Monday, September 19, 2011

Scanned Art

I enjoy dabbling, experimenting. Whatever you want to call it. Before I got into quilting in 1980, I was experimenting, like so many others at that time,  with needlepoint, blackwork, cross-stitch, etc.

More recently I have tried scanned art and painting on fabric, which I now want to also embellish.

Experimenting with light.

Dandelion flowers and seeds.

Dandelion seed puff with its own leaves and an leaflets from an unknown bush.

I'm still cogitating on these two small painted squares.

Barbara Brackman had a post recently about Penguin Threads' latest releases.  The cover designs were done by Jillian Tamaki.  You can order from Amazon here.

I was so taken with the designs of the books covers that I had to go explore the artist's website and blog.  Click here to see her working on the book covers. Do take the time to explore her blog. I especially enjoyed her Frequently Asked Questions as well as her artwork itself.

Do you have your own blog? Or do you document your work/life somehow in a notebook or scrapbook or journal? Share your stories with us!

Karen in the Islands

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life Before Quilting - The Philippines & East Africa

~ You honor the life that has been given you by 
remembering and telling your stories. ~    

Robin Moore's "Awakening the Hidden Storyteller"

What in the world did I do before I discovered quilting and quilt history?

I was digging through an box of old albums recently that I put together long ago and thought I would share some of the photos with you.

I think I was born a documenter. My siblings did not make scrapbooks and photo albums like I did as a teen-ager, though my sister does today. Nor did they write letters like I did.  It's just what I have always done. I wrote volumes home to my friends the year and a half we lived on the Island of Panay, The Philippines and then, after one year of college, in Tanzania with my parents and siblings. I even illustrated some of my letters with sketches using colored pencils. My friends faithfully saved these letters at my request.

Here are a few highlights from those early years.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)

The Biedler* and Gonzaga family Christmas 1959. My friend Daday and I on the left. The high sleeves of our dresses are called butterfly sleeves. To read more about this type of dress, click here.  This family eventually moved to southern Ohio. We a big reunion in 1984 where we all got together with our mates and children and once again sang together like we used to do at gatherings at their home on Panay.

Dr. Eduardo Gonzaga and his wife Anita were both graduates of American universities.  Dr. Ed was an an eye surgeon and the President of the Board of Central Philippine University at the time. Auntie, as we called her, was a musician and soloist as well as mother of six.  They were a wonderful couple and made sure we Biedlers had many wonderful and unique (for us) experiences in our 18 months on Panay. One of the most memorable was spending a week at the Sarabia Fish Ponds on the island of Negros, sleeping in nipa huts, riding carabao and getting up in the middle of the night to help net fish in the fish ponds!  We also hiked back into the mountains to where their extended family had hidden during the Japanese occupation during WWII.

Above: Faculty and friends from Iloilo School of Arts & Trades

My mother and father in the middle, my sister front far left, and my youngest brother in the front. One of my mother's many dinner parties. She loved to throw dinner parties from the age of 16 on! She went to work for a college in Texas after we all left home and adopted all the Filipino students (and then some!) and continued to cook Filipino dishes.  She would do the same after we lived in Tanzania, East Africa and she learned to make curry and serve it HER style. We all love curry to this day---as well as chicken adobo, pancit, lumps, fried bananas, mango cutneys, you name it! …Yummy! Check out

Our family with the Gonzaga family visiting Negros Island

My Love of History and Geography Came to Life

I had always had an affinity for history and geography from about age 10 on. Now as our family traveled the world to and from The Philippines, history came alive before my eyes. WWII came to life as I heard stories from those who had personally lived through the Japanese occupation of The Philippines. As we family-camped across Europe on our way home the summer of 1960, we even saw remnants of some of the devastating bombing that the Allies had imposed upon Germany.

We also saw wonderful museums, ruins of ancient historic cities, and visited people in their homes. Ahh, so many stories!  When it came time to find a camping site for the night, Dad loved to knock on a farmer's door and ask if we could camp for the night somewhere around the farm. In return, he offered the labor of himself and his two sons for the evening and/or morning chores.

Being exposed to so many different cultures during my teens also introduced me to a great diversity of design and crafts, especially in The Philippines. I still have several yards of handwoven jusi from the Island of Panay as well as the barong that my youngest brother wore. This link to jusi doesn't adequately describe the lovely silk-looking fabric that I remember and still have several yards of.

Here is a group of photos I just dug out and scanned that show the various kinds of outfits my sister and I wore on special occasions in The Philippines. Here is a link to a lovely YouTube slide show of gorgeous traditional Filipino national dress.  Here is another link about some of the uniqueness of the some of the peoples on Panay Island among the Visayans.

With a friend at school.

My sister and I with a group of school friends.

Another interesting experience my sister and I had was being invited to take part in a fashion show. I don't remember now what group organized but it wasn't the school. We were asked to model a Western wedding party to contrast it with a traditional Philippine wedding party.

Here I model my own Filipino dress. I later wore this dress to my Junior Prom....minus the sleeves.

Same dress above that I wore at the Filipino fashion show, minus the butterfly sleeves.

Mother's blue dress was also made for her while we were living in The Philippines.

This is another dress made for Mother in the Philippines but she re-made it for my senior winter
formal but belled the skirt.  It was a very nice touch. The fabrics for both the blue dress and the red dress were woven in The Philippines, as was my red and silver shawl.

Traveling Home from The Philippines Summer  1960

The last 3 months of our first overseas sojourn were spent visiting some 19 countries on our way home across Asia, the Middle East and Europe.  We even road camels around the pyramids in "pencil skirts" no less because it wasn't deemed "socially appropriate" for women to wear slacks publically at that time.  (Just try riding a swaying camel in a pencil skirt, trying to keep your knees together!)

Ever since living in and traveling to such fascinating places at such an impressionable age, I have found keeping track of world news as natural as reading about what is going on in the next community down the road or the next State. 

Camping across Europe and the British Isles for almost 2 months as a 16 year old made history come alive and it was soon enough after WWII that we actually still saw bombed out buildings in several cities. My father loved trying to give us as many different kinds of experiences as he could with the country folk wherever we traveled in Europe. Instead of always staying in designated camp grounds, he would stop and knock on a farm-house door and ask if we could camp in their barnyard overnight in exchange for helping with the evening chores.  We were never refused!

I kept a journal in those days and wrote many letters and postcards home. Alas, most of my letters and postcard collection were "lost" when my folks divorced soon after I moved to California to finish school. I don't think the folks meant to throw my things away, but I wasn't there to rescue my "stuff" as they divided the household. Some of it survived and caught up with me later in life and some of it didn't.  I have always regretted the lost letters and journals.

Double click to enlarge so that you can read this article.
My parents were educators so the local community paper decided to do a series (above) on our travels as we headed home in 1960.

East Africa - 1963-1964

As I left for college in 1962 my parents left for East Africa.  After my first year of college we four children joined them for one year, 1963-1964.

The area today known as Tanzania became a German colony called Tanganyika in 1884 while the Sultanate of Zanzibar became a British Protectorate in 1890. Tanganyika became a British mandated territory in 1918 and achieved independence in 1961. In 1963 Zanzibar achieved independence, and a year later formed a union with Tanganyika under the new name of Tanzania.

During our year in Africa Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963; Tanganyika united with Zanzibar and became Tanzania in January 1964; and two weeks later a portion of the army and police force of Tanzania revolted.

(above) The Dar-es-Salaam/Tanzania news photographer just happened to catch our family on the left side of the church at the Kennedy memorial service in November 1963. (Click on the photo and you can see I have circled the five of us.)  Only Mom is missing as she was unable to be there.

Experiencing an attempted coup d'état at âge 19

The Embassy personnel woke me at 6 a.m. with a phone call at the home where I was caring for two small American children while their parents were on vacation in South Africa. (The father of this family was 2nd in command of USAID in East Africa.) 

A coup d'état was in progress, the Embassy warned me. I was to keep the doors and windows barred, let no one in and to pack suitcases for the three of us. As soon as the Embassy gave me the signal, I was to jump in the car with the two kids and flee a mile down the road to the nearest American residence and stay put. Once I hung up the phone, I could hear guns firing and see soldiers surrounding the house across the street.  The Embassy called me every hour on the hour all day. I kept tabs on what was going on in the city by turning on Voice of America that was broadcasting out of West Africa.  At 6 p.m. I finally got the all clear signal to hop in the car and head down the road where I holed up with two other American families for the next two days.

This was the same House/ Family where a big long black snake slithered in in thru an open window and up the wall of the living room during the two weeks I was caring for the 5 & 7 year olds. I called the nearest American household and their 21 year old son hopped in the car and came up the road to help me get the snake out of the house.

                                      Car loaded and ready to roll for our camping trip across the Serengeti spring 1964.

Many, many more stories….like the night our father decided to attempt to "crash" a diplomatic party at the Presidential Palace when the President of The Philippines, Carlos Garcia, was visiting President Julius Nyerere, the first President of Tanzania.

We had driven to the National airport on the edge of Dar-es-Salaam as a family -- all dressed up, we women in our Filipina national dresses and the men in their Barong Tagalogs.  (We four kids had had no idea mother had brought our Filipino clothing with her to Africa!)

Dad had the flags of both countries flying at the corners of our VW van so we looked very "official" and pulled right in line behind the last official car in the motorcade as it left the airport. When we reached the official Presidential residence (The State House), we were directed right onto the grounds along with everyone else without anyone stopping the car to check our IDs.

The White House (Ikulu), also known in English as the State House

Dad just happened to personally know one of the Cabinet Ministers in the PI Presidential entourage and wanted one of us kids to try to get a note to him just for the fun of it!!  (I remembered the gentleman and his wife from having had a family dinner with them in Manila in 1960 before we left on the return home journey to the States.) My brother Dan and I volunteered to be the guinea pigs. I don't recall what my brother and I said to each other as we  approached the front door of the Presidential State House, but we surely must have known our goose would be cooked when they discovered we didn't have an official invitation.

Long story short, they were very gracious to us. After they discovered why we were there and that we weren't on the guest list, they ushered us into a small sitting room, took our message and Dad's card  and left. About 20 or so minutes later, they came back to give us Dr. Bernedino's return message. To this day, I always wonder if they checked us out with the American Embassy FIRST before they took that note up to the party. I am sure the American Ambassador would have been present at the party also! (Luckily, I had cared for his two daughters once for a week at the Embassy residence when he and his wife were out of town on vacation, so he would have known Dad's name!)

Brothers Dan and John help launch a dhow

There are also the stories of sailing up the coast of Tanzania with my brothers in our little 18 foot boat; working in a small jetty on the wharf in Dar-es-Salaam while doing contract research by pouring over ancient merchants' logs of "goods" shipped up and down the coast on Arab dhows since the late 1800s (Cool job!); staying at the American Ambassador's residence for a week while the Ambassador and his wife were away to watch over their two daughters and being waited on and foot, including being chauffeured around town on my errands; camping across the Serengeti with my parents and sibs and seeing vast herds of wild animals on the move with prides of lion in their wake!

1963-64 was one of the most unforgettable years of my life.  

I'll also never forget seeing the movie Lawrence of Arabia while living in East Africa and many years later being flooded with memories as I watched Out of Africa.

The "roads" were always a bit "iffy" up-country.

Setting up a tent in a strong wind is always a bit "iffy" too! This happened to us many times while camping in Europe in 1960 also. One time as a storm approached, the wind go so wild that we four kids simply held onto the tent and all jumped into the VW Bus at once.

Saying good-bye (above) to a group of students at the Teacher-Training College 

in Dar-es-Salaam. They were heading for studies in the USA.

Fabric my mother brought back from East Africa.

Somewhere in my siblings' stuff are several more pieces of the bright colorful fabrics my mother purchased in the African market place. I can find only one example in my fabric stash. At that time it didn't occur to me to track down where the fabric was actually manufactured but I am pretty sure it was not East Africa; probably England or India.

There a large number of emigres from India living in East Africa at the time as well. It was in Tanzania that I had a sari made and wore it on festive occasions. Alas, I have none of my Filipino costumes or my sari anymore to show my daughters or granddaughter. (Why and when  I gave them away is another colorful chapter in the story of my life.)  But we can't keep everything, can we, or STUFF takes over our lives completely.

Hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane with me.  It brought back a lot of memories!

Peace, joy and a sense of adventure to you in your daily exploration of life,


PS: Added note 2015

In 2006 I signed up for a Textile Study Tour to France with Deb Roberts. One of the highlights of this tour was seeing shelves and shelves of huge swatch books that dated from the early 1700s to 1900. It was very interesting to see the swatches/designs influenced by African trade. These cotton fabrics were produced in Europe and sold to Africa. I highly recommend Deb Robert's tours. Read more here about one of my trips.

(*Our family name was originally Beutler/Beidler and is still pronounced as though it was spelled Beidler. Don't know why our branch changed it to Biedler after the Civil War.)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Colville Washington Signature Quilt


I recently purchased a Signature quilt in Fife, WA that appears to be part of Colville, Washinton history. The quilt consists of 30 blocks. The center block says Colville Chapter - 514 W.O.T.M. - Jan 26. 1934. There are 29 embroidered signatures, one on each of the other 29 blocks.

At the moment, I suspect that W.O.T.M stands for Women Of The Moose. According to their website, the Moose organization is a fraternal order first founded in the late 1800s but "reinvented" about 1906 to "provide protection and security for a largely working-class membership" in case the bread winner died, i.e. the husband.

The women's auxiliary was formed in 1913. The focus of the group changed a bit after WWII. There are still many active chapters across the US today. I am in the process of trying to track down whether or not there was once a chapter in Colville, Washington.

Some of the embroidery on the quilt is difficult to read so the spelling of the names on the quilt are subject to interpretation.

The names are as follows: Ruth Harner, Julia Pool, Grace Wennmans, Mrs. Bloom, Ena Miller Boletta M. Elwood, Mrs. Sarah Lewis, Olive Vine, Annie Skeels, Maud D. Moser, Madge Dunham, C. M. Clark, Lillian Carman, Mrs. W. H. Hoeft, Flora Carman, Ethel Thomas, Emma Nelson, Evelyn Bennett, Alice Knapp, Claire Curry, Mary Anderson, Dora Campbell, Edna Moore, Susie L. Noble, Jeanie Nugent, Carrie Carman, Lena Artman, Lena Montgomery, and Mrs. Benedict.

The earliest published version of this pattern that Barbara Brackman could find is called CRACKERS-#2380 and can be found of page 300 of her book Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. Barbara states that it appeared in Woman's World in 1931.

I would love to be able to document any information about the women listed on this quilt and discover why the quilt was made. If you recognize any of the names or can help shed light on this quilt's history, please email me.

I look forward to hearing from some of you!

Karen Alexander

PS:  Colville is a city in Stevens County, Washington, and is the county seat. The population was 1,803 in 1930 and then only 4,988 at the 2000 census. In 1825 the Hudson's Bay Company established Fort Colville near the Kettle Falls fur trading site and named for Lord Andrew Colville, a London governor of Hudson's Bay Company. 

Eventually the Oregon boundary dispute arose as a result of competing British and American claims to the Pacific Northwest of North America in the first half of the 19th century. Once the boundary was set at the 49th parallel in 1846 and Washington Territory officially separated from the Oregon territory in 1853, Hudson's Bay Company, being a British company, withdrew from Fort Colville and moved to Canada. 

In 1859, the US Army, at the direction of the War Department, established a new Fort Colville about 1.5 miles NE of the current city of Colville. That fort was abandoned in 1882 and the city was moved to the present location on the Colville River Valley.

The post was called Harney's Depot at first, then Fort Colville. The town of Colville was founded in 1882 when Fort Colville was abandoned.  

As an aside, while trying to trace down Colville, Washington, I discovered there is a Native American Reservation of this name in the southeastern section of Okanogan County and the southern half of Ferry County.

The Stevens  County Museum houses a very extensive collection of native American artifacts of tribes from all parts of the nation as well as all local tribes.