Saturday, July 27, 2013

Where have I been?

Twenty days ago I wrote my last post on this blog.  After a very eventful busy June, I was catching up with an overview of our Documentation Days.
The next day, Saturday July 8, I went to the Farmers Market in West Bend, and came home with this wonderful haul.

Fruits (strawberries, blueberries, two kinds of cherries), vegetables (broccoli, garden peas, new potatoes, green beans), chicken, pork roast, eggs, smoked salmon, and even a few flowers.
I spent the rest of the day Saturday cleaning strawberries to eat, freezing blueberries, blanching and freezing peas and broccoli, and making cherry jam.  It was a wonderful day, just my kind of summer Saturday.  
To round things off, I spent the evening finishing a baby quilt for charity.  I got as far as starting to sew the binding on before I went to bed.
The next day, on Sunday, I was happily working in the yard and garden, when I fell backwards over a short fence.  I shattered a bone in my back.  So I had some new experiences.  I was carried out of my house on a backboard, and rode in an ambulance to the hospital.  I had a Cat Scan, the kind where you go inside the machine.  And I had to stay in the hospital, which I had not done since my youngest child was born 28 years ago.
It turns out I had osteoporosis, and never knew it.  Thanks to the staff at Community Memorial Hospital, and especially Dr. Braun, I am on the mend.  I had a procedure (not thankfully an operation) where a special kind of glue was injected into the bone.  It was amazing.  An hour later the pain was gone.  The day after the procedure I was able to come home.
My husband has been wonderful, taking over the work and looking out for me.  As I get better, I've been adding more chores as I feel able to do them.  I had a cane to walk with when I came home, but I hardly use it at all now.  My worst problem is not being able to sit for very long at a time.  My back gets sore, and I have to lie down.
After only being home a couple of days, I was really itching to work on a quilt project.  But sitting at the machine was just not possible yet.  My only hand work project on my Pick Six list was hand quilting my great grandmother's top, but it was just too hot for that, and the angle I had to sit at wasn't right for nice small stitches.
So, having broken my back, I decided it was okay to break my rule, and work on projects that were not on the Pick Six list. One afternoon I went down to the basement and hunted up some hand projects that were already started.  

These pink baskets are an Ebay find from way back.  The print fabric in the small triangles is probably from the 1940s.  Somebody had started adding sashings to them in the 1960s or 1970s, and had finally given up.  I had always meant to take the sashings off.  This was something I could do flat on my back.  Now they're ready for the next step, when I'm ready for them.
Ripping was useful, but not that satisfying.  I like making things.  So my next project was embroidery.

This set was also a Ebay find.  The blocks were tinted on the background, and the first owner did the outline embroidery.  Of the 18 blocks, 12 were completely finished, and 6 needed the black embroidery done.  This kept me busy off and on for a couple of days.
Using Rose Werner's excellent site, I found out these blocks were offered to the public by the Vogart company in fall 1946/spring 1947, and were sold at Woolworths. The quilting lines are still on the blocks.  I will probably set them with solid blue alternate squares.
Now what?  On to applique!
I had several projects to choose from, but decided to work on my Ohio Rose.
More stuff from Ebay!  Many years ago, around Valentine's day, a seller offered what he/she called heart shaped quilt pieces.  As soon as I saw the pictures, I knew what they were--the pieces for an Ohio Rose quilt from the Mountain Mist pattern (#20).  The pieces were cut and hand basted, ready for applique, except there were no green pieces and no white background squares.  Nobody bid except me, and I got them for $10.00.  They sat in the box for a long time, until I bought a used copy of the pattern, also on Ebay.  The pattern also contained the templates, cut from an old cardboard box of crackers.  Handwritten on the pattern in pencil is:  "Here is one I offer if you can use it.  I won't I know the way my arm been.  Lola".

I always like to take a handwork project on vacation, so I worked up a few blocks when we went to Florida last August.  I had to supply the green solid and cut those pieces from the template, plus the white for the background.  Miraculously, there are exactly enough of the pink pieces for the twelve blocks the pattern calls for.  I found vintage thread in my collection to match the colors fairly well.  I had 3 blocks finished when we got back, and that's all the further I got.
Yesterday, I made a block from start to finish.  I finally went to bed and left taking out the basting for this morning.

My applique is not perfect, of course, but I am enjoying it.  It will be a pretty quilt someday.  And only 8 more blocks to go!

Look what my friend Debbie sent me!  Hexies, cut from some of our favorite reproduction fabrics, plus the papers to sew them English paper piecing style!  She even sent the pattern, so I can add to it.  She is always so thoughtful.
I'm getting better every day.  My doctor and I are going to work on strengthening my bones, probably with medication(s).  I'm going to start a water exercise class at the Y next week, plus just spend some time walking around the park near our house.  Whatever I can do to make progress, I will do.
As I heal, I will stitch by hand.  I won't be flying along at my usual pace.  But the time will not be wasted.  I'm going to spend some time taking care of me.  I'm letting this experience teach me what is important, and what isn't.
Many thanks to everyone who has been so kind to me.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Strawberry Festival Quilt Documentation

Every year during Strawberry Festival, we document quilts at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.  I have the honor to be the Documentation Chair, which basically means I get things ready and keep things going through the day.  
I got there early, before the museum opened, and spent some time taking pictures outside.  Above is the museum entrance (there's a handicap ramp on the side).

It wasn't so long ago that the barn pictured above was all we had of the museum, before it was restored and remodeled.  For years we held our documentations in this barn.  I would unlock the padlocks when I arrived, stomp and holler a little to warn the critters (like mice and frogs and snakes), and open the big sliding door on the other side.  We had electricity, which meant lights and an old refrigerator, but the barn always had to be cleaned a day ahead, and items left out tended to be a little damp the next day.  If it rained, water came in the open door.
I don't miss those days.  We now have a modern building, much better lighting, real restrooms (not port-a-potties) and even air conditioning.  I am grateful every day for all the volunteers who worked for so many years to make this museum a reality, and all those who are still working every day to keep it going.
The quilts at this year's Strawberry Fest were wonderful.  We saw 5 log cabin quilts of different varieties, 3 crazy quilts, 3 embroidered quilts (from the same family), 2 wholecloth and 1 almost wholecloth (it had a border), plus nine patch, Dresden plate, basket, 8 pointed stars, and many others.  Lots of different historical time periods were represented as well, from the 1840s to just last year.  Our largest group was made in 1930-1949, which is no surprise since we always see lots of quilts from that huge quilt revival.  But we also saw 6 quilts in the 1876-1900 range and 6 more from 1950-1975.
Here are some of the quilts brought to be documented:
A log cabin, the courthouse square variety.

Here's a detail.  Such great old fabrics.

Here's an interesting novelty technique.  The quilt is made of triangles which are sewn "quilt as you go" style.  The quilter cut a square of fabric and another square of flannel.  She folded the fabric around the flannel (which serves as batting), sewed it shut, and quilted it.  Then she whip stitched finished triangles together.

This photo shows the back, where you can see the whip stitching.

A wonderful log cabin in the barn raising setting.

A pair of quilts donated to a local museum.  The pattern is pineapple log cabin.

This is an original!  The maker appliqued her son's toddler clothes to a background square, and used the quilt as you go technique to quilt them.  As an added surprise, on the back of each square is appliqued the back of the outfit!  She didn't finish it until he had graduated from high school.

A wonderful scrap quilt.

A mostly-silk log cabin.

Almost a wholecloth quilt, this is stunning when hung.

Signed and dated in embroidery, this quilt was made in 1895.

An embroidered State Birds quilt, with only 48 states.  (This helps with dating!)

An amazing Dresden Plate quilt, in very good condition.

A beautiful embroidered quilt, in perfect condition.  The owner even has the booklet the pattern came from.

Stunning!  Tiny blocks with more than 20 pieces in each one.

Here's a detail of the quilt above.  Sadly, nothing is known of the maker.

Over the course of two days, we documented 30 quilts.  I am now in the process of scanning the forms and sending copies of them to the owners.
No matter how many times we do this, we always see something different.  Each quilter takes this art form, and makes it her own.  And this infinite variety is what makes this work so interesting.
Eventually, all these quilts and more will be on the Quilt Index website (
As an extra bonus, a famous quilter stopped by on Sunday (June 23) to watch.  It was Victoria Findlay Wolfe, and she mentioned us on her blog!  Here's the link:
Have you had your quilts documented?  I have to admit, I've only had one of mine done!