Vintage View: The Ties That Bind


Last Sunday, my sweetie and I visited Living History Farms, a living history site that includes a recreated, fictional 1875 town, Walnut Hill, Iowa, a 1700 Iowa Indian Farm, an 1850 Pioneer Farm, and a 1900 Farm, built on the original Flynn estate (the Flynn Mansion and Barn are the two structures original to the site).

My favorite building is the Tangen House, a more modest home than the mansion:

There is a wonderful ladies parlor, with an old Howe treadle sewing machine and other handwork tools and samples:

Our reason for visiting was to see the annual display of quilts from the museum collection. (I’ve written about this quilt show in previous years, here and here.) This year’s show was entitled The Ties That Bind.

This quilt is a reproduction, made by museum volunteers, displayed on the bed in the Tangen House:

Does anyone know the name of that block pattern? Linda identified the block from Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia, Tonganoxie Nine Patch, and here is a link to a tutorial on how to make it.

The bulk of the quilt show takes place in the Church of the Land, which was built to commemorate the spot Pope John Paul II said Mass from on October 4, 1979, during his visit to Iowa:

The museum has 360 vintage quilts in the collection; every October they bring approximately 30 of the quilts out to display in the church… on wooden framework, amidst the rearranged pews:

The lighting inside the church makes it difficult to take good photos at times, but I still have some nice shots of vintage beauties to share with you.  I’ll spread this out into more than one post, but today I’ll share three crazy quilts with you that were on display last weekend.

This first one was made entirely of wool scraps (from well-worn clothing, I presume):

(The white rectangle is a label pinned to the quilt for the exhibit).  The seams of this quilt are covered in a wide variety of embroidered crazy quilt stitches, using several different colors of thread/floss.  A true crazy quilt.

The second one was more organized, in what we might call a “wonky log cabin” today:

Made almost entirely from scraps of velvet clothing and upholstery fabric, it is “crazy” in the sense that the “logs” are often made up of scraps pieced together randomly, the lack of true uniformity in the log cabin (the maker intentionally made her log cabin blocks uneven), and of course the decorative, colored, embroidery stitches that cover nearly every seam.  This is one I would have liked to take more photos of, but the lighting simply wasn’t adequate.

The real Crazy Quilt gem is this silk, satin, and velvet crazy quilt with very detailed hand embroidered motifs, dated 1886 in the bottom left quilt block:

The central block is a wildflower motif on tan/brown velvet fabric:

The block you can see just to the left of that center block is an ornately stitched spider web block, using metallic threads on satin and silk fabrics, complete with a sequin spider:

The embroidery on this quilt is a beautiful example of the maker’s handwork skills:

I’ll be back soon to share the pieced and appliqué quilts with you!

What do you think of crazy quilts?  Are you a fan, or not so much?


Exploring in Your Own Backyard

…and discovering a Quilt Show! 

There seems to be a popular new buzzword getting a lot of use these days–a “stay-cation”–where you vacation close to home.  The concept isn’t really new, I’ve always enjoyed exploring my own town, county, state, etc.  As a former Museum Curator and later director, it was part of my job to advocate “looking in your own backyard” for fun things to do, meaning visiting your own local tourist destinations; museums, zoos, parks, etc… But as a museum employee, I also knew MANY people, if not MOST people do not visit the attractions that are close by. 

Two weeks ago, I was looking into a place I’d heard about (while in Minnesota in May) called the Wallace Centers of Iowa.  It’s named for Henry A. Wallace, a native son that served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in the 1930s, U.S. Vice President (during WWII) and Secretary of Commerce following the war.  He also is the founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred, now an international agri-business giant.  The Country Life Center of the Wallace Centers of Iowa is located on the birthplace of Henry Wallace, near Orient, IA.  It’s is approximately 50 miles from where I live, but I’d never even heard of it before May 2011.  When I looked into the website two weeks ago, I saw that they were having a Garden of Quilts show the following Tuesday.  I said “Sweetie, we’re taking a road trip after work on Tuesday–keep your calendar clear!” 

They have amazing gardens on this site, operate a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, educational programs for schools and agricultural groups, a recreated tallgrass prairie-like what once covered most of the state of Iowa, hiking trails, stunning artwork and sculpture among the praire grasses, an orchard, an organic cafe in the barn (above)…and much more.  They have a Farmer’s Garden, a Fairy Garden, a Wedding Garden, a Cottage Garden, A Fishpond Garden, an Herb Garden (outside the door of the cafe kitchen) and Henry’s Garden.
Most of the quilts were on display outdoors, in the gardens, on a very hot and humid July evening. The event takes place every July, and on an evening from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  
The event is a fundraisier for the organization, admission was only $3.00.  Seven quilters had their creations on display as well as some vintage quilts from their personal collections.  Connie Nielsen, her mother and her daughter have all crocheted quilts. These two are 100% crocheted quilts!!!

My favorite vintage quilt was this grandmother’sflower garden with the bold, lime green background:

Also inside the barn is a mural painted by Iowa artist Ray Sorensen, commemorating Henry Wallace and his contributions to American Agriculture.  The pansies and strawberries, though much larger than life, looked good enough to pluck off the wall!

The mural also includes a portrait of Henry A. Wallace, and this quotation “If I were to draw conclusions from my life so far, I would say that the purpose of existence here on earth is to improve the quality and abundance of joyous living.” 

