Saturday, March 31, 2012

What is a Signature Quilt?

A SunBonnet Sue sketch seen in an autograph album on eBay in January 2010.


Attice Stamps was born in Arkansas in 1908.  In 1920
she was living with her parents and siblings in 
Royal Township, White Co., Arkansas. Quilt from the collection of Karen B. Alexander.


We've been having an interesting discussion on the AQSG quilt history discussion list this past week.  Here is my contribution to the discussion.

At the end of my post I will try to give a synopsis of the discussion in outline form.



Quilt from the collection of Karen B. Alexander.

I posted the following to the AQSG discussion List:

Names and labels are a real challenge when a new field of study is being"codified".  AQSG members on this list --as well as the QHL list – were asked for their input back in 2008 about this terminology. Those of us who then wound up serving on the Quilt Index Signature Quilt Pilot Project really wrestled with this question. In a nutshell, after a lot of input from others and discussion amongst ourselves, we decided :

“Signature quilts -- those that carry multiple signatures or names inked, stamped, embroidered and otherwise inscribed...”

One block from a Signature summer spread in the collection of Karen B. Alexander.


As a number of museums have already entered their quilts (including Signature quilts) into the Quilt Index, the QI has begun to garner a reputation as a pace-setter in this field. I hope all of you will take time to read the essay for IMHO, as quilt historians, quilt collectors and those interested in the field of quilt history, I consider you the “vanguard educators and pace-setters” as to how the public will view and interpret signature quilts.

Signature summer spread in the collection of Karen B. Alexander.


Here are excerpts from the Essay we wrote for the Quilt Index website. You can read the full essay by clicking here or by copying and pasting this link into a new search window:  http://www.quiltindex.org/sqpessay.php

This essay lays out some of the guidelines the SQPP set for entering “signature quilts” into the Quilt Index.

EXCERPTS FROM THE QUILT INDEX: 

About Signature quilts

Signature quilts -- those that carry multiple signatures or names inked, stamped, embroidered and otherwise inscribed -- are important primary historical documents that are of great interest and value for research in many disciplinary areas. In some cases, Signature quilts are the only material evidence that documents the names of individuals who have a relationship to each other....>>

Defining the elements of a Signature quilt

There are two very broad categories when one thinks about "signatures" on quilts:
(A) mere names on quilts and (B) actual signatures on quilts.



The Signature Quilt Project strives to document quilts in the latter category where individuals actually provide their own signatures or at least knowingly participated in the quilt. In addition, for this project, a Signature quilt is thus defined as one that carries one or more of the following:

--The signature of the maker,
--The name of person for whom it was made,
--Signatures all done in one good cursive hand and not actually signed by
participants but with participants' knowledge,
--Signatures all done in more than one good cursive hand but not actually
signed by participants,
--Signatures done in more than one good cursive hands with some names
actually signed by participants, and
--Friendship quilts of one kind or another - all "real" signatures by
participants.

In addition, the Signature Quilt Project strives to gather data on those quilts, often made as fundraisers, where some individuals signed a block; some gathered the names and donations but the signatures on a block are all stitched in one cursive hand; and some folks didn't even know their name was on the quilt because someone else paid to have another's name on the quilt without their knowledge.

One category of quilts that hold mere names and are not considered part of the Signature Quilt Project are those with multiple names with no knowing participation by those whose names are featured on the quilt (for example: baseball quilt done by a Chicago fan using photos from the newspaper with the player's name stitched underneath his image that was worked in redwork but with players having no knowledge of the quilt or the commercial patterns such as the Presidents series with their names underneath on each block),....<>




SYNOPSIS OF THE DISCUSSION



INSCRIBED QULTS - a quilt with writing on it – of any kind, name/s or sayings or otherwise.

A quilt memorializing comic book characters from the 1940s as seen on eBay. Most blocks bear the name of the character. This is an inscribed quilt but not a signature quilt.

SIGNATURE QUILTS -  those that carry multiple signatures or names inked, stamped, embroidered and otherwise inscribed, broken into two very broad categories when one thinks about "signatures" on quilts:

            (A) mere names on quilts - multiple names with no knowing participation by                                     those whose names are featured on the quilt (as seen above with the comic book characters). Another EXAMPLE: baseball quilt done by a Chicago fan using photos from the newspaper with the player's  name stitched underneath his image that was worked in redwork but with players having no knowledge of the quilt or the commercial patterns                         such as the Presidents series with their names underneath on each block

            (B) actual signatures on quilts - quilts where individuals actually provide their own signatures or at least knowingly participated in the quilt. 

