Sunday, August 31, 2014

Changing Times: The Internet - Slow Killer of the Print Industry

Changing Times

Time was when I would purchase a news magazine such as Time and it would actually have many more pages than now. Today, the print is so small in some magazines that I can barely read them.

When I first started to quilt, quilt history books were very few. Quilt magazine titles were scarce, the main magazine being Quilter's Newsletter magazine. The American Quilt Study Group had a small roster of women. The program to certify appraisers was just beginning. Today, every state of the union has at least one certified quilt appraiser. To say that "things have changed" is an understatement.

When I wrote a comprehensive book about quilt care, there was very little posted online about the topic. Meanwhile, everyone and their uncle became a sudden expert and in some online articles that were a thinly-veiled repeat of what I had written, information was shared, some of it true and some (additions) to it false.

There has been a whole series of books written about medieval quilts. Quilt retreats abound and big prize money is available to quilters who win awards. The American Quilt Museum is filled with prize-winning quilts for which their makers have taken a cash prize in exchange for the museum keeping their quilt in perpetuity.

Bob Dylan was prophetic when he sang the words, "The times they are a-changin'."

The Internet seems to have taken over. Everyone (except me, I imagine) owns a Smartphone or an Ipad, or uses a Wifi connection). Everyone (except me) "texts" - What happened to talking with people in real time?

The Internet is killing the market for quilt shops that used to give classes, and for print sources that could be purchased (books, etc.). I have been guilty myself of providing detailed written information and lots of photos...for free...on my Internet site (, a site currently under my review.

Today, old patterns are treated as though they are fantastic "new" discoveries. Online entities provide directions for hexagons, and the latest craze/phase of quilting involves using lots of (white) background areas so that more machine quilting can be done on quilts in the "modern quilt movement." As far as I can see, the quilts take old patterns and use large scale fabric but there is really nothing terribly "new" or "modern" otherwise about the quilts. I suspect that the "modern art movement" is a set of words to help young people think that they are "hep" and doing something totally different than making Grandma's quilts.

It is all good except for the fact that print magazines are suffering and going out of business. That has been a problem for the past 10 years. If people do not buy a magazine or take a subscription, the print material goes away forever.

We are changing. It is true. However, I have lived long enough and suffered enough losses to say that I miss a lot of what was "good" in the past. Yet, I realize that we must embrace the future and the new capabilities that technology provides. I already feel like a dinosaur by not being a Smartphone user or text-er. From what I hear though, that very fact may keep me out of trouble.

People my age who have been in on the quilt revival since the beginning and have saved magazines now find ourselves with the dilemma of downsizing some of them. To me and to others who love print sources, it is a joy to pick up a new magazine and hold it in our hands. I hope there are a few more dinosaurs around and that print publications can survive the latest onslaught of "free" information online. Long live printed resources!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014



Patricia L. Cummings

Stories. We all love them. We all repeat them and find them a fascinating link that reveals human behavior. We often repeat stories that tell a cautionary tale. Often, we do not know or cannot prove that a story is true or not, especially ones from the distant past outside of our experience and our own life spans.

Personal Experience with Stories

As an observer of human behavior, I love stories, especially funny ones. Stories can also be upsetting when they are not truthful. Someone, okay...a close relative who either does not know me well or chooses to just make up her own version of my life has repeated constantly that I live in Boston (never did); and that I possess a master's degree in Spanish (at one time I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in Spanish but did not follow that path, opting for building a family instead. The thing is...the story could be true! I had majored in Spanish, lived in Spain, and had earned 48 credits in Spanish when only 32 were needed, and graduated with honors, in Spanish, and in general! The story seems to ring true that I might have pursued an additional degree.

Challenge to Researchers

You can imagine how difficult it is for researchers to find out whether or not something really happened. As stories go, they can become more and more embellished as they are repeated again and again. Oral history is important but cannot be totally relied upon.

The Mayflower v. the Angel Gabriel

When studying a quilt that reportedly came from the Old World to the New World in 1635, lots of conflicting "facts" emerge. The quilt was called "The Mayflower Quilt" yet, it did not arrive on "The Mayflower" ship. I tried my best to piece together the pieces of the puzzle as they emerged about this quilt that is now owned by a museum. The style of the wholecloth quilt appears to be one called trapunto and I was told that it was an "indigo style" quilt. I assured the owners that indigo is the color of a thread, not a quilt style. They are not quilt specialists and clearly were relying on written provenance records in the museum.

Pemiquid Lighthouse and Museum that set high above Pemiquid Harbor. They are
                  administured by the U.S. Coast Guard. The park itself, a state park, is accessible by admission

Wrong Location

Only after we had gone to Maine to take photographs of the area where the quilt is reported to have been carried ashore did we learn that the location we assumed had been the correct one was not. The area is 3-4 miles south of Pemiquid Point. The galleon that brought the quilt and members of the Cogswell family (and others) was named Angel Gabriel. The year was 1635 and the great ship was headed from Bristol, England to a land area called Bristol (in what is now the state of Maine). After the galleon was anchored in Pemiquid Harbor, the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 came up the coast from Narragansett, Rhode Island, smashing the ship to smithereens. A few crew hands and cattle were lost but the terrified pilgrims who had already been transported ashore via canoes and rowboats  met with an horrifying act of Nature.

More Questions

There is much more to know. We have only a story upon which to rely, one passed by family lore. Was the quilt truly aboard the Angel Gabriel? Was it made in England or was it an import from an Italian or French atelier? Was the quilt owned by the Cogswell family? If the story is fictional, why was it made up? Oh, I can think of many other questions to which there are no ready answers.

Women's Work

Textiles, often the work of women, are so common, their story is often lost, the same questions that I ask in my research: Who made the item, why was it made, when was it made, and how did it come to be passed along over many years. Often, too, textiles are procured outside of family hands when it is time to downsize or someone decides they have owned a quilt or other textile long enough. As a quilt historian, I try to save the "facts," a problem that is elusive when no clear facts are there to find.

Spin a Tale / Life is but a Dream

We can only enjoy what "seems" to be true. The value of any story, as I have learned, is its reflection on human activity. Yes, to a degree, stories belong to the "dreamers." As a Spanish writer, Calderon,   once wrote, "Life is a dream."

Wrong Location

Only after the article I published was in print did I learn that the two markers at Pemiquid Point, placed by family members, are not physically-located correctly. The Point is not where the pilgrims came ashore but it is the only location where permission could be obtained to place the two plaques. An old fort south of that area is flat and has a beach area which was suitable for the disembarking adventurers who sought religious freedom and monetary gain in the New World.

The Quilter magazine - Out of Business

I wrote about the quilt and showed photos of it in a recent article in The Quilter magazine. As an update for those who do not know, the magazine, owned by All-American Crafts Publishing, Inc., is now out of business as of 8-8-2014, having declared bankruptcy.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bluebirds, Nothing but Bluebirds

Bluebirds, Nothing but Bluebirds

Patricia L. Cummings

A favorite quilt pattern is one that features appliqu├ęd Bluebirds. I have spotted it in three of my quilt books, two of them offering photos and one of them providing a pattern to make a miniature quilt. Mini Quilts from Traditional Designs by Adele Corcoran and Caroline Wilkinson (Sterling Publishing Co., 1995) offers a pattern. The quilt was again published in The American Quilt Story: The How~To and Heritage of a Craft Tradition by Susan Jenkins and Linda Seward (Rodale Press, 1991). One of the "just pretty pictures" book, America's Beautiful Quilts by Zaro Weil lists a date of 1952 and states the quilt shown was made in Tennessee and is in a private collection. I recall reading (somewhere) that this is a 19th century  (1800s) quilt design.

Miniature Bluebird Quilt made by Patricia Cummings. Photo styling by Patricia Cummings and photo by James Cummings

Here is a miniature quilt that I made. The repeated blocks are about 4 1/2"  square. I made this one exactly according to the book's directions and enjoyed the process.

Like rainbows and butterflies, bluebirds can be a symbol of hope as well as a sign on an impending summer. Though out of season at the moment, the mere thought of bluebirds makes me feel happy at a time when sadness crept into my life with the demise of The Quilter magazine, my main outlet for published feature articles.

Signs are present that autumn is coming soon. Moose are ambling about more freely during this, the "rut" season when they seek a mate. We saw a moose this week on a trip to the Colebrook and Pittsburg NH area. Underfoot, whenever passing under Maple trees, tiny colored leaves are strewn on our path. The nights cool off to the point of pulling up a second bed covering, and the garden is producing more vegetables and berries to the point that it is difficult to keep up with processing the harvest by canning and freezing.

Every season has its own advantages. In New Hampshire, the only hope of seeing a bluebird is in late spring or during the summer. They prefer to nest in boxes near farms. By making a Bluebird quilt, I can enjoy the birds year 'round. Just looking at the quilt I made a number of years ago makes me feel happy. Wishing you rainbows, butterflies, and bluebirds in your life and anything else that makes you happy!

