Saturday, March 21, 2020

Mystery Quilt

Quilts Usually Enter My Collection Wrapped in Mystery

It's solving the mystery that is so entertaining and exciting.  
Unfortunately, I haven't solved this one's mystery yet.

The bare facts:

Unknown Quilt Maker(s)
"Rebecca Hendricks Davis Age 9"
Cayuga, New York
68 x 81 inches
Circa 1890

Here is what the seller had to say:

I have never quite resolved my questions about this charming scrap quilt. Maybe you can "put together the pieces." 

The traditional design is called "Maltese Cross" or "Album Patch." This quilt pattern was commonly used for "signature" or "friendship quilts" ~ the center white cross often hosted people's names, usually applied in embroidery or ink.

Here's the mystery: Only one block has a name:

A corner block has a piece of paper stitched diagonally across the center. Written on that paper in pencil: "Rebecca Hendricks Davis Age 9"

The cloth on the other half of that cross also has pencil inscriptions. One square says "Cayuga NY 1848" and the opposite square says "Quilted 1898."

It appears that the quilt top was MADE (pieced together) in 1848. The fabulous array of printed cottons supports that date.

Then it seems that the quilt is telling us that 50 years later, in 1898, someone(s) finished and lightly hand quilted this beautiful piece. The printed back and the binding fabrics are consistent with 1898.

Now, what about the nine year old girl, Little Rebecca? Was the quilt made BY her? FOR her? As a memorial for her?

Well, whatever the story, this is a wonderful quilt with such gorgeous mid-19th century prints. The prints are lively ~ and the various, whimsical borders and grids.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Jazz and Quilts

Jazz & Quilts, Always a Great Combo!

My latest quilt project....applique quilt blocks which I have unexpectedly turned into vehicles for gathering the signatures of jazz musicians! 

I have been stitching on these blocks over our last two adventures with The Jazz Cruise. This year I suddenly thought...why don't I use the blocks to gather the musicians' signatures! Wa-la!

Now I am going to try to design a rather "jazzy", unconventional setting for the blocks, not at all like the original blocks from the 1870s quilt would have been set. It will be fun to comb thru the gazillion digital photos I have stored, as well as my books, to get some ideas.

"Artemis," the all-women instrumental sextet (check them by clicking here!) with Melissa Aldana (tenor sax), Anat Cohen (clarinet), Renee Rosnes (piano), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Noriko Ueda (bass) and Allison Miller (drums).

Gary tried to decipher the signatures after the fact. I should have jotted them down on a paper list as they signed each block but it didn't occur to me at the time.
I haven't deciphered all the signatures, but by comparing their signatures on Gary's CDs and the context of who played with whom, we can identify about 80% of them:

Upper left includes a potpourri of musicians: Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Benny Green (piano), Jon Hamar and Clark Sommers (bass), Bijon Watson (lead trumpet in the big band) and singers: the amazing Niki Haris whom I never tire of hearing sing; plus the witty, smokey Jessica Molaskey.

The upper right quilt block is dominated by the Brubeck Brothers -- Chris Brubeck (bass and trombone) and Daniel Brubeck (drums), with drummer Billy Hart.  It was such a pleasure to listen to Dave Brubeck's sons play in person and to also hear them share their family stories and memories. Daniel actually lives not too far from us here in the PNW.  (And, of course, I am partial to the name Daniel anyway given it's the name of my son, brother and grandfather!)

The lower left block captures the "Name That Tune" leaders. It's hosts are the wonderful talented, witty Ken Peplowski on clarinet; Shelly Berg on piano; Johnny Pizzarelli on guitar (and comic foil to Ken) and Gary Alexander ("Saxman Alex"/KLOI Radio DJ, Lopez Island, WA), as a "Name That Tune" contestant.

The final quilt block is dominated by "Artemis," the all-women instrumental sextet (check them out!!!!), with Melissa Aldana, tenor saxophone (and still in her 20s); Anat Cohen (clarinet) whom we have heard many times on the Jazz Cruise; Renee Rosnes (piano), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Noriko Ueda (bass) and Allison Miller (drums).

