Monday, June 19, 2017

Garden Inspirations

This year we have had plenty of rain and the gardens are loving it and rewarding us with more growth and more blooms than ever. The perennials have been grand and the annuals are flourishing with a gusto unsurpassed. Jim asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I can never think of any requests but then when we were in a garden center, I spotted a lovely, little bunny rabbit made of resin that I thought would look cute in the herb garden. So, it came home with us. We'll call that my birthday gift along with a chocolate-y ice cream cake!

Here are a few garden pictures I thought you might enjoy seeing.

A resin Bunny Rabbit, permanent resident of the herb garden

Indian Paintbrush, a New England wildflower

A Peony touched by raindrops

I call this flower "Pinks," not knowing their true name. They seem to be a wildflower
 and a relation to Dianthus.

Lone Poppy

Another wildflower that looks very delicate. All flower photos by James Cummings

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Koshukdon from Mongolia

Some time ago I collected a few small textiles from Central Asia from a seller in Uzbekistan. Among them is a "Koshukdon" Yurta Bag, part of the Nomadic tribal traditions. The decorated bag is made of wool and silk adras and measures 29" x 20". It was made to hang inside a yurt on a wall to hold eating utensils.


This particular Koshukdon was made in the 1910s, according to the seller and comes from Kazakh, Kirghiz, Karakalpakstan, Mongolia. He states that every Nomad's articles, even small bags or pendants always had their own practical function. He further states that Nomadic culture rendered a great influence on Uzbek Applied Art.

While I find this kind of thing to be interesting, some will have just learned a new Crossword puzzle answer!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Celebration of Lupines

During the month of June, it is a good time to visit Sugar Hill, New Hampshire and its surrounding communities. After days of cold and rainy weather, the sun actually came out last Wednesday (June 7) and we headed north, traveling beyond the White Mountains. It is a pleasant drive up Route 93 from Concord, New Hampshire and in a few hours, we found ourselves in the community of Sugar Hill just in time for the "Celebration of Lupines."

Lupines growing near Pearl Lake in Sugar Hill, NH - photo by James Cummings

First we stopped at the famous "Polly's Pancake Parlor," known for milling all of their own grains (except for white flour which they purchase from King Arthur); and for making their own sweet Maple syrup and Maple sugar. The menu has a memorable selection of different gourmet pancakes one can order. The dining room is spacious and was not too crowded on a weekday. The food was delicious. In fact, it was so good, we bought some pancake mix to bring home, along with some bacon! Good thing we remembered to bring the cooler!

The Sugar Hill Sampler - photo by James Cummings

After that late breakfast, we traveled a little distance away on the same road to the "Sugar Hill Sampler," a gift shop, and a museum of artifacts that have been in the care of the Aldrich family who settled the acreage 7 generations ago! I always enjoy looking in the gift shop, even when I am not enticed to open my wallet. Actually, I did purchase a couple of little things that struck my fancy.

Just up the road from there is Harman's Country Store. Jim went in and bought some cheddar cheese (which we had planned to do beforehand and which is why we had brought the cooler in the first place). There is a small post office next to Harman's should anyone want to mail home a postcard or two to friends or family.

Bird on a Lupine plant - photo by James Cummings

Of course, the main draw this time of year are the Lupines of Sugar Hill. The flowers can be seen in four hues:  pink, white, lavender, and deep purple. They grow wild along the roadsides, in yards, and in meadows. In fact, the Sampler sells seeds for the flowers. They do not bloom the first year. It is only in the  second year that blossoms appear. They also do not grow well in hot climates, preferring the cool mountain air. We planted some seeds one year and the plants did not withstand the heat of central New Hampshire.

Someone has written a poem to "Lady Lupine"

Sugar Hill is the postcard-perfect setting with views of the White Mountains. At the Sampler, there is a field of Lupines which features a walking trail that has poetry and inspirational thoughts on markers along the way. A day in the mountains was just what we needed to feel refreshed. If you are looking for quiet entertainment, Sugar Hill is the place to head during the week. If you wait until the weekends, there are concerts, talks, and wagon rides through the Sampler's field.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"The Little House and Tall Pine Tree" Quilt

My birthday gift package from Germany included a photo of a new quilt by Tamara Shpolyanska titled "The Little House and Tall Pine Tree." It measures 47" x 57" and was made in Chemnitz, Germany, finished in May 2017.

