22 November 2015

Small Wonders at the New England Quilt Museum

The New England Quilt Museum recently received a gift of 29 doll quilts and doll beds made by husband-and-wife Maine craftspeople Lorayne and Lloyd Dodge.  This gift, and the loan to the museum of a collection of small Amish quilts, prompted curator Pamela Weeks to mount a show of over 60 diminutive quilts, entitled Small Wonders, on view through December 26, 2015.

In background, Lone Star crib quilt c. 1900.

Susan A. C. Burnham, Redwork crib quilt, c. 1880.

The purpose of a crib quilt is fairly obvious - a functional child-sized bed covering, but such quilts are also  physical embodiments of the sheltering protectiveness of parenting. But beyond utility, miniature quilts have an appeal all their own. Quite a bit of artistry was expended in the doll quilts on view - even the most simplistic have a thoughtful arrangement of colors, carefully designed borders and, although a doll has no need for a warm bed covering, the doll quilts are nevertheless layered and quilted like their full-sized cousins.

Dodge miniature beds and quilt.

Diamonds in a Square doll quilt, c. 1900.

The tradition of small quilts continues, as artists find the small format conducive to techniques such as embroidery and bead embellishment, which  might be overly time-consuming on a large project, and for the sheer enjoyment, perhaps, of what Tasha Tudor, in reference to doll houses, called "perfection in miniature." 

Ethel Shulam, Golden Ladies, 2004, detail.

Also, with  a reduction in scale comes a freedom to experiment with form, to break free from the rectilinear tradition of bed quilts altogether.

Carol Henry, Callen's Comet, no date.

Many of the quilts, however, use traditional patterns and techniques to create quilts with powerful visual impact in spite of their small dimensions.  Unfortunately, the makers of the 19th and 20th-century small quilts are, for the most part, unknown, as the works were not signed or labelled. If the artist is known, I provide this information in the caption; otherwise the maker is unknown.

Lone Star crib quilt, c. 1900, detail.

Amish Sunshine and Shadow doll quilt, c. 1900.

Nine-patch crib quilt, c. 1900.

Diamonds in a Square doll quilt, c. 1900.

Triangles crib quilt, c. 1850.

The traditional log cabin quilt pattern seems to lend itself particularly well  to just about any scale - the fabric strips, or "logs," can vary in size, the number of logs can vary per block, and the number of blocks can vary as well - the pattern remains visually intact.

Square within a Square doll quilt, c. 1880.

Log Cabin doll quilt, c. 1870.

Miniature quilt-maker, and former Marine, George Siciliano, introduced to quilting by his wife Virginia, creates miniature quilts, using silk fabric in jewel-like tones, which are each a  technical tour-de-force of small-scale log cabin piecing.

Betwixt and Between, George Siciliano, 2012.  2874 pieces.

6522, George Siciliano, 2014.  Title refers to the number of pieces.

Some Assembly Required, George Siciliano, 2013.

Another contemporary quilt maker working in a small scale is Nancy Messier, whose work is shown below, and who uses a variety of techniques in addition to piecing.  On the top row in the image below, the quilts are: left  Shadow Play; right Winter Tree.  The bottom row, from left: Heart Bursting with Love, Shell Seeker, and When I am Old I Shall Wear Purple High Tops.

Small quilts by Nancy Messier.

Nancy Messier used applique techniques is many of her works on display, and although most of the historic small quilts in the show were pieced, there were some examples of quite imaginative applique.

Moon Heart and Star doll quilt, c. 1870.

Since the quilts were made for children, many of them feature wonderful collections of juvenile prints, including the Double-Wedding Ring quilt below.

Double Wedding Ring crib quilt, c. 1930.

An assortment of doll quilts, labelled using Scrabble tiles.

Curator Weeks used an intriguing  method to key her quilts to the wall labels -  Scrabble Set tiles, as shown in the image above. This seems appropriate, as so many of the quilts were accessories for playthings.  Books, in addition to toys, explore our fascination with  the realm of the small as well - Gulliver's encounter with the Lilliputians, and Mary Norton's The Borrowers, the fictional tiny folk who would have loved to have had bed coverings such as these. 

DH photographing miniature quilts by Sheila Holland.

Raggedy Ann, snug beneath her doll quilt.

31 October 2015

By the Yard - two fabric stores in London

The neo-Tudor Liberty store.
During a recent vacation in London, I journeyed to two wonderful fabric stores. No, I didn't visit Liberty, although their Tana lawn is a favorite, and is widely available here in the US and through mail order.   Using my convenient prepaid subway Oyster card,  I went a bit further afield than the Regent Street location of Liberty, to Islington in fact.  After arriving at the Angel Tube station I walked about 10 minutes to Ray-Stitch, my first stop.

Ray-Stitch, in Islington.

Helpful store associate cutting fabric.

This store sells fabric for actually making clothes, as opposed to so-called "quilt" fabrics.  I use many apparel fabrics for my quilts, as the quality is much better, and, honestly, if you are going to spend 100 hours to make something, shouldn't the materials be worthy of your time?

Lots of patterns, notions, other goodies.

Bolts of fabric; cutting table.

Books, magazines and mannequins with samples. Inspirational!

A rainbow of buttons.

My way back to the station took me along a pedestrian street called Camden Passage, with a variety of small boutiques, including vintage clothing stores, and a special destination for this chocoholic: 

Truffle flavors include Bakewell Tart and Pimms Cocktail.

Vintage clothing store, Camden Passage.

I also enjoyed the Loop yarn store, although I have a moratorium on any yarn purchases at the moment.  London shop windows are rewarding for those of us who are easily entertained.