Our minds are keen! We can visualize that which is not present and remember song lyrics such as "Bluebirds, nothing but bluebirds from now on."

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Demise of The Quilter Magazine by All-American Crafts, Inc.

I am extremely sad tonight to report that the final issue of The Quilter magazine was published and it was to be the last. On Friday afternoon, operatives at The Quilter magazine shut their doors to future business leaving unpaid bills and unhappy workers who have given beyond their "all" to the company.

As a free-lance writer, I contributed more than 90 articles since September 1999. I wrote steadily for 15 years, coming up with ideas that enchanted my editor, Laurette Koseroski. Now, she is no longer my editor, just my friend in a deep friendship we forged over time in working together. The pity of the situation is that I just wrote what she deemed to be my best article ever. I signed the contract and now, the article will not be published in The Quilter. My husband and I worked very hard and had a large outlay of time and money for the two-part article. With publication grinding to a halt, it will not be published.

There is no doubt that I am of retirement age and my editor is the same age as me. I am not sure what is next. I have some writing projects in mind as well as some quilt projects. It does seem that whenever a door closes, a window seems to open. Like someone told me today,"If you give up hope, Pat, you might as well be dead." I have not given up hope. I am a self-starter who is always busy and I find plenty of work to do, paid or unpaid.

I want to thank Laurette for being such a fan of my work and strong supporter (and friend). I am thankful for the thousands of readers who have read the pages of the magazine on a regular basis. It is always hard to say good-bye. In a sense, I am happy to have this blog and my website (yes, it is still there) and will share information and my quirky thoughts as they happen. Thanks for being along for the ride.

Patricia Cummings

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Fascination with Toads

Fascination with Toads

Patricia L. Cummings, 8-10-2014

Today on my daily walk, I passed a stone wall that abutts the new sidewalk courtesy of Concord, NH. At the bottom of said stone wall, I saw something move at the corner of my eye and when I looked a little closer I saw it was a baby toad. This is a good year for toads. I see them in our user-friendly yard probably because Jim does all the mowing by hand not by electric means which results in less attrition of amphibians in the yard. He even build a little toad house in the garden when they can find shade and water. Can you tell we love Nature?

This is a ceramic (salt and pepper) shaker), one of my favorites.
Photos by James Cummings

I have been fascinated with toads since I was a child. Now I wonder what they eat and how they stay alive, being so close to the ground. My guess is that they eat insects, maybe with any luck, they eat ticks. Thinking about toads after seeing one today has renewed my faith. After all, "God" or whatever you call a Higher Presence is keeping the little toad alive. It was so like neighboring twigs the same color, it is a miracle I spotted it at all.

Surprises in the Garden

One time, at the end of gardening season, I was pulling up spent flowers and spotted what I thought was a rock. When I went to reach for it, it moved. The object was a Granddaddy Toad who had burrowed into what he thought would be a good place to overwinter. At that point, I left him to his own devices and left plenty of foliage around him to assist him. Nearby, there was a yellow and black Garden Spider, a spectacular sight. I did not attempt to kill it, such as beauty that it is, and harmless to humans in spite of its intense color that would make anyone think it is poisonous.

We are Part of the Greater Plan

We are only part of NATURE. Take a walk and look around. There is all kinds of inspiration. Today, I saw that the Mullen plants are tall and full of yellow blossoms which will eventually attract yellow goldfinch to its seeds. The Concord grapes along a patch of the sidewalk has ripening grapes that are beginning to show a deep purple color. Our garden is filling our table with abundant and healthy vegetables of all kinds.

Plant a "Promise" in the Ground

"It's a time to reap, a time to sow." The earth is blessing us with abundance all for planting a "promise" in the ground (as a folk song's lyrics say). If we take care of Nature, Nature will take care of us. Home gardening is fun, even if it is pot gardening, if you have an apartment.

A Time to Reflect

Today I really enjoyed my brief stroll up the road. It is always fun to check in on the neighbors and their attempts to beautiful their landscape by adding garden ornaments or by changing the configuration of plantings in their yards. I can say that at least for the moment all seems "right" in my world. I hope that you will take the time to explore Nature in your own backyard. There is room for us all.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Where Woodworking and Quilting Intersect

Not surprising, there are many men who quilt today. It is not surprising because quilting and woodworking have a lot in common. Boards have to be mitered so that corners will set just right. Today, I watched PBS, a show that showed the assembly of a unique rectangular, upright box in which a light bulb was secured. Glass units were made that were melded together at 1500 degrees. They were diamond shapes and by using three different colors of glass the effect is "Tumbling Blocks," just like the quilt pattern made by President Calvin Coolidge when he was a youth. (Read more about that in a recent issue of The Quilter magazine.)

Today, there is less obsuring of the lines of what activities are acceptable for both sexes. Women are becoming engineers, and men are serving as fashion designers. There is no limit when it comes to choosing a satisfying career. The problem is that 18 year old children simply cannot make good choices.

We ask our children to decide what profession they would like, at an early age, before they have tasted the world and explored a lot of possibilities. As for myself, I thought I would enjoy being a Spanish teacher. I found that I liked very much being a secretary/word processor. Once introduced to quilting, I found I liked that even more - that, and of course, writing about quilts and their history; writing patterns, articles and books. We never know where life will take us. In our case, life has taken us all over New England and to meet people that we would not otherwise have met, had I not become a quilter.

I find it curious that if you speak with many quilters, they will mention that their husband either "taught shop" or are active woodworkers. The two activities, quilting and shop work, seem to go hand in hand. I can think of two items that were given to me. One is a key chain composed of different colors of wood. The other is a free-standing lined box and has a top in the shape of a quilt block. Both are beautiful! I do not have photos to share with you at the moment as my photographer is busy. Soon...

Patricia L. Cummings

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's All in the Words We Use

This morning, lacking nothing to do that was pressing, I switched on the television. Since the last show I watched (last night) was about Mark Twain, the channel that came up was Channel 2, WGBH. The current program was Sesame Street. Wow! The show has really changed considerably since I last watched it with my son in the early 1970s. My take-away has enchanted me all day. Two characters were discussing problems and how to get rid of them and one told the other that it is important to "twinkle think."

The word "twinkle" is a curious one. We speak of Santa Claus with a "twinkle in his eye" or apply the same idea to a young man who smitten by a young lady. Twinkle-think connotes using magic, entertaining many different ideas, and having fun finding a solution. I could suddenly see that I had been "twinkle thinking" when I turned on the television. My problem of "what to do next" was solved and I now have a new set of words to add to my own thought processes.

I have to admit having been in love with Kermit the Frog from the first time I ever saw him. I especially loved the song "Rainbow Connection" - "for lovers, and dreamers, and me."

This afternoon, wanting a small dose of politics, I tuned into a segment on MSNBC's "The Cycle" program. I usually enjoy watching shows like that when I have time. A guest who has written a book was talking about how, in past times, people would talk to each other in neighborhoods and communities. Now, it seems to him, people congregate on the Internet in groups that line up with their religious interests, specific hobbies (like quilting!), or other common factors such as family. There is simply not much time for socializing with real people in person.

It is true. The Internet can suck up hours of time, one reason I deleted my personal Facebook account, and have not been spending a lot of time online. As a person who loves thoughts, it was refreshing today to be able to watch two different shows that clearly gave me some things to consider.

Wishing you time to enjoy the fast-passing summer days and to just spend a little time twinkle-thinking. May all your dreams come true.

Patricia Cummings

Friday, August 1, 2014

Billings Farm & Museum - Fun with Quilts!

These days seem like the lazy days of summer especially when the heat and humidity do not inspire us to do much. Yet, we do what needs to be done anyhow. Jim just picked the first quart of Blackberries for the year and hastened to make a Blackberry crisp. He is so resourceful. The key to a happy life is using what you have and not wasting a thing.

Covered bridge in Woodstock, Vermont not far from the Billings Farm and Museum

Yesterday was special. We were once again invited to the opening of the quilt exhibit at Billings Farm and Museum. The number of quilts seemed fewer this year but it was clear that the quilters all took great care in their work for this juried exhibit which awards ribbon prizes for the winners. To enter, once has to be a member who lives in Windsor County, Vermont.

"Dance of the Dragonflies" by Cynthia Dalyrmple is my favorite this year. It is machine pieced and machine quilted

Among the many compelling quilts, the one I liked the best was made by Cynthia Dalrymple. The pastel background colors are very pleasing and the theme is a fun one. I believe the signage stated that this was from a pattern. She added beads for the "eyes" of the dragonflies. The borders pick up the same colors of turquoise (so "in" this year) and purple. Pinwheel blocks are situated in each outer border's corners.

I enjoyed picking the colors for this Dresden Plate quilt pillow I made.
Here it is seen sitting on the loveseat in my den where I have a "books" throw cover

I have not been idle. A week or so ago, I made a Dresden Plate circular pillow. I have set aside some large hand quilting projects until fall when I'll feel more like working on them. Happy Quilting! Enjoy the little things. They are all little things that make up the essence of life!  Pat