The list of names on this quilt can bee seen on the Quilt Index here.
In addition, for this project, a Signature quilt is thus defined as one that carries one or more of the following:

(1) The signature of the maker,
(2) The name of person for whom it was made,
(3) Signatures all done in one good cursive hand and not actually signed by participants but with participants' knowledge,
(4) Signatures all done in more than one good cursive hand but not actually signed by participants,
(5) Signatures done in more than one good cursive hands with some names actually signed by participants, and
(6) Friendship quilts of one kind or another - all "real" signatures by participants.

            (C) sub-categories of Signature quilts

1) Album quilts
2) Presentation quilts
3) Friendship quilts
4) Remembrance quilts
5) Memorial quilts
6) Reunion quilts
7) Fund Raising quilts with Signatures on the quilt

What additional categories would you add to this list?

Are quilts we make for out-doing quilt guild presidents Friendship Quilts or Presentation Quilts?  Chime in on the discussion with your take on this type of quilt.


The list of signatures on this quilt can be seen by clicking here.


Keep those needles flying....as well as those documentation pencils!

Karen Alexander



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Colonial History Series in Applique by Ruby McKim



I have had a request for more detailed shots of the Ruby McKim Colonial History series applique quilt I posted last year that I wrote for The Quilters Hall of Fame blog.

This quilt (75x80) sold on eBay in November 2011 for just under $200.00. The pattern was first released in 1926. As you can see in the last photo, this quilt is dated 1928.












Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Own Dance of Spring

photo by Karen B. Alexander

My Favorite Things As Seen 
From My Window

Sitting in my reading chair,
gazing out the window at
the ever changing sky,
mesmerized at ANY season of the year
on this small island anchored in the 
Pacific Northwest,
nestled between Harlo Straight and Rosario Straight,
just north of the Strait of Juan deFuca.  


Spring's bright blues with
mountainous piles of racing clouds
follow on the heels of a wet gray-blue winter.
Who do the clouds chase?
Who do they seek as they go
racing across the sky...


Sitting in my reading chair,
book in hand,
awed by the power and
ability of mere words to
transport me to other kingdoms,
other worlds,
other minds,
other ways of seeing;
and once again
gasping with awe at
the incredible diversity
of human thought and being.


Sitting in my reading chair,
I open the window,
lured by the multi-voiced
chorus of nature.
First the winds come and whisper
- at times even thunder -
their wisdom to me.


Chipmunks
race across the deck with their
scoldings and warnings.
Soon birds gather:
blue, red, gold, orange;
brown, white,
speckled, tan, black.
Hopping, strutting, flitting,
chirping, calling, cawing;
Preening, watching, swooping.


Timelessly
the insects and peepers
begin their serenade as
as winter's chill is
transformed
by spring's boundless dance
with the lengthening
light.


Soon the ensuing heat of
spring's passionate wooing
resonates
throughout the woods
outside my
window,
beckoning, beckoning...


It's time to leave
my beloved reading chair
and the confines
of my beloved civilization
and head for the
meadows and woods to
hop, skip, and strut;
chirp, caw, and call,
preen, swoop  and
dance...
my own
ever renewing
dance of life and spring.


Karen Alexander
Lopez Island, WA

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stolen Quilts


Quilt teacher Karen Combs had her quilts and her suitcase full of all her teaching instructions stolen from her car March 16, 2012 in New Braunfels, Texas, between midnight and 6am at the Courtyard New Braunfels River Village.

http://karencombs.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/quilts-stolen/

Please read her blog post and keep your eyes open. Also, please pass this link on. With the Internet's help, why can't we make this go viral?  Let's help Karen get her quilts back!

Karen Alexander

Friday, March 9, 2012

Civil War Flag Quilt - Recently Discovered




This is a must see documentary that a local historical society in Belfast, Maine, made about a flag quilt that returned home very unexpectedly after 147 years! It is almost an hour long and FASCINATING!  Click here to see the video.

Given that so few quilts survived the civil War, it is all the more amazing that this quilt was returned to the town in which it was made.  The quilt is full of signatures, sayings and puns. Well worth curling up with a good cup of coffee or tea to watch or listen, in spite of its length.  AQSG member Pam Weeks gives almost half of the lecture while Megan Pinette, President, Belfast Historical Society, presents the 2nd half. There is one exciting break through in research after another! Enjoy!

KarenQuilt in the Islands

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eagles on Quilts - mine has Landed!

Click here to learn more about this book.

In my previous post on Eagles on Quilts, I wrote about being invited by quilt historian  Susan Wildemuth to make a small commissioned quilt.

Being a woman of few words is not one of my strong suits. I like to tell stories so beware!

But first I'll show you my various "auditions" for my layout. The final version that I sent Sue will come toward the end of my cover letter to Sue. It is an honor to have been asked to be a part of this very special project.


Layout version #1 - early January 2011






Layout version #2 - early January 2011






Layout version #3 - early January 2011


June 2011

Dear Sue,

Well, here is my “baby” — finally. It has been hard to part with “him”.  He is all yours now but I know he is going to a good home.

It was an honor to be invited to participate and it served as a catalyst to get me to quilting again. I have wanted to experiment with Broderie perse for a long time but didn’t have the guts to get started. And I loved the idea of blending the creativity with history! Now I sit and stitch for the first time in years, listening to books on tape or watching a Netflix movie with my husband instead of burying myself on the Internet each evening. 

Working on this piece has brought back a lot of good memories from my earliest years of actively quilting in the 1980s. In the past I had always found handwork very contemplative and restful. The same benefits are still there!

When you first emailed me I was reluctant to accept because there was a deadline. Could I actually make even a small quilt by the due date, when I was so out of practice, along with everything else on my plate— including my daughter’s wedding? I finally decided I could and would take it on.

Another reason I said Yes was because I could choose forgivable, flexible appliqué! Yippee!  No points to match! (Well, I did forget about creating those mitered corners out of the pre-printed borders, didn’t I. They were a bear to make match.)

Even before I said yesfor sure, I began to research the history of the various eagle images popular in American history over the past 200+ years on the Internet. Then I began looking for reproduction fabric that would more or less realistically reflect the era I had chosen–the 1780s. I knew there was George Washington fabric out there and I knew there was fabric reflecting early eagle images.  If I could find this fabric, I figured this was going to be a no brainer design wise. That took a lot of the potential stress out of the project for me.

Before I got too deeply into the planning of my daughter’s wedding, I bought all the fabric I thought I would need…..and then some, since I can’t run to a local fabric shop at the last minute as a result of living on a small island.

Once the fabric arrived, I cut out several different images and began to play with their placement. I ended up with three possible choices for lay out and photographed them. Then everything was put away for almost two months until after the wedding.


Once the wedding was behind me, I pulled all the fabric out again, looked at the three layouts stored on my computer; auditioned some possible border fabrics and figured out what size each border needed to be so that the “whole” would fit within the required size and still look balanced. The last step at this point was to select one of my three layouts through the process of elimination and finally -- baste. Now I was ready to begin the appliqué. The hours I spent doing the Broderie perse were pure joy.



I knew the greatest challenge going into this for me was going to be the corners. I did not exactly approach the attachment of my borders in the traditional way so when it came to mitering those corners, it was really tricky and innovative. However, I had given myself permission from the very beginning not to have to be “perfect’, so even the mitering was fairly stress-free, though I have to say, I did consult with my friend Anne Dawson twice. (Anne,  who also lives on the island, is a quilt teacher, a member of AQSG and has a quilt conservation business with clients from all over.)


Fortunately, Anne recommended a batting that was like quilting through butter. (The product name is Dream Cotton.) I have since quilted a small 1930s doll quilt made from vintage fabric that I bought at a fund raising auction three years ago. It was a bear to quilt because of the batting that was included. It didn’t occur to me to replace the batting that came with it. Had I given it any in-depth thought, I would have taken out my basting and my first quilting stitches and replaced the batting immediately. (But, no. I did not want to have to pull out the basting and re-do it. Such miss-steps are how we learn!)


I even found doing the back of your Eagle quilt fun! I decided to add one page of a Timeline from 1780 that I found on the Internet at www.historyplace.com. After getting permission from them to use portions of their Timeline, I added two dates of my own having to do with textile history, printed the whole thing on fabric; hemmed it and the tacked it in the middle of the back.  I also added a label but ran out of thread as I was attaching it. (An empty needle is a good sign that it is time to go to bed! I told myself. I’ll finish in the morning.) 

The back. Details to come.

The next morning when I went back to my work, the idea of a pocket instead of a label came to me. A pocket gave me the opportunity to print a photo and bio, again on fabric, which I then folded and stuck in the “label pocket.”  (However, you have my permission to tack the bio to the back of the quilt also, if you prefer. )


Ah, the simple sleeve. At first I created a sleeve that matched the backing fabric using machine stitching. But then I decided the sleeve was too short. (Too short because I had only enough left to make up a short sleeve!)  But I also decided I didn’t like the idea of having machine stitched it when everything else about the quilt was hand-stitched. It seemed “distracting.”



The second time around  with the sleeve, I went with the fabric that matched the binding and hand-stitched it. I was very pleased with the difference. With the addition of the Timeline, the pocket label and the new hand-stitched sleeve, the back now seemed coherent. (Plus, that little addition of Broderi perse on the pocket made such a nice touch. I almost wished I had added a bit more!)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a book could come out of your efforts with this Eagle project!  Have you approached a publisher yet?

What’s next? To get my four UFO’s completed plus make a quilt similar to what I just made for you for my own family!! (Two of my UFOs were begun in 1981 and 1983; another in 2005 and another in 2009! What a joy it will be to finally get them all done – including my very first quilt!)

I also want to experiment with taking one or two leftover blocks from my friends’ quilt projects here on the island and making something unique by adding my own scraps. The idea is not unlike what Mary Kerr and her group of friends did in the past couple of years. (I love the book they published showing their incredible creativeness!) Working with leftover blocks is something I have wanted to do for years but couldn’t break that mental logjam about getting started again with a threaded needle. So now the logjam is broken!

I would greatly appreciate it if you would keep me apprised of where this group of quilts is exhibited. I would also love to have a list of all those who participated in this project!

Once again, my sincere thanks for having invited me to participate in what I am calling your “The Eagle in American History Decade by Decade” project!

All good wishes for all your research endeavors,

Karen Alexander


The FINAL version!

He's not quite square, but by golly, I finally did a Broderie Perse!

Much of my Timeline for the decade 1780 comes from The History Place and was printed and added to the quilt with permission.





Click photo to enlarge for reading.


PS: A reader requested some closer detail, so here you are.

I did have a little bit of a problem with fraying on the more loosely woven fabric but nothing I couldn't manage. I did not use any fusible material or fabric glue. I simply tacked each piece down and started doing the close buttonhole applique stitch by hand.

I also did a running stitch in black around the eagle to make it stand out more, plus added additional embroidered embellishment on its breast shield, its eye, the leaves in its one claw and the object in its mouth.

Click to enlarge.


This is the fabric that most easily frayed, yet it was still reasonable to deal with.


The triangles in the borders are all preprinted. Click on the photo below and you will see the tiny green triangles on this particular strip.  I did a buttonhole stitch all along the edge of this strip to attach it to the quilt.



Sunday, March 4, 2012

Eagles on Quilts

Early fabric with Eagle motif.


At the time the eagle was selected to represent the new nation (June 20, 1782), apparently it was believed that the eagle existed only on the American continent.

There are many myths and legends associated with the eagle.


Even Ben Franklin got involved!




18TH CENTURY AMERICAN EAGLE 
DECORATED BRISTOL GLASS MUG
Cowan Auctions. Click here for source.


I admire people who have big visions and take on big challenges. Susan Wildemuth is one of those people.


1930s iconography.

Susan contacted me in December 2010 to ask if I would be interested in taking part in a very special project near and dear to her heart, her "Eagle Motif Wallhanging Decade by Decade Project."


WWII patriotic transfer patterns.

Sue wrote me, "I was walking one day and an idea occurred to me to commission wallhangings – decade by decade traditional or art wallhangings with eagle motifs by quilt artists and/or historians whose work I admire to add to my collection of eagle quilts. The more I thought about that the more I loved the idea.  I took a chance and approached my first quilt artist, designer, and historian and that dear soul said yes….. "

An eBay woven coverlet.


"How large is this quilt supposed to be," I asked? "I haven’t made a quilt since 2002! And that was my first completed quilt since 1989! I know I wouldn’t be up to anything more than a very small quilt and, even at that, I do not have the same quilting skills I used to have."

Freeman Auctioneers as seen on their website a year ago.  Click here to visit their website.


She wrote back that the only critieria was that it not be larger than 24x24 and that it have an eagle somewhere in it. "The sky is the limit -- really it is," she wrote.




Yippee! I don't have top make points match, was my first reaction! Honest, I had been wanting to make something for a long time but didn’t have the guts to get started. This project was my catalyst for it had a deadline. And I loved the idea of selecting a decade and trying to interpret it!


18th century Chinese famille rose porcelain plate made for the American market, circa 1780


"I’ll take the 1780s," I wrote back. And so the work began. The letter I sent with the quilt when I shipped it to Sue in June 2011 reveals my process. The images that inspired me are sprinkled through-out this post with links to their source when I could track them down.

I my next post I will show you the results.

Keep those needles flying!

Karen in the Islands




Patriotic Textiles at Goldberg Coins and Collectibles Auctioneers
c. 1907 and 1908. Two textiles, both
printed by Schwab & Wolf of New York.