Papier mache mascot by Julie Arkell in Loop's window.

Well, I was almost back at the station when I realized it was lunchtime.  Food is expensive in London, so I went to the Tesco's grocery store across from Islington Green park, bought a salad and a bottled iced tea, and found a bench back at the park. Cheap, good, and with a side order of people watching for free.

Next, onto Berwick Street  (Tottenham Court Road station) and the Soho location of Cloth House.

Shell and horn buttons, ticking, shop sign.

All kinds of fabrics - linen, cotton, technical, knits...

Well, I could have bought everything in this treasure house, but limited myself to some hand-printed fabrics from India.  Students receive a discount here. 

Downstairs for velvet, special occasion fabrics...


Shopping is thirsty work, and I enjoyed tea at Yumchaa, around the corner from the store.  My only regret is that I neglected to buy some of Yumchaa's loose tea to bring home. Maybe they'll come to the States, she thought, with hope...

Busy tea emporium.

Some of my purchases at Cloth House and Ray-Stitch.

05 October 2015

Rising Star Quilt Show 2015

Wall of floral-themed quilts.

Chilly temps, days with less sun - autumn brings a loss of warmth and light; however, there are compensations, such as the  Rising Star quilt guild annual show. On display October 9 and 10, this exhibit was a delight, and some representative quilts are featured below. (Click on any image to enlarge it.)

Summer in a Pot, Janice Shaw.

Many quilts explored a floral theme, including a raw-edge applique portrait of geraniums, by Janice Shaw, based on a pattern by Laundry Basket Quilts.

Summer in a Pot, detail.

It's sometimes difficult to utilize the large-scale fabrics which so many of us love, but Big Poppy succeeds in combing prints in different scales. Artist Bebe Fallick adapted the Big EZ pattern from Bloom Creek for her work.

Big Poppy, Bebe Fallick.

Large quilts and boutique area in Keilty Hall.

The quilts were hung in two areas: the basement of St. Brigid's church, in Lexington, Massachusetts, and in nearby Keilty Hall, seen above. In addition to quilts on display, there were vendors, the guild's own boutique of hand-made items -  a great resource for early holiday shopping -  and, of course, the wonderful bake shop.

Another quilt genre well-represented in the show is the landscape quilt, including Barbara Salamy's delightful original creation below.

Sea, Sky and Sand Dunes, Barbara Salamy.

Atara Halpern reflected on the challenging winter of 2014-2015, during which our entire region developed mass cabin fever.  Ms. Halpern's quilt  - a symphony of applique, beading, and embroidery techniques - showed us coping in our "cabins" by celebrating the holidays and, of course, curling up with good books!  Celebrations of color helped us get through "snowmageddon" too.  Peter Stringham's quilt, below, is based on a pattern from the book "Strip Quilting" by Diane Wold.  For her colorful quilt Love Wins 2015, Kathleen McCormick utilized the pattern "Prism Quilt" by Nancy Rink.

December in New England, Atara Halpern.

December in New England, details.

Autumn Orchard, Peter Stringham.

Love Wins 2015, Kathleen McCormick.

Love Wins 2015, detail.

Quilts can have an impact with a limited color palette too, as demonstrated in the modern quilts below. The quilt  by Missy Shay continues the venerable tradition of red and white quilts, and is based on the pattern "Diamond Alley" by Sassafras Lane Designs; a nice detail of this work is the pieced binding.

For the quilt commemorating her daughter's wedding anniversary, Pat Fryzel combined blocks won in a guild auction.  And in the third quilt below, Modern Sunset, the traditional T-square block becomes contemporary, based on a pattern by Kimberly Einmo, and beautifully machine-quilted by Sue Ahnrud.

Red and White, Missy Shay.

Happy Third Anniversary, Pat Fryzel.

Modern Sunset, Carolyn Bell.

While the modern quilts rely primarily on solids or geometric prints, my beloved plaids were on view too, in a beautiful string-style quilt by Nancy Soyring.  Melissa Radzyminski has combined a plaid fabric and prints in a quilt which, in the best tradition of the medium, makes a useful, lovely object from materials at hand, as the quilt is composed of nine-patch blocks leftover from other projects, and a plaid that was a fortuitous gift.  I love the way the plaids are a tad charmingly askew. 

Plaid X, Nancy Soyring.

Plaid X, detail.
Plaid and 4-Patches, Melissa Radzyminski.

Plaid and 4-Patches, detail.

One of the highlights of the show was a fun, educational display illustrating the History of Quilting, master-minded by Nancy Howard and Julie Neu.  Brief text described, concisely yet comprehensively, each major phase of quilt-making in America, with accompanying small stitched examples.

Quilts illustrating phases of quilt-making in America.

The contributions of quilters of color were acknowledged, with a rare example of a 19th-century menswear pieced quilt, in the Box Cars pattern and utilizing suiting fabrics, shown below.

According to the label information, supplied by quilt owner Delores McCravy:
This Antique quilt was owned by Mrs. Thelma Tate (1905-1998) a long time family friend.  She was born and lived in Rogersville, Hawkins County, Tenn.  Mrs. Tate inherited the quilt, along with a larger one, from her grandmother Louise Porter (1847) who made them. My sister purchased the quilts at a yard sale held, after her death, by her son and daughter-in-law. 

So, this quilt has made quite a journey, from rural Tennessee to suburban Boston.

Finally, a detail of a miniature Baltimore Album quilt, illustrating this genre, by master quilter Nancy Howard.  The block is approximately 3" square, but loaded with expertly designed and stitched detail, not to mention charm.