There were art quilts, this is Piqued Peacocks by Cinda Long…

A small modern quilt by Cinda…

This one was titled Bora Bora:

This was part of a row quilt that also included pinwheels, cats, a flamingo and poppies (I’m not sure of the connection between these items, but given where we were, I was enthralled by the ears of corn!):
My sweetie really liked the quilting on this one, and he knew the artwork was Mary Engelbreit.  (I have no idea why or how, but he knew…) 
This was fun, a New York City themed quilt, smack dab in a garden in the middle of rural Iowa:

But my favroite of all was this bright beauty hanging over the railing outside the entrance to the barn cafe:

This is a Lakota Star quilt pattern, made entrirely of bright solids.  Stunning.  Naturally I had to get closer…

And as I did, I noticed someone else admiring the quilt “closer up”!

So, do yourself a favor, look around and see what’s in your backyard, or just down yonder, that you might be misisng out on.  Because, as Henry A Wallace said, “the purpose of [our] existence here on earth is to improve the quality and abundance of joyous living.” 

Vintage View: Lone Star

This is the quilt I slept under Saturday night, at my future MIL’s home. It’s a beautiful 1930s Lone Star Quilt, made by her Auntie Bea and a group of quilting friends in River Falls, Wisconsin. It is in shades of yellow, goldenrod, tangerine and mocha solids, with floral prints alternating every other row.
It’s in amazing condition, I suspect it has been stored more than it has been used over the last 80 years. At my coaxing, when she first showed it to me over a year ago, she took it out of the box and has it proudly displayed on her guest room bed now. It’s beauty cannot be enjoyed when it’s wrapped in tissue in a box, and since this bedroom doesn’t get any direct sunlight, it’s a safe place to display the quilt.The Lone Star quilt is one of the most recognizable, and oldest American quilt patterns. It’s also one of the hardest to master, especially at the time when this one was made, before rotary cutters, plexiglas templates and rulers, or Accu-cut machines. This would have been made with a hand-drawn and hand cut paper or cardboard template, each diamond-shaped piece individually traced onto fabric and cut out with a scissors. Getting precise points, intersections, and seams like this one has, would have been difficult, if not nearly impossible. The makers of this quilt, Auntie Bea and her friends, were obviously skilled and experienced quilters. It appears to have been machine pieced, but hand quilted. Maybe someday I can take it outdoors and get some better pics of it.
I’m not sure what it measures, but that is a full-size (double) bed in the photo. It is a very large star, and the star is the entire design, as the quilt has no borders on it. Just guessing, it is probably 90″ square. You can read more about the history of this quilt pattern here.

Vintage View: Scrappy Stars

I like to show the vintage pieces in my collection on occasion. Today it is a bright, cheerful, and well-used quilt that came my way last year…isn’t it fun, in a sort of “summertime fresh”, unsymmetrical, fun sort of way? I love that it’s very much a “make do with what you have” type of design, some of the blocks match on all eight outer quadrants, but some don’t.

It’s like she just thought, “well I don’t have enough of the red floral to finish this block…oh well, I’ll just use this brown calico square instead.” Utility reigned over beauty in this creation.

But the scrappy-ness of it is beautiful in it’s own right, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, the utilitarian work of this quilt nearly took it’s life completely… Who knows how many times it was washed in lye soap and hung in the sun to dry? Only the quilt knows, and it shows, right down to the batting…

I also acquired a fun little collection of vintage wooden spools over the last few weeks:

The two items at the far left were in the box as well, an almost three-inch diameter Bakelite button, and a wooden darning gourd. My sweetie has gotten really good at spotting vintage sewing supplies, machines and notions when perusing antique shops and flea markets.

I love this one with the kitty-cat motif on it:

And don’t you wish you could buy 3 yards of SILK embroidery thread for a nickel?

I’ve added them to my canning jar of wood spools, wood needle cases and clothespins.

I have many more vintage buttons than this, they just aren’t shown here! The Ball jar on the right holds wool beads I purchased from Handbehg Felts. They make a bright, fun quilt studio decoration, until I get around to using them…

Do you have vintage sewing or domestic goodies in your home?

Vintage View–WWYD?

…..what would you do?  Let’s assume this unfinished quilt (top only) was made by one of your now deceased aunts.  She made many quilt tops over the years, even quilted a few, and this log cabin is the one your mother gifted to you, the others went to your siblings and cousins.  

It’s big, King size, about 92 x 110 inches, beautifully laid out, made up of cotton, cotton blends, seersucker, and various other clothing scraps from the first half of the 20th Century.

It would be nice to have it quilted, but there’s a problem.  Auntie worked with fabrics of various weight and stretch, and occasionally she had to “ease” fabric in to get her logs to the correct length.  As a result, there is a pleat or a pucker or two here and there…some tiny, some significant…

The edges of the quilt top aren’t very straight as a result…

Quilting it on a home machine would be a major headache just for the sheer size of the quilt, not to mention the fact that is isn’t flat and straight…

So, what would you do?
a)  Leave it as is, and store it in a drawer or closet?
b)  Tie quilt it with floss, like many were originally finished like in that era?
c)  Attempt to hand quilt a very ripply top?
d) any other ideas….?
It’s not mine, but I agreed to look it over for a friend and give them advice and possibly a quote for finishing it off for her.  I’m really somewhat stumped, so any thoughts you can give me are very much welcome and appreciated!