November 29, 2013

Fantabulous Eagle Quilt

Photo by Sotheby's
I can think of no better way to celebrate the release of my book on antique quilt care than to tell you the story of this amazing quilt. Now, I love all sorts of quilts, and appreciate repairing anything, from simple comforters that hold memories of overnights at Grandma's house, to jaw-dropping wonderful artwork. This is one of the latter.

It was sent to me by Mark Wilcox of Summer Antiques in upstate New York. The quilt is inscribed "Phelps 1853".  I assumed that Phelps was a family name, but Mark told me that it is a town not far from his shop. Phelps is near the Erie Canal, which was relatively new at the time the quilt was made, and the quilt celebrates the economic growth the canal brought to the area.

And yes, my jaw dropped when I opened the package. Mark and I discussed at length what I would do for the quilt, and I spent a lot of time searching for just the right supplies.

One of our big topics was the choice between "restoration" and "conservation."  

For the torn fabrics in the eagle's body and wings, we chose conservation in order to maintain the original fabrics. I found solid tan fabrics to slip under the tears, giving some extra support for my stitches, and also smoothing the visual appearance in those areas.  The loose tatters were then secured with couching stitches.

The one place we decided to do some restoration was the arrows in the eagle's talons.  There was virtually nothing left to conserve, plus they are an important part of the overall design.

I found a narrow woven tape for the shafts and a fine silk for the points, following the lead of the little bits of original materials that were still on the quilt.  Placing the new arrows was simple, because the old appliqué stitches and quilting were all still intact. The talons and beak fabrics were pretty threadbare, but enough was left to maintain the design, so we decided to let them be.

There was a small tear in one of the red scallops that I pulled back together with some more couching.

Other than that, the quilt was in fine shape, which given its age, is really marvelous. 

The next exciting step was when Mark put it up for auction at Sotheby's. So cool!  But the story gets even better: Sotheby's liked it so much that they featured it on the covers of the sale catalog. Of course, I registered with them, and bought a copy.

front and back covers

 inside back cover

sale listing

The descriptive text is:

A Fine and Rare Appliqued and Trapunto Cotton 'Sculptural' American eagle quilt, anonymous, Phelps, New York, dated 1853

The white cotton diamond quilted field with extravagantly scaled 5 foot American eagle, rendered as sculpture with layers of trapunto and piecing; in its beak a ribbon embroidered with the legend "WHERE LIBERTY DWELLS, THERE IS MY COUNTRY"; below its wings quilted sunbursts with flower-quilted circles; a pieced sunburst above the eagle enclosing the legend "INDUSTRY"; below a pieced compote filled with spring blossoms rendered in pieced and reverse appliqued cotton flanked by the inscription "Phelps, 1853"; the borders with appliqued clusters of red blossoms and vines along with grape vines and tendrils; a cluster of three strawberries and quartet of three-rose bouquets; the whole within scalloped red borders.
88 by 90 in. (223.5 by 228.6 cm)

The village of Phelps New York was one of the first in commercial and industrial importance in Ontario County. Through railroads and the Erie Canal system the theme of towns along that passage way helped create the emergence of 'Industry' in the western section of the Empire State of New York.

The quote is from Benjamin Franklin.

I was able to watch the auction live via the internet. So exciting to see "my" quilt at Sotheby's! The quilt was valued at $30,00-50,000, and the sales price ended up pretty much right in the middle of that range. I really see as this my moment of fame, anonymous though it may have been.  

Huge thanks to Mark for choosing me to do this work, and giving me the chance to enjoy this marvelous quilt up close and personal.

P.S.  Another quilt with a different interpretation of this design came up for auction at Freeman's in 2016, a few years after I worked on this quilt.  It was made a few years earlier, and family history indicates that it could also have been made in New York.  I am so curious to find out more of the history of these quilts and the design!

November 27, 2013

Blog Hop Final

Thanks to everyone who visited my blog these last few days at the Quilting Gallery Blog Hop!

I've pulled the name of the Lucky Winner of my book, using an actual hat, and she has been contacted.

I asked people to mention their favorite traditional quilt block. Here is the result of that "poll". Lots of ideas for some nice sampler quilts, eh?

Happy Quilting to you all!!!

churn dash - 8
stars - 7
log cabin - 5
baskets - 4
Grandmother's flower garden - 4
bears paw - 3
double wedding ring - 3
nine patch - 3
Ohio star - 3
pinwheel - 3
sawtooth star - 3
embroidered crazy quilt - 2
hexagons - 2
scrap quilts - 2
album block - 1
Amish - 1
appliqué - 1
cathedral window - 1
Dresden plate - 1
Dutchman's puzzle - 1
feathered star - 1
goose in the pond - 1
goose tracks - 1
honey bee - 1
lily basket - 1
little boy britches - 1
magic vine - 1
mariner's compass - 1
odd fellows puzzle - 1
sawtooth blocks - 1
seven sisters - 1
snake trail - 1
star flower - 1
storm at sea - 1
sunbeam - 1
tulip appliqué - 1
rail fence - 1

November 21, 2013

My New Book on Antique Quilt Care

12/27 - Blog hop results are final. Winner selected. Favorite traditional blocks list tallied. Big thanks to everyone who visited!!


I'm a first-time participant in a Quilting Gallery blog hop party - this one is all about "Giving Thanks." The list of bloggers ready to welcome you to their sites is at the Quilting Gallery.

The blog hop is open starting late afternoon on November 21, and ending on November 26.  I'll be drawing a name at random after the close and giving away a copy of my book - Preserving Our Quilt Legacy: Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve - hot off the presses.

Enter the drawing by leaving a comment on this post.  Since the book is about antique quilts, let us know which is your favorite traditional quilt block or blocks.  I have lots of favorites!  Lily Basket.  Little Giant.  Hands All Around.

If you want to have two chances at winning a book, become a follower or email subscriber, and tell me you've done so in your comment as well.

More info about the book is on my website:



For me, I am giving thanks to everyone who has helped me over many years of learning about antique quilts and then gathering all I've learned into my very first book.  Teachers, quilt lovers and owners, quilting friends, business advisors, publishing and marketing professionals.  Thanks to one and all!

Thanks also to Michele over at Quilting Gallery for all her work to keep quilters connected, informed, and happy.

Here are pix of a few of the lovelies I've had the pleasure of repairing.  I hope you all enjoy blog hopping and have a grateful and tasty Thanksgiving!

Ann Wasserman
Six-Pointed Stars, part 1 and part 2         

Embroidered Crazy Quilt

Old Italian Block, part 1 and part 2

Magic Vine, part 1 and part 2

Crazy Quilt, commemorative ribbon, 1882

Snowflake, part 1 and part 2

November 18, 2013

Two Books

#1 - Old book

My friend Gloria visited yesterday, and shared this amazing book with me.  It was published in 1916, revised from the original 1907 publication.  The title is:

Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes and Processes
Containing ten thousand selected household and workshop formulas, recipes, processs and money-saving methods for the practical use of manufacturers, mechanics, housekeepers and home workers.

Here is the cotton entry, covering bleaching by "steaming", with calcium sulphite, and with hydrogen peroxide.

And here is the silk entry, covering artificial rubbered silk(?), artificial aging of silk fabric, bleaching silk, and washing of light silk goods.

The range of entries is huge - no table of contents, just in alphabetical order. "Silk" is preceded by "Sign letters - to remove black letters from white enameled signs", then "Sign letter cements - see Adhesives", and "Signs, to repair enameled - see Enamels."  After silk comes "Silk sensitizers for photographic purposes - see Photography" and followed by "Silver."

The number of ingredients and supplies that are unheard of today (or known by different names maybe) is amazing.

The use of dangerous chemicals is scary.  We may get fussy about how over-the-top safety precautions are these days, but honestly, seeing these recipes without any mention of danger is kind of freaky.

#2 - New book

Here's my book, making its debut at the Fine Art of Fiber show last weekend.  I am officially a published author now - how amazing!  I am learning how to sign the title page like authors do.

I've been working hard to get all the logistics set up to actually open up for on-line sales and shipping.  Hopefully all will be ready in a week or so!

November 9, 2013

What the Birds See

"What the Birds See"

This is my latest quilt in the Something from Nothing series.  The series is based on a pile of decorator fabric samples.  Part of the challenge I have given myself is to make the design of the quilt related in some way to the design on the fabrics.  You can read more about the series here.

For this quilt, my goal was to use lots of the large floral prints and make a happy garden quilt.  I was wondering about what to use or make up for a garden design, and my friend Julie suggested that I reproduce a part of the Chicago Botanic Garden, and have the quilt ready to display at the big Fine Art of Fiber show that is held there every fall.  Perfect!  Thanks, Julie!

I used Google to "survey" the gardens from the air.  I selected the English Walled Garden as an area with some interesting variation in shapes and with fountains.

You can see the Google aerial photo I used here.  (When you get there, hover over the "Map" button in the upper right.  You'll get a little menu.  Click on " 45º " to turn off the angle view.  Then you'll have the straight-down view I used.)