Other women in that block are vocalist Catherine Russell and Kelly Peterson , widow of pianist Oscar Peterson). (Kelly was so excited when she saw my quilt block and exclaimed that she is a quilter, too!)

Melissa Walker of Jazz House for Kids (check this out!) 

Other musicians in this quilt block include John Clayton (bass) and leader of the big band and sweet, sweet guy we have had the pleasure of meeting many times; John Fedchock (trombone); Christian McBride (bass and big band leader) and his wife Melissa Walker of Jazz House for Kids; and Emmet Cohen (piano and organ), a wonderful young we have had the pleasure of seeing every year since his first jazz cruise (and ours!) about 10 years ago. 

Signatures from guys "in the background" (i.e. not on stage) include Lee Mergner (editor of Jazz Times and sweet guy) and New York photographer John Abbott (official photographer of the Jazz Cruise), who just sent us a video of the "Name That Tune" contest in which Gary participated.

PS: To see my mini Jazz Signature quilt, click here.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Life Before Quilting - Part 2

Was there ever a life before Quilting?

If you click on the link above, you'll see the first article I wrote for my grandkids about my life before marriage. Only I called it "was there ever a life before quilting?" because they pretty much know me as a quilt collector and historian, not someone who lived overseas twice as a teenager.

Now speed forward to 1972. College behind me, married and three small children. I gotta get some breathing room so I decide to volunteer where there are some adults ...and kids.... around.

I'll take a shortcut and scan some pages from my "history of my creative efforts" album. 

I found the perfect place across from the Santa Anita Race Track — the Los Angeles State/County Arboretum! One year I supervised their volunteer greenhouses; another year I lead school groups on nature tours of the Arboretum and taught a very basic botany class. In the photo below I am helping set up for the annual plant sale.

I also began to collect succulent plants myself. (My mother is in red.)

Quilting didn't come about until I moved from Pasadena to the Richmond, Virginia area. I began my first quilt in 1980—a Sampler quilt. Didn't every new quilter in the 80s begin with a Quilt-As-You-Go Sampler class? Can you imagine a future generation eagerly adding these to their collections as a representative of our era?  Well, they are already showing up on eBay....and reflecting varying degrees of competence.

 I for one didn't know much about color value or contrast yet.

Then, when I quilted it, unbeknownst to me, some of the blocks became smaller as I quilted. When I tried to add the sashing, I was in trouble. Things didn't come together too well.  (See the open seam below next to the orange sashing on the bottom strip.) I have already added little tiny extra pieces in some areas in order to make things fit. I discovered I had overlooked one when I photographed the quilt recently. It also needs the final border. Plus all the sashing needs to be quilted.

After this quilt was started, I made a lot of small wall hangings. Many of my smaller items I sold or gave away in the 1980s. This is one of the ones I gave away to a dear friend. I think most of these fabrics are from the earliest line of Jinny Beyer fabrics.

I very quickly discovered that I really did enjoy handwork, i.e. hand applique and handquilting.  Here is an example of my one piece of stuffed work or trapunto as some might call it.  Only the bird is actually stuffed from behind.

I don't recall how I actually came by the dove pattern at the time.  Two years ago, however, I discovered that Jinny Avery had included this same dove pattern in one of her early magazine articles from the late 1970s. Ruby McKim also featured it in her 101 Patchwork Patterns book, ca 1930.

My 2nd "real quilt" (not a wall hanging) was begun in 1982.  It was needle turn applique based on the folded paper pattern method. I got the oak leaf pattern idea from a quilt I saw at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg. The rest of them I just folded, sketched on the 1/8 triangular folded paper and cut.

I quickly discovered I preferred applique to piecing. About this time we moved from Virginia to New Orleans and I went to work fulltime in convention planning. Actual quilt making then languished for several years although I did join a local guild and won the naming contest for their regional newsletter. And I continued to study quilt history, of course!

This 2nd quilt is still not quite done and I don't have a full photo of it either. However, I did bring it out on September 11, 2001 and began quilting furiously for several weeks trying to calm myself. There was so much chaos and confusion and anger in the D.C. area where we then lived following the terrorist attacks. And then only a year later (or was it two?), we had the mysterious sniper to contend with for several weeks - or was it several months before they caught him? It was one of the most unsettling periods of my life as an American citizen. I was living in East Africa when Kennedy was assassinated and shortly thereafter survived an attempted coup d'état in Dar-es-Salaam. On September 11, 2001, I thought, "Well, international terrorism has finally caught up with the US, too. It's not enough that we have our own occasional home-grown terrorist attacks."

