December 30, 2018

I've Had an Incredible December!!


While on my trip to Massachusetts and New Hampshire, my lecture "Quilt Repair Tales" was filmed for the Melrose, MA, local access cable.

Yep.  So now, I'm on TV.   (Right now, it's listed as a Current Video.  Eventually, I suspect it'll just show up on the Videos tab.


As if being on TV wasn't cool enough!  I got interviewed on a podcast!!!

I joined the facebook group associated with a wonderful podcast called "Just Wanna Quilt".  And when I wrote my little intro to the group, I guess I caught the eye of the woman whose brainchild this is, and she asked if I'd like to be interviewed about a project I'd mentioned in my intro.  Turns out, she didn't just want to talk about that, she'd checked out my website etc., and the interview is wide-ranging and  Whoa.  I don't know if my feet will ever come back to ground.

(As well as being a quilter, she's a lawyer, and designing all sorts of projects to learn about the whys and hows of the quilt world and quilt businesses and how copyright works in the quilt world, and also to create community.  In other words, she's being a quilt anthropologist.  So cool!) 

Yep.  So now, I'm on a podcast.

Somehow, I managed to keep breathing and sound pretty calm and rational in both cases!

I guess right now my mood is more like Happy Old Year rather than Happy New Year.  Wow.  Who knows what will happen next.  Grin grin grin!!!

December 26, 2018

Winter Visit to Sugar Hill, NH

In addition to all the goings on in Massachusetts that I described in the previous post, I spent several days up in Sugar Hill, NH, visiting our cousins.  We traveled north on a dark grey and rainy day.  It wasn't much for taking glorious photos from the bus, but I like the moodiness of these.


One day was devoted to quilty events.  My cousin is not a quilter, but she loves old things and pretty things.  They live in a house built in the 1820s that is chock full of pretty things collected as they traveled and lived around the world.  She volunteers with the local history museum and is great friends with the museum curator, and she has a good friend who quilts.

So between them, they devised a quilt day.  I gave the same lecture that I gave in Melrose - Quilt Repair Tales - which combines information on quilt repair philosophy and techniques with stories of interesting quilts that have passed through my studio over the years.  Participants brought quilts to show and discuss.  And we had a most scrumptious potluck meal.  All this transpired in a wonderful family home with incredible winter mountain views.

December 17, 2018

The Melrose Quilt Returns to Melrose, MA

Since my previous post, the events I described then have come to pass.  A 3 1/2 year project had its milestone event.  I’m not going to say that the project reached its conclusion, because I really want the research and storytelling around this quilt to continue.  There are plenty of loose ends left to be tied!

In that previous post, you can read the process leading up to this exhibit.  And at the end of that post, there are links to other posts that I wrote along the way during that 3 1/2 years.

In a nutshell:
The quilt magically found its way to me. The names on the quilt were researched.  And researched some more with the help of Melrose community historians.  The results were nicely typed and formatted.  By happy happenstance found myself in contact with a woman in Melrose who was excited about the quilt and about creating an event around it.  She found a venue.  She planned several associated events.  Descendants contributed stories and photos.  I repaired the quilt.  I put on a temporary backing to help support and protect the quilt while hanging.  And finally, 120 years after it was dedicated and stitched, the quilt and I flew off to Massachusetts!

November 15, 2018

Melrose History Quilt, December 2018


Way back in spring 2015, I received a query for information on repairing an inscribed quilt.  And as they say, the rest is history.

Just for fun, I looked up some of the names on, and the owner ended up deciding to leave the quilt with me so I could fully research it.  That was magic #1.  My research points to Melrose, MA, as its home, and 1897-8 for its creation.  See History Comes to Life on a Quilt on this blog, to read lots more details about the quilt and about Melrose.  At the bottom of this post are links to the whole set of posts about this amazing saga.

Magic #2 was receiving an order for my book from Alanna Nelson who lives right there in Melrose.  Magic #3 is that she is an avid quilter and knitter and event planner.

So for the last several years, I've been continuing the research, with the help of a Melrose librarian and contact with some of the family members and descendants, and Alanna has been creating a celebration focused on this quilt.  Oh, and I also did finally do the repair work.  Soon I'll be taking the quilt there, and participating in two weekends of events!

You can read about these upcoming events on the Melrose History Quilt website.  And down at the bottom of the home page, you'll find a space to sign up for the newsletter to keep you abreast of the plans.

I'll be there on Saturday December 1, Friday December 7, and Saturday December 8.  During the intervening week, I'll be in New Hampshire visiting family, and holding a workshop/get together on December 3.  You can contact me for details about that.  The quilt will be on display in Melrose on the other Saturdays in December, but I'll be coming back home.

In preparation, I've been solidifying all my lists.  I also wrote to people who have public trees for these families on Ancestry (where I've done the bulk of my researching).  Several people responded with some wonderful stories, some gorgeous family photos (a few of which are included below), and some new info, through which I've identified a few more people.  Here are the "final-for-now" results.

There are 227 names on the quilt.  I have located information on 184 of those people, and there are 43 that I couldn't find.  The quantity of information ranges from family contacts with stories and photos, to many links to census pages and other records (marriage, death, enlistments), to nothing more than a one-line entry in a Melrose directory.

The quilt was likely a fundraising project.  All the names are written by the same hand, so it is not a signature quilt.  Fundraiser quilts are known from this time and other decades.  People paid to have their name included, and then usually there was also an auction or raffle to sell the quilt in the end.  Often, date, place, and event are also included on the quilt, but not in this case.  Town histories include the incorporation of Melrose as a city and a renovation of the Methodist Episcopal Church around this time.

As I try to narrow in on the date that the quilt was made, I'm realizing that there will likely never be anything more definite that a range, unless some new source comes to light that actually describes the quilt and tells why and when it was made.  For one thing, there probably was a year or so during which the quilt was being made, and the names list may or may not have been updated during that process.  Also, for example, people may not have donated to have brand new infants added or may have added names to the quilt in memoriam. 

I'm pretty sure that names of new infants and married surnames of women couldn't have been entered on the quilt before the events happened.  The latest such incontrovertible dates on the quilt are the birth of Grace Everson on March 21, 1897, and a fairly large gap until the marriage of William and Jennie Howes on June 28, 1898.  In that gap though, there are three marriages and two births that transpired in families that are named on the quilt.  But those new infants and married names are not written, in fact one of the new brides is written with her maiden name next to her husband-to-be.  So I'm assuming that their names were put on a list before the wedding.  There is no indication of births or deaths that happened later on in 1898 or in 1899.

I'm hoping to see lots of New England friends and family while I'm there.  And I'm hoping to meet new friends, too!

Part 1 describes the quilt and the initial research.  Part 2 details how I narrowed down the dates, and relates some of the interesting family stories I began finding.  Part 3 tells the story of the Phinney, Dyer, and Hersey families.  Part 4 has general observations on life in the late 1890s.   Part 5 sums up my research.  Part 6 shares the first information from librarians and historians in Melrose.  I wrote a little aside about the fun of being able to look at original records online.  And, since the quilt did initially come to me for repair, and I did eventually stop reading census forms and do the repair work, and wrote up the techniques and choices involved.  And then I went back to the research, and continued to find lots of great information.  After the events, I described the homecoming experience and the exhibits, and wrote about the little quilt I made that was displayed in Melrose.  A set of summaries of the data and stories that brought the quilt to life.  And a very astonishing coincidence with another quilt and a family tree.  I was given a photo of one of the people named on the quilt. 

October 26, 2018

The Fine Art of Fiber

It's that time of year again!

Next weekend is the annual Fine Art of Fiber show at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Thursday 11/1, 6:30 - 9 p.m.
Friday 11/2, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. + fashion show at 11 a.m.
Saturday 11/3, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. + fashion show at 11 a.m.
Sunday 11/4, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

As I say every year, it's a great show every year!  The show is presented by the North Suburban Needlearts Guild, Illinois Quilters Inc., and the Weavers Guild of the North Shore.  Soooooo many kinds of fiber art are represented, and soooooo many styles and ideas.  In addition to the exhibit itself, there are a boutiques of items made by guild members, a silent auction, and fiber art and quilts for sale.

The Garden is lovely at all times of year, so if the weather is good, plan for an enjoyable walk while you're there.

Admission is free, but the usual Garden parking fee applies.  Make it easy on your budget and come with a few friends - the fee is per car.

I'll have two little quilts on exhibit, both in the Something From Nothing series.  You can catch a glimpse of them both (and my Egyptian camels) in the photo.  One was seen in June at the EvanstonMade show, and one is hot of the presses, completed last night.

All the details are on the Garden website or the show website.  The show website also has photos from previous shows, so you out-of-towners can have a virtual visit.

October 23, 2018

Potholder Quilt with Disney Friends

The owner's great-grandmother made this quilt in 1974 for his mother.  It was made from the fabrics of dresses from his mother's childhood.  The dresses were originally handmade by his grandmother and great-grandmother, and then repurposed for the quilt.  So it is indeed a special memory quilt!

Here is the dated label.

October 8, 2018

Twisty Turny Genealogy Research

So, here's how I had fun on a cool, grey, damp Saturday afternoon.

I’m taking the next step in the research into the names on a quilt that was most likely made in Melrose MA, in the late 1890s.  The story of all the previous work is on this blog, starting with Part 1 and linking along for several more posts.  (The full list of links in below.)

Alanna Nelson, a Melrose fiber enthusiast and community builder, has taken it upon herself to plan a "homecoming" for the quilt in December, with all sorts of creative associated programming.  The quilt and I will be there, of course! 

October 1, 2018

That's One Magnificent Button!

For me, buttons are just about the coolest things in the world.  I am constantly amazed by how many kinds of buttons people have managed to design and produce over the course of time.  Absolutely amazed.

Well, this one stands out from the crowd.  This one is magnificent. 

It resides on this lovely suit.  Just one button.  Demanding all the attention.  But there's more than just this button to appreciate.

September 27, 2018

The Social Justice Sewing Academy


I must admit that the quilt repair process can get kind of boring when it gets down to the actual sewing.  Once I figure out what needs to be done and how to do it, it can be pretty repetitive.  One resource I fall back on a lot is listening to podcasts.  And one interview that really sparked my interest was with Sara Trail, founder of the Social Justice Sewing Academy, on the Just Wanna Quilt podcast.

September 17, 2018

Yes, Yes, More Buttons

You guys, I just can't say no to a batch of mystery buttons.  No matter how bland it looks at first glance, there are sure to be treasures in amongst the basics.  And if one or two treasures are peeking out, I'm a goner.  And so.....

This batch came from the giveaway table at my local needlework guild.  There are always people de-stashing and we reap the benefits.  It'a a great, albeit dangerously tempting, tradition.

And here are my favorites:

September 10, 2018

Stylish: Jeanie and Barbie

My mother-in-law Jeanie knew how to dress well and properly.  All the time.  All occasions. 

This photo was taken in 1961.  She is standing with my husband, at 13 years old, on the day of his Bar Mitzvah.  There are two more photos of Jeanie's style at the end of this post.  (Oooops, the white smear is a glare on the photo, not a smear on Larry's suit.) 

Jeanie also loved handwork, including crocheting and knitting.

She put these two loves together and designed and crocheted dresses and gowns for Barbie dolls.

August 15, 2018

A New Friend From Mother Earth

A short while ago, I once again went to Kalona, IA, for the Iowa-Illinois Quilt Study Group meeting. 

While there, I wandered the museum shop at the Kalona Historical Village who graciously hosts the study group.  And I found.......

.......a lovely little box full of geodes!  I love geodes!  I can never just walk past a box of geodes.  Here's the one that followed me home this time.

July 30, 2018

Mending the Melrose Quilt

This quilt has been on a magical journey of rediscovery.

It was sent to me for repairs a few years ago.  When I told the owner that I'd poked around on and had found some of the names that were written on it, she most graciously gifted me the quilt so I could continue finding its history!  She is an author and historian and has been really happy that the quilt's story is resurfacing.  Turns out, she is Jane Anderson, the person who wrote the screenplay for the movie "How to Make an American Quilt." Honestly, this quilt repair biz has taken me down some pretty amazing paths!

I since have identified about 2/3 of the people named, and located the quilt in time and space: Melrose, MA - probably 1897-8.  You can read about the process in earlier posts, and the resulting exhibits here and here.  (A full list of links is below.)

The next step in the quilt's journey was a chance contact with Alanna Nelson, a textile lover and event planner who lives right there in Melrose, when she just happened to order my quilt repair book.  She has since been making plans for a "homecoming" celebration of the quilt in December 2018, with exhibits, programs, participation by local quilt guilds and local historians, etc., etc.  And, she put me in touch with the genealogist at the Melrose Library, who has shared records that the library holds that helped identify even more people.

The venue for the exhibits requires that the quilt be appraised for insurance during the event.  My appraiser friend, Sherry Branson, said I should do the repairs before bringing it to her.  So after being with me for three years, the quilt has finally been repaired!  Hee, hee!

Here are details of the repair process.  I found myself going through the same assessment process that I ask my customers to consider.  Not surprising, but I kept chuckling to myself, thinking - oh, so this is what it feels like.

July 17, 2018

Saving a Damaged Heirloom Quilt

It's always both sad and wonderful when someone brings me a beloved family quilt that has, well, seen better days, but is still quite full of meaning and sentiment.  What to do?  Often there is lots of fabric damage, and sometimes tears and holes through all three layers of the quilt.  A full-out restoration would cost a whole bunch, maybe more than the owner can afford - but I think there's a bigger issue when it's the sentiment that counts.  Having a quilt end up with as much or maybe even more of my stitches than ancestral stitches just doesn't make sense. 

Here is a solution I have devised for giving a such a quilt enough support and stabilization to let the family handle and enjoy it more safely. 

July 10, 2018

The Rescue of an Heirloom Child's Quilt

This was one of those times when repairing a quilt was all about saving family history and sweet memories.

Here's the email message that introduced me to the quilt:
"I discovered my husband's baby blanket. It's survived 4 children. We are retired military and we have little that has not been lost or ruined from our many moves over 21yrs. Besides the blanket I have only 3 pics of my husband's from his childhood. It would mean a lot to him and me if someone of your skill level could help restore this precious gift."

The owners of this quilt sent me some photos before sending the quilt, so I could get a general idea of what would be needed and give them a general idea of the cost.  It was pretty wrinkled up, but I wasn't concerned, since people often don't spend lots of time taking perfect photos.  Mostly I was looking at the torn squares and open seams.

July 8, 2018

Summer Trees, Summer Skies, and a Visual Puzzle

I take photos nearly daily as a kind of mindfulness, meditative practice.  "Stay here, stay present."  I've collected some tree photos I really like and share them here.  The final one is a puzzle!

I especially love this color combination - steely blue-grey storm clouds moving on to the east, with afternoon sun reappearing in the west, shining on bright green leaves.  This is the view from my front door.  I take this shot often in changing light and sky.  Living across the street from a park is the best.

June 28, 2018

Fun With a Hat

So!  Tonight I get to celebrate!  My blog readership statistics clicked over a big milestone number today!

To celebrate, I'm sharing a selfie - a rare occurrence!   Here's me, enjoying a great vintage hat that I mended a couple of weeks ago.  (Simple repair, the veil had come unattached in a couple of places.)

Isn't it such a sweet hat?!  Its full pedigree is:  "1940s Ivory Straw Hat with Black Veil, Flowers, and Feathers by Edythe of Evanston."  Too my eyes, it's quite whimsical - so I had to try it on.  And better yet, it was made right here in my home town. 

This is one of the perks of doing these repairs, for sure.  I get to play around with all sorts of fashion that otherwise would never be on my radar.  I am far from a clothes horse.  I like what I like, tend to the grey-haired hippie look.  Julia is always finding new wardrobe treats for me while she's doing her sleuthing and shopping for her shop.  She really helps me look more presentable. 

To top it all off, I picked just the right fashion pose to show it off.  Here's the photo Julia took of the hat on her lovely model Rada.  Seems to me that Rada can wear any kind of hat and look just perfect!

June 18, 2018

Quilts at the Art Institute of Chicago



The exhibit this past winter-spring in the textile galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago was spectacular.  So spectacular that I went twice!  Going once was just not enough time to soak up the beauty and history of the pieces from their great collection.  I craved another chance to breathe the rarefied air of these wonderful quilts!

And here they are, in no particular order, so all of you who don't live near Chicago get to enjoy them, too.  (I missed a couple of them, due to "too much" chatting, but this is most of them.)

June 6, 2018

Treat Time!

I decided, since I now have two vintage Bernina 830's, and since this model seems to be a perennial favorite, that I'd best step up my machine knowledge and caretaking.

So I "splurged", which is way too big a word for this, and bought 3 packs of real Bernina bobbins.  Using generics is not good for the precision working of the machine, and though the difference between bobbins is tiny, it is truly visible.

So while I was at it, I replaced my seam ripper which has been broken for probably about 4 years now.  You can see from this discussion so far that I am a total penny pincher.  I admit it.

And now, here comes the actual splurge - though again it's way too big a word.  I bought a variety pack of little tweezers.  They might come in handy for slipping patches under tears during quilt repair.  They might come in handy threading needles in tight places.  And besides, don't they look like fun!

Beaded 1940s Hat

Here's another vintage clothing repair tale.

I've talked several times before about my button collection, what fun it is, and how one can never have enough buttons.  There is always, always the chance of having just the perfect replacement for a missing button!

It's exactly the same story for beads!  I also buy these at estate sales. 

May 23, 2018

Evanston Made 2018

The Evanston Art Center is once again hosting an exhibit as part of the Evanston Made arts month in June.

I'm just finishing up my entry:

May 21, 2018

Spools and Sawtooth

One of the nicest things about repairing quilts is that some really marvelous quilts cross my path.  I get to see and work on such a wide range of quilts.  Here's one I really enjoyed.

