December 30, 2016

Favorite Quotes #14 - Martha Graham

Inspiration for the New Year of living and creating:

Martha Graham gave this advice to Agnes de Mille shortly after she choreographed Oklahoma! in 1943.  The story is that de Mille was curious as to why this work had captured the critics' attention even though she thought much of her other work was much more complete and valuable.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”

Here's to all of you and your very own vitality, the light of your life!

Signature on a Victorian crazy quilt

December 24, 2016


This is Celestina.  She was born at my house, as a special treat for my friend Debbie's birthday.  I'm really happy with her!  She is inspired by the Waldorf-style creations at The Puppenstube, a place Debbie loves very much.  Debbie is really fond of blue and white patterns, hence the clothes and jewel that Celestina picked out.  She has fuzzy grey hair, just like I do. 

She now lives at Debbie's house, with lovely friends, stones, art, and other magical items.  I visited her there today.  She asked that I send her photo out along with my wishes to you all for a sparkly and loving holiday, whichever of the winter festivals of lights is the one that you love to celebrate.

Thanks to all of you that read my blog and best wishes to all in the coming year and thereafter!


December 20, 2016

Heirloom Quilt with Family Photos and Some Flashy Peacocks

One of my favorite parts of the quilt repair biz is when someone brings a family heirloom quilt and shares the story and occasionally even photos of the quiltmaker.  More often, people tell me sadly that none of their offspring care very much about "old things" or the family history.  But here's a quilt brought to me by a young woman who is very, very much in love with the family story.  Warms my heart!

Here is her story of the quilt and the quilter. 

Attached are photos of my Manx great-grandma. The first one is from just before she left the Isle of Man, she is in her early 20’s. The second photo was from the early 60’s.


December 13, 2016

Log Cabin Magnified

This quilt is one of a collection of family heirloom quilts that I've been repairing. 

Years ago, I worked with the Illinois quilt documentation days, one of the projects that produced so many statewide data bases and books.  I remember some talk about quilts with extra large blocks like this being regional styles in some areas.

The quilt was made in Louisiana.  I'm dating it to the 1950s.  These photos show colors and prints that are really indicative of that decade.

To paraphrase Dorothy in Oz - Turquoise, salmon, and grey!  Oh, my!

December 7, 2016

Whirling Hexagons

Here's a pattern I'd never seen before having this quilt come in for repairs.  And green is my favorite color.  So I had a good time working on it!

Barbara Brackman's book shows it with two names - Whirling Hexagons and Texas Trellis. The block has a really simple geometry that makes a vibrant overall pattern.  It might work well as a scrap quilt, too.

December 1, 2016

Edwardian Bodice, Embroidery and Fine Detailing

My friend Julia, proprietress of Basya Berkman Vintage Fashion, comes across some really marvelous old pieces during her search for marvelous old clothing.  This one is a super marvelous, old, old piece that is too delicate and troubled to be mended and worn.  It will be lovely as a decorative piece, just to marvel over.  And I also get to share it here with you.

It is a silk Victorian era shirtwaist, to be worn with a skirt.  There is a cream-colored blouse attached inside the black shirtwaist with an embroidered panel tucked inside the lower half of the opening.  Each layer closes with its own set of hooks and eyes. 

The center edges of the black silk are decorated with a double silk trim with delicate edge stitching, attached with a faggoted seam.

November 11, 2016

A Tale of Two Eagles

Two American eagle quilts, in honor of Veterans Day.

Several years ago, I was honored to be asked to conserve a spectacular eagle quilt.  It is embroidered prominently with the date and location - 1853 and Phelps, at town in upstate New York.  Beyond that, it is totally gorgeous, and in pretty good condition.

I was asked to do the work on this quilt by Mark Wilcox of Summer Antiques in Lake Placid, NY.

He auctioned the quilt at Sotheby's.  The auction catalog has a full description and larger photo.  My blog has photos of the conservation work I did on the quilt.  It is still one of the most important and fun adventures I've ever had in the quilt repair biz.

