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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

As I write this blog on New Year's Eve, I am reminiscing about my family of origin and its holiday traditions. One of those centered around the "New Year's Baby" who brought a pile of bright shiny new pennies and left them on the fireplace for the children to find on New Year's Day. The pennies would always have the new "year" inscribed on them. My Dad worked in a Credit Union and probably that accounts for his early accessibility to the latest issue of coins. The pennies were meant to bring good luck in the New Year!

My mother was a cake baker. Her favorite cake to make was a recipe called "Happy Day Cake" - just a plain white cake that could be decorated in any manner one saw fit depending on which holiday we were celebrating. She liked to purchase little decorations of various kinds to place on top of the frosted cake. No holiday would be complete without a cake baked by Mom.

New Year's Day did not mean the end of the holidays for us. We all knew that the Epiphany or "Little Christmas" was still to come on January 6, a day also known as the Feast of the Three Kings. It was not until recently that I realized the symbolism involved in the gifts to the Christ Child brought by the Three Kings:  frankincense, gold, and myrrh. Incense was used by the high priests; gold was a symbol that Christ was born a "king"; and myrrh is a fragrant gum resin used to prepare certain perfumes used in funerary ceremonies. In this case, it was meant to symbolize that Christ was born to die in order to fulfill a divine plan.

I hope that wherever you are and however you welcome in the New Year, you are safe, happy, and looking forward to positive experiences in 2016! We all have so much for which to be thankful, including the gift of life itself. Enjoy the celebrations!

Happy Trails to you in 2016!

Patricia Cummings

Saturday, December 26, 2015

On Quilting: An Essay

As far as I know, none of my ancestors were quilters. After spending many years engaged in other needlecrafts, mainly embroidery, I came to quilting around 1985 when a quilt shop opened in my city. It was love at first stitch! Now, 30 years later, I cannot imagine what my life would have been like had I not become an avid and active quilter. There would have been no trips to quilt shows, no sewing late into the night, no perusing quilt magazines to see the latest tools and quilts, nor would there have been any quilting companions. In no time at all, I gave up my "day job" to become a full-time quiltmaker, learning all the "tricks of the trade" and working steadily for 9 years to become certified as a "master craftsman in quiltmaking" through the E.G.A. program.

Two concurrent activities occurred. I began collecting every book I could find on the subject of quilts, not just pattern books, but books about state documentation projects and books about quilt history. Lo and behold, I bought an antique quilt top as a "study" piece. After reproducing it, I offered an article about it to a magazine and the editor loved it (and published my finished quilt along with directions for making it). I came to love antique quilts and began writing about them. For 15 years (until 2014), I had my own column in a magazine and wrote for other magazines as well, meanwhile writing a number of books.

Antique quilts are charming! They can be tattered, having been well-loved and well-used, but they retain a certain charm. Like children, we do not love them because they are perfect; only because they "are." In fact, imperfection is one of the expected and accepted qualities of anything aged. We accept the wrinkled face of our grandmother because we known that she has earned every line. We appreciate the nicks and scratches of old furniture, proof that a piece has had a former "life."

When we look at an old quilt, we sometimes want to imagine how it looked before it became faded or torn, before a mouse chewed a hole in it, or before the binding became so war-worn. Yet, we can look at that same quilt and simply marvel at the wonderful and tiny hand-quilted stitches or the fine appliqué, or exquisite Redwork embroidered motifs.

A favorite vintage quilt has a rather frayed binding 


Bed quilts, due to their utilitarian nature, are often not well-cared for. That trend seems to be changing due to the current emphasis by institutions such as the International Quilt Study Center to share quilt care information with the public, and books (such as my book, Straight Talk About Quilt Care). Ever since the 1960s when the first quilt exhibition happened where quilts were displayed vertically, and the subsequent 1971 pivotal exhibit of Amish quilts at the Whitney Museum in New York, quilts have been elevated to a new dimension of fabric art.

I am happy to be a quilter at this point in time when quilts are seen as the art objects they truly represent. Any time color and design come together, art is created, a fact somewhat taken for granted over the centuries, it seems, where quilts are concerned. Today, we live in a world of abundant color and design as new quilts are being made, sometimes inspired by quilts of the past and in other instances, brand new designs. It is a blessing to feel part of a greater community, the "quilt community." And, the Internet is greatly responsible for helping like-minded folks share their love of the art of quilting, as well as antique quilts. Quilting changed my life. I cannot imagine not being a quilter.

Happy Quilting!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Postcard - World War I

A cottage industry emerged in France during World War I. Skilled needleworkers used silk threads and silk ribbon to create amazing pillow covers but also postcards that military personnel could purchase and send home to a loved one. Some of the postcards were more colorful than others and many carried a heartfelt message.

"Joyeux Noel" World War I postcard shows holly and a beribboned basket


The postcard I am showing here today says "Joyeux Noel" ("Merry Christmas" in French). Many of these old items show some age stains, as does this one. When it was new, I am sure it was sent with much love and received with great gratitude. Note how the leaves are artistically "shaded." A lot of thought was put into this simple design!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Comfort in Piecing Traditional Designs

For my latest quilt, I chose a traditional quilt pattern known as "Puss in the Corner," a variation of "Nine Patch." The quilt is inspired by a class on craftsy.com that I participated in recently with Pepper Cory as the instructor. I had not taken a quilt class in years and thought the class about using scraps would be very fun. It was!

"Puss in the Corner" quilt by Patricia Cummings, finished on December 13, 2015


I chose yellow and orange fabrics as well as muslin-color polka dot fabrics and other fabrics, all of them with their own special visual texture. The machine quilting, done by Tracy Szanto of Dreamland Machine Quilting in Penacook, NH, also is closely-wrought, adding even more texture. The batting is Quilter's Dream poly batting. The photo somehow does not do the quilt justice because it does not show close-ups of the interesting fabrics that were chosen for the centers of each block.

The process of making this quilt was very fun. I loved choosing fabrics from my stash and pulling together unlikely candidates that otherwise would not seem suitable to "live" in the same quilt. The variety of fabrics include batiks, a hexagon print, some brightly-colored yellow fabric, and two pieces of "Victorian" looking fabric with faces. The quilt measures approximately 42" x 42". As with any quilt, the operative word is "done." Now I can dream about my next project!

Happy Quilting!


Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Christmas Stocking

The Christmas Stocking

by Patricia L. Cummings
Concord, NH, ©copyright 2005
reprinted here on December 5, 2015



The Christmas Stocking tradition is believed to have originated in France in the 12th century. By one account, three impoverished sisters hung their stockings on a mantel on Christmas Eve. St. Nicholas is said to have thrown a bag of gold coins down the chimney, some of which landed in a stocking.

This legendary tale may be responsible for the gold foil wrapped coins that were a part of our family tradition. The “coins” were actually chocolates and a number of them were contained in a little mesh bag. We would each be given a peppermint candy cane, too. Of course, Santa would place these treats right next to a brand new toothbrush as a gentle reminder to brush after eating sweet treats.

When I was a child in the 1950s, Christmas would not have been Christmas had it not been for the row of stockings hung on the fireplace on Christmas Eve. Luckily, we always lived in a home with a real fireplace, so wondering about how Santa would find an alternative way into the house was not a concern.

Each of the four children in the household had a red stocking with a white “cuff” at the top. I vaguely remember our names being placed on the white area, but not how they had been added. We looked forward to all of the delightful little stocking gifts. During the month of December we all tried to be on our best behavior so that Santa would leave goodies and not lumps of coal.

On Christmas morning we would eagerly retrieve the contents of the stocking. In the toe we would inevitably find an orange, a real treat for us northerners. This piece of citrus delight became part of our Christmas breakfast. For years this seemed to be a unique tradition in our family. Therefore, it was with great surprise that I recently found a quote in A Family Christmas, (Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, 1984) about Christmas oranges. Attributed to Roseanne Russell, the statement says, “The orange has its place you know, To fill each Christmas stocking toe.”

There were always little toys, too. My favorite were the square puzzles that one could hold in one’s hand. They consisted of movable pieces which when positioned correctly, would be depict a giraffe or other jungle animal. My brothers would acquire a new bag of marbles, small metal cars, wooden yo-yo’s or a new bright red bouncy ball (with which to drive my parents crazy since the snow outside did not permit outdoor play of this kind).

The contents of the stocking were not extravagant by today’s standards. There were no cell phones or $100. dollar bills tucked into the stocking. Nevertheless, we all anticipated with joy all the little surprises that awaited us.

Originally, Christmas stockings were of the everyday kind. However, today, some stockings are miniature works of art. They can be quilted, decorated with Crewel Embroidery, appliquéd, embellished, and bejeweled. Each one is the work of someone’s imagination and each one is sure to delight the recipient.

What better gift for a quilting friend that a stocking chocked full with fat quarters of fabric held together with a colorful holiday bow? Small, useful gadgets or tools, or a quilt pattern could be included. What quilter would not like a pieced wooden key ring that looks like a quilt block? Or how about buttons, pieces of antique lace, or skeins of silk ribbon, or specialty fibers for the “crazy quilter” in your life?

A deck of playing cards with quilt images might also please a quilter. If you are “crafty,” you might like to create your own “art quilts” made by altering an existing deck of cards, as is a current trend. Gift shops sell tiny books on various subjects including quilting that would fit into a stocking nicely.

Other ideas for stocking stuffers are gift certificates for a favorite restaurant or bookstore. How about purchasing a large, gold-foiled orange-shaped chocolate with wedges that come in various flavors? Tiny boxes of chocolates are another choice and will fit into stockings, great for those who might like a “taste,” but not a lot of extra holiday calories.

A ring box or other small jewelry box can be tucked into the stocking, as can hair ornaments and bows, make-up, or tickets to a concert. In fact, when you think of it, there are many items, some of which you can acquire all year long for the purpose of giving stocking gifts. Of course, the stocking will be and could be, a gift unto itself!

Christmas stocking designed by Patricia Cummings



The poinsettia is a much loved and highly sought flowering plant during the holiday season. To construct the flower you see here in this Christmas stocking photo, I used actual poinsettia leaves as a model. The flower itself is layered and is constructed with the help of a numbered sequence. Note that some leaves will slide under the edge of others, in which instance there has been a seam allowance added. A black netting overlay, and machine stitching in a technique called “Shadow Appliqué” are utilized. With the fusible fleece serving as a liner, this stocking worked up fast. 

Tradition is so much a part of Christmas! I am happy that Christmas stockings were part of a predictable event in my childhood during Christmas tide. Another favorite tradition continues in my household and that is mother’s “Stollen,” a delicious raised bread which contains candied fruit and is frosted with icing, and topped with sliced cherries. 

In my family of origin, we sang Christmas carols, attended Christmas services, and
gave each other gifts on this feast day. For at least this one day of the year, all seemed right with the world. 

Wishing you a very festive, happy and safe holiday season!





Friday, December 4, 2015

Celtic Knotwork Quilt

Quite a few years ago I made a Celtic Knotwork wall quilt for Christmas which utilizes gold metallic thread around each of the bias strips used to create the design. The embroidery is done with detached chain stitch.

Celtic Knotwork quilt made by Patricia Cummings


It was difficult working with the gold floss as it is stiff and breaks easily. I remember using only 11" pieces of thread at a time to complete the process. I echo-quilted the design with quilting stitches and added a vintage button in the middle of the knotwork. I remember this as having been a labor-intensive project but I liked the effect when it was finished.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

Happy Quilting!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

'Tis the Season

One can never be too careful in public but that goes double for the holiday season. Crime only wants an opportunity. I cringe when I am in the grocery store and a woman leaves a large purse unattended and open while she loads groceries onto the conveyor belt or chooses her purchases. If you carry a handbag, it is important to know just where it is at any given time. Don't carry a lot of cash, and only carry the credit card(s) you plan to use. It is also a great idea to photocopy every credit card you own, front and back, as well as your driver's license and keep that information in a safe place at home or in a safe deposit box. Then, if your cards are stolen, they will be easier to report.

Woven, quilted, cross-body bag helps to keep track of its contents


One way I keep track of my purse is to either wear a leather pouch that buckles around my waist or else to wear a cross-body bag that has a long strap that goes over the shoulder and across the body. I keep one hand on the edge of the purse and it has a strong magnetic fastener that takes a little bit of oomph to open.

Usually, criminals look for an easy target:  someone who is unaware or distracted. In fact, they sometimes work in teams. Be aware of who is around you or getting too close for personal comfort. The goods will always be there. Move out of the area quickly if you become suspicious of any activity.

There is a good reason why Internet sales are up and retail sales are down. People enjoy shopping from their homes and are often able to comparison shop easily, ordering exactly what they want at prices they can afford. When shopping in retail stores, it always helps to have a list and know exactly what products are sought. Clerks and shelf-stockers can often direct you readily to the spot needed.

May you enjoy the holiday season without incident and with joy in your heart for each gift you select. A good time to shop is early in the day when the stores first open and there are less customers. I hope these tips are helpful. Enjoy the month of December!


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Day of Thanks

Tomorrow, the 4th Thursday of November, is a day that Americans count their blessings and give thanks. We have so much to be grateful for!

I will be thinking about Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, the "Mother of the American Thanksgiving," who conducted a letter writing campaign for decades, in the 19th century, until President Lincoln finally proclaimed the national holiday that we know today.

Sarah Josepha Hale monument in Newport, NH. photo by James Cummings


I wish for you love, happiness and peace. I wish you a life of abundance and freedom from want. I wish you plenty of resources to meet debts and to live a fulfilling life. I wish you time to enjoy all that life has to offer. I wish that you will share with others, whenever possible, and will feel "blessed" in doing so. For quilters, I wish you plenty of supplies and gadgets and fabric to your heart's content and the space to enjoy making quilts of all kinds, colors, and meaning.

We are so lucky to be living in America, "land of the free and home of the brave." On this occasion, I am thankful for those who serve in the military and in other professional capacities to keep us safe. These brave men and women often put their own lives at risk to protect us from harm. Whatever name you call the Author of the Universe, whether that is G-d, Jehovah, God, Allah or another name, on Thanksgiving all Americans come together for a universal day of thanks to a Supreme Being, for each other and for all of our blessings.

For more information about Sarah Josepha Hale, please visit our website:  http://www.quiltersmuse.com


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Quilter's Muse Publications Site Expanding

Whether one may want to know more about Japanese design, the former Willimantic Mills, or Hmong textiles, all of that and more can be found in articles on my website. Every day lately, I have been adding more files to Quilter's Muse Publications, adding back and expanding on information that was previously offered before the site was compromised in 2011. We plan to offer additional informative articles, patterns, and special features but the site is already growing and is quite huge again!

"Gulliver and the Lilliputians" Victorian trade card by J.& P. Coats Best Spool Cotton
Read more about this card at http://www.quiltersmuse.com in the Willimantic file

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Invention of Santa Claus

American children assume that Santa Claus is timeless and was always present in his current form, bringing gifts to those youngsters who are "good" on Christmas Eve. They do not realize that Santa Claus and all of the details about his life evolved in the 19th century during the Victorian era, the same time period that saw trees being brought into the house and decorated with candles for the first time due to Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert.

"Santa Claus and Birdhouse" quilt made by Patricia Cummings in 1995
from a pattern by Jan Kornfeind


Cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with providing a popular depiction of Santa in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863, during the Civil War. He was the first to show Santa in a red outfit, not the beige one previously popular. The idea that Santa lives at the North Pole can be directly attributed to a poem by George P. Webster titled "Santa Claus and His Works." A mid-19th century poem by Katharine Lee Bates adds a Mrs. Claus in her work "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride."
("Goody" comes from "Good Wife," a common early term).

The idea of St. Nicholas bringing toys in his sleigh can be linked to a poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," better known as "The Night Before Christmas," published on December 23, 1823 in the Sentinel newspaper in Troy, NY.

The history of St. Nick, Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Sinterklass is deeply entrenched in European traditions. One can read more at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A French Textile I Love

Since Friday night, November 13, 2015, I have been glued to CNN News on television, trying to learn more about Paris under siege. The Pope called recent violent incidents a "Piecemeal Third World War." The killing of innocent citizens going about their own business of enjoying themselves on a night after a long week of work is appalling and an insult to humanity.

As a result of the latest happenings in which 129 are now deceased and 352 are injured, 99 critically hurt, I began thinking about our previous alliances with France. In a speech that followed the outbreak of violence (attributed to ISIS), President Obama mentioned that France is our oldest ally. She gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States, a statue commemorated on a silk ribbon that I once saw on a Crazy Quilt.



The textile I love the best in my entire collection of military pillow covers is a hand-painted, silk pillow with silk embroidery. Featured is the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. World War I pillow covers of this kind always had the most exquisite lace sewn onto the edges and were much larger than subsequent (rayon) pillow covers of World War II. The making of these pillow covers was a cottage industry in France and they were intended as souvenirs. Right on the surface is embroidered "Souvenir de France." My book, Sweetheart & Mother Pillows: 1917-1945, (Schiffer Publishing, 2011) shows other WWI silk pillow covers, some of great historic importance to France.

This pillow cover is posted here in support of the French people. Somehow, it seems very ironic that such a multi-ethnic city should be targeted, one that is full of the arts, music, and culture. Undaunted, on Saturday morning, one pianist was heard playing John Lennon's song "Imagine" on the streets of Paris near where the incidents occurred, an apt response.

We pray for the healing of this great city and for much courage in the difficult days ahead for those who personally suffered through the attacks. May both peace and caution prevail. The world is on alert.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Women "Voted" with Their Needles

Not until the November election of 1920 were American women allowed to vote in a federal election. The story of the Suffragettes is well-known. They gave their time and efforts so that all women could experience the same freedom as men by casting their ballots, thereby letting their voices be heard. During the previous centuries, women often relied on their needles to silently express their political preferences. I decided to re-enact that process.

"It Takes a Village" quilt made by Patricia L. Cummings, August 2015
photo by James Cummings


Like those women, I am casting my vote silently by creating a quilt that shows my candidate of preference for the 2016 presidential election. The large field of Republican candidates is slowly being whittled down. The Democratic side now offers but three candidates, one of them an avowed Socialist and one a "lesser known" politician. It is exciting to watch debates from both sides of the fence. The one candidate that I can believe in to move this country forward is the woman portrayed on my quilt:  Hillary Clinton. She has the foreign affairs experience needed and also the wisdom of an older woman, a grandmother!

The quilt is machine-pieced, hand-quilted, and features an artist's rendering (by an anonymous source) provided by the last Hillary Clinton campaign.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

War is Personal

War affects all of us, many of us in a personal way. Friends or family have served. Today is Veteran's Day, a day we set aside to honor all living U.S. veterans. Many veterans have seen combat and have suffered the loss of limbs or other horrific injuries, not to mention the loss of their own comrades. We wish them healing in mind and body and we thank them for their great service to our country.

Martin A. Fischer and Betty Fischer Grace, 1940s. Family photo


One of the earliest memories I have is that of meeting an uncle, Martin A. Fischer, who served in World War II in the European Theater and was shot with shrapnel at the Battle of the Bulge. He carried his battle scars with him through life. Not one to tell of the horrors of war, he preferred to entertain his 11 children, and nieces, nephews and grandchildren with stories of all the pretty girls he met in Germany. I'm sure he could have provided a more startling, realistic account of day to day combat situations. Instead, he took those secrets to the grave.

He is no longer here to thank for his service. I hope I sufficiently thanked him during his lifetime. His patriotism and love of country was ongoing, having answered the call of Uncle Sam at the tender age of 17 years old. May he and all of our veterans who can no longer celebrate the day with us today, rest in peace.

Monday, November 9, 2015

"Dahomey Revisited": An African-Inspired Quilt

 A Tribute to Harriet Powers

  by Patricia L. Cummings

African-inspired quilt by Patricia L. Cummings features Benin/Dahomey area images

The quilt shown above was put together in a relatively short time, having been started on January 30, 2004 and finished on February 2, 2004. The backing is a piece of fabric from Senegal, and the layers are secured together with ties of black embroidery floss. The edges are brought from back to front, and sewn down.

The background fabric is black wool, washed it in cold water, and dried it in a hot dryer in order to "felt" it. The pieces of colored wool were purchased as a packet of felted wool which came in handy for creating the design motifs.

The outline shapes of the animals are available in a book: Quilting the World Over by Willow Ann Soltow, (Chilton Book Company, 1991). If you enjoy international textiles, this book is a must-have for your library and worth trying to find a copy even though it is now out of print. The author has added a lot of good history information about the Dahomey area. Additional information about Dahomey can be found online here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahomey

I have used the recommended traditional colors of red, blue, green, and magenta, but have added other colors as well. I have chosen how to stitch each motif as I worked, so each design is sewn on, in whatever way suited me at the moment. Mostly, they are applied with running stitch, or buttonhole stitch appliqué.

I added the cross, in remembrance of Harriet Powers' love of the Bible, and in honor of all of our Black sisters and brothers who have had some cross to bear in their own lives. It is with joy that personal burdens are overcome so that one can  become free from the chains of the past. 

In re-creating some of the traditional Dahomey designs, as set forth by Soltow, I realize that I do not fully comprehend the hidden meanings the images may hold. I have "borrowed" these motifs from another culture, and in that transition, they have become "Americanized," if you will. The images on the quilt originate in the Benin/Dahomey area.

In Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts by Cuesta Benberry (The Kentucky Quilt Project, Inc., 1992), the author states that these kind of motifs are "symbolic in nature"... and "represented battles and heraldic devices, illustrated proverbs and transmitted subtle message."

The quilt seen here is a quilt made to honor the work of the late Harriet Powers (1837-1910), a former slave. Much has been written about her. The two known Bible quilts that she made now reside in the Smithsonian Institution and in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. She may have made a third quilt, "The Lord's Supper," which may or may not exist today in a collection. She described that quilt in a letter which she wrote according to the following wikipedia file:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Powers


                                        

Saturday, November 7, 2015

More about Hexagons

Working with hexagons is a simple and fun process. All that is needed are scraps of fabrics and pre-cut paper templates cut in the shape of a hexagon. Today, we are very lucky to have a company that makes white paper hexagons so that folks do not have to cut out the shapes, one at a time, which is very time-consuming. The company makes these hexagons in various sizes, and although I am not affiliated with them, I like their product so much, so I will tell you the company name:  "Paper Pieces." They sell their products online and in quilt shops.

Portion of a 1930s quilts shows "Nile Green" color "paths" for the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt
photo by James Cummings


Paper Baste or Glue Baste?

I like the plastic templates sold by Nancy's Notions. They include the 1/4 inch seam allowance needed around the hexagon shape. Paper pieces can be cut out individually or pre-cut papers can be used. The fabric is placed right sides down and edges are turned under, one at a time, and glue basted with a water soluble glue stick. Alternately, some folks like to baste with a needle and thread. After joining the hexagon units and assembling the finished project, remove the papers. If glue was used, spritz the glued areas with water using a spray bottle. Then, carefully remove the softened papers with tweezers.

Where To Begin 

Of course, we start with first preparing the 7 hexagons, one for the center, and six hexagons to add to the center, working clockwise, or counter-clockwise, if you are left-handed.

Sew by Whipstitching

Use a long, thin needle and silk thread or a fine cotton sewing thread to piece the units together. To begin, put two prepared hexagons, right sides together, and whipstitch one edge. Knot twice and cut thread.

Place another hexagon, right sides together, on top of the center hexagon and again whipstitch along one edge and then down the middle of the two added hexagons. Tie off. Continue working in this manner until a “rosette” is formed. The next “row” will have 12 hexagons and can be a solid color to form “paths” between rosette units. The next "row" will be incrementally larger. 

Book Inspires Projects

Janet Elwin of Maine was one of the first to write about hexagons in the late 20th century. They inspired her to make all sorts of projects. This book, Hexagon Magic (EPM Publications, MacLean, VA, 1986) was required reading for the E.G.A. Master Craftsman in Quilting Program.

Information from Sally Ward in the UK

"In the book, North Country Quilts, Legend and Living Tradition (Durham, England: The Bowes Museum and the Friends of The Bowes Museum, 2000) page 12, Dorothy Osler shows a pieced and appliquéd, framed centre, medallion coverlet, in which one of the frames is a Grandmother's Flower Garden setting of pieced hexagons, made by Martha Jackson, circa 1790-1795."

"The earliest hex quilt shown in
Through The Needle's Eye: Quilts of the York Castle Museum Collection, is placed at 1800-1820, although the hexes are in rows, not GFG style, but there are several more in that book that are GFGs, from 1820-1900, and then a pair of GFG cushions dated 1950-60."


Thanks to Sally for sharing these resources.

I have always thought that the term, "Grandmother's Flower Garden" was more of a 20th century description of the 1930s/1940s pastel prints and alternate Nile green "paths" through the “garden.” I can see now that more study is required. Previously, hexagon configurations were called "Mosaic," “Honeycomb,” and other names. We also have the phenomena of elongated hexagons, called "Coffin hexagons," in the UK.

Today, hexagons are enjoying a renaissance. Online resources include a number of Facebook group pages dedicated to making hexagon projects of all sorts. For examples of old hexagon quilts, check the Quilt Index and the Illinois State Museum pages.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fun with Hexagons!

Hexagons are six-sided geometric shapes that can be sewn together to make patterns such as Grandmother's Flower Garden (popular quilts of the 1930s/1940s). Recently, I bought some fabrics with forest animals. Using a special template tool sold by Nancy's Notions, I was able to easily isolate designs, mark them, and cut them out to apply over (smaller) pre-cut hexagon papers sold by Paper Pieces.

Hexagons in progress in my studio


So far, I have constructed a number of units and am currently "playing," in making more. I have no idea how they will be used, ultimately. Right now, I am just enjoying piecing hexagons together that I have constructed. I am thinking that finished rosette units could be appliquéd to a table runner that is then lined. Or, I could add "paths" between them and create a mini quilt. Those paths would be a cream color or off-white, I believe, not Nile green such as were used mid-20th century.

I have made other projects before using hexagons. "Hexies" are fun! My most ambitious project to date has been the miniature quilt with 1,039 different hexagon pieces, all different except two of them, as was true of the original 1880s quilt I was attempting to reproduce in spirit! It was a "charm" quilt of sorts, or maybe just intended to be a charm quilt but the quilter goofed and added two fabrics that were exactly alike. The challenge lay in collecting that many different pieces of cloth!

We shall see what the current hexies will look like when used to create a finished piece of some kind. Meanwhile, I am just having fun working with 1930s reproduction fabrics and some 1930s authentic fabrics, used as alternate pieces of cloth to the "Forest Frolics" fabrics designed by Heidi Boyd for Red Rooster Fabrics.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Soul's Day - November 1

The day seemed a little bit chillier around the edges today even though the thermometer outside reads more than 60 degrees. The weather in New England is changing for sure and on this particular day I am thinking about all who have gone before. Of course, in that category is family, closely followed by friends. The older one becomes, the more often friends pass away, and on this day, "All Soul's Day," I recall them all.

Being a writer, I have been fortunate in the past to have been in contact with folks who have now passed on. Chance brought us together and they were valuable meetings at that. Often, men and women are walking encyclopedias especially those who have lived through hard times and wars and remember the details. I was lucky enough to meet a World War II veteran who was curating an exhibit of Sweetheart and Mother Pillows from the years of the C.C.C. that became not only part of an article I wrote, but part of a chapter in my book, Sweetheart & Mother Pillows: 1917-1945. He is now deceased. I am happy that he wrote his own booklet for his grandchildren about what he did during the war.

Each of us has only an allotted amount of time to live on this earth. It is wonderful when we can share our life experiences with others. It is said that whenever a man dies, he takes a book with him. Some of us who are lucky enough to be writers are able to share at least a small portion of our life story, even if it is just a blurb in the biography section of a book.

I am happy to have written many books from Redwork Embroidery to Quilt Care, from the life of my own father to the life of an extraordinary quilt historian, Ellen E. Webster. It is a comfort to know that at least some of my books and magazine writings will survive in various library collections and in the homes of individuals, most of whom I shall never meet in person. From time to time, I am still contacted by readers of The Quilter, even though the magazine has been bankrupt and out of print since August 2014.

We never know how (or even if) we will be remembered. That is not for us to understand in our own lifetimes. We can only do our best to contribute to society while we can.

For today, we honor those who have passed before us, recalling good times and trying times, all a part of life. For those gone before, the struggles are over. We are left to make the most of each day that is given us, not taking even one minute for granted. I hope you will take a moment today to think of all the special people in your life and to honor the memory of those no longer here.

November 1 has become the beginning of holiday madness with sales galore, stores competing for your dollars. Take a moment to consider that people themselves are always more important than material goods. Let the holiday season begin, a time of good will toward men and thankfulness for our many blessings.

Happy All Soul's Day!


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Scarecrow Quilt

Happy Halloween! The image shown here is that of a wall quilt that I made a few years ago. I did not get around to making any more special Halloween decorations for this year but I have been busy with both long term and short term projects of other kinds!

Wall quilt made by Patricia L. Cummings from a Piecemaker's pattern


The quilt is based on a Piecemaker's pattern. I have not seen any patterns by that company for awhile but I have made a number of their designs and really enjoyed them. The happy scarecrow with a crooked smile and patched clothes, standing in a pumpkin patch, always brings a smile to my lips. Enjoy the holiday!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Sampler

The "All Hallow's Eve" Sampler is one that I embroidered several years ago. Like any Sampler worth its weight, it features the capital letters of the alphabet and much more including a witch on a broom flying across the moon, black cats, pumpkins, ghost, skeletons, a graveyard, and decorative buttons. I finished it into a bell pull that is hem-stitched at the bottom and fringed. This was from commercial directions but I modified the design to suit myself. The words say "brewed by pat cummings."



I did not make anything new for Halloween this year as I have been busy with a hexagon project, cutting out and preparing hundreds of little 1" hexagons. More about those...later.

Happy Halloween!

Patricia Cummings

Friday, October 23, 2015

New Book Explores Indigo History

Indigo Quilts: 30 Quilts from the Poos Collection by Kay and Lori Lee Triplett, two sisters who are quilt scholars, is like a breath of fresh air. The book, published by C&T Publishing in 2015, features 120 pages, 25 antique quilts from the private (Poos) collection, (along with provenance about each of them), and five projects that include pattern pull-out sheets. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the origins of the use of indigo as a dye agent are explored and connections are made with Africa. In the introduction, the authors state the following:

"Many researchers have focused on India's role in indigo cultivation, use, and trade. However, this book proposes that the people of Africa provided important, centuries-old knowledge of the dye when they were brought to the American colonies as slaves and came as free Africans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries."

The authors received the Lucy Hilty Research Grant and the Meredith Scholar Award from the American Quilt Study Group to fund their research. They concede that much more work needs to be done to piece together the "African influence" puzzle but their book is certainly a good place to start!
A treasure-trove of information, well-illustrated with quality photos, the book provides end notes that could lead to further research. There could be a lot more to discover about the African influence on textiles in America as more connections are made. This is a book that is truly enjoyable and informative!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Art Imitating Art

In Wilmington, Vermont last Saturday we saw a wonderful piece of folk art that imitates an appliquéd quilt. It looked so much like a quilt, it was only until we approached it more closely did we know for sure that it was a painting.

Folk art "quilt" seen in Wilmington, Vermont


This is a fine example of art from one genre (painting) imitating another genre (quilting). If you think about it, you will probably recall other examples.

The item is for sale by Wilmington Antiques. Not having the house room needed, this antique did not come home with us. I like the fact that people are included on its surface. We certainly enjoyed seeing this work on display at the Deerfield Valley Quilt and Craft Show at Memorial Hall last weekend.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster (1867-1950)

Difficult as it is to believe, it has been 7 years since I finished researching and writing a book about Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster. What brings her to mind today? Well, I just ran across a paragraph that another researcher wrote that is totally incorrect. It is difficult to imagine that a young girl between 3 years old and 13 would be making a charm quilt, and yet that is what is inferred by the statement that Ellen E. Hardy and her sisters Nettie, Mary and Lucy were "making quilts during the time the charm pattern became popular in the 1870s," a quote from a WPA book titled Hands That Built New Hampshire written by various authors in 1940. Ellen was born in 1867.

The article by Pat L. Nichols found in Uncoverings 1996, a publication of the American Quilt Study Group, misattributes the institution to which the quilt charts made by Ellen E. Webster were given upon her death. They are held in the collection of the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, New Hampshire (no connection to Manchester, NH as stated in the journal article). Ellen is buried in Franklin, New Hampshire, not Concord, as stated. I know. I visited her gravesite when I was researching the book Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster 1867-1950: Her Amazing Quilt "Charts," Her Writings, and Her Life (2008, Quilter's Muse Publications). There are several other minor errors such as the spelling of Ellen's nephew's last name.

This is not the first time that faulty information about Ellen E. Webster has crept into print and into the media. After the publication of a journal article in Historical New Hampshire, written by a former NHHS curator, a local TV station showed Ellen as a wispy, ghost-like figure in the background because no information was known about her and certainly no one realized that there are photo images of Ellen E. Webster (misnamed in the article as Emily Webster). She continued to be misnamed by the same author in several academic journals.

Part of the confusion was that of the curator who "looked" at Ellen's quilt charts and saw the name "Emily Webster." There was, indeed, a woman, in fact a friend of Ellen, whose name was Emily Webster. She and her sister, Ellen A. Webster, a maiden school teacher, were both friends of Ellen E. Webster.



Ellen E. Webster, the subject of my book, was an extraordinary woman! She was a writer, a lecturer, a professor of Biblical studies, a scientist, a musician, a quilt lover and quilt historian, etc. I do not have enough kind words to describe the life of this woman, both charming and beautiful from a very early age!

It somehow does a disservice to Ellen E. Webster when facts about her appear in print that are simply not true. Her quilt charts and her dedication to quilt study were in league with other quilt historian contemporaries of the time, also mentioned in my book and profiled. The trouble lies in the fact that whenever wrong information makes its way into print, it tends to be taken as "Gospel" and is then repeated by subsequent writers who have done no primary research of their own and certainly no fact-checking.

The story of Ellen's life is just so lovely! My book has 355 pages and 340 photos, including images of all of her quilt charts and many photos provided by her family. The e-book is still available. Please send me an e-mail at pat@quiltersmuse.com for ordering details, if you are interested in obtaining a copy for yourself. I can guarantee that it is a captivating book! (It can be played on any computer without any special device). The total price is $24.95 (no shipping will be added). You'll be so glad you did!

Patricia Cummings
Quilter's Muse Publications

Friday, October 16, 2015

Baltimore Album Quilts: Always Striking

Baltimore Album style quilts, originally made from the 1840s to the early 1860s, are always special to see. Today, they continue to inspire quilters to reproduce them or else to create new block designs that are similar in nature. Quilters, like their sisters of yesteryear, are tempted to write their names and messages on the quilts. In the past, Baltimore Album quilts were made mainly as gifts for departing Methodist ministers. This effort would keep the ladies very busy as the "tour of duty" was a relatively short one, usually two years.

Baltimore Album quilt by Carolyn Babcock which has both traditional and newly-designed blocks and is inked


The ink used for writing on old quilt often contained iron gall. The iron would literally eat through the fabric, leaving holes. In today's world, we do not have to worry about that problem as there are pens that have been found to be useful for the task. These are called Micron Pigma Pens and they are sold in various size nibs. Art supply stores are more likely than quilt shops to have the full selection of pens available from the smallest nib .005 to the usual .01, and the larger ones in sizes .03, .05, and .08. They come in a selection of colors ranging from red to green, blue, black, and brown.

With proper use, the ink will not readily fade but fading IS a big issue when fabric is not pre-washed to remove the sizing. I found that out the hard way. When I searched for information on a quilt label recently, I found that the words had all but disappeared even though I had heat set the ink by pressing for 20-30 seconds on each side of the fabric before appliquéing the label to the quilt.

A light box comes in very handy for tracing letters onto the fabric. One can create the label in a document, changing the font to one that is attractive and easy to trace. I like Lucida Calligraphy the best as it is close to the Italian Calligraphy I usually do free-hand.

My heart always beats a little faster whenever I see a Baltimore Album quilt, old or new. They are certainly works of art that require fine appliqué skills and special techniques such as layering. Many thanks to Carolyn Babcock for demonstrating the art of inking at the Common Threads Quilt Show in Morristown, Vermont (October 2015). We enjoyed seeing all of her quilts in the show and marveled at the fact that she works completely by hand.

Happy Quilting!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Great Men

"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time
."

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Of all the men I have known in my life, my father stands out among them as a true leader and as a fine example of what a man can be. Loving, nurturing, smart as all get out, a contributor to society and to his church, his legacy lives on in the credit unions he founded and in the work he did for the greater good. More importantly, for me, he was a "family man," someone I could count on for sound advice and who was always supportive of every dream I had whether that was having horses or going to college, something he never had the chance to complete.

Today, I am wistfully reviewing his letters to me when I lived in Pamplona, Spain. I appreciate his humor, most of all! He writes on 10-13-72:  "Once in a while something comes along that is not really disturbing except only in a mild sort of way. For example, like drinking a cup of brewed coffee down to the last drop but then finding some coffee grounds upsetting the taste buds in the mouth or example #2 like putting on the last pair of clean socks - only one has a hole where it fits down over your big toe. You see, nothing very vexing but in the category of wondering what the letters E.E.U.U. that you add to your mail stand for. [E.E.U.U. is the Spanish abbreviation for Los Estados Unidos (the United States of America).]

He then congratulates me on my "A" achievement and adds, "The other kids are just dum-dums. Feel lofty!"

All of his letters were funny and in one subsequent letter, he speculates on E.E.U.U. again, thinking that it may stand for "Empire of Elated and Unrestrained Umpires" or maybe "Elegant Example of Underarm Undercoating?" I looked forward to his letters as they brought a bit of "home" to me in that faraway place where I found myself at a relatively young age as a university student.

I was gone for less than a year but when I came home, I quickly learned that Dad was actively dying of cancer. I only knew him for 23 years and when he died, in his early sixties, he was younger than the age I find myself at right now. In his relatively short life, he left a trail of love poetry dedicated to my mother, he was a constant learner who believed he could travel the world right from his armchair via the medium of books, and he led by example, always treating others as he would like to be treated himself and always going out of his way to help in any way he could.

From Dad I learned to appreciate music and he encouraged me in my attempts to play guitar. He was proficient on saxophone, clarinet, and piccolo and in his later years he learned to play flute. He was always learning and always trying to become something more, intellectually. He led a well-rounded life, planting a nursery of Christmas trees and ornamental shrubs for landscaping while holding down a 9-5 office job in the city. My memories of Dad are immense but most of all, I see him as an enabler in my life, always ready to support me.

Dad did not live long enough to know my son or to see the day when that grandson would become a professor of English and have two children of his own. Dad missed out on a whole lot due to his early departure. I treasure all that he left behind. Some of his artifacts and photos are now located at America's Credit Union Museum in Manchester, NH. The main credit union he founded and worked with from 1945-1973 now serves all of New Hampshire and is a major player in the industry, processing millions of dollars each year. Yes, he accomplished much. To me, he was "Dad," a title he seemed to wear best of all.

Patricia L. Grace Cummings



Thursday, October 1, 2015

Quilting: Learn by Doing!

Australian fabrics of wildflowers, some printed fabric with Aussie themes, and special wooden and ceramic buttons all came together to create a quilted wall hanging just finished called "100% Aussie." The name reflects the same printed words on a piece of fabric that was added to a block that features a koala bear in Redwork. The outline stitch koala design was a gift from an Australian friend who participated in a Redwork list I once administered on yahoo. I enjoyed embroidering the koala, a favorite animal since childhood. The (fat quarter) fabrics and embellishments were gifts from two Australian sisters who visited me in May 2002.

"100% Aussie" measures 25 1/4" x 27 1/4" and is an original design 


This quilt offers many images. The first block shows the Sydney Opera House. The second features a singular Redwork koala bear. The third block has a scene demonstrating sheep shearing. The fourth block displays dolphins jumping and two whimsical koala bear ceramic buttons. The center area has two separate blocks. The upper part has an appliquéd map of Australia and a wooden shape of the continent in the form of a button above which is an appliqué with the words "G' Day!" and directly below that area is an oval appliqué of "flannel flowers."

In the sixth block another koala bear is placed, along with a kookaburra bird, a native of Australia. Also featured are two buttons that have aboriginal art showing a hunter on one of them and a kangaroo on the other. Block 7 shows a "swagman" resting. The name "swagman" is derived from the "swag" consisting of bedding that men would carry through the countryside when they were looking for work during the depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Block 8 has a kangaroo appliqué, a kangaroo wooden button, and features a second applique of a rosella, another native bird. All three elements are appliquéd to a fabric with "Kangaroo Paws," a native plant. Block 8 features an appliqué of sheep being herded.

When I made this quilt, I had no idea as to the names of the birds, the names of the wildflowers, or the history of the "swagman." That information was shared by an Australian friend on Facebook. It is always delightful to learn new details, especially about something one has made. This quilt was a challenge because I had limited fabric and wanted to create a cohesive quilt. The designing took longer than the actual stitching although that took a lot of time as it was done mostly by hand. My motto is "learn by doing." I always learn something new with every project I do!

Happy Quilting!

Patricia Cummings

Saturday, September 26, 2015

"Fireside Visitor" Quilt

Awhile ago I was browsing in an antiques shop in Vermont and I saw a quilt that had been set in a basket under a heavy iron object. It was necessary to remove the object and extract the quilt in order to see it better. I love scrap quilts and this quilt was very appealing! Taking it home, I looked up the pattern name and found that the quilt block is called "Fireside Visitor," a charming title that seems appropriate for this "warm" quilt.

"Fireside Visitor" c. 1920. Photo by James Cummings,
Quilter's Muse Publications


The quilt is based on a rather simple block construction but the way the quilter manipulated her scraps, the result looks very complex. The pattern was published in 1906 and the designer credited is Clara A. Stone, a fictitious name for someone who apparently wanted to remain anonymous for whatever reason. I love the design and I love this quilt!

Patricia L. Cummings


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Almost Winter" Wall Quilt

"Almost Winter" is the name of a small wall quilt I just designed and am working on. I have machine-quilted it but will add more quilting by hand between some of the strips. The theme I chose is Nature and even though it is a strip quilt made in the traditional pattern of "Chinese Coins," I picked fabrics from my fabric stash that would reflect the colors of Autumn:  yellow, orange, rust, and brown.

"Almost Winter," an original wall quilt designed by Patricia Cummings


For interest's sake, I varied the size of the strips. Some are cut as small as 1 1/4" and the largest are cut at 2 1/4". I found it easiest to cut the strips width-wise at 6" since that is the width of my rotary ruler. After sewing the strips together, vertically, I trimmed them to 5 3/4". It is nearly impossible to sew a set of strips together and have them come out exactly the same size! The sashings and borders were cut at 2 1/4" and so were the binding strips (which were folded in half before applying them). The total finished size of the quilt is 20" long x 23 1/4" wide.

I've yet to add the sleeve on the back and the label but those will wait until I add some more quilting by hand between some of the strips for stability. I decided to add some striped fabrics and one with polka dots. One fabric was not printed on the straight of the grain and I added it, just the way it was sold as a fabric strip from a jelly roll packet.

The fun of the quilt was playing with colors and auditioning how they would interact with each other. Luckily, I found the perfect backing fabric in my stash. It has figures that look like snowflakes and is a yellow-orange in color. Now to make the label, always the finishing touch to any quilt I make. Hope you have enjoyed seeing my latest quilt.

A book review I posted this week is "Pagtinabangay: The Quilts and Quiltmakers of Caohagan Island" found on my website under the category of "Quilts."

Happy Quilting!

Patricia Cummings
www.quiltersmuse.com


Monday, September 21, 2015

New Book Review: Pagtinabangay


Sometimes a book comes along that is so special one can hardly put it down. Such is the case with the book Pagtinabangay:  Quilts and Quiltmakers of Caohagan Island by Dana E. Jones. This morning, after finishing the book last night, I rose early and wrote a book review, complete with a link as to where one can order it, and published that information to my website: http://www.quiltersmuse.com/Pagtinabangay-book-review.html

I hope you will enjoy reading more about the quilters. There is much to tell and the 190 page book covers the topic very well!

Patricia L. Cummings
Quilter's Muse Publications



Saturday, September 19, 2015

In Quilting There's Always Plan B

Sometimes things turn out the way they are supposed to. Case in point:  I bought some yardage of a fabric by Brenda Manges Papadakis of "Dear Jane" fame. The printed cloth, inspired by quilt blocks of the famous quilt in the collection of the Bennington Museum in Vermont, was to serve as "cheater cloth" or "imitation patchwork." In other words, the quilter did not have to spend her life piecing tiny blocks. From a distance, the quilt would appear pieced although it is one piece of continuous wholecloth. I purchased border fabric at the same time. Both fabrics are updated, color-wise, to reflect pastel and other clear, upbeat colors favored by today's quilters; not the browns and dark colors present in the original quilt made in 1863 by Jane A. Stickle, a Vermont invalid who won a prize for her Civil War quilt "In Time of War" and certainly had time on her hands to make such an intricate masterpiece.

First, I trimmed up the main part of the quilt, making sure the edges were straight and true. Then, when I went to cut the borders, I had made the first cut when I realized that I was cutting in the wrong place. A Plan B was in order. I re-thought how I could cut the borders so that I could avoid having to make bias binding to go around each of the very small scallops that were to form the outside perimeter of the quilt. I continued working and sewed the borders on, my way.

"Imitation Patchwork" quilt assembled by Patricia Cummings;
machine-quilted by Tracy Szanto of Dreamland Machine Quilting, Penacook, NH


The quilt does not look like that of Jane Stickle. It is rectangular and does not have corners that jut out. Ultimately, I decided that I preferred my way of putting the quilt together. I decided to have the quilt machine-quilted with an Easy Loop stitch and I bound the quilt with the same fabric used for the backing, kind of a mottled cream-color fabric. In the end, I really like the quilt about which I'd had reservations. Perhaps it is "one-of-a-kind." I had to think outside the box to solve a problem and I like the result. Isn't quilting about having fun?

Happy Quilting!

Patricia Cummings

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

NH Farm Museum Worth the Trip

Recently we visited the New Hampshire Farm Museum located in Milton, New Hampshire. More than 20 years had passed since I had been there, demonstrating quilting and embroidery at one of their Saturday events, as a member of the Embroiderer's Guild of America. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

One first passes through the Gift Shop which is set up in an old barn. There, one pays admission and then is directed to view a film about farm life in past centuries that was made by the University of New Hampshire. The filmmakers interviewed elderly people who had memories of growing up on a farm. From there, one steps into another part of the former horse barn and sees three quilts on display. A Rose of Sharon appliqued wedding quilt shares one wall with a pieced four-patch quilt made from fabrics from a Manchester, NH handkerchief mill. The opposite wall features a quilt made by the Ladies of the Lake Quilt Guild in Wolfeboro, NH. That quilt, made in 1989, has a central oval that depicts the yellow buildings of the farm, sheep out front, foliage, etc. and is surrounded by traditional quilt blocks made by members of the guild.

Guided tours of the old farmhouse, once a "tavern," are available periodically throughout the day. One room is now dedicated as a study room for weaving and spinning and implements for processing flax into linen can be seen, as well as dye stuffs, and two working barn looms. Throughout the house, quilts that were donated to the museum are displayed on walls and on one small quilt rack. A magnificent Crazy Quilt adorns the wall of a Victorian parlor. An adjacent room features a large doll house and a wooden doll bed made by one of the former residents of the house. Old implements, tools, and textiles are on view in other rooms and provide a sort of timeline of progress.

German peg doll dressed in English 19th century costume

The doll shown here was purchased at the museum's gift shop.
She came with fabric and a pattern to make her dress and
pantalettes.






Sunday, August 23, 2015

Machine-Piecing

When I was a candidate for the title of master craftsman in quilting through EGA, the requirement was that every stitch be done by hand except for one side of a quilt binding. That was true of all six projects that were submitted for the scrutiny of the judges. In the past, I have done machine-piecing but even though I have been quilting for 30 years, I decided to sign up for a "Craftsy.com" class with Kaye England called "Re-piecing the Past: Civil War Blocks then and now." I am so happy I did!

A lot of invaluable tips are shared in the class, and block after block is taught via videotaped segments that are clear and understandable. However, I am glad that I have had some prior experience with machine-piecing. A beginner would have a difficult time keeping up. I had difficulty with one block but I will try it again now that I have reviewed the lesson a second time.

Here is a photo of one of the quilt blocks I enjoyed making. I did not have an appropriate toile fabric to add for the center so I chose to include the image of a lady wearing a Civil War dress.


I am not sure if I will make a Sampler Quilt with all of the blocks. I feel that the class is a point of departure and the knowledge I learned is transferable to other projects. There are still several blocks remaining to try my hand at. I feel more confident now that I understand the processes of joining triangles by machine. I highly recommend the class. I appreciate the fact that I was able to purchase it on sale and that there is unlimited lifetime access to the class content.

Oh, and I did finish the master craftsman program in the year 2000. So you see, one can teach an old dog new tricks! This was certainly a good refresher course and a chance to become re-acquainted with my sewing machine after spending years in quilt research and publishing so many books and articles!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Billings Farm & Museum Quilt Exhibition

Until September 20, 2015, visitors to the Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont will be able to view 40 quilts made by Windsor County quilters. Twenty-eight quilts are hanging in the barn gallery and 12 of the quilts are relegated to being displayed in a special room just off the gallery.

A Judy Niemeyer design took center stage at the exhibit
Read more about this quilt and others on my website:
Quilter's Muse Publications - http://www.quiltersmuse.com
Note:  My website is best viewed with Google Chrome or Internet Explorer for a browser.

This is the 29th Annual Quilt Exhibition. For the price of admission to the museum, one can tour the dairy barn, see farm life exhibits and the 1890 farm house. Quilting demonstrations and activities are scheduled for each day. Among many other tantalizing items, the gift shop now offers Billings' own special cheese made from milk from their award-winning Jersey cows.

Woodstock is a fine place to visit. The town features lots of little shops: for books, antiques, and specialized shopping; a village green for strolling or picnicking; and other nearby attractions such as the Teddy Bear Factory. The Woodstock Inn attracts visitors in all seasons, including winter when cross-country skiing is available. Of course, on the way to Woodstock, you might want to stop at the Country Store in Queeche, VT that is right next door to an Antiques Mall. All in all, we always enjoy the trip to the Billings Farm and at this time of year, with quilts in place, there is even more of an incentive to go there.

Patricia Cummings

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Generosity of Quilters

Charlotte Croft has sent us a photo of a quilt she just finished. It was made with fabric donated to her quilting group and she states that she made the quilt "just for fun." After completing it, she decided to give it to a local friend who is undergoing treatment for cancer. I just love the "heart" shape that the fabrics form, but then, when I think of it, everything Charlotte does is done with love.

Bargello quilt made by Charlotte Croft in VT

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Three-Flowered Sunflower Quilt

This six patch quilt with over-sized blocks was collected in New England.


This antique quilt once had green stems and leaves but was made with a cloth that did not stand the test of time. The greens have faded to tan colors. The green dye was "fugitive," as we say in the quilt history world. In its day, the quilt would have looked outstanding. Now, the unknowing would simply wonder why the quilter chose "tan" for this pattern.

This week I learned more about the origins of the pattern. In Blockbase and in her Encyclopedia of Pieced Patterns, Barbara Brackman lists the design as #773.5 or "Three-Flowered Sunflower," originally published by Ladies Art Company as pattern #74.

As was a common practice, the design was modified slightly (see Brackman #773.6), and was re-published as "Triple Sunflower" by three sources:  Clara Stone, Household Journal, and Carrie Hall. More recently, Kaye England published a similar pattern known as "Callie Lu's Sunflower". See www.kayeengland.com

The size of the quilt probably indicates that it was for a cot or lap throw. It's always fun to learn more about antique quilts. I suspect that this quilt was made mid-19th century before published patterns for the design were available to the public. That is just a hunch. Thanks to Tim Latimer for looking up the Brackman numbers, and to Barbara Burnham who told me about the availability of Kaye England's pattern. I have ordered it and shall be eager to see it. Since I love this design, I may just make a quilt reproduction.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Operative Word = Done!

The other project I finished this week is a woven pocketbook. I used a pattern by Aunties Two. The process was a challenge! The end product is not perfect. Ya, ya..."the best laid plans of mice and men." I like the colors. I chose Civil War reproduction fabrics for the entire project. I would make some minor changes were I to make a second one, especially cutting the binding a bit larger to account for the thickness of the fused interfacing of the pockets on the inside. I would also place vertical strips more closely together when weaving, not leaving a space as suggested in the pattern. The result was a bit of scrunching of the strips on one end. Still and all, I am pleased to have finished this fashion accessory that is practical. I love the manner in which the strap is added. The pattern is sold at Keepsake Quilting (no affiliation).

Here is a photo.

Civil War reproduction fabrics in brown, green, blue, and gray were used to create this pocketbook.

Finished Project: Clematis Wall Quilt

Within the last week I finished two projects. The first one is a wall quilt that features an embroidered Clematis, an antique design that I found in an over-sized catalog of patterns from circa 1886. As suggested, I used variegated thread (floss) from Mexico for the Clematis flowers and the autumn colored leaves. I enjoyed the embroidery and liked hand-quilting the linen cloth background. When it came to choosing a border, I found the "perfect" one in my stash:  a Hoffman print that picks up the purple and the yellow-orange colors. Here is a photo.

"Clematis Flowers in Early Autumn"

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Nature Hike Proves Inspirational

You know, I must think I'll live forever. I keep adding on project after project, some of them long-term and with no idea when or if I will personally be able to finish them. According to statistics, anyone who makes it to my current age has about 20 years remaining. That does not seem like enough time to finish all the quilting and embroidery projects that I have already started. Thank goodness for long arm machine quilters. At least some of the quilts will be quilted. I certainly could not rely on my (slow) hand quilting to finish all of them.

Sometimes it is a good idea to spend a little time away from the studio in order to get energized again. A brisk walk helps to clear the cobwebs in one's head, after sitting too long. Yesterday, we decided to travel to Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, a quaint quintessential New England town with a town green that is flanked with historic homes. Rhododendron State Park, within the town's borders, was our destination.

The rhododendron plants are amazing in size. In some cases, they form a tunnel on either side of a narrow dirt path through the woods.

Rhodendrons in full bloom at Rhodendron State Park, Fitzwilliam, NH


We took the trail that was one mile long and for the entire way, there were rhododendrons visible, some as tall as 15 feet tall or perhaps more. While the flower heads have no fragrance, noticeable by man, they do attract the bumblebees. This wild plantation represents the northernmost reach of this particular kind of rhododendron. There is an additional trail that features wildflowers and forms a three mile loop. We saved that for another time.

Now back to the studio. What will I work on today? Embroidery!

Patricia Cummings
Find us on FB at Quilter's Muse Publications where we frequently post updates.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Caroline Fairbanks' Civil War Quilt

Reproduction of Caroline Fairbank's Civil War quilt

This reproduction quilt made by Patricia L. Cummings (in spring 2011) re-creates the feeling and intent of a pieced quilt created by Caroline ("Carrie") Fairbanks of Brandon, Vermont during the Civil War in 1862. Her name is shortened to "Caro" on her gravestone to "Caro" most likely because the stone is so narrow and perhaps to save money on the price of the inscription. She donated her quilt to the U.S. Sanitary Commission and it is one of the few known (7?) extant Civil War quilts that bear the USSC stamp. A photo of her, provided by her great-grandson, is one that I printed and made into a mini-quilt to attach to the quilt itself with a small hat pin. The original quilt re-used pieces of a brown calico dress that she recycled for this purpose. The other (white) fabric may be from a bed sheet.

The original quilt bears 23 religious inscriptions from hymns, the Bible, and the Book of Common Prayer. I inked all of the same inscriptions with permanent ink onto the reproduction quilt top (and two of those are located on the back). Written messages are seen on other Civil War quilts and were included to cheer the recipients. A prime example is a quilt made in Maine by a school teacher and her students, now held by the Smithsonian Institution.

Caroline Bowen Fairbanks married her cousin, Luke B. Fairbanks, a Union soldier, on Christmas Day 1862. He was one of six brothers who served in the war. He was wounded in the arm while crossing a river while holding his rifle high so it would not get wet. He delayed returning to his regiment until the following April. According to Grant Fairbanks, Jr., when Luke was asked where he had been all that time, he replied that he had been captured by the enemy for awhile, a likely alibi as that often happened. Actually, it seems he had been a "prisoner of love."

My quilt is not an exact reproduction, size-wise or otherwise. Also, as a decorative feature, I decided to tie the corners of the blocks with embroidery floss. According to Don Beld, this is the only known surviving soldier's quilt made by just one person working alone, that was donated to the U.S. Sanitary Commission. Seemingly, most of the USSC quilts were group-made.

Carrie's quilt features the "Snowball" pattern. For the (pieced) blocks in this quilt, I made larger "corners" than those present on the original quilt and also utilized a quicker method of "flip and sew," piecing with a sewing machine rather than hand piecing. The Fairbanks quilt is now owned by the Vermont Historical Society and was acquired when a museum in Pennsylvania decided to de-accession it. Recently, we had the opportunity to see the quilt on display in Montpelier, Vermont.

Patricia Cummings
member of the American Quilt Study Group
To see other newly-made Civil War inspired quilts, visit: http://www.americanquiltstudygroup.org/qscwstudy01.asp