Tamara Shpolyanska holding a flower

"The Little House and Tall Pine Tree"

She had suggested the quilt as a project for her quilt group in Chemnitz in November 2016. In June 2017, there is an exhibition of the group's quilts at the "Citicenter." I love the cheerfulness of this quilt and the use of orange and blue, complementary colors. The "tree" motif is repeated in the borders. I always enjoy seeing Tamara's work and it is no surprise that she continues to inspire her quilting students!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day - A Time of Reflection and Remembrance

Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember our war dead, those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, their "last full measure of devotion," in the words of Abraham Lincoln. It is a day for parades, patriotic music, and flags.

U.S. Army Color Guard stands at attention for the playing of "Taps"

We were very lucky in Concord, New Hampshire. The rain held off in the morning and did not start until well after the parade down Main Street was over and the speeches and music were finished. There is something about seeing the flag and hearing patriotic music that brings tears to my eyes. The Concord (NH) High School Band and the Rundlett Jr. High School Band performed wonderfully-well! To see young people exhibit such musical skill is inspiring!

Concord High School "Crimson Tide Marching Band"

Besides the bands, there were many Color Guards and other marchers on foot. "Caring Paws" participated in the parade and I would like to know more about what the dogs do. The Cub Scouts marched - and it was such a long way for them to go. The youngsters looked so cute in their uniforms. Someone put a lot of work into the floats that were present including the "Religious Freedom" float by the Concord Christian Academy. The Marines drove by with a replica of the Iwo Jima statue in the trailer behind them.

Replica of Iwo Jima statue

Someone was distributing free American flags that have the words to "Taps" attached to the "flagpole." When it came time to play "Taps," the bugler first played it loudly and boldly and then played the tune softly, as if heard at a distance.

Float by the Concord Christian Academy

We have not gone to a parade at any time within recent memory and this event was a real treat for us! It is nice to feel part of a greater community of patriotic citizens. I hope that you have taken time today to consider those who have lost their lives while fighting for (your) freedoms! In addition, I hope that you have enjoyed a day off from work and have spent some quality time with those you love.

Wreaths were laid at the monument in front of the NH State House. Photos by James Cummings

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gifts from Germany

Although my birthday is not until June, my friend in Germany has sent early birthday gifts already! While I am delighted with the contents, I was also dismayed to see that the package had been tampered with. She did not seal the package. It was easily opened. I suppose that Customs, either here or abroad, was responsible for tearing the foil off of a chocolate bunny that was hollow and breaking it into little pieces which were then stuffed back into the package.

Plush pig sent by Tamara Shpolyanska in Germany

The good news is that the stuffed pig, that was either sent un-stuffed or had the stuffing removed by Customs, did not get stained by melted chocolate. The package was not crushed and there is no accounting for the devastation wrought to the chocolate (Lindt) bunny other than human interference. In fact, there was a second chocolate bunny in the package that was unharmed except for a little foil being ripped off.

The pig is stuffed via the nose opening so I was able to add polyester stuffing and then sew on the circular yo-yo type closure with silk thread. Luckily, I had thread that matched the silk she had used.

I was going to call the pig "Petunia" but in the meantime I learned that her name is "Lila the Pig." That works for me. Of course, there were other goodies in the package not the least of which was a personal note card that contained a photo of the latest quilt made by my friend who is an extraordinary quilter and a master craftsman in quilting, certified by I.Q.A.

It is very special to receive a gift from a pen pal overseas. We have been writing to each other and exchanging small textile gifts since the 1990s. Tamara is a very special friend. She teaches quilting to a group of eager quilters in Chemnitz, Germany and her work is often featured in exhibits of art quilts. I am very lucky that she is my friend!

Happy Quilting!

Patricia Cummings

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

More Thoughts about Happiness

Awhile ago I published an essay about "Happiness" and what it means to me. Today I came across a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt that says a lot about the subject in just a few words:

"Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of the creative effort."

In terms of quilting, whenever I have attempted to do something I have never done before, such as making a miniature "Double Wedding Ring" quilt, and have succeeded, there is a certain "joy of achievement." Anything difficult or new is worth trying. We all have our own learning curve and are on our own journeys as quilters.

"Double Wedding Ring" miniature quilt

I was thrilled when I succeeded in making a final quilt for the Embroiderer's Guild of America's "Master Craftsman Program," a testing program, not a class. The creative effort I put forth was great and was a reward in itself for the "thrill" of knowing I did a good job. I was very excited in the year 2000 when I received an e-mail with the coveted word, "Pass" for my quilt "Sunset Serenity at Mt. Fuji." Just one word of praise was sent but that was enough. The long nine year journey toward seeking the title was over!

One does not have to be a quilter to find fulfillment in achievement. Tonight on the television news there was word of an octogenarian who is going to receive a college degree shortly. She had started college but had quit due to becoming married. It was always in her heart to finish and now she will get her wish.

Life is always about starts and finishes. Tonight I am feeling happy to have finished writing a memoir about my own life. There were troubled and turbulent times but I never gave up and never gave in and have had much success in quilting, writing and publishing.

Achievement takes a lot of hard work but achievement is at the heart of happiness. We do not have to measure success in grand terms. Baking a fantastic cake can be as satisfying as climbing a mountain.

Franklin D. Roosevelt knew a thing or two about achievement and the happiness that it brings. Just look at his record of "overcoming" his handicap to be one of the greatest presidents America has ever seen! He lifted America out of the Great Depression in the 1930s and used his creative imagination to establish the Civilian Conservation Corps whose work we still enjoy in the National Parks system.

Doing a good job is what life is all about. Sometimes we are paid for our creativity and work and sometimes we do work just for the satisfaction of producing something tangible that is ours alone.

I hope that you will think about happiness and what it means to you. If you have any ideas you want to share, please feel free to comment!

Happy Quilting!

Patricia Cummings

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Nubble Lighthouse

From York Beach, Maine one can see the Nubble Lighthouse at the end of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. One can drive out to the Lighthouse and it is beautiful in any weather. This week, on a sunny day in April, we took the opportunity to drive from New Hampshire to Maine, stopping at Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery, Maine, a famous restaurant of ours for years now. It was a grand day!

The Nubble Light / photo by James Cummings

In 1994 I took a photo of the Nubble Lighthouse in the winter and made a miniature quilt with a photo transfer.

The Nubble Light in Winter / a quilt by Patricia Cummings

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Poem: You Know that You're a Quilter

You Know that You're a Quilter
a poem by Patricia L. Cummings

You know that you're a quilter
When your home could be a shop
So filled it is with notions
and cloth from Fabric Hops.

You know that you're a quilter
When you need a live-in-chef
To remind you of the need to eat
When you'd rather just be left...

To mark and cut and piece and quilt
And sing the whole day through.
You know you are a quilter
AND the things you like to do!

Your children sleep under quilts
that you have made with care.
Your husband wears a quilted vest
Even though others stare.

Your toaster sports a cover,
Quilted with your two hands.
As you work on finishing a quilt
yet another one you plan.

The world is prettier still
Due to quilts that you have made.
They adorn every surface
in homes that are humble or grand.

Doll quilts, wall quilts
And bed quilts, too,
Greet visitors and loved ones
And they're all made by you.

To all quilters now we say:

May your blessings be many,
And your troubles be few.
Take time today to celebrate
All that you do!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Calico Garden

One of the most favorite quilts I ever made is called "Calico Garden" and is a reproduction of a quilt made by Florence Peto in the 1950s. She was a quilt dealer from New Jersey and a quilt historian who was a consultant for the Shelburne Museum when that museum was amassing its quilt collection.