Well, then a week or so ago, I came across an auction listing at Freeman's for an incredibly similar quilt!  The auction will take place next week.
Photo: Freeman's
The date on this one is 1845.  The descriptive materials say that the name of the quiltmaker is known for this quilt, as it has been handed down in the family.  She was married in 1811, and died in New York state.  She could quite reasonably have been living somewhere in New York at the end of her life when the quilt was made.

I’m wondering whether or not the two quilts were made by the same person.  The borders and the halo over the eagle’s head are very different stylistically.  The designs on the 1845 quilt are quite angular by comparison, and more formal and symmetrical.  I wonder if this was a design that appeared on some other item that quiltmakers were drawn to copy and interpret on their quilts.  I poked around a bit, but haven't found anything yet.

If it was the same person, she was certainly having loads of fun coming up with different ideas!

My challenge to you all - look for a design source for this grand old bird.

Another amazing coincidence is that there is one and only one previous exhibit on the quilt's "resumé", and that was right here in my home town!  And no, I didn't know about it.  Wish I had!

November 2, 2016

Sleuthing Around a Quilt - Part 2 Fabrics

What a lively quilt this is!  A full description is in the previous post.  Here are some more photos of the fun fabrics in the quilt.

1940s, the decade I believe the quilt top was begun.

These stylized flowers in purple and blue seem very 1950s or 60s to me.

The fabric in the center of this block couldn't be more 1950s if it tried!  And I think the floral in the triangles dates to the 1950s, maybe 60s.  I'm pretty sure this whole little block was a patch.  The way the edges lie certainly helps me believe that.  Plus it's not quilted!

October 31, 2016

Sleuthing Around a Quilt - Part 1 The Date and Story

I always love to see a quilt with vintage repairs.  Well, I've maybe coined a new term!  What I mean is that the quilt has been patched in the past by other folks who cared for it.  Vintage repairs speak volumes about how much history and love and meaning quilts can carry.

So here's an example of a cheerful quilt with vintage repairs that just visited my studio.

October 21, 2016

Women's Rights Quilt

I was just browsing through the Met Museum quilt collection and happened upon this quilt.  Boy, did I get excited!
Photo: Hearts and Hands: Women, Quilts, and American Society, 1987.

Just to toot my own horn a tiny bit:  When I first started teaching quilting in the early 1980s with little 6-week beginner classes, one of my students brought in an old quilt that was in her family.  I didn't know then nearly what I know now about quilt history, but I knew enough to be utterly amazed and urged the owner to treat it like the incredible piece that it is.  It did get exhibited and then published a couple of times (including in one of my all-time favorite books, Hearts and Hands: Women, Quilts, and American Society by Elaine Hedges, Pat Ferrero and Julie Silber, Quilter's Digest Press, 1987).  And now, oh boy oh boy, I see it's become part of the collection at the Met!!!  I feel like the beaming godmother!

The quilt was made in Illinois c. 1875.  It has both botanic appliqué designs and unique and detailed pictorial blocks showing the social history of the time.  There are some pictures that refer to the Civil War and some to the question of women's rights that sprouted during the war years.  Along with the quilt, the family had a piece of paper with captions and sometimes comical commentary for the pictorial blocks.  Such an incredible treasure!

You can read more and take a closer look at the Met collection entry.  The quilt is also described on the Quaker Quilts page in an article titled "Quaker Causes and the Women's Rights Quilt."


October 10, 2016

Mending, Mending, Mending

Well, if you have visited my blog before, you know that what I do is a whole lot of mending.  For those of you are who new here, my profession is repairing antique/vintage quilts and clothing. For example:

I mended this unfortunate tear in a mid-19th century tulip appliqué quilt.

I replaced missing beading on a gorgeous wedding dress

September 26, 2016

Just For Fun Embroidery Projects

Tablecloth update:

Having finished embroidering and doing the cutwork in all but one corner, the tablecloth is on hiatus.  My daughter is going to finish up the last corner so we will end up with an heirloom stitched by three generations.  The whole story of the tablecloth is elsewhere on this blog.

Next project:
I always like to have some carry-along needlework at the ready to fill tedious waiting times and to doodle away on when watching some show with loads of commercial breaks.  So.....

September 23, 2016

A Tale of Two Dresses

My buddy Julia over at Basya Berkman Vintage finds the best stuff!  In the last couple of weeks, she's given me two really delightful dresses to mend.  They are from different decades even though they are similar in style.  Both prints are great, and they are really what inspired me to share the dresses here.

The older one is rayon, probably 1940s.  I absolutely love the color combo in the print!  The dress has shoulder pads, self-covered buttons, and - my favorite detail - velvet covered piping at the collar and sleeves.

September 20, 2016

Stitching Our Stories

Stitching Our Stories is an exhibit currently running in Santa Fe through October 20.   It's at the Santa Fe Arts Commission’s Community Gallery, 201 W. Marcy Street.  The use of needlework to express  family and social history is one of my favorite topics.  I'd go for sure if I was anywhere close!

The subtitle is:  Connecting Immigrant and Local Communities Through Story Cloths and Conversations.

The programs and exhibit were created by Art and Remembrance, an organization founded around the needlework panels made by Holocaust survivor Esther Nisenthal Krinitz.  The panels illustrate her memories of her early life in Europe and her escape from the Holocaust as a young girl.

Art and Remembrance has created a program called HeART and Story which guides recent immigrants to create their own story cloths about their journeys.  Their work is also on display. 

You can see the lovely Esther Krinitz panels in a book, Memories of Survival, and a video Through the Eye of the Needle (which you can also purchase).

September 14, 2016

Seminole Patchwork


Here is my good friend Julia of Basya Berkman Vintage.  She usually is behind the camera photographing her models, but this time, I took the camera and photographed her in this great Seminole skirt.   As an anthropology major way back when who long ago became a quilter and then much more recently took on vintage clothing, mending this skirt was a real treat!

This is a patchwork style created and stitched by the Seminole Indians of Florida.  After the sewing machine and cotton fabrics were introduced to the Seminoles in the late 1800s, they developed their own patchwork technique by the 1920s.

September 8, 2016

Great-Great-Grandma and Her Great-Great-Grandson

Well, I have another story to tell about quilts and needlework in my friend Debbie's family.  Debbie's Grandma loved to sew and craft, and made so many useful and pretty things for her family.  These have become much treasured heirlooms.

Last weekend, at our annual day at the Fox Valley Folk Festival (always a wonderful event!), and I got to meet the newest addition to the family, Debbie's first grandbaby.  Debbie had brought along the quilt her Grandma had made in the 1980s for her daughter Emmie was she was a little girl.  And now, here is baby Will, the first member of the next generation, in his jaunty little hat, sitting on his great-great-grandma's loving needlework.  How cool is that!

August 30, 2016

Sunbonnet Sue Spent Her Summer Vacation at My Quilt Care Spa

Hello, Sunbonnet Sue!  It was great to spend part of my August with this little girl, all decked out in her summer frocks and bonnets.

Most of her problems were with the embroidery thread giving out.  The fabrics by and large are hanging in there, although a few are starting to get weak.

Her spa treatment included restitching the loose appliqués, replacing a couple of missing sleeves, and re-embroidering the ribbon bows hanging down from her bonnet.  It's always fun to see a well-loved pattern like this with an extra little flair like those ribbon bows.

August 17, 2016

Favorite Quotes #13 - What is Art

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
Edgar Degas

I found this quote in just about the most difficult spot ever to photograph!  It's on an overhang, with a brightly lit ceiling just beyond and a dark tall wall above....  But I loved it.  And I love that it's in a high school, seen by budding artists every day.

I do think successful art has two parts:  first, a sharing of what the artist sees (in the broader sense of feels and experiences), and second, what that touches and brings forth in the viewers' sensations and inner knowledge. That's why good art feels timeless and magical.

Here are two favorite stories:

August 8, 2016

Heirloom Cross Stitch Quilt

Isn't this a lovely quilt?  Sometimes the simplicity of a two-color design can create the most impact of all.

This cross stitch quilt is a family heirloom, made by the grandmother of the current owner.  She was living in Columbus, OH, at the time she made the quilt in the 1970s.

August 2, 2016

Summer Sewing

Sitting out in the back, beading and buttoning on my FFF (folded fabric flowers) project.  This will be another little quilt in the Something From Nothing series. 

It's quite thematic for a summer's day, don't you think?

And then I started looking for other things to photograph....  I love the freedom and the possibility of excess of digital photography!

July 25, 2016

100-Year-Old Christening Gown


This christening gown is a family heirloom with a full pedigree.  The left photo is the front, right photo is the back, third photo is the matching slip.  Here's what the current caretaker knows about the gown:

July 19, 2016

LeMoyne Star Plus 9-Patch Equals a Great Quilt

This quilt is signed and dated, one of my favorite kinds of quilts.  It was made in 2002 in Intercourse, PA, by Esther Martin.  Sign and date all your quilts, folks!  Quilt lovers of the future will thank you!

Repairing fairly recent quilts like this one is very different from repairing quilts of the 1800s or the early 20th century.  It's so easy to find patching fabrics!  All I have to do is go into my sewing room and look at the piles of fabrics I've bought over the years for my own quiltmaking.

July 16, 2016

Shopping Spree

I'm sure many of you know how easily this happens....

I was sitting down to repair this lovely Victorian silk and velvet log cabin quilt. 

And lo and behold, I discovered that I somehow had let my supply of black thread run completely dry.  And then somehow, my thread order ended up with just "a few" more spools than just the black.  The pages and pages of yummy colors were just more than I could resist!

This, by the way, is 100% cotton size 60 thread.  It's what I use for repairing quilts, especially ones like this log cabin with very fragile fabric.  Regular sewing thread is larger, size 50.

Close-up photos of the fabrics in the quilt and of the conservation work I did on the fragile old silks are in the previous post.

July 13, 2016

Lovely Victorian Log Cabin


This quilt exemplifies why people are drawn to the silk and velvet quilts of the Victorian era, don't you think?  Rich glowing colors and shiny fabrics.  It's all about the fabrics!

The counterpoint of the black vs. color makes the strong visual impact that quilt collectors love to see.

The logs are mostly silks.  They are about 1/2" wide, though you can see that it's not precision piecing - they do wobble a bit.  This makes me happy.  It says to me that a quilter doesn't need to lose the fun of fabric and color by stressing over precision (unless precision makes her happy) and can still make a stunning quilt.

July 6, 2016

An Amazing Day at an Auction ~ Quilt Rescue!

 Beautiful Windmills, 1930s;  lovely, fine quilting.  
Tried hard to win, but lost to the antique dealer.

What follows is a guest post by one of my readers.  I think of it as a cautionary tale about what wonders can be lost without a bit of research into the proper care of antiques.  She had the good luck and good sense to help rescue an amazing and amazingly mistreated quilt collection.  I am grateful to her for the time she has taken to share her story here.  (The photos were taken when the quilts were on display, before the "disaster".)

After reading this sad tale, I hope you'll join me in thanking her for giving it the happiest ending possible.

June 30, 2016

Cycle of the Seasons Quilt

Long, long ago (early 1980s) in a design workshop taught by Nancy Halpern, I designed a pieced tree block that I called "Timberline."  I made a set of 4 small pieces, one for each season. 

A bit later, I redrafted the trees to make an octagonal quilt that can rotate as the seasons cycle through the year.  It's been hanging in my upstairs hallway and turning to mark the seasons for nearly 30 cycles.  In this format, I call it "To Turn, To Turn."