Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Quilts in a Material World" - Podcast Report #1

Our island's quilt guild asked me to present a book report at this month's meeting so I chose Linda Eaton's "Quilts in a Material World".

I also told them about Linda's podcast: "Domesticating Quilts: Furnishings, Formalism and Folk Art" which is tied closely to the above book.  For those of you who who couldn't be at the guild meeting, here is the link to the podcast I promised that Linda gave at the IQSC's spring Symposium, April 27, 2013. Linda's is #2 on this list.

If you don't normally use iTunes, click on this link to get to the podcasts.  

Or copy and paste this link into your computer's browser.

There is no cost to download or watch any of them on-line. This is a part of the educational outreach of the IQSC.

It may take up to a minute to download. Then, when their screen comes up, you can watch or put it on pause or even rewind it (using the very small slide at the bottom of the picture). This IQSC podcast list contains a wealth of quilt history!

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you listen to Linda's lecture:

What was Betsy Ross's full name? What was her business called? Who assisted her in her business?

What might one of Betsy's early flags have looked like? How is it different from what you might have expected?

What is  cypher /  strapwork? (Each click leads you to different information.)

Who was Mary Remington? How did Linda come to know so much about her?

What is the name of the book John Carwitham produced in 1739 that may have influenced educated American women and their creation of the block set patterns in quilting? (More history on Carwitham designs here at the Geffrye Museum of the Home in London.

Floor at Bankfield Museum in England taken while on my second of
 Deb Roberts Tours and World of Quilts Travels. 
I can't say enough good things about Deb's textile study tours. 

How did Diderot influence quilt patterns?

How did we get from Classical Formal Design to the myth of early quilting as a "folk art"?

Which era in art history embraced the "folk" traditions?

How did "folk" art influence Modernist art painters?

What was the Ruth Finley quote Eaton used in her lecture?

Among other things, this podcast will:

—give you the REAL story about the history of Betsy Ross-- including all her names (she was married 3 times).

—show you images of quilters in the "professional upholstery trade".

—show you architectural design elements from floors and ceilings from the Neo-Classical period that probably inspired early block pattern quilt designs in America.

—reveal that it was well educated women (even though not sent to college like their brothers) who were well acquainted with Neo-Classical design in home interiors and "translated" said patterns into quilts.

— reveal the possible roots of the myths that set Americans in the 20th century to thinking that early quiltmaking was done by "the folk" using scraps of leftover used clothing rather than expensive fabrics that only the wealthy could afford.


Revisiting the AQSG Seminar 
held in Charleston, SC in Sept 2013

We are so very fortunate to have AQSG as well as the IQSC! Please join or at least support them with an annual donation! They are diligently preserving OUR history!

Carol Butzke's Study Center "Cheddar Isn't Always Cheese" at the 2013 AQSG Seminar. The AQSG Seminar is the highlight of my textile research passion, year after year. Fortunately, we have more and more satellite Quilt Study Groups now associated with AQSG so that you can enjoy digging deeply into quilt history in a communal setting more than once a year.

 The AQSG Seminar will be held in Milwaukee Sept. 10-14th this year (2014). As one of the committee chairs, Carol invites all to attend! There will be even more "cheddar quilts" from north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts will have an exhibit of quilts with connections to Mary McElwain's Shop in Walworth WI, including quilts made by Mary.

IQSC membership -

AQSG membership -

AQSG  donation -

Carol Butzke's Study Center "Cheddar Isn't Always Cheese"
at the 2013 AQSG Seminar.

Enjoy! Would love to hear your reponses to Linda Eaton's podcast!

Karen Alexander

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Quilt Cabin

The Quilt Cabin in the Woods a Year Later

The Quilt Cabin built to store my collection will have been in use two years come April but re-landscaping has yet to be done---someday….maybe! As I prepare for the first Quilt History Retreat to be held here on Lopez, it's fun looking back at how this project evolved. Come along for the journey and I shall give you some information about the Retreat at the end.

Empty bookshelves! Well, that didn't last long!

So wonderful to finally have space to make magazines easily accessible! (below)

And the empty slant boards....Both queen size flat-beds also have lots of storage space under each with access from 3 different directions. I designed these and had the carpenter makee them to my specifications. I also had him make them in such a way that they can be taken completely apart by simply unscrewing them board by board. I didn't want someone to have to destroy them to get them out of the cabin some day when they are no longer needed by the next generation of my family. Instead they can be de-constructed and sold.

These babies are sturdy and moveable. 