"Calico Garden" 39" x 49"

The quilt took me a year to make. It is pieced, appliqued, and hand-quilted. I used the pattern provided by Hoopla, a company owned by Froncie Quinn. The swags and border flowers are made from chintz fabric and are much larger than the ones on the original quilt that is now held by the Shelburne Museum. I did submit documentation and a photo of the quilt to the museum for their records. A documentation sheet came with the pattern. I finished this quilt in September 2001.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring is Here!

After a long winter during which we had a lot more snow than last year, April is here! Finally, we are seeing some Glory of the Snow (little blue) flowers, the first to bloom in our yard. We had been hearing about the baby animals at the Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, Vermont and decided it was time to visit there again. A few years ago, we wrote a magazine article about the place and so, we are fairly well acquainted with its history and offerings but listen, who can resist animals?

Here are some photos from our day trip.

Curious cow (Milking cows are leaner than animals raised for beef)

Baby lambs resting in their sweaters

Mother sheep catches a ray of sun while babysitting two lambs

Percheron horses enjoy some fresh air on a gorgeous spring day (yes, that is snow!)

Friendly sheep that did not mind being petted. All photos by James Cummings

Friday, April 7, 2017

Quilt Blocks Galore!

During the course of time that I was actively involved in magazine publishing, I made many quilt blocks to serve as illustrations. The blocks were of different sizes and I gave no thought to make them color-compatible to use in a Sampler quilt(s). Now I am left with piles of quilt blocks that are discordant to each other, some large enough to finish into its own small wall quilt or pillow (but how many small wall quilts or pillows does a person need?).

Many of the blocks I reproduced have a political or Biblical association. The following block was difficult to make. You will notice that it is made with half-square rectangles which took some time to master, piecing them by hand. The name "Ararat" is that of a new elephant at the Kansas City zoo at the time that the designer Eveline Foland created this block for publication. The block had no association with the Republican party at the time it was made in the 1930s, yet it has taken on that significance. The equivalent would be the quilt called "Democratic Donkeys." A vintage example of a quilt of that kind is shown in my book, Straight Talk About Quilt Care.

But back to my original dilemma: what to do with all of these loose blocks? I welcome any ideas!

"Ararat" block made as sample for a magazine article

Saturday, March 25, 2017


Hello friends,

I have an announcement to make. I am in the process of taking down my main website which has been in place since 2002. For 15 years, Quilter's Muse Publications has provided quality educational articles and special features. At the moment, it is a shadow of its former self when there were many song files offered, crossword puzzles, quilt show reviews and so much more. In 2011, the site was badly-hacked and had to be re-established. I never quite recovered my momentum.

Then in 2014, The Quilter magazine for which I was a columnist for 15 years (since 1999) folded. Without traffic being driven to my site by constant exposure through the column, readership began to diminish. In addition to that, I have been unable to change, update or add new files to that site ever since the ownership of the server changed. It has been a frustrating experience in that regard but at one time, the site was a great joy to me and a major way to share my love of quilts and needlework.

As soon as I can manage it, I'll remove the website. I will continue, however, to write articles on this Google blog even though I am "retiring" from the other site. My love of old quilts and of the quilting process itself has not diminished. I have been quilting since 1985 and plan to continue doing so as long as my eyes and hands "hold up." Right now, neither of those are a problem. My eyesight is 20/20 and I have no issues with carpal tunnel or arthritis, thank goodness.

So, things change. My address - - the one I have used for years will no longer be in use. Anyone can reach me at  - if you wish to send me an e-mail.

There is still time left to visit Quilter's Muse Publications and enjoy the files that remain there but I just wanted to let you know that the site will be discontinued soon. Thanks for being loyal readers. I appreciate your support. On to more projects and more fun with quilting friends!

Patricia Cummings

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Old Quilt Holds Mysteries

“Civil War Era” Quilt Holds Mysteries

Patricia L. Cummings

"Civil War Era quilt" - collection of Patricia Cummings

If only quilts could speak to us, what a tale they could tell! When I spotted a quilt in
an  antiques mall with a tag that said “Civil War Era quilt,” I was hooked at first 
glance. Immediately, I loved its colors as well as its somewhat organized scrappy 
look. No further information is available about the quilter or the circumstances 
under which this 19th century quilt was made. Certainly, the fabric prints suggest 
the possibility of a Civil War time frame but without verifiable information, we 
shall never know all the details we seek. At any rate, by 1870, the patchwork look 
had run its course in popularity paving the way for the ornate Crazy Quilts and
Redwork quilts of the next decades.

Quilt Features: Clues or Coincidences?

The more I examined this quilt, the more my mind went wild with possibilities. 

The backing of the bed-size quilt is slit diagonally for about 22” and the cotton 
batting has been removed in that area along with the short ties that once held all
three layers of the quilt together. To me, it appears that someone could have been
looking for treasure inside the quilt. During the American Civil War, money and
other “treasures” such as silverware or jewelry were hidden inside Confederate 
quilts to keep them from the marauding eyes of Union soldiers who often 
scooped up anything of apparent value to take with them. I wonder if this quilt 
originated in one of the southern states. Perhaps, someone decided to investigate
to see what might be found inside! This is one mystery we shall never unravel!

The Importance of a “Scrap Bag”

Due to an embargo that restricted trade between the north and south during the 

Civil War, the south suffered from a shortage of cotton fabrics. This is one reason
that many of the extant southern Civil War quilts are either silk or made from 
scraps, often from clothing. Women would cut up their dresses, just as they did in
the north, to recycle fabrics due to the scarcity of fabrics.

Pieces of Pieces!

In the quilt shown here, pieces of the quilt are they themselves pieced, as are the

borders, suggesting that the quilter worked from a scrap bag of recycled cloth to 
create strips, triangles and squares. In spite of the wonky piecing, the quilter 
managed to make a finished quilt that is nearly square: 82 3/8” x 83 5/8”. The 
borders of this quilt are variable in size (3 ¾” on the sides and 2 7/8” at top and
bottom). In this “well-loved” quilt, the clue that the quilt looked like this 
originally and does not have repaired borders is the fact that there is a“knife 
edge” finish all the way around.

Color Planning Shows Genius

Overall, the placement of colors in this old quilt is aesthetically-pleasing. The

double pink squares and triangles juxtapose well with the rich brown fabrics 
and indigo color squares and triangle. The quilter employs many neutral 
fabrics like light brown, gray, beige and tan and adds some strong geometric
prints. The quilter seems to have put a lot of thought into just how she would
arrange the fabrics she had at hand. The overall effect is balanced, a lot of 
work for “just” a utilitarian quilt.

Just Three Blocks

The quilt consists of three different geometric block configurations. There are

 (24) traditional Nine Patch blocks which are placed adjacent to (24) additional
blocks in which the corner squares of a Nine Patch block have been replaced 
with half-square triangle units in light and dark colors. The (1) center block is
a solo affair that has strips (unlike the others) and requires more intricate 
piecing of the side triangles, all of which have four interior triangles. All of the
blocks measure 10.5” square as a finished size.

Why Purchase Old Quilts?

What possessed me to purchase a quilt I shall never use? The reason is fairly

simple to those of us who love old textiles. Old quilts have a certain allure and
can present a kind of mystery. They are fun to “dissect” and study to see just 
how the quilter put them together, what types of fabrics she used and in the 
case of scrap quilts, how she worked magic from the limited materials that 
were accessible at the moment. This quilt, though very photogenic, now 
appears to be quite faded possibly from laundering or exposure to ultra-violet
rays of the sun.

Old quilts are a joy! We can imagine our own grandmothers, making do and

passing their days by crafting warm bed covers for their family. I offer the 
details and photo of the quilt here, just in case you are inspired to make a 
similar quilt. If you do, please do the next generations a favor. Make a tag for
the back of the quilt that indicates who you are, the date you made the quilt
and where you were located at the time. Future quilt historians will thank 
you! Of course, if this article does result in a new quilt you make,
photos are always welcome! Send to

Happy Quilting!

A pattern for this quilt prepared by Patricia Cummings was published in
ScrapQuilts magