Sunday, August 13, 2017

"I love you!"


During my Facebook Live segment with Marin Hanson at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum last week, two curious women walked into the shot and started checking out the Tile Blocks quilt. I hope one or both of them are following my blog because I have a message for them.

"I love you!"


The whole thing started innocently enough. Marin was interviewing me, and everything was going normally...


...then the pair wandered into the shot and started checking out the Tile Blocks...


I loved what they were wearing, but I especially loved how they were checking out the piece.


They weren't just checking it out, they were trying to discreetly get a look at the back...well, maybe it wasn't so discreet...


Did they realize they were on Facebook Live? Probably not, and that was part of what made them so awesome. They were keeping it real.


In case they're reading along and were still curious about the construction, The piece is an edge-finished spread with a backing that was added later for the purpose of wall display. The colorful polyester patches were not pieced together with the black rick rack over the top as an embellishment. The patches were actually stitched to the rick rack withthe rick rack joining them. I know, crazy!

Thank you to this wonderful pair of ladies. I enjoyed seeing how enthralled you were, and hope to find out some day who you are. If you're reading along, say hi! To view the whole Facebook Live segment, click on the video below.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Russian Sunflower


Some wonderful things arrived in the package from Siobhan Furgurson last week. The magazine in yesterday's blog post was one of them, but the big prize was a quilt top she made.


It was inspired by an 1840s rescue crib quilt from my collection. The center block was a design known today as Russian Sunflower, but there were many names for it, all coined long after the inspiration quilt was made, around the 1840s.


The sunburst design was also a cornerstone in a few of the "New York Beauty" quilts in my collection. The original quilt is in poor condition, but it has value s a study quilt. Siobhan did a wonderful job with it.


Siobhan finished the top in time for the 2012 American Quilt Study Group Seminar in Lincoln, Nebraska, where we had our picture taken with it. She hoped to hand quilt it, but ultimately decided to send it to me. I will make sure it is beautifully hand quilted and finished, and maybe some day we will make a pattern available. Thank you again, Siobhan! You'e a gem.

Friday, August 11, 2017

cracking the code


"I get by with a little help from my friends."

My friend Siobhan Furgurson was downsizing and getting ready to move to a new home. She sent me a box of goodies this week. One of the items in the box was a copy of Simplicity's Quilts & Patches magazine from 1979.


When she was sorting through the periodicals, she found the design source for a mystery quilt in my collection and sent it my way. What a lovely, thoughtful thing to do.


The quilt was called "Village Scene" and it came with a design for a pillow and ideas for making cutains and a lampshade.


There it was in the pages of the 1979 magazine. It was made around the time I thought it was. My guess would've been the 1970s or possibly the 1980s.



I almost fell out of my seat when I saw the pattern and the other items that were meant to go with the quilt. In the notes at the back of the magazine, the design is credited to Joann Mann Neville. Cracking the code of the design source took a little time but it was worth the wait. Many thanks to Siobhan for such a kind, generous gift! Stay tuned for more details about what else was in the box.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Throwback Thursday: #HeartHealth, Yesterday and Today

Before and After: February 2016 and August 2017
Want to have more fun in bed? Improving your heart health is a great way to do it.

There I was in a hospital bed in February 2016. I had a heart attack, missed QuiltCon in Pasadena, and received a stent for a blockage in my left anterior descending (LAD) artery. My Body Mass Index was 31, and I weighed 255 pounds. At 6'4" tall, I was in fact obese according to the BMI calculator. No fun.


Today I am actually a little below my goal weight. I was shooting for 185 pounds but slipped past that mark while I was traveling last week and landed around 180. My Body Mass Index had dropped from 31 to 21.9, from obese to normal weight.


Everyone wants a guru, a magic pill or a fad diet. My advice for those people is: Stop it!! And start paying attention to what goes in your mouth!! That's all I did. It wasn't anything more complicated than that. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute offers lots of wonderful resources, such as the BMI chart.


