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.

An 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 Nichols stated. I know. I visited her grave site 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 footage of Ellen (called "Emily") 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 as Emily Webster). She continued to be misnamed in several academic journals.

Part of the confusion was that of the curator who "looked" at Ellen E. Webster'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, who was 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 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 plus $3.00 shipping. 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