I love the combination of the spool blocks and the alternate sawtooth edged blocks.  The blocks play visual games. The two blocks form a cool secondary octagonal pattern that kind of comes and goes.  I find it hard for my eyes to focus on the blocks themselves, and instead there's a rhythm and movement across the quilt. 

May 16, 2018

Antique Quilt Study in Kansas City

It's a happening thing!  In less than one month, June 7-9, I'll be in Kansas City, participating in the MOKA Quilt Study Group Conference!  The presentation topics for the weekend focus on 19th century fabrics and design motifs and 19th century signature quilts. 

My lecture is taking shape:

The title of the lecture is Quilt Repair Tales.  I'll be talking about interesting quilts that have passed through my studio for care.  I'll be sharing both the family tales that quilts can embody, and tales of repair processes and techniques.

May 8, 2018

Vintage Clothing Tidbits

So, I thought I'd follow up the previous post, about a lovely 1920s beaded purse, with some more vintage clothing repair highlights.

The first tidbit is a photo of "how we do it".  I don't know if we've ever had a photo together like this before.  This is Julia, proprietress of Basya Berkman Vintage Fashion, and me sitting at my living room worktable.  I am gradually taking over the whole house with my repair work, supplies, and storage.  The living room has a wall-size window, which gives lovely light for handwork, so the table is nearly always up.  Julia had brought over a pile of  "broken" clothes, and here we are, going over each piece and I'm taking notes on what each one will need.  From the way we are dressed, you can tell what kind of winter we had this year in the Chicago area! 

May 1, 2018

Vintage 1920s Beaded Purse

I haven't posted anything about vintage clothing repair in a long time.  Here comes an absolutely lovely item - a 1920s vintage beaded purse.

April 11, 2018

Flexner Family Names on a Signature Quilt

Esther Abraham Flexner and Moritz Heinrich Flexner

A series of happenstances has lead me to connect names on a 1910 fundraiser quilt to one of my ancestors!  A whole new branch has been added to my family tree!

So pour a cup of tea and follow along on the detective trail.

The story of the research and discovery began back in 1984.  I was visiting a friend in Iowa when my obsession with quilts was brand new.  She and I went to the historical museum in Kalona.  There, among other things, I photographed a signature quilt with a dedication block that reads "M E Society / Jan. 1910 Kalona Ia."

April 8, 2018

Back to Blogging

I've been pretty quiet lately, and intend to be back this week to share several really fun quilt-y happenings.  In the meantime, here's a lovely Renoir, "Young Woman Sewing".  Renoir was the master of clear color, wasn't he?

I was down at the Art Institute of Chicago to see their quilt exhibit one more time before it ended.  So that'll be the subject of one post.  I was also just at the Iowa-Illinois Quilt Study Group meeting.  And the biggest and best story is about quilt history research on a 1910 signature quilt - this time it's about my very own family whose names appear on the quilt!  

March 22, 2018

Upcoming Quilt History Events!

Hey, hey!  I'll be taking off twice in the next few months for two really great quilt history gatherings!

February 28, 2018

Dutchman's Puzzle - Puzzling Fabric Choices

The repair of this Dutchman's Puzzle quilt was especially meaningful to me.  The owner is a daughter-in-law of a woman I became friends with during my college days.  I wrote about her quilt collection in a previous post.

This is another quilt my friend found in Kampsville, IL, made in the 1960s or so.  She had gifted it to the current owner.

February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day Dance

I thought it'd be fun to share one of my darlin' daughter's videos today.  She is a dancer, and in 2017, created a new dance video each month.  This is the dance she made last February, all about love and sweetness.  It's title: "jam and jelly."  I hope you enjoy it!

February 5, 2018

Schuster Mansion, Milwaukee


My friend Nancy invited me to come along to sample a Victorian high tea in Milwaukee.  She is in the midst of  researching sources for Victoriana artisans, B&Bs, and such to be listed on a site called Victorian Heart Shoppe.  Nancy's own gift shop, Roses and Teacups, carries all sorts of flowery, feminine, speciality items to make life sweet and beautiful.  Of course, I said yes without a second thought!

January 29, 2018

Come Home Soon

Quilts can carry so much love and so many memories.  Here's one such quilt that came to me for repair.

The owner told me:

My mom bought it from an Amish lady she knows in Lancaster Pa. She owns a really successful shop there. She bought it for me while I was away on my Mormon mission. It’s called “Come Home Soon.”

January 23, 2018

German Quilt Magazine!

The other day, I received the most wonderful envelope:

It contained, yep, copies of the January 2018 issue of Patchwork Professional, a German quilting magazine - with a long article about: