Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top 20 Quilts of 2017: #15, Wilson Family Quilt

"Ka Ua Kani Lehua" - The Wilson Family Quilt, Kailua
This month, I am posting a series of blogs counting down my top 20 quilts of the year. All the quilts were acquired by the collection in 2017, and they represent four centuries of American quilts. 

In January, I went to Hawaii in search of Hawaiian scrap quilts. I found many, but also bought this gem. To read more about it, click here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Top 20 Quilts of 2017: #16, Groovy Floral Appliqué Quilt

Flower Power!

This month, I am posting a series of blogs counting down my top 20 quilts of the year. All the quilts were acquired by the collection in 2017, and they represent four centuries of American quilts. 

How could I resist this groovy floral applique quilt with butterflies and a ladybug? It came from an eBay seller in New Mexico, and is one of my favorite purchases of the year. To read more about it, click here.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Top 20 Quilts of 2017: #17, Julie Yukimura's Quilt

When I searched for Julie Yukimura, I found her story.
This month, I am posting a series of blogs counting down my top 20 quilts of the year. All the quilts were acquired by the collection in 2017, and they represent four centuries of American quilts. 

Julie Yukimura founded The Kapaia Stitchery of Kauai, Hawaii in 1973. The shop is the longest operating, largest quilting, sewing and fabric supply shop in the region. It started as a yarn shop, but soon, Julie's love of quilting took over. She made Hawaiian scrap quilts, including this one from 1977. When I searched for information about Julie, I found her story. To read more about it, click here.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Top 20 Quilts of 2017: #18, Hand-Painted Bicentennial Quilt

Rebecca Thompson was determined to finish this quilt!
This month, I am posting a series of blogs counting down my top 20 quilts of the year. All the quilts were acquired by the collection in 2017, and they represent four centuries of American quilts. 

Kit quilts are not usually my thing, but this hand-painted Bicentennial quilt grabbed my attention because the maker, Rebecca Thompson of Boaz, Kentucky, started it in 1976 and finished it in 2016. I admire her determination. To read more about it, click here.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Top 20 Quilts of 2017: #19, Velvet Love

I'm crazy about this 1920s velvet crazy block quilt.
This month, I am posting a series of blogs counting down my top 20 quilts of the year. All the quilts were acquired by the collection in 2017, and they represent four centuries of American quilts. 

I love crazy quilts, but have a real weakness for crazy quilts made out of velvet. This one came from an eBay seller in York, Pennsylvania. It is 62" x 62" and includes 16 blocks with crazy patchwork in rich, jewel tone velvets.

Each patch is outlined with feather stitching with a variery of colorful threads. The quilt arrived about a month ago, and it looks like I never got a chance to blog about it previously, but it is one of my favorite purchases of 2017.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Top 20 Quilts of 2017: #20, Andrea Proudfoot's Quilt

Everything new is old again. Pieced alphabets are popular, but nothing new.
This month, I am posting a series of blogs counting down my top 20 quilts of the year. All the quilts were acquired by the collection in 2017, and they represent four centuries of American quilts. 

Everything new is old again. The recent wave of quilts with pieced letters actually has some historical context. Alphabet quilts appeared as early as the late 19th century. They were uncommon, if not rare, but they have surfaced from time to time. Andrea Proudfoot was among the first to copyright her alphabet, and she even quilted the copyright into her quilt!

I blogged about the quilt in March. To view the original blog, click here.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Throwback Tuesday: That Quilt Top

Where have you seen this quilt top before, and who made it?
Seven years ago in October I launched Wonkyworld. Over 1300 posts and more than a million page views later, I'm still blogging. Most of the time I blog about collecting antique and vintage quilts, but sometimes other topics: art, food, health, travel and leisure.

Readers may be familiar with the blue patchwork background, but did you know it is from a quilt top I made more than ten years ago? It was an experiment, made with old denim. I thought I would try to make a quilt inspired by Gee's Bend. At the time, I never expected to have a real Gee's Bend quilt in my collection, so the idea was to make one.

Soon after I started the blog, a bona fide Gee's Bend quilt came to the collection, and I blogged about it here. The stunning discovery helped get the ball rolling for Wonkyworld, and there were many other wonderful revelations to follow. Sometimes the latest discovery is right in front of us, such as the source of the design for the wallpaper at Wonkyworld.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Heart Centered Kirtan

I am incredibly proud of my sister, Libby. She recently released a very special CD called Heart Centered Kirtan with Jeff Martell. The recording is special because it is a celebration of Jeff and Libby's musical legacy following Jeff's untimely death in January 2016.

They were working on the CD at the time, and all Jeff's vocals were recorded. Libby called on friends and musicians to finish creating, recording and producing the music, and the result is a gorgeous, uplifting and emotional tribute to their musical legacy. I cry almost every time I listen to it, full of admiration for Libby, who kept the music alive.


More information from the Heart Centered Kirtan website:

Kirtan is a meditative and energizing practice of devotional call-and-response singing.  The repetition of the phrases combined with the back-and-forth nature of this group practice soothes the mind, creates community, and fosters an awareness of something greater than one's individual self.

Our debut album Heart Centered Kirtan is a tribute to the memory of Jeff Martell and the music that he and kirtan collaborator Libby Volckening made together before Jeff's untimely death in January 2016.  The 10 original compositions weave Sanskrit mantras, hymns and aphorisms from ancient India with Jeff and Libby's own blend of rock, blues, and reggae.  A rousing a capella chorus opens the bluesy first track Om Namah Shivaya, which is followed by two of the livelier tunes on the CD, Govinda Gopala Narayana and Bhagavan Kripalu.  The mood shifts with the tender Om Cecilia, written in praise of the Catholic saint who sang her heart out to God, which features a chorus of heart-melting harmonies.  The next track Even Kali Gets the Blues offers a fierce interpretation of a verse from the Devi Argala Stotram.  Next up is Om Asatoma percolating with percussion, followed by one of the most popular songs of the album Ishvara Pranidhana, inspired by the 12-step slogan "Let go and let God."   The edgy Mahamrtyunjaya Mantra  is intensified by a powerful electric guitar solo, and then the mood lightens with the a sweet interpretation of the classic Purnam Adah shanti mantra.  The album closes with the Saraswati bija mantra, a compelling blend of Martell's rich voice and acoustic guitar interwoven with wistful South Indian flute.  We hope this album makes you want to "Sing all the time!" For more information about Heart Centered Kirtan including a link to buy the CD, click here.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

...because we need a little Christmas...

It's been ten years since I decorated my home for Christmas. I felt a little bad about leaving the decorations in the attic all that time. There were two trees hastily squashed into their original boxes, and bins full of ornaments and other tchotchkes.

Lulu the cat had no idea what was going on, and I was a little worried she would think the trees were toys. Seemed like now she would be old enough to appreciate the Christmas trees and other shiny things. After the large tree was lit last night, she was sitting under it like a good kitty.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Have a great weekend!

Why am I standing in the kitchen in my underwear with a stack of waffles? Because it's the weekend and I'm happy! Have a great weekend!

Friday, December 1, 2017

31 Day Blog Writing Challenge!

"Hi! My name is Bill, and I collect quilts."
Cheryl Sleboda at www.muppin.com is hosting the third-annual 31 Day Blog Writing Challenge, and today is the first day. I participated in the challenge last year, and I think I also did it the year before. So, I thought I'd do it again. I love having the extra motivation to blog in December. Thank you to Cheryl and all participants and readers. To find out more about the challenge, click here

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Goodwill Score

Yesterday was a good day at Goodwill. I was looking for Holiday items, but found this neat little Bicentennial crib quilt. Score! I love rescuing handmade things from Goodwill. The quilt is 40" x 53" and includes machine and hand work with hand quilting.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Holiday Season at Antique Alley

Yesterday I went over to Antique Alley, where I've got a booth and a case. I have enjoyed selling things at the shop during the year, and it's been fun to see the holidays come and go. Dealers bring out items especially for the occasion, whatever the occasion may be.

Now it is the Holiday Season-- Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and any other end-of-year holidays that might be celebrated.

There is an Advent calendar and some Christmas stockings, but most of the items I am selling are not necessarily just for Christmas. 

I've got some glass trees, a framed snowflake doily and cookie tins, along with piles of old quilts and handmade blankets.

I hope someone gets the Advent calendar before the 1st. It's pretty neat, if you ask me.

Antique Alley is located at 2000 NE 42nd Street, Portland, in the 42nd Street Station. The shop is open Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm, Saturday 10am-5:30pm, and Sunday 12-5pm. For more information, click here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Where My Demons Hide" by Frank Palmer

"Where My Demons Hide" 2016, by Frank Palmer, 38" x 47"
A few months ago, I learned Frank Palmer had quilts for sale on his website. The quilts were all great, but this one really jumped out. It is called "Where My Demons Hide" and was completed in 2016 with free-motion machine quilting by Karen McTavish. Frank recently moved from Florida to Duluth, Minnesota to be a quilter in the McTavish Quilting Studio. His client work is stellar, but I'm especially looking forward to seeing more of his personal work. If this quilt is any indication, which I believe it is, he's got the talent to fly high and much to say as an artist.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thank you, frog collector!

I was at Antique Alley last weekend dropping off some new items for my booth when I saw a darling young lady strolling around the shop with a basket and the frog needlepoint pillow from my booth. Later, I found out she was collecting frog items and scoured the shop for all things frog related. She also bought a pill box from my case.

So, thank you to the frog collector. I'm happy she found something she enjoyed. I will make sure to look for other fun frog items to offer. Sales have picked up lately, by the way. If you live in the Portland Metro area or if you're planning to visit, check out my selection of quilty items and other collectible objects at the shop. Antique Alley is located in the 42nd Street Station in the Hollywood District of Portland. For more information, click here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

doppelgänger, y'all

The old applique quilt looked strangely familiar.
Don't you love it when you're looking for one thing and find something else? That's what happened the other day when I was looking through Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Appliqué. I was searching for designs related to the quilt in yesterday's blog post, but the images on page 84 stopped me in my tracks.

Design #16.68, "Cockscombs and Currants" looked identical to the design on the applique quilt I won in a South Carolina auction over the weekend. The source of the design was a quilt on page 46 of "The Quilts of Tennessee: Images of Domestic Life Prior to 1930" by Bets Ramsey and Merikay Waldvogel. I found my copy of the book, and sure enough, there it was-- a four-block rendition of the same exact design.

It's a doppelgänger, y'all! Jane Richey Morelock of Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee made the quilt in the book around 1870. That's the same circa date as the unidentified quilt from the auction in South Carolina. The location of the auction was Camden, which is more than 300 miles away from Morelock's home, Cleveland, Tennessee. Could the quilts be related? Were they made in the same place at the same time by the same hands?

Incidentally, another design from a quilt in my collection appears on the same page in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Appliqué. It is design #16.64 and is referred to as an "Oak Leaf Variant". It appeared on page 39 of "Kentucky Quilts, 1800-1900" from The Kentucky Quilt Project. The quilt was made around 1860 by Mrs. M.E. Poyner of Paducah, Kentucky.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Botanical applique quilt, cottons, unknown maker, United States, c. 1850, 96" x 102"
It was one of those West Coast Sunday night auctions. I had my lucky charm with me. Several of the most prolific antique quilt dealers were in the midst of breaking down their booths at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. Other potential bidders recently dropped a good chunk of change with the same dealers at another event in New Hampshire, hosted by the American Quilt Study Group.

For whatever reason, the potential bidders were absent when the bidding for this magnificent botanical applique quilt opened. What luck! It ended quickly, and the quilt was worth ten times the hammer price. I made out like a bandit. I was also kind of speechless.

It was most likely made in the eastern United States, perhaps the southeast; and it was probably made before the Civil War, when very large, finely made applique quilts were popular. There is some debate about the botanical motif, which appears to be a floral bud or berry. Some folks think it's a strawberry. Others think it's a thistle. I'd like to ask a botanist who has no knowledge of quilts. It would be interesting to hear what they had to say.

There are nine blocks, each with four branches intersecting diagonally with a central flower. The blocks are surrounded by a meandering vine border. The thing is huge-- 96" x 102". It was a beast to photograph, larger than my quilt stand could really handle, but I made it work. The appliqué and quilting were all done by hand, and the quilt was finished with a fine, quarter-inch applied red binding. Wow! Just wow!

Monday, November 20, 2017

weekend auctions

If you like quilts, it was a good weekend for auctions.
A mid-19th century botanical applique quilt from South Carolina was one of two items I won over the weekend at auctions. It was offered by Wooten & Wooten auctioneers in Camden, South Carolina.

The quilt was one of several textile lots in the auction, but the only lot I wanted. It is approximately 74" x 79" and I can't wait to see it in person.

The second quilt was a whimsical piece, most likely made in the first half of the 20th century. It was covered with creatures and critters, and was offered by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries in Maine. The quilt was described as 1920s, but I think it's a bit later than that. The Nile green edge finish may be a good clue.

These photos were from the auction house, the only ones I've got until the quilt arrives. The figures could be appliqued, or they may be drawings with coloring. The grid was visually tied together with a web of dark, chainstitch embroidery.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

unusual applique design

applique quilt, cottons, unknown maker, California, c. 1950, 43 & 1/2" x 49"
Six years ago, Karen Alexander wrote a blog post about an unusual applique design she discovered in an auction. The design was a silhouette, representing a Native American chief wearing a feathered headdress while shooting an arrow. The motif appears elsewhere in decorative arts and folk art, such as sheet metal weathervanes, but is rarely seen in quilts.

Recently, I acquired one of these quilts. It came from an Etsy seller in Three Rivers, California. Other examples share design elements, such as the zigzag sashing, which leads me to believe it was a published pattern at one time. It is red, white and blue, hand appliqued and hand quilted, 43 & 1/2" x 49" and the binding is applied using a matching red fabric. Condition is fair with some fading, bleeding and staining.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Carolina Lily, c. 1865, New Hampshire

Carolina Lily, cottons, unknown maker, New Hampshire, c. 1865, 76" x 82"
A couple weeks ago, Mandy Leins and I were chatting about quilts when she spotted this one on Etsy.  It is a lovely, 19th century Carolina Lily quilt. The Carolina Lily was a popular motif in the middle to late 19th century, and the block included both piecing and appliqué work.

Mandy and I talk about old quilts often. In fact, we just finished working on a new book together. It will feature free motion quilting designs inspired by old, elegant quilts in my collection. The book will be released some time in the next year by C&T/Stash.

We chatted about the Carlolina Lily quilt. It was a bargain. The item description said it was made in the 1930s, but the quilt was surely much older than that. It was a "red, white and green" quilt with Turkey red, cheddar orange and overdyed green. Those fabrics were Civil War era, not Depression era. Obviously, the seller was not a quilt historian.

We decided one of us should really buy it before anyone else discovered it. Since she found it, I let her have first dibs. When she passed, I snapped it up, but I promised to sell it to her at the same price should she ever want it.

The quilt came from a seller in North Carlolina. It originally came from her grandmother who lived in New Hampshire her whole life, although she may have been born too late to be the maker. It was most likely made just after the Civil War, c. 1865. It is 76" x 82" and T-shaped to fit a four-post bed. There are small stains throughout, but mostly on the white fabric. I think it will clean up well.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Collin Ruff Fellows

Collin Ruff Fellows with "Mars" - part of his "Otherworld Visions" series
The quilting community lost a rising star yesterday morning when Collin Ruff Fellows passed away suddenly. He was 49. Collin was a friend. Less than two weeks ago we had dinner with his husband Marlin at Pepitas, their favorite Mexican restaurant. They were excited about the future, and we talked about their upcoming plans.

"Neptune" by Collin Ruff Fellows
There was nothing ordinary about Collin, and that's why I liked him. He was a big, burly guy with lots of ink and piercings. He enjoyed cigars, leather and motorcycles and had a soft spot in his heart for pit bull pups. He was passionate about social justice, especially with regard to the LGBTQ community, and was working on a new quilt exploring social justice themes.

Collin Ruff Fellows
Collin stuck out at quilt shows, but his alternative appearance never fooled me. He was intelligent, articulate, and surprisingly soft-spoken for such a big, bearish man. He was also an unusually talented artist. When I first saw his work, I was so impressed I went directly to my friends who worked in print media. Generation Q Magazine picked up a story last year, and his quilt "Earth" appeared on the cover of the November/December 2016 issue.

More recently, his work was juried in to the upcoming exhibition of quilts by men at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. I urged him to enter, never imagining he would not be here for his museum debut.

"Jupiter" by Collin Ruff Fellows
He was very curious about quilts, especially the history of quiltmaking in America. Whenever he came to visit, he made a beeline to my quilt history books. He worked with a clear sense of historical context and always pushed the boundaries. I photographed some of his quilts from the "Otherworld Visions" series and hoped to photograph "Jupiter", his latest completed quilt before Thanksgiving.

work in progress from the "Otherworld Visions" series
Collin completed several quilts in the series, each representing one of the planets in the solar system. I am not sure how many he finished, but the ones I could find from the series are in this blog. He started making quilts just a few years ago, drawing on his creative experience as an accomplished glass artist and former dealer of vintage mid-century modern collectibles. Decades before getting seriously involved with quiltmaking, he made panels for The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Even though Collin's heart condition was no secret -- he and I both had heart attacks in 2016, and talked about it often -- I am thunderstruck. It reminds me of something people say when they lose a friend or loved one suddenly to a heart attack. "His heart was just too big."

"Earth" by Collin Ruff Fellows
Writing a memorial for Collin is not what I expected to be doing today. Selfishly, I miss my friend terribly, but I was lucky to know him. The world can only wonder what he would have done. At the same time, we are fortunate to have the quilts he left behind. Collin Ruff Fellows will live on through his work.