Saturday, December 31, 2016

Collecting Quilts: My 2016 Top Ten

Collecting was pretty good in 2016, so I thought it would be fun to share my Top Ten favorite new acquisitions of the year. Everyone loves a Top Ten Countdown, right? Quilts came from all across the United States, and they were made over a period of more than 150 years. The year was a real whirlwind, as the selection of quilts would suggest. 

Bars, cottons, unknown maker, Tennessee, c. 1950, 63" x 76"
When I was thinking about the 1950s earlier in the year, I found this minimalist gem on eBay. It came from a seller in Birchwood, Tennessee, and there's just something about it. The quilt has an intriguing combination of colors arranged symmetrically. I dig it.

Foundation Pieced String Quilt, velvets, unknown maker,
New Mexico, c. 1920, 70" x 71"
I do not have a lot of velvet quilts, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover this one. It came from an Etsy seller in New Mexico, and is one of those quilts that displays well and photographs beautifully. The sumptuous, multicolor velvets shimmer, and the clever composition of stripes creates a graphic optical illusion.

1970s polyester quilt, an amazing work of domestic folk art
When I first posted pictures of this quilt, people went nuts, and I can understand why. The quilt came from an eBay seller in Kentucky. Its colors are bright and the improvisational design is very appealing. The colorful ties and the print binding add an extra touch of whimsy to this amazing work of domestic folk art.

Fans, wools, unknown maker, Maine, c. 1900, 3" x 73"
Most of my quilts come from online auctions and sales, but I still love to leave the house every now and then. This quilt was hanging over a rail inside Cabot Mill Antiques, a large antiques co-op in Brunswick, Maine, near Mom's house. The price was reasonable, and it was in very good condition, so I took it home without a lot of thought. Later, when I photographed it, I was blown away by its incredible graphic appeal. A winner!

"Americana Quilt", cotton/polyester blend and embroidered patches,
Plum Grove Junior High School Quilt Club, Rolling Meadows, Illinois, 1976, 74" x 91"
I know a good thing when I see it, and this quilt is a good thing! It is a spectacular time capsule, a collection of embroidered patches and ink signatures, made in 1976 by the Plum Grove Junior High School Quilt Club in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. I honestly do not understand how anyone could ever sell something like this quilt, but if they're selling, I'm buying.

we can learn things from old quilts like this one
This quilt was not getting much respect folded up on a table in an antiques shop with other items piled on top of it. I had to ask for help to pull it out, otherwise the whole display could have toppled over. The quilt, a stunning mid-19th century four-block with urns and fanciful flowers, was in poor condition but it was a diamond in the rough. The designs were very unusual, and the quilting was especially well mapped. We can learn things from quilts like this, and it will be sooner than we think.

Love in a Tangle, polyester, Peggy Davis Harmon,
Marshall, North Carolina, c. 1970, 62" x 81"
When it comes to polyester double knit quilts from the 1970s, I'm getting picky. Right now, I have so many of these quilts it has to be really good or a terrific bargain to hold my attention. This kaleidoscopic masterpiece was both. It came from a seller in North Carolina, and I soon learned it was made by Peggy Davis Harmon, of Marshall, North Carolina. She was an interesting lady!

turn of the century modernism, a gift from Mom
I was chatting with Kaye England on Facebook one day, and she said she was selling quilts. She had a lot of really great ones, but this Streak of Lightning quilt really caught my eye. For a quilt that's 100 years old or older, it sure is modern looking! It was also an unusual example among Kaye's quilts, making it jump out even more when I saw it. Mom didn't know what to give me for Christmas, so I told her about the quilt. She loved the idea, especially because she and I spent a lot of time with Kaye in Nantes. Thank you Kaye and thank you Mom!

The Giant Dahlia Quilt, a Hubert ver Mehren design
Most of the time, I go for one-of-a-kind original quilts, but there are always exceptions to the rule. This impeccable Giant Dahlia Quilt came from Mark French, an Ohio quilt dealer who has a large, tantalizing eBay shop. The Giant Dahlia is a design by Hubert ver Mehren of Des Moines, and this example is as perfect as it could be. The maker followed the instructions to a "T", and the quilt is in superb condition. I see 1930s Giant Dahlias from time to time, but rarely are they this good.

Kalakoa, da kine I LOVE!
"Local style bodda you? Aznuts! Kalakoa, aloha nui loa!" If you have followed my blog in the last year, you know how much I love Hawaiian scrap quilts. In 2016, I introduced these quilts to the world. It is rare to stumble across such an indigenous, undocumented regional tradition. The scrap quilts found in Hawaii are nothing short of spectacular, and this example is monumental in scale. It is 91" x 107" and fabulous in every way. It was also an insane bargain. "Broke da eyes!"

So, that's my Top Ten for the year. Which ones are your favorites?

2016: Crazy Year!

"Kalakoa, Discovering the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt" in January & February
It was a crazy year, and that's putting it mildly. Our family is small, just three of us. I live in Oregon, Mom lives in Maine and my sister Libby lives in Massachusetts. Christmas is usually the only time the three of us are together.

we often include a couple friends and/or neighbors in Christmas dinner
Last year, as we hurried through the Holiday routine, none of us realized how much our lives would soon change. In January, my sister’s close friend was killed in a car accident. Soon after, Mom fell and injured her eye, losing the vision in that eye. In February, I landed in the hospital with a heart attack. 

heart attack the day before QuiltCon kept me away from Pasadena - I look mad
All three of us are doing better now, and quilts may have something to do with it. Mom and I commissioned my friend Gail Weiss to make a quilt for Libby, and soon after, I was asking Gail to make one for Mom. 

three family comfort quilts on display at the "Airing of the Quilts" show
Meanwhile, Facebook friend Penny Barnes, who lost her husband to a heart event the year before, made a quilt for me. She used flannels she brought back from Ireland, and the quilt was on my doorstep a week after I got home from the hospital. Amazing!

Heart Quilt by Penny Barnes
Each of us had a new comfort quilt, but before they settled in to their new homes, all three were displayed in the 22nd Annual Airing of the Quilts at the Milwaukie Center in March. 

"Kalakoa, Discovering the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt"
January & February at Latimer Quilt & Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon
Before any of these things happened, I debuted an exhibition, "Kalakoa, Discovering the Hawaiian Scrap Quilt" at Latimer Quilt & Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon. The exhibition revealed a previously undocumented tradition of scrap quilts made in Hawaii through the mid-century. 

my second book
My second book came out in April. "Modern Roots, Today's Quilts from Yesterday's Inspiration, 12 Projects Inspired by Patchwork from 1840-1970" was my first title with C&T Publishing / Stash Books, but it will not be my last. Before we were halfway through 2016, I'd agreed to write another book with them. 

Sarah & Kevin's Wedding, San Francisco
I went to San Francisco in June for the wedding of my friends, Sarah and Kevin. My job was to walk the bride down the aisle. 

4th of July appendectomy in Maine, what a drag! I look sad
In July, I went to visit Mom in Maine and landed in the hospital again, this time with an appen-dectomy. I spent a whole week including July 4th in the hospital, and the rest of the visit recovering.

Travels with Mom in September
I went to see Mom again in September, and we did a few of the things we didn't get to do in July. We drove to Rangeley for her birthday, and also traveled to New Jersey. In October and November, I traveled to see two exhibitions of "New York Beauty" quilts from my collection, one at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado, and the other at the Texas Quilt Museum in LaGrange. 

New York Beauties at the Texas Quilt Museum
The year was challenging in some ways, but truly wonderful in many other ways. Things may or may not slow down in 2017, but first I’ve got a book to write. After that, maybe I'll take a vacation.

Friday, December 30, 2016

18th century bed rugs

Bed rug auctioned by Skinner in 2014, sold for $28,290
In a recent blog post I wrote about early American bedcovers, the elegant artifacts of affluent families with well appointed homes. There were several types, but one of the most elusive is the bed rug. Most people do not know what a bed rug is. I have only seen them in books and online.

I try not to be envious, but was a little green when I saw this auction record

One came up for auction at Skinner a couple years ago. It sold for $28,290. No idea who got it, but lucky them! I don't expect to see another for many years, but if I did, I would at least go to the preview to see it in person. A large part of my knowledge about quilts and coverlets comes from handling them or seeing them in person. I can only dream of handling a bed rug.

Bed rugs are very old, wonderfully exuberant, embroidered bedcovers. They are sometimes confused with hooked rugs because they resemble them in ways, but they are created with a needle using a wool or linen ground cloth or blanket, not with a hook using an open weave canvas. They are very beautiful and very warm. I am learning all about them from this great book Mom gave me for Christmas, "Bed Rugs, 18th & Early 19th Century Embroidered Bedcovers" by Jessie Armstead Marshall.

It's a really interesting book, with several illustrated examples of surviving bed rugs and information about how to make a bed rug. In fact, the author made one over a two-year period in the early 1970s, and she learned a lot in the process. She shares her notes in the book, including estate records of previous owners and makers of bed rugs. The book is a little scarce, and prices reflect that, but you can actually find it on Amazon. Looking at some of these very old bedcovers, I find it remarkable how bold and modern looking they are. Thanks, Mom, for the awesome book, and for always supporting my education and continuing education!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Year's Top Five

My blogging was sporadic in 2016, but it was a good year by some standards. Five of my blog posts cracked my all-time top ten for page views, and that hasn't happened in a while. What were the five most popular Wonkyworld posts of the year?

#5-- October 28, "how did you do it?"-- People like weight loss success stories. I've known it for a while, and I think it has something to do with the difficulties many people face when trying to lose weight. This year I shared my own story as I dropped 60 pounds and celebrated a completely new wardrobe. To read more, click here.

#4-- December 5, Special Announcement -- Good news is always popular, and earlier this month I shared some. If you haven't seen the news I won't spoil the fun. To read more, click here.

#3-- August 4, quiltmakers, originality, inspiration and tradition -- Every now and then, I like to talk about quilts and context. My favorite context is, of course, quilt history, and I'm always happy to share the things I've learned. I love the connections between past, present and future. To read more, click here.

#2-- December 4, America's Earliest Quilts: Necessity Not the Mother of Invention -- Mythbusters are pretty much the best. Not only are they eye-opening, they are prerequisite to the discussion about quilt history. Not long ago, I read some not-so-good information about quilt history, and it made me want everyone to have the correct information. I thought, "Why not start at the beginning?" To read more, click here.

#1-- June 5, treating stains in an old quilt -- The number one post of the year was practical information, a problem solver, and it was about treating stains in an old quilt. I have my own ways, but freely admit to always following Mom's advice. She really does know best. To read more, click here.

So, there you have it, the top five Wonkyworld posts of the year: one success story, some good news, a little context, one mythbuster and a problem solver. With a nod and a wink, it looks like I may have unwittingly discovered a killer editorial balance. So, thank you readers: regulars and occasional visitors alike. Looking forward to another year of great blogs in 2017.


Monday, December 26, 2016

family things

Several years ago, my Aunt Helen passed away. Mom said she had some needlework from Aunt Helen if I wanted something as a rememberance. It arrived some time this year. What I didn't know was there was also a Battenburg lace project started by Helen's mother, my Great Aunt Alma.

Alma Hake Ludeke (1875-1972) is known to me as "Aunt Alma" - Mom's aunt and my great aunt. I hear about her every Christmas, because she loved the Holidays and always made a big effort to make sure Christmas was special.

I don't know enough about lace to say much about this piece, but it's nice to have something she handled. Her grandson wrote the note on the tag. "Oma" is like grandma in German.

This piece and another, a Bargello crewel work by Alma's daughter, my Aunt Helen (Ludeke) Walker, is also coming home with me. I will probably have it made into a pillow, as she likely intended.

Aunt Helen was one of the few members of the extended family I knew. For many years, she lived close by in Hopewell, where her husband Bill was the Mayor for more than one term. Later she lived in Jamesburg, closer to where I was living at the time. We would both look after my grandmother (my "Oma") who also lived close by. 

American Fabrics, Spring 1967, Knits

A friend alerted me about the online auction for this swatch book, and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it. I collect 1970s quilts, but the fabrics from the 1960s are in those quilts. It will be interesting to see if I find any from the book in the quilts. Here are a few of the pages.

Textured polyester is especially interesting, since I have seen it in so many of the 1970s quilts I've collected. I hope to find more swatch books like it. This type of ephemeral object sheds so much light on the quilts. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you! May 2017 be full of good health, friendship and joy.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve, 1984

1984: I was with my family in Moorestown, New Jersey, on a short break after my first semester at Rhode Island School of Design. It was Christmas Eve, some time around midnight. Maybe it was really Christmas. It was foggy, and I decided to go outside with my camera and a tripod. These are two of the photos I took that night.

The second photo was unusual. I called it "The Johnsons' Laundry" and it shows the neighbors' laundry left hanging out at night. Eventually the photo was included in American Photography 6, a Rizzoli publication; and it received the Hudson River Contemporary Artists' Awart for Photography in the Hudson River Open at the Hudson River Museum in 1989. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Flashback Friday

1983: a snowy evening at Peddie, my high school alma mater. It was the evening break after study hall, and I needed to get a picture for Photography 1 class. My first roll of film hadn't worked out so well. I forgot to dilute the developer and didn't take the temperature of the solution, so my film ended up very contrasty and reticulated. During the break between study hall and dormitory check-in, I found a friend, set up a tripod and grabbed this photo. I did much better in Photography class after that.