I straightened out the angle and printed the garden out on just a regular 8.5x11" sheet of paper.  Then, as I cut the fabrics, I measured each object on the photo, and multiplied the dimension by 4 to determine the size of my appliqué piece.  I put iron-on interfacing on the fabrics before cutting to help stabilize them.  The brown ground print is one large piece of fabric I picked up at an estate sale.  I did take some "artistic license" with the layout here and there, mostly to keep the shapes easy to interpret.  Everything finally got cut and pinned on, and then I appliquéd by machine with a zig-zag stitch and invisible threads, light or dark according to the fabric.

I had trouble finding a fabric I liked for the borders - something green, but not too strong.  I finally settled on the reverse of a wonderful silk fabric that I got from a clothing designer who was clearing out her studio.  (In keeping with the theme of this series.)  Luckily there is enough of that fabric that I can use it again in something else, and use the right side.  Otherwise, I don't know if I could have talked myself into hiding its actual beauty like this!  It's super gorgeous.

I backed it with another large piece of decorator fabric, and stitched around the major shapes to secure the layers together.  There is no batting.  It is quite heavy for its size - 38"x45".

It was very fun, but didn't use up all of anything, and didn't touch some other great florals.  So I can do another garden quilt someday.  It was fun!

November 4, 2013

Luxurious Vintage Lace Jabot

One of the best things about repairing vintage clothing is getting to examine the items so closely and learn from them.  In this case, I took notes all long, and now have a pattern for making a really cool accessory that isn't exactly common these days. 

The repairs needed were just to reattach the big lace where it had come loose and replace the little lace at the top which had disintegrated.  I also made an extension piece for the collar, so that the jabot will go all the way around and close in the back.  Since I wasn't actually making one, I don't have step-by-step construction pictures, but will share my measurements and my best guess as to how it would work.

collar: cotton, cut 2 strips, 16" or 17" x 2"
center placket: cotton, cut 2 strips, 5 1/2" x 1 3/4"
6" deep lace: 44" long
small 1/2" lace: 17"

1. collar - Lay the two strips together, and sew a 1/4" seam all around, leaving a space in the center of one long side to turn.  Clip corners and turn.
2. placket - Lay the two strips together, and sew a 1/4" seam on both long sides and one short end.  Clip corners and turn. 
3. Press both pieces flat.  Top stitch placket edges.
4. Insert open end of placket into the opening at the center of collar band. Top stitch edges of collar.  The top stitching will also attach the placket to the collar.
5. Gather the big lace to 9".  (Yes, gather 44" of lace down to 9".  It needs to be a soft lace.)
6. Fold in the lace strip in half, like closing up a V, and sew a narrow seam to join the  gathered edges together.
7. Stitch the lace seam to the center of the placket.  This side will be the front.
8. Turn under raw edges of the lace at the top, and stitch across the collar band.
9. Stitch the small lace inside top edge of collar. Add snaps to close.

Here's the front:  Gathered lace and its seam stitched to the placket.  Top edge of lace turned and stitched to the collar.

Here's the back: The placket is only visible on the inside.

Look at how gorgeous this lace is!!!  Because it's so very soft, it's able to take all the gathering, and hang in that wonderful swoop.

 Collar detail:

And here's the model over at the Basya Berkman shop, showing us how regal she feels while wearing this jabot!  Full details can be found in the shop here.

November 1, 2013

Coming Soon !!!

I am taking a big step forward.  I am publishing a book!

Preserving Our Quilt Legacy: Giving Antique Quilts the Special Care They Deserve

The book will be available soon, during November.

106 pages, with step-by-step diagrams and 16 color plates

The book includes information for both quilt owners and quilt collectors.

Topics covered include:
The philosophy of quilt repair
Supplies and techniques for Restoration and Conservation

My background in anthropology and archeology has led me to understand how much history and meaning everyday items like quilts can hold.  And yet, quilts, like other fiber items, are relatively fragile.  Thoughtful care can help preserve them for the generations to come.  In this book, I describe my 30 years of learning and experience with antique quilt restoration and conservation.

Quilt owners are guided through the process of choosing the most appropriate ways of caring for their treasures.  I offer information useful both for collectors hoping to find professionals to care for their collections and for quilters and quilt owners who want instructions they can follow in the home.

The book centers on my three basic rules of quilt care:
"Preventative maintenance is the best medicine."
"Do as little as possible."
"Don't do anything that can't be undone."

I present both conservation and restoration techniques and supplies, and offer guidelines for proper storage, display, and cleaning.  The book is illustrated throughout with step-by-step diagrams and color plates.  Along the way, I share tales of some of the beautiful quilts that have passed through my studio for repair, cleaning, and conservation.