Monday, October 6, 2014

Chinese Quilt - Chengdu 1996



Studying symbols on textiles is fascinating. Thanks to the Internet, it is easier to find the meaning behind symbols but one still must do due dilegence to make sure you have an accurate understranding of the symbols of another culture.

I bought the quilt below from a woman on the streets of Chengdu in May 1996, the provincial capital of Sichuan province in Southwest China. Chengdu is one of the 10 largest cites in China.

The quilt was laying on the sidewalk. I have no idea why, but I had not taken my camera with me on this particular walk after supper so I did not get a photo of the quilt in its "original (to me) location."  I was very upset with myself afterwards. The photos you see below were all taken in my home.

I was told the various creatures seen on the quilt are meant to ward off evil and/or bring good luck. I still have not found definitive answers for each symbol. You can see an example that Marin Hanson, Curator of Exhibitions at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, bought for the IQSC collection in May 2013 here.














To see more textile photos taken during my 1996 trip to China, click here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Remembering Cuesta Benberry




Each year the American Quilt Study Group salutes African American quilt historian  Cuesta Benberry of St. Louis, Missouri, one of its founding members, by auctioning off the SAME quilt among the members attending its annual research seminar!

Whoever wins the quilt gets to hang it in her/his home for one year and then has to return the quilt to be auctioned again to raise funds for the Cuesta Benberry Keynote Speaker Fund of the American Quilt Study Group.  Cuesta passed on August 23, 2007, a great loss to the quilt history world and to all her friends scattered around the world. She is sorely missed as we salute the 7th anniversary of her passing.

Cuesta's personal quilt collection and research archives now reside at Michigan State University Museum in Lansing, Michigan. Click here to see a video tracking some of the process of unpacking and documenting this collection. It is fascinating!


Photo taken by AQSG member Bettina Havig.


Label on the back of the quilt that is auctioned off each year, year after year.




The quilt AQSG re-auctions each year is a replica (not an exact duplicate) of the only quilt Cuesta ever made. The replica was made by another quilt historian, Xenia Cord of Indiana. Cuesta told me once that her church friends had a hard time believing she was known for her work in the field of quilt history because she never made quilts. However, Cuesta made her mark as a world re-knowned quilt historian, studying the wonderful quilts others made! Just google her name!
Cuesta was a great friend and I treasure her correspondence that I saved over the years. I have had the privilege of having this quilt hang in my office for almost one year.

When we return the quilt, we also send something else with the quilt that the winning bidder gets to keep permanently.

I am giving AQSG members a hint (below) of what I will send along with the returning quilt this year. Each was added to my teaching collection with this auction in mind.



Friday, August 8, 2014

History of Purple Dyes & Purple Snails



One thing leads to another when I start browsing Facebook and Blogs. You never know where it will lead you. Such fun!

I have spent the past hour trying to prove whether this first snail is real or not. Still not sure. Someone recently claimed to find one in Northern California. Click here to learn more about it if you are curious.





But the next two are for real and I have put the links below. 
Just click on the captions directly below each photo.



Click here to see more about this photo.


Click here to go to source of this photo.

Here is what Wiki has to say about purple snails.


So what does any of this have to do with quilt history?
Human beings love for colored cloth! 
Especially purple since it was discovered by the "purple people" -- the ancient Phoenicians.


Ohio Amish quilt quilt sold by antique quilt dealer Darwin Bearley. Click here to see his book.
To see more purple quilts, click here and here.


1950s Rolling Star block as seen on eBay - - Brackman#3795


Marie Webster's Poppy pattern as seen on eBay.

(Learn more about Marie Webster here and Marie Webster inspired fabrics here.) 

But at first only the rulers wore purple.

Why?



"Murex is the dye first famous as “Tyrian purple,” named for the city of Tyre, today in Lebanon but 3000 years ago the center from which that energetic trading nation, the Phoenicians, controlled a far-flung luxury trade in murex-dyed silks. Later, the dye was known as “royal purple” or “imperial purple,” from the Roman and Byzantine emperors who reserved the color for members of the imperial family."     Philippa Scott


To get the whole story, read this whole fascinating article on 
the discovery of a "royal" purple from sea shells 
by Philippa Scott by clicking here.



Click here to see a video of the Murex extracted purple color. 

Hope you're not squeamish. Be forewarned.


Here is a written explanation of the process.


~ Mauve ~


What happened when 18 year-old English chemist William Perkin accidentally discovered a way to produce mauve in mass quantities? This is such a (yes!) also fascinating read!  His lucky accident "revolutionized organic chemistry — and fashion" according to some.




Don't have time to read the books? Just click on the links (the highlighted words) throughout my posts.

A review by The Guardian:  "Mauve with the times.
Since its accidental creation in the 1850s, the colour has aroused strong emotions. Simon Garfield chronicles a vivid history.




The Red Dyes: Cochineal, Madder and Murex Purple: 
A World Tour of Textile Techniques 
by Gosta Sandberg

This book reveals the fascinating history of how the natural red dyes came to various people and cultures centuries ago. Click here to find a copy.

Here is an Anne Orr design styled after Marie Webster's earlier Poppy medallion.
Both are Honorees of The Quilters Hall of Fame. The Anne Orr Iris can be seen
at Mark French's eBay store here

Click here to read more interesting details about the meaning of the color purple 
among various cultures through-out history.



Another version of the same Iris pattern above.



More colors to come!





Sunday, August 3, 2014

Identifying Quilt Patterns - Mountain Mist & More



We have been having a discussion on the Facebook list Quilts-Vintage & Antique about the various small booklets that Stearns & Foster has published over the years about their Mountain Mist quilt patterns. I also have a larger magazine format book published by Oxmoor House on Mountain Mist patterns. Here are the covers of the four "booklets" in my collection. I just found a 5th one on eBay today with still another colorful cover dated 1938 which should arrive in a couple of days:








The 1996 booklet (above) is 8.5x5.5. I've opened it flat and scanned it so that you can see the front and back cover is
actually a photo collage of  Mountain Mist advertisements and products. Vickie Paullus and Linda Pumphrey are authors with Merikay Waldvogel as a guest author.


Here is the 1938 Mountain Mist Blue book cover now on the way:




COLLECTING QUILT EPHEMERA

Collecting quilting ephemera is a fun sideline to collecting quilts.  Before the Internet, paper ephemera were collected to try to help identify quilts. Prior to copy machines, collectors traced copies of patterns by hand in order to share. The pattern collecting Round Robins of the 1950s-1960s is a great example of how early collectors managed to identify patterns.


Some of our Quilting Foremothers as Quilt Historians, Pattern Designers and Pattern Archivists

(click on each highlighted name below for more information)


Marie D. Webster
(1859-1956)

Although the first book dedicated solely to quilt history written by Marie D. Webster was published in 1915, there were a limited number of quilts or patterns illustrated….but it was a beginning.  It has been re-published by her granddaughter Rosalind Webster Perry. I highly recommend this new version because Rosalind added color photos as well as Marie's own story. Also, Rosalind has published two books of Marie Webster patterns with the help of Marti Frolli. If you are interested in learning more about the great impact Marie Webster designs had upon American appliqué, you need Rosalind's two books in your library: A Joy Forever: Marie Webster's Quilt Patterns and Marie Webster's Garden of Quilts.


Ruth E. Finley
(1884-1955)

A second book on quilt history by Ruth E. Finley in 1929 also had a limited number of photos and designs.  (You can read additional material about Ruth Finley in my 2009 article for TQS by clicking on Ruth Finley's name in large bold letters above.)
Works about or by Ruth E. Finley



Ruby Short McKim
(1891-1976)

Some might argue, therefore, that the first extensive index of quilt patterns in hardback* was Ruby Short McKim's One Hundred and One Patchwork Patterns. Fortunately, two of McKim's granddaughter's have launched a wonderful new website McKim Studios and are in the process of republishing all of Ruby's patterns. I personally like Ruby's series quilts.




 Ruby Short McKim was one of the earliest syndicated quilt pattern columnists who went by her real name and was well known to her followers -- if not the earliest. She was one go-getter kind of woman as well as a talented designer. Her patterns continue to be made into new quilts every decade.


(as seen on eBay in 2006)



(as seen on eBay in 2011)



Carrie A. Hall and Rose G. Kretsinger
                                             (1866-1955)                               (1886- 1963)

Carrie A. Hall and Rose G. Kretsinger's book The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America published in 1935 by Caxton Printers, Ltd., Caldwell, Idaho was next. Another excellent article on Rose Kretsinger.




Carrier A. Hall and Rose G. Kretsinger's book.


Sample page from Hall/Kretsinger book. Each quilt block on the left is identified on the right.



Barbara Brackman


The next big jump in quilt pattern identification was Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns begun with her own limited release of a series of books first printed in 1979 and bound together by those old fashioned 2-pronged metal hinges. I have a Second Edition set of this series she published in 1981.







Yvonne M. Khin
(1916-2001)




Another pattern indexing book (above) that followed shortly after Brackman's first printing of her self-published series was  The Collector's Dictionary of Quilt Names & Patterns written by Yvonne M. Khin, (1980 by Acropolis Books Limited, Washington, D.C.)  It's subtitle: "The Definitive Resource to 2,400 Quilt Patterns by Category and Name with Complete Index." I didn't hear about Khin's book for some reason until long after I heard about Barbara Brackman's series.







In 1983 Jinny Beyer came out with her book The Quilter's Album  of Blocks & Borders, published by EPM of McLean, Virginia.  One of the leading quilt teachers in the late 20th century quilt renaissance, Jinny is even covered in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Jinny also had an enormous impact on quilt makers as a result of her pioneer work in fabric design with RJR Fabrics. She set the pace for all to follow in fabrics designed specifically with quilters in mind. To see a video interview of Jinny, visit TQS Quilting Legends here.



(1936 - 2011)

Judith Bell Rehmel attended Purdue University studying interior design, earned a Bachelor's of Science Degree from Earlham College and attended Indian University East. She researched and published several indexes of quilt patterns. Her first book Key to 1,000 Quilt Patterns was self-published in 1978 amd republished at least three times.



Her book below was published in 1986.  





Barbara Brackman

More Brackman books followed her orignal self-published books -- many more



In 1993 American Quilter's Society published a hard back version of Brackman's integrated set of 7 volumes, also called Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.   

Also in 1993 EPM of McLean, Virginia published Brackman's Encyclopedia of Appliqué.






The latest addition to the documentation of American quilt patterns is perhaps the most comprehensive of all, Rose Lee Alboum's The American Legacy Quilt Index Series. Please do take the time to check this out. Odering is on hold for a short time as Rose moves into her new studio, but she'll be up and running soon and taking orders again.

I first met Rose Alboum via eBay. We were bidding on the same two sets of early 20th newspaper clippings of syndicated newspaper quilt patterns. At that time eBay clearly listed the other bidders contact information and it was possible to directly contact another bidder before the sale was over. We began conversing and decided to share the sets we had each won by making xerox copies for each other. Later I would meet Rose face to face at her first AQSG meeting. I think it must have been about 2006 or 2007 when AQSG was meeting in one of the New England States. Her efforts at indexing her "great American quilt book"  (as in "Great American Song Book," which my music historian husband introduced me to)  have been remarkable.  I encourage you to explore Rose's website. She has indexed an incredible number of 20th century quilt patterns as well as later 19th century quilt patterns.



How Do You Indentify the Quilts in Your Collection?

Today there are thousands of photos of vintage and antique quilts on the Internet. Any one of these books is helpful in identifying the pattern of a quilt you may have purchased. Meanwhile, quilt historians have a lot of work to do to create an encyclopedia of patterns created since the 1970s!

If you have other books you think should be added to this list, please share in the comments below or send me an email.

Here's to the dedicated researchers and archivists among us!

Karen B. Alexander



* I emphasize hardback book because Ladies Art company came out with sales catalogues in the late 1890s that were the pattern encyclopedias of that day.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quilting and Lopez Island



The Quilt Cabin


As we prepare for the first Lopez Island Quilt History Retreat, as well as the opening of the 2014 Brave, Bold, Beautiful: Women of Lopez exhibit at the Lopez Island Historical Society, I become fascinated once again by the stories of the  women of this island. 

I am naturally drawn to memories of my mother-in-law Wini Alexander, as well.  Wini became a part of this history when she moved here in 1981 at the age of 64. What an incredible impact she had on my life as well as on the history of quilting in this island community. 

You can read more of my writing about quilting on this island via the links below:




Enchanted Quilters Raffle Quilts

Below is the Winter Wonderland (my name) Sampler quilt Enchanted Quilters made in 1997 and raffled in 1998, the year before Wini died.


1997 L-R: Wini Alexander, Carole Knutsen, Darlene Demetrick and Carol Gregory.





Lopez Island 4th of July Parade, 1998

Wini Alexander (l) and Norma Peal (r)



I'll be posting photos and stories about the LIHS exhibit Brave, Bold, Beautiful: Women of Lopez after the museum re-opens at the end of April.  Please visit our Facebook page as well as our website.

 I will also be posting photos and stories of the Quilt Retreat after it ends.



REPOSTED from 2012


 I really can't talk about the meaning of my Quilt Cabin without sharing some of the story of my mother-in-law's influence in my life. Without her, I don't think I ever would have gotten into quilting….and I simply can't imagine what my life would have been like had I not gotten into quilting—which led me to quilt history!




The three quilts quilts above made by Wini (Winifred Margaret [Waters] Alexander, 1917-1999) were instrumental in launching me into the study of quilt history. The documentation of Wini's needlework is ongoing.

In  2005, the LaConner Quilt Museum Invited me to curate an exhibit of Wini's needlework to run January - Feb 2006. It was a great catalyst to get me started in documenting her needlework. Inasmuch as I had saved 30 years of her correspondence, I relied heavily upon the letters I had saved to help create detailed documentation.




Wini, as she was known to her many friends, was a prolific seamstress and needle worker all her life, and taught junior high level Home Economics in the Seattle Public School system in the 1970s. After she retired from teaching, she taught clothing construction and embellishment, as well as quilting and other forms of needlework through guilds and fabric or quilt shops wherever she lived.

Wini helped organize many raffle quilt projects to raise funds for various non-profits throughout her quilting life. She was also instrumental in helping found the Enchanted Quilters of Lopez & Shaw Islands and the Northwest Quilting Connection, and created NQC's newsletter, serving as its editor for 12 years until her passing in August 1999.  After Wini moved to Lopez Island in 1981, people occasionally addressed mail to her simply as "The Quilt Lady on Lopez Island" and the mail invariably reached her!




Cowboy Dan, Sarah in Pink, Dancing Lori Jo all made in 1975 and presented to the kids on Christmas Eve. Below they are snuggled under them on the cots in the living room, cots that were set up in order to create more sleeping space for visiting adults.

Another great thing about these three quilts is that the kids designed them themselves without ever suspecting their grandmother would turn them into quilts.  The eldest created her self-portrait at school by laying down on butcher block paper and having someone draw around her. Then she filled in the face and clothing. When she brought this home, the others wanted to make one, too, so I found similar paper and we made two more. Then I suggested we "send them off to Grandma so she can see how much you have grown." The rest is history.

The additional wonder of these quilts for my children is that Wini used scraps from actual clothing she had made them for the clothing on each quilt, so they recognized themselves immediately!




Documenting the Quilts We Create

Wini began to make a list of the quilts she had made after I gave her a journal following my lecture “Documenting Our Lives As Quilters” at a National Quilters Association meeting in Bellingham, WA, in October 1985. 

According to this journal, Wini attempted her first quilt about 1948.  Her first entry reads, “The first quilt I made was not worth remembering. It was a Double Wedding Ring, made by machine with as many shortcuts as possible. It ended up as a furniture cover when we moved.” (Her eldest daughter recently told me that she remembers that quilt!)

Her next attempt at quilting was "an appliquéd tulip made as a bedspread for Ronnie [eldest daughter] in our new Normandy Park House in 1959. Appliqué was so-so, quilting not good. She has it still (?)"  A 2nd quilt was also made in 1959. "Embroidered and appliquéd (1959) Pinocchio Story Quilt for Marlee. Given to cousin Janet after Marlee died." (Note: Wini's youngest daughter Marlee died in 1965 at age 16 of cancer. The family was living briefly in New Orleans at the time.)

Quilt #4, “Spider Web,” was a "strip quilt done on paper which I didn't know about removing! As I quilted it over an old bedspread I realized what a poor job I'd done. Done about 1969/70. Now used for Lopez Quilt show Banner."  

Quilt #5, “Marlee's Star,” Wini records on page 2: "In 1964 I ordered a set of Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Signs for embroidery or quilting. I tried several and Marlee really liked a 12-point star design, so I decided to make a quilt for her hope chest. A few months later she died. Ten years later (1975) I made the quilt. Now used on guest bed."

1975 marks a definitive year in Wini's quilt making for she records making 5 quilts in that one year alone. The three you see hanging on the line at the beginning of this blog post are among the five she made that year. Below is a photo of Sarah's drawing next to the finished quilt.


Presented to Sarah Xmas 1978

1976 Sarah's Art Quilt

This is the first quilt made by Wini that I ever saw and it blew me away. It arrived the year before the three full-portrait quilts you saw above.

I sent Wini our eldest child's art work starting at age 2. When Sarah was 8, Wini interpreted her selected favorites of Sarah's art into quilt blocks and made a quilt for Sarah's 8th birthday. Even the quilting designs in the solid blocks are copies of Sarah's art!



From there her quilt making and her quilting skills took off. By now, in addition to daughter (Ronnelle nicknamed Roni) and son (Gary), Wini had a daughter-in-law (Karen) and three grandchildren (Sarah, Daniel, and Lori Jo), all who dearly loved her quilts and anything she made with thread and needle. The documentation of Wini's needlework history, especially her quilting, is ongoing. One of the biggest challenges will be to discover the specific sources for her patterns.



-- To Be Continued --