This quilt, too, needs the sashing and final border quilted.

What is it with me and final borders!

My 1st finished "bed-useable" quilt was a baby quilt for a cousin's first child but I cannot find a photo of it. There was a deadline involved so I got it done! I mailed it off in 1986 or 1987.

My next "finished" quilt was also a baby quilt.

The only granddaughter to date got me stitching again in 2002!

My next "finished" quilt was for my only granddaughter, Marleigh Elizabeth, who was born in November 2002 and named Elizabeth after my mother and me and Gary's sister Marlee. Once again a firm deadline was my motivator.

Marleigh at 7 months old.

First came the quilt. We were spending 8 weeks here on the island that summer so I took that opportunity to take a quilting class at the Enchanted Needle here on Lopez. (See my story about this quilt shop on my other blog by clicking here.)

That summer I really focused on the completion of the quilt top in what was a short window of time for me. Then I had a longarm quilter here on the island quilt it before we returned to Virginia....the husband of one of my quilt friends. He bought the longarm for his wife but, after trying it, she decided she was too small to handle the machine.  All this is documented on the back of the quilt.

The Birth Announcement

After Marleigh was born, I made her a small wall hanging birth-announcement, again while we were at the island house.  I began with an already made block I found in my mother-in-law's sewing room. 

Wini Alexander is the one who got me into needlework in the first place. When she died in 1999, I inherited all her quilts and everything in her sewing room. So I took Wini's block and added to it. In this way, this small quilt came from both of us.

I hand embroidered Marleigh's name on the quilt but used a Micron pen to add her birthdate etc. It is machine quilted...a first for me.

Marleigh on Her Finished Quilt

In June I finished my first quilt in 9 years -- a small Eagle quilt -- and I owe it all to Susan Wildemuth, a fellow member of the American Quilt Study Group. More on AQSG later. Meanwhile, my Eagle story will appear in another blog post ....soon?  But I already began to write about my 1876 Centennial Quilt Project here. Now this quilt was the challenge of a lifetime!

Friday, January 3, 2020

1876 Centennial Quilt Project Member Passes

Barbara Gonce of Lopez Island - 

Passes December 6, 2019

(click on photos to enlarge)

Here is Barbara (above) celebrating with the gang in Houston in November 2018 

A special cake was ordered to celebrate the 
1876 Centennial Quilt Project Exhibit, 
EMC being the initials on the original quilt.

A very special quiltmaker and personal friend here on Lopez Island passed very recently.  Barbara Gonce (May 6, 1931- Dec 6, 2019) was a prolific quilter, a long-time member of Enchanted Quilters of Lopez Island and one of the 18 members of the pilot group for the 1876 Centennial Quilt Project that Anne Dawson began teaching in Sept 2015 here on Lopez. Eventually all 18 members of the initial pilot project saw their quilts hanging at the Houston International Quilt Festival in Nov 8-11, 2018, followed by the Chicago International Quilt Festival, March 28-30, 2019.

Meanwhile, Barbara Gonce continued to make more beautiful quilts! Barbara dearly loved the gorgeous fabrics of Kaffe Fasset and attended many of his workshops over the years, corresponding often with Liza Lucy of the Kaffe Collective.  Click here to read an article Bob Ruggiero wrote about Barbara for the Quilts, Inc. newsletter, Quilts At Festival in spring of 2019.

Barbara was a woman of boundless energy and determination.  Though she had battled pulmonary fibrosis for these last many years, I strongly suspect her passion for quilt-making kept her alive several extra years, especially once she had the 1876 project dangling in front of her like a carrot to lure her on. (She made four of these magnificent quilts in three years! Click here to read the local paper's 2017 story about the project.)

Barbara standing beside "California Sunshine" in Chicago March 28-30, 2019

Below are photos of Barbara's funeral and memorial service beginning with her pall draped casket. Barbara decided to plan and piece her own funeral pall about two years before she passed with some input and help from several people, including Liza Lucy. And, of course, she was still making quilts as well. Barbara also meticulously planned her own funeral and memorial service with the help of several members of the 1876 Centennial Quilt Project the last months of her life. Ah, that we should all be so blessed to pass in our sleep during a nap as she did! We were all so grateful she was able to pass at home in her own bed. And, guess what! She had spent the day before at her sewing machine piecing still another quilt!

But Barbara had talents in addition to her quilting talents. She was an incredible organizer and motivator and donated her time and talents to many different community organizations over her lifetime, not least of which was helping to found Hospice of Marin (CA) in 1975, the 2nd oldest Hospice in the United States. She was also deeply involved in the local Girl Scouts in Southern California where she organized many camping trips, fundraisers and service projects for the local troop and council before moving to Lopez Island.  Here on Lopez Island just one of the many things she did was to help found The Friends of Woodman Hall, an organization that is dedicated to the restoration and upkeep and care of one of the oldest buildings on Lopez Island. 

Click here to read Barb's obituary in our local paper. You can see some of her quilts in this video, as well, as seen hanging in Houston in November 2018.

In the above photo Heather Arps, another 1876 Centennial Quilt Project member and member of "The Ladies of Tuesday Night" from Lopez Island, presents her eulogy in honor of  Barbara. Below is a written transcript.

Hello! My name is Heather Arps.

On behalf of Barbara's family, I’d like to thank you all for coming today.

I knew Barbara mainly as a quilter. We met many years ago at a quilt class that I attended here on Lopez with another friend, Laurie Teichroew. During that class, the three of us got to talking and Laurie invited Barbara to our "Ladies of Tuesday Night" group and the rest, as they say, is history. 
Over the years as our friendship deepened...I learned more about Barbara and her amazing life. She was proud of her accomplishments: from co-founding Hospice by the Bay, to earning blue ribbons for her orchids, and finally for creating a quilt that was chosen as the cover girl quilt for the International Quilt Festival in Chicago last year. In her personal life family was very important and she took her role as matriarch seriously. Her three children and their families were often mentioned in conversation with fondness and admiration. Her gratitude and love for Jerry, her husband, were frequent topics.

In spite of recent difficulties, Barbara felt herself to be very lucky.

And I must say that in many ways she led a charmed life.

Her sense of color was marvelous, her boldness with fabric refreshing and her willingness to try a new pattern or technique representative of her strong character. Barbara was a collaborative quilter. She drew you into her project, asking for an opinion or for fabric suggestions. She moved in many circles in the textile world and was delighted to count so many fellow quilters as dear friends.
She was a strong willed person, determined in her course. Not shy to speak her mind. But she would also listen to those with a different point of view. You might not sway her, but she would consider your perspective and a civilized discussion would ensue.

Her strong will stood her in good stead when she was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease. At first we did not understand the extent of damage to her lungs. Her fighting spirit did not let her complain or slow down much, she continued to visit with family, go to quilt shows, attended quilt retreats and our ‘Ladies of the Tuesday Night’ craft nights here on Lopez. And insisted on hostessing our annual Christmas dinner together.

It was business as usual for quite a while. Her motto was to just solder on. But in the last several years when the risk of infection became a serious threat, Barbara stayed home more and turned increasingly to her fabric for relief, comfort and distraction.

In 2015, she joined a quilt class on Lopez offered by Anne Dawson to recreate a quilt originally built in 1876. Being Barbara, she made four such quilts. She said each quilt taught her so much. After 18 months of toil and stitching by the group of 18 students, 23 quilts were offered as a special exhibit to the 2018 International Quilt Festival in Houston TX. 

In true fashion, Barbara never doubted that the exhibit would be accepted. And as a group, we were giddy to be invited to send the exhibit on to Chicago...where Barbara’s third interpretation: “Kaffe and Friends Meet Cirque Du Soleil” was selected as the signature quilt for the festival. Despite the difficulty of travel at that time, and due entirely to the tremendous support of Jerry and family, Barbara attended both shows. Those two trips were a culmination of years of work and an acknowledgement of her great skill with fabric and needle. It was a dream come true and the time spent with family and friends counted as some of the best times of her life.

Near the end of September, Barbara received an email from Becky Navarro, the Special Exhibits Manager for Quilts Inc., the organization that produces the two International Quilt Festivals in the US. Becky invited Barbara to submit an application for a one women show to be exhibited in Long Beach, CA. July of 2020. Along with finishing various quilts, this exhibit became her new driving force. This pall is part of that exhibit and considered by many to be Barbara finest work.
Sadly, she died not having heard back from Long Beach...but secretly, I think she just got tired of waiting and decided to go to the top and find out for herself!

In the last few months as we worked on quilts and discussed end of life plans...Barbara talked about her life. And what came through most clearly was her love of quilting and her deep love for her family.

I am thankful to have had the time with her near the end: to learn at the feet of a master quilter and to hear some stories of an amazing life.

Thank you Barbara.

Thank you Jerry.

Some of the members of Barb's beloved extended family. 

The church pews were draped with Barbara's colorful quilts prior to the 
service by her quilt friends on Lopez Island.

        After the service, Heather and Anne carefully removed and folded Barbara's beautiful pall                and returned it to the family.  Barbara called her pall cover "Beyond the Beyond". 
(See more story about it way below)

A reception was held in the church hall following the service.

“Kaffe and Friends Meet Cirque Du Soleil” hangs in the background.

A wonderful way to display photographs. Cut them and mount them on florist stems like flowers!

Barbara and her beloved Jerry. Oh, the stories that could be told about what this wonderful man did for his Barbara to see to it that she could continue to take on life as she desired these last many years.  It was so obvious to see the love and respect they had for each other.
Thank you, Jerry, for caring for her so.

Kitty Sorgen, Penny and Karen Alexander


Here is the tribute that quilt historian /quilt appraiser Ann Nash, also a member of the "Ladies of Tuesday Night" composed as a tribute to Barbara.

Winter Day with Sun

I am tucked away on my island,
Not My island really,
But in my hideaway on an island
Midst Puget Sound— that great water
Which provides fish, and clams, and mussels
And even empathy.

For on a sunny winter day, with blue skies and forty-five degrees,
Empathy comes unbidden.
It is easy to forget dark memories
On a day like this one.
Those I have loved that have left,
Those I still love that have stayed.

Someday soon I will sell my little piece of solace—
Taxes are nearly unbearable,
Retirement means downsizing,
Although the need for solitude grows conversely
As age tamps down our spirits, illness reduces our courage,
We falter along the road.

And yet, boats in the bay bob unwavering in their joy 
When a tight breeze comes up.
A seal swims by, otters frolic, searching out food and a warm basement
In which to stay awhile, to digest, to expel.

Oh Barbara is gone, her quilts around her, her smile effervescent.
She does not need oxygen now, not naturally given by atmosphere on earth,
Or the artificial, from bottles chemists created to prolong her breath.

How she loved bright colors—the orange, yellow, fuchsia, purple.
Fondling them in fabric gave her joy as she toiled her last days,
Aware that death was nearly at hand, but without the knowledge when.
Her shroud prepared, to be placed on her coffin
And buried with her as a visual marker of time among us.
As if we could forget her.

Our memories burn with the vision of her exuberant head of white hair,
The easy laugh, her serious gaze,
Love of beautiful orchids in greenhouses
Her voice-song rings in my ears still.

I sit with a cup of tea growing cool to the touch,
Clouds gathering, rain on its way,
Peaceful, quietly remembering so much
Of my life played out on this beautiful island.

Goodbye and God speed, dear friend. 
You will live in our hearts and memories forever.

"California Sunshine" hung just outside the main body of the church.
(L-R) Ann Nash, Heather Arps, Sheila Bishop, Karen Alexander

"Beyond the Beyond" draped her coffin for the service.
(L-R)  Heather Arps, Anne Dawson, Sheila Bishop, Karen Alexander

Links to more on the 1876 Centennial Quilt Project that Barbara was so passionate about.

More memories of Barbara

Barbara Menasian (left below), owner of the original antique 1876 Centennial quilt, visits with Barbara Gonce on Lopez Island in May 2016. Barbara M. had flown out from Connecticut ....hand-carrying the original..... to attend our first 1876 Centennial Quilt Project Retreat on Lopez Island. Here they are in BG's studio with Anne Dawson in door way with Avonelle Hamilton behind Anne.

(Below) Yes, it was indeed cold for Barbara at the Chicago show in March-April 2019!

(Below) Our 1876 Pilot Project class met at Two Thimbles in Bellingham, WA on the mainland at least once to take advantage of all the wonderful fabrics. Besides, the owner (Lee Glendening) is also an 1876 pilot project member as well. A photo of Lee's quilt hanging in Houston appeared in the issue #129, Jan/Feb 2019 of the magazine Quilt Mania.

Fourteen of the eighteen pilot project members of the 1876 Centennial Quilt Project 
at Woodman Hall (Lopez Island) 
May 2017 at our first public reveal of the project. 
We are standing in front of the original 1876 antique quilt. Notice that Karen Alexander is holding AQSG's traveling Lincoln the Bear, the most well-traveled Bear in the world!

Below, “Kaffe and Friends Meet Cirque Du Soleil”, 
one of Barbara's four 1876 Centennial quilts, lays spread out on 
Karen Alexander's living floor during a meeting of the
 "Ladies of Tuesday Night" in April 2017. 

(Below) L-R: Edi Blomberg, Patty Ward, Barbara Gonce and Janet Yang. 
Rumor has it that this Tuesday night group was once called "Ladies of the Night" 
but then someone suggested they had better add the word "Tuesday" 
or someone might mistake our profession. You know how rumors can get started!

(Below) Heather, Karen and Anne sew down the binding on one 
of Barbara's quilts October 2017.  Edi Blomberg, another member 
of the "Ladies of Tuesday Night " is in the background.

Many have asked about Barbara's funeral pall, which is to be set aside for family use as they so wish, I was told.  Barbara named it "To Beyond the Beyond".  Below is what Barbara wrote on the label she made for the back as a thank you to all those who helped her through the process of designing and creating it. 

I wish to thank the following wonderful people for the various parts that 
they played in the creation of “To Beyond the Beyond”:

1. Phillip Dorman for creating the magnificent Indigo quilt displayed at Island Quilter on Vashon Island in the Fourth Man Quilt Display. His quilt became the inspiration for my quilt.

2. Anne Dawson for creating the grid paper and recommending the template.

3. Wendy Ward for assisting with the indigo phase of this quilt.

4. Liza Lucy for suggesting the fabrics for the “scaffolding”.

5. Heather Arps for pressing and being my fabric collector from my basement stash.

6. Sheila Bishop for organizing the sewing party to attach the front to the back.

7. Cheryl Clarke, Avonelle Hamilton, KC Laughlin, Debra Merte, Pat Solon and Sheila Bishop for attaching the back to the front in a manner that kept all the points fluttering.

8. Byron Bishop, Sheila’s husband, for assisting her with family matters in order to make it possible for her to stay with her sewing crew.

After I posted Barbara's funeral pall on the Kaffe Fassett Collective fb page today, Liza Lucy wrote the following and gave me permission to share here. I am so pleased to have more of the  process story documented about the creation of “To Beyond the Beyond”. Thank you, Lucy:  

When Barbara wrote to me to ask if I would help her design a cover for her casket I was taken aback. I knew she had been ailing for a number of years and I knew her to be frank and honest. I just wasn't prepared for this expression of her mortality or for this unusual request. After a moment, I realized this was a great honor and I said yes. For her to travel to Houston to meet me and to attend the show that year, took an extraordinary effort. She could not fly and she lived in the Pacific NW. She traveled by train and car the entire way and it was not altogether a pleasant ride. But Barbara was a persistent woman. She brought me a huge stash and the layout she had designed and together we chose colors for each section. I am glad she was able to complete the project. She was SOME WOMAN! I will miss her.

PS: And a little acknowledgement of another quilter in this same family...Wendy Ward, Barbara's daughter.  This is a blog post I wrote about Wendy coming to teach a workshop for the Enchanted Quilters of Lopez Island, of which her mother (Barbara Gonce above) was president at one time.