"...we want recipes..." and "...when is your cookbook coming out?"

Every time I post something about my health and weight loss journey, people want specifics. They want recipes, they want me to write a cookbook. They want more information. Usually I offer one bit of helpful advice for getting started:



Map out the supermarket, and you might notice all the fresh, whole foods are on the perimeter of the space. The processed foods are in the center aisles. Follow the road map to good health by staying on the perimeter and avoiding the heart of the jungle. It's only rocket science if you make it that way.


As you can probably imagine, it's much more fun to be in bed without the hospital gown, IVs and heart monitors. Although my cardiologist is a nice guy, I never want to see him again while I'm in bed. Being a normal weight -- some people might even say "slim" -- is much more fun than being obese. Having improved heart health is much more fun than dying.

And finally, the best advice I can offer is: if you are looking to improve your health by eating healthier and losing weight, don't ask me how to do it. Ask your physician!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Facebook Live with Marin Hanson


In case you missed it, I did a Facebook Live segment on Friday with curator Marin Hanson of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. We had a nice visit in the Center Gallery, site of my "Off the Grid" exhibition, which is up through August 27th, 2017. The segment was recorded, so if you missed it you can still watch. Don't miss the phone call from Mom somewhere in the middle. Thank you Marin, and special thanks to Laura Chapman for making the segment possible.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Polyester in 2017


Polyester was a widely used fabric in quilt making in the 1970s, but nobody would use it to make quilts today, right? Wrong! Today at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum there was a woman named Janet in the gallery when I was there taking photos, and we struck up a conversation. 


She told me she was part of a Lutheran church group about three hours away in Nebraska, and they made quilts for people in the Caribbean, South America and other moist climates. The charities that receive the quilts request polyester because cotton gets mildew and rots. So, the polyester is ideal for their quilts. I'd never heard that before, but it was nice to hear polyester quilts were not completely a thing of the past.

Thinkin' Lincoln


Temperatures are climbing into the 100s in Portland this week, so where am I? Lincoln, Nebraska! It's much cooler here. I finally made it to see my "Off the Grid" exhibition at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. I felt warmly welcomed, seeing my name in lights on the sign in front of the museum, and having a visit with the staff last night over happy hour. The exhibition runs for a couple more weeks and tomorrow, Friday at 5:30pm I will give a powerpoint lecture about the quilts.

For more information, go to the IQSCM website - click here.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Cooke Family Quilt, c. 1890, Hawaii

Cooke family quilt, c. 1890, Hawaii
One of the primary questions is: 
"How did Liliuokalani 
learn about crazy quilts?"

Amos Starr Cooke (December 1, 1810 – March 20, 1871) was an American educator and businessman in the Kingdom of Hawaii. He was patriarch of a family that influenced Hawaii in
Amos Starr Cooke (Wikimedia)
the 19th century and continues to have a presence today. Cooke, born in Danbury, Connecticut, and his family were missionaries who were put in charge of the Chiefs' Children's School by Kamehameha III. The boarding school educated children of Hawaiian royalty, including all five of the following monarchs of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Queen Liliuokalani was the last of the five monarchs, and the last reigning Queen of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Liliuokalani was familiar with the Cooke Family. She attended the Chiefs' Children's School from 1842 to 1850, when the school was discontinued and students were relocated to a day school called the Royal School.


A recent Quilt Index search of documented quilts made in Hawaii produced 387 results but not a single Victorian Crazy Quilt. 



Of course, there is one famous Victorian period crazy quilt called The Queen's Quilt, made by Liliuokalani to document her life and imprisonment when the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown. She was imprisoned at Iolani Palace, where she started the blocks that eventually became the quilt. 

Iolani Palace has a web site with history and photos. 
The Queen's Quilt now lives at Iolani Palace where it is is on permanent display. It is among the most important cultural objects in Hawaii and is a national treasure. Although it is a storied quilt, there are  many unanswered questions about it. One of the primary questions is: "How did Liliuokalani learn about crazy quilts?"


Perhaps this quilt is a clue. It came from the Cooke Family, and was sold many years ago through the Mauna Kea Galleries on the Big Island. The most recent owner before me was an eBay seller in Honolulu. The quilt is 51" x 63" and includes a variety of silks, some in excellent condition, some deteriorated. 



Several interesting motifs appear on the quilt, such as fans, both Chinese and Japanese; flowers, figures and a charming black elephant. A variety of techniques were incorporated-- fancy stitch work, appliqué, piecing, and painting on velvet. 


Queen Liliuokalani as a young lady
Regarding the quilt and its place in Hawaiian history, there are more questions than answers. How well did Liliuokalani know the Cooke family? Did their relationship continue after she attended their school? Did the Cooke family make the quilt? Was it brought back from the mainland after travel? Had Liliuokalani seen this quilt? Did she know about it when she made hers? Are there photos of the Cooke family homes showing the quilt? Does the Mauna Kea Gallery still have a record of the sale? I'm eager to learn more about this unique object. There are so few Victorian crazy quilts in Hawaii, it seems like there must be a connection. I will be looking for the answers to these questions and others.  Stay tuned...
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Monday, July 17, 2017

more velvet love


A few years ago, I started looking at velvet quilts. They were intriguing. The people who made them must have been intriguing, too. They thought differently. Other quiltmakers used cottons and wools. Even in the Victorian period, when velvets were among the rich fabrics used in crazy quilts, they were not often the primary fabric. That means velvet quilts are a little unusual.


This quilt came from a lovely lady who was a local dealer at the Antiques Expo in Portland over the weekend. She couldn't remember where it came from, but said it was possibly from the midwest. It is 79" x 80" and includes 25 blocks with crazy patchwork, LeMoyne stars and "x" blocks. Two of the blocks have small pink and white flowers appliqued in the center.


Decorative feather stitch covers every seam, and a variety of thread colors were used. Although the quilt would be considered a crazy quilt, there is a sense of structure. A cluster of star blocks fills the center, cornered by the "x" blocks and surrounded by the crazy blocks. There are also two wheel blocks, which seem more casually placed.

Here are some of the other velvet quilts in my collection. Maybe one day there will be enough for an exhibition.

Friday, July 14, 2017

who are you?


Does anyone know the maker of this quilt? I received this message the other day but was not able to determine who sent it. I hope it wasn't one of the people whose accounts was blocked for sending spam, but if so, let me know and we can fix it. If you know whose quilt it is, even if it is not yours, please let me know. I love that someone wanted to do a quilt with this design.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

new Spoonflower fabrics

rainbows, not available to the general public
It's a lot of fun to play around with Spoonflower and create custom fabric designs. So far, I have designed and printed dozens of fabrics but have not used many of them and have not made many available to the public. Recently I had two designs printed. One was an old design, and is not available. One is a new design based on an old object, and is now for sale.

my original idea for the rainbow fabric was to use it as borders in a medallion style quilt,
but I ditched the idea and will use the fabric for another project

The rainbow print is a design I came up with almost three years ago, when toying with the idea of doing a digitally printed medallion style quilt. I ended up going in a different direction, printing the fabrics for my first "Fruity Beauty" prototype, and never printed the rainbow fabric until now.

Fruity Beauty (2014) - Quilted by Jolene Knight
There is a stack of fabric in my stash waiting to make a larger "Fruity Beauty" quilt. The prototype has been published, exhibited, and was featured in the 2016 men's juried exhibition at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

Battenberg - in person it's a little more neutral and slightly darker - a good gray!
The second fabric I recently printed is from a photo of my Great Aunt Alma's Battenberg lace project, which she never finished. I took a detail shot and did a mirror image repeat to create a continuous design. This fabric is now available, and I think quiltmakers will like it. We're always looking for interesting neutral gray fabrics, right? For details, click here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

when there are quilts

1970s Hawaiian scrap quilt found in Oregon
Following up on yesterday's blog: in a Facebook discussion on the subject of two-color, black and white or gray and white mourning quilts, I made a comment about when "a thing" really was a thing. It was when there were quilts, and not just a few quilts. The example I cited was Hawaiian scrap quilts.


At first, there were only a few quilts in my Hawaiian scrap quilt group; two quilts, to be exact. One was discovered at an Antique Expo event in Portland, and the other came from an eBay seller in Hawaii. With just a couple clues, I started sniffing around.


The tradition of scrap quilts in Hawaii revealed itself by chance, and I pursued it. The quilts were a little hard to find at first, and still do not come along every day, but I found plenty of them once I really started looking.


In January, I went to Oahu on a vintage buying trip and found a bunch of scrap quilts and tops. Some of them were earlier pieces with 1950s fabrics, made in the 50s or 60s. Most were 1970s. I talked to people when I was there, and learned a few things about the quilts, the fabrics and the culture.


It was a moment when research led to rewards far beyond the academic. There was nothing like running around to vintage shops in Hawaii, wearing shorts, sunglasses and sandals, and taking short breaks for fresh ahi poke while all my friends were snowed-in back in Portland! Sorry, friends, but it was sweet, and I deserved it!

In terms of academic rewards, the quilts and tops I found confirmed specific methods of construction popular in these objects, such as the absence of batting and the use of aloha shirt and muu muu fabrics.

The tradition of scrap quilts in Hawaii essentially sprang out of the garment industry, the source of cutaway fabric scraps. A lot of those factories closed in the 1970s following a decline in tourism. Something had to happen with the scraps, and it did. Where there are scraps, there are quilts!

The Queen's Quilt
The idea of scrap quilts as an expression of cultural identity in Hawaii had its roots in Hawaiian history and folklore. A crazy quilt made by Queen Lili'uokalani and her attendants called "the Queen's Quilt" now has a home at Iolani Palace in Honolulu. The quilt documents Lili'uokalani's life and imprisonment.

Lili'uokalani as a young lady
Lili'uokalani was imprisoned at Iolani palace at the end of her reign, and she was the last reigning queen of Hawaii. The quilt, while missing for many years, was always remembered as an important cultural object and part of Hawaiian history. The story about the quilt was included in elementary school education and Hawaiian folklore.


The crazy quilt, and/or scrap quilt - as a form of expression - was part of Hawaiian cultural identity even before many were made there. Hawaiians knew about the Queen's Quilt, and when cutaway garment scraps were available decades after Lili'uokalani was deceased, Hawaiians made crazy patchwork. It's like they just knew to do it that way.


When I went looking for quilts, I found them. At this point the group includes more than 50 examples.


It was interesting to distinguish between the earlier and later mid-century quilts. One of the main differences was the inclusion of DayGlo fabrics in the examples from the middle 1960s and later.

Recently I met more than one person from Hawaii, and I learned crazy patchwork blankets were made for newborn babies. I'm sure there were cottage businesses making baby quilts, as well as individual quilters making quilts as gifts.
I also found a pillow not too long ago. Hard to say if it is related or represents a larger trend in Hawaii, but I will be asking.
traditional Hawaiian applique quilt
Incidentally, the reason why Hawaiian scrap quilts were such a revelation, at least to me, was that Hawaiian quilts were known for one distinct, predominant style. Hawaiian quilts were elegant, two-color, snowflake-cut, echo-quilted botanical applique quilts. There were no print fabrics or crazy patchwork in these quilts.


Those elements were uleashed later, in the scrap quilts, which were rooted in Hawaiian culture as much as the applique quilts. The scrap quilts also had the strong connection to the Hawaiian garment industry, and by association the travel and tourism industry as well. Say what you will about old quilts. It is only "a thing" when there are quilts. In a nutshell, that's why black and white mourning quilts weren't a thing. There were not enough quilts to support the idea.