Why Quilts Matter blog.  This one will give you a couple of sneak peaks inside the book.  (Why Quilts Matter is a documentary series produced by the Kentucky Quilt Project.  I also have no connection with W.Q.M., but would also recommend viewing the series to add to your quilt history knowledge.)

I'm so grateful that Janet Finley collected all these photos, and now is sharing them with all of us!

January 10, 2013

My New Friend

She was rescued from the bottom of a bag of unwanted linens at an estate sale.

I'm guessing, going by the print on her robe, that she was made around 1970 or so.  She has a little bit of an attitude, and I was celebrating the new year by only doing things that I don't have to do, so I decided to spiff her up.

I removed some odd bits of fabric.  She'd been holding a scuzzy piece of a blue fabric with a torn label on it.  Maybe she was supposed to be reading a book.  And she had the remnants of some brown felt around her eyes, which I realized had once been eyeglasses.  I was enough on vacation that I forgot to take a "before" photo, but here are some of the little bits I took off.

I decided to make her knitting instead of reading.  I pried, i.e. peeled, the blue thing out of her hands.  She only lost one finger in the process.....

I made knitting needles out of toothpicks and a couple of  silver beads.

I discovered that it's possible, at least sometimes, to separate the two layers of a double knit, and then it looks kind of like hand knitting.  I was actually trying to unravel the fabric, and it came apart between the layers instead.  Way easier than what I had been attempting.

I glued the fabric around the knitting needles and glued her hands around the needles too.  Here is a bird's eye, or doll's eye, view of the knitting.

I made a ball of yarn with a circle of fabric wrapped around a bit of batting and attached it to the chair leg.  I did manage to unravel a thread, and used that to connect the knitting needles to the ball of yarn.

I made glasses with craft wire.  I wrapped two bits around the nozzle of a glue bottle for roundness, and made nose and ear pieces.  It was a bit tricky to glue the earpieces on.  My husband devised this little foam base with a couple of slots cut into it to hold the little wire bits in place while the glue dried.  Just glueing them on straight didn't hold well, so I did it a second time, wrapping the wire around the eyepiece.

I simply slid the earpieces under her hair.

I also patched some rather large holes in a rather unmentionable part of her anatomy by glueing on some new felt.  I won't embarrass her by showing the patches to you, but will just say that she serves as a reminder to all of us to get up occasionally from our needlework so we don't wear out in unmentionable places.

Her name is Blanche.  Here she is, enjoying a sunny winter day in the conservatory.

January 6, 2013

Book Review: Build Your Best Log Cabin

Log Cabin block, Barn Raising setting

I'm starting out the new year by doing something new.  I was invited to write a book review for an ebook about log cabin quilts by Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting.  I've never written an official book review before.  So here goes:

I like that this book includes the connection to traditional quilts and quilt history.  Compared to my early years as a quilter  -harumph- years ago, I think that now there is less focus on the history of quiltmaking.  We've been so blessed with tons and tons of new fabrics and new tools and techniques, that it's easy to forget the long tradition that we all represent.  I like keeping that continuity alive.  We are all part of quilt history.  Quilts have always been a window into the way our lives have changed over the centuries.  The traditional quilts chosen for the book are lovely and clearly show the different kinds of log cabin block construction.

Courthouse Steps block

The patterns presented for contemporary versions of the log cabin are all interesting and sometimes challenging.  These designs highlight the versatility of the log cabin block, and show why it's a pattern that has been so popular for so long.  There is so much room for creativity without lots of intricate piecing, for example Lori Christianson's courthouse steps quilt becomes concentric squares just by changing the color placement.

A nice addition are the technique instructions like quilting with speciality threads in the bobbin and lump-less finishing for bindings.  This way experienced quilters can improve their techniques at the same time as beginners are learning the basic piecing.  I especially love the tip about how to not lose that teensy little bobbin case screw by adjusting it with the whole thing held inside a plastic bag.  

My only addition to the book would be to say that these patterns don't need to be made as is.  They can serve as inspiration to experiment and create with these blocks.  Simply making traditional blocks and playing around with orientation and placement when building the top can be very exciting.  But these blocks can be taken in so many other directions as well.  The sky's the limit with log cabin quilts, really.  

The downloadable ebook is available from Fons and Porter here.  

The two photos in this post are not from the book.  They just came along to decorate the page.  One is a log cabin quilt that I own, and one is a quilt that I did some restoration work on.  The barn raising is c. 1870.  The courthouse steps is c. 1900 or 1910.