Friday, April 17, 2015

Schoolhouse Quilt

Doesn't it sometimes seem as if quilts find you?  A quilt came to me a few years ago, seeking a good home. I love when this happens. I was not looking for an antique schoolhouse quilt or even an antique quilt that day. I was looking for a vintage Coach bag at a consignment shop near Chicago where all the rich people dump their unwanted items that are practically unused. Although I've seen some nice bags there before, they didn't have any good ones this time. So, I wandered into the back of the store where I saw some expensive linens piled up on a chair. I picked through them and look what I found:





This old Schoolhouse quilt cried out to me like a stray puppy: "Take me home with you, please!"  This shop clearly was no place for an antique quilt to live - among all the designer bags, shoes and fur coats. It needed a less fancy home. I made an offer, the shop clerk called the owner and 10 minutes later I walked away with it for $45.00.  I'm sure they thought I was nuts. "That old thing???" (I'm sure my husband thought the same thing, although he's used to it by now and just shrugs.)


Now, granted, things like this do not happen every day (especially to me) and after I got home I was glad I hadn't passed up the opportunity. The quilt is NOT in pristine condition. It looks like it may have sat in the back of a truck for years while the owner hauled around who knows what on top of it.

The blocks are hand pieced and the quilt is tied, not quilted. It is definitely well worn and loved, has some fading, a few stains and tears and is really in need of some good care.  But it has such a primitive look and is truly a great piece of folk art. I couldn't just leave it there. I cannot display it unless I fold it so that some parts are well hidden. At one point I thought I might attempt to repair it myself because I actually have some reproduction double pink fabric that is the exact same as the original. But that always seemed like too big a job for a novice quilt collector like me.


I love that one house was patched with a similar brown fabric at one point. Someone must have valued it enough to take the time to do that.

My guess is that it's from around 1900. Schoolhouse quilts were popular in the late 19th century and that trend continued into the 1920s and '30s. According to the International Quilt Study Center in Nebraska,  "For rural women of the late nineteenth century, teaching was both the most prestigious and the highest paying opportunity available to them. The Schoolhouse pattern, which became popular at the same time, may reflect the lives of the many women who helped support their families through teaching positions, prior to their marriage."


           
When I look at the quilt, I often think about the woman who made it and wonder: Where was she from? Did she live on the prairie? Was she a teacher? I know I did the right thing - I rescued it and gave it a home. A home that values schools and teachers. It was the least I could do to honor the quiltmaker, who may have felt the same way.


An 1840 restored schoolhouse not far from my home. Funny thing - instead of taking the expressway, I decided to take a slower route that day and passed it on the way to the shop.






Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Orange Peels


Everywhere I look these days I see Orange Peel quilts. They're sometimes also referred to as Melon Peels, Lemon Peels, Pumpkin Seeds. Some are made with curved piecing, some applique. The pattern has been around a long time but when I made mine they weren't really very popular at all. If you did see any they were almost always two-color quilts. It's nice to see so many quilters making them now and incorporating them into different designs.

Back when I was writing Remembering Adelia and a few years before I began my Dear Jane quilt, I noticed that Jane Stickle had used a lot of peels in her famous quilt. Since Adelia also lived and sewed during the Civil War, I decided to include orange peels in the book and weave this quilt into Adelia's story. It was fun poking through my reproduction scraps, making the peels and then hand appliqueing them over that summer. I made them a few at a time in between working on the other quilts and when I had made enough blocks I put them together into my quilt. 


A blue and white table runner I made with a peel design. 



Yesterday, I taught an Orange Peel workshop to a bunch of sweet ladies from the Battle Creek, Michigan, area. I had quite a lot of fun and I think they did too. I had the most fun walking around and looking at all the different fabrics everyone was using for their peels.





Natalie, making some "Orange" peels




Sally, looking like the lady who lived in the shoe -  she had so many gorgeous peels she didn't know what to do.





Nancy used a variety of pretty shirtings for her backgrounds.




It's always an awful lot of fun to make a quilt in a group with like-minded quilters. If you belong to a guild and would like me to come and talk a little bit about my quilts and teach this one (or any other) in a workshop to your group, contact me for details. I'm always up for making Orange Peels!


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Miles and Milestones

Hope you all had a happy Easter or Passover holiday. The weather was so nice here I was almost convinced spring was just around the corner.  Today, however, I had to put on my winter coat when I went out. Oh well. Patience is a virtue, they say. Spring will get here when it gets here.


I am happy to have reached a milestone in my Dear Jane quilt. Yesterday I completed 100 blocks! I'm amazed and can hardly believe I have gotten this far and not given up. So I am definitely singing "Hooray" today.  Maybe I WILL finish this quilt after all. No going back now.



One more to add to the growing pile

There's such a sense of satisfaction when a block is completed. Usually because it has taken me the better part of a day.


Many of you have asked me about my blocks. I know I am repeating myself here but I also know some of you struggle as well and hope you can glean a little encouragement to keep going on yours:  I began making them in 2010. But, after getting a good running start that year, I had to take 6 months off. The following years also were full of months without any progress at all. So it has been an off and on project for me. I usually work in spurts, instead of focusing on this quilt alone, which allows me to do other things too. 




I try to note my monthly progress on a database in my DJ Yahoo group and have committed to making at least one block a month. Some months are usually good for more blocks and there is still progress. I could certainly finish sooner if I made one row a month like some of you but that's not practical for me and wouldn't work. I know I could never keep it up. 


One block per month doesn't sound like much but it almost always translates into more than one so I so try to keep it up and recommit every month. And every month I ask myself:  Do I still want to finish this quilt? YES. Then I tell myself  - go make a block to prove it, LOL. I have no timetable for finishing. When it gets done, it will be done. Hopefully, before I die. My goal is to not leave a box of unfinished blocks to my family as my legacy. 


I use mostly 1800s reproduction fabrics. Sometimes I just use a print that I like a lot. Some of my blocks are hand pieced, some are machine pieced, some have shirtings for the background, some backgrounds are made with ecology cloth (higher quality muslin), and a few of my favorite fabrics have been repeated (oh no!). Some of my blocks I regret making and wish I had either used a different print or taken more time to do a better job. Oh well. I cannot afford the time to remake them now. They are what they are and they represent a part of my journey. 


Every block is an achievement worthy of celebration. 

Only 125 blocks and triangles left to go . . . Yikes, I'm not even halfway there. That sounds so discouraging when I read it. More than a few more years of work left, I guess. 

And miles to go before I sleep  . . .  


 . . . under a Dear Jane quilt, at least.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Make Another Little Quilt with Me in April


Sew along with me and my Small Quilt Talk friends (Yahoo group, see sidebar for link to join) this month. We're making the Underground Railroad quilt from my first book American Doll Quilts (yes, it's an oldie, but a goodie nonetheless). I know quite a few of you have this book but have never made this quilt. Here's your chance. If you have the book, follow along with the pattern beginning on page 40.


If you don't have the book, you can buy it here or here.  Martingale & Co. also has a nice e-book version available for purchase here. Just download it to your computer or tablet and you're all set.



So many cute, little, traditional quilts in this book. It's a classic. 


Go grab some scraps and have fun with this one. Choose butternut and blue for your color scheme as I did or another one more to your liking. It's one of my all-time small favorites as well as one of the first quilts I ever made. Hope it becomes one of your favorites too. 



Monday, March 30, 2015

Quilt Fest Chicago - Red & White


The International Quilt Festival was here in Chicago this past weekend and I got a chance to attend last Friday. I was so excited to see the Ruby Jubilee exhibit. My favorite part -  the miniature red & white quilts, of course. (My apologies, though - I am never able to take good photos at this place. The lights are just way too bright. My camera is pretty inadequate and I don't really take the time to fool with the settings the way I should. I'm always too excited to see the quilts, never mind the camera. So, none of these pictures really do any of the quilts justice.) 


For my Janiac friends - "Dear Karla" made by Karla Zadnik and Janet Armstrong. There were four (!) Dear Jane quilts on display at the show but I was only allowed to take photos of this one. 


The Ruby Jubilee exhibit, celebrating 40 years of Quilt Festival and honoring the red and white tradition, made its debut last year at Quilt Festival in Houston. I was happy to see that it came to Chicago this year.

Here's an excerpt about the exhibit that was in the Houston Chronicle last fall -

"Quilts in the jubilee exhibit were inspired by Infinite Variety, a seminal 2011 red-and-white-quilt show in New York, said Karey Bresenhan, president of Quilts Inc., which hosts the event. Quilters have used ruby to show love, blood and victory for centuries. White, denoting innocence, was often used as relief to the bold red. The New York show, which honored longtime quilt collector Joanna S. Rose's 80th birthday, featured her 651 red-and-white quilts and inspired quilters across the country. 'This is our 40th anniversary, and rubies celebrate 40 years of marriage, so we called it Ruby Jubilee,' Bresenhan said, adding that the exhibit includes 125 red-and-white quilts from 1974, the festival's first year."  





Amazing . . . . but wait until you see these little marvels - 


These small red and white quilts were EXQUISITE!











My heart was going pitter, patter, as you can imagine.








 I will look through my photos and see if I have any of the rest of the show that are decent enough to show you later this week.


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