I buy new white sheets as cheap as I can find them to layer between quilts that need more protection.  I've also been purchasing a few of the queen size pre-printed quilt tops to use for the same purpose. That way I can make it look like a quilt is lying on top of each slant board, but it is actually just new printed fabric protecting the antique quilts. However, the two you see on the land boards below are actual quilts.

Those didn't stay empty long either!

The process of re-organizing and re-storing is endless....and so much FUN!!!

Likewise the doll beds which I use for displaying various doll quilts.

No, its not a Venus de Milo in hiding....

Only the three dresses and shirts my mother-in-law (Wini Waters Alexander) made us for Xmas in 1978 (with a couple other textile items laid over the top).

Here we are in full regalia in 1978.

What's a Grand Opening without friends!

In August of 2012 I took advantage of the fact that my long-time friend and fellow AQSG member Julie Silber (owner of The Quilt Complex in the greater SF area) was going to be in the area to oversee the hanging of an exhibit at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA, and planned a small preview of The Quilt Cabin.

Life size applique of our three children by Wini Alexander - 1978 hung between trees with care.  Wini used scraps from the clothing she had made the kids the previous year to make the outfits they wear on each quilt.

Sharing a Jean Ray Laury patterned quilt with Julie Silber at the Open House. This quilt was made in the very early 1970s.

This quilt hung at The Quilters Hall of Fame in honor of 
Jean Ray Laury following Jean's death in March 2012.

Below is page 56 of Jean Ray Laury's 1972 book "Quilts & Comforts". Jean simply called it “Child’s Quilt”.

On the right is the quilt in my collection that I found in eBay made by Vicky Taylor of Maryland. Vicky wrote that she found a picture of the quilt in a Christmas craft book in the late 1960s and began working on the quilt at that time, drafting her own patterns from the photo. She began it for her sister-in-law when she was born, using the photo in the book as a guide.  "It took me much longer than I thought it would and by the time I was finished, my sister-in law was 3 and my first child was a year old, so I used it on her bed." 

(Below) Julie Silber and I hold one of my favorite crib quilts. Each animal is appliqued from fabric that contains an image of itself.

(below) Guests from Bellingham admire some of the antique quilts in my collection.

(below)  Another of my special treasures — Sunbonnet Lassies designed by Marie Webster and first published in Ladies Home Journal in August 1912. Marie Webster is an iconic figure in quilt history and her restored home in Indiana now houses The Quilters Hall of Fame. Countless variations and knock-offs of Marie Webster's Sunbonnet Lassies has graced the American quilt world ever since….but her name was changed to Sunbonnet Sue or Colonial Ladies and various other names along the way.

I found this quilt at an on-line Rago Auction in 2011. The auction house graciously sent my email requesting addidtional information on to the seller. The quilt came out of the estate of Caroline [Stephens] Holt from Westfield, NJ. A family member informed me that no one knows for sure who made the quilts in the trunk found in the attic because both Caroline [Stephens] Holt's grandmother --Alice [Thornhall] Stephens -- and great grandmother Irene Thornhall -- quilted. But they do believe all the quilts in the trunk were made by those two women. 

I'll write more about this pattern and its "cousins" in my collection later.

Enjoy quilt history and want to learn more? Here is your opportunity!

Lopez Island, WA, will host its first Quit History Retreat in conjunction with the Western Washington Quilt Study Group and the Lopez Island Historical Society. The three-day event (May 15-18, 2014) will include a trip to Orcas Island and Friday Harbor to see the quilts hanging at each island’s respective historical society.

The organizers and presenters of the retreat are all members of the American Quilt Study Group.

The central theme of the first Lopez Island Quilt History Retreat will be "Signature Quilts as Carriers of Community and Women's History” led by Karen Alexander and Susan Underwood.  In addition, two collectors from the Mid-West (Kate and Mary Edgar) will be sharing selections from their collection of early 19th century antique quilts from the U.S., Great Britain and France and the exciting stories that accompany them. These particular quilts have never been exhibited on the West Coast before.

Other events will include a Bed Turning at The Quilt Cabin (Karen Alexander), a discussion of possibly two early 20th century quilt designers; and a program on quilt conservation and restoration by professional quilt restorer Anne Dawson, also of Lopez Island.

This is a great opportunity to visit the beautiful San Juan Islands, the jewels of the Pacific Northwest, just north and west of Seattle by 90 minutes plus a 45-minute ferry ride. Or you can fly to Lopez from Seattle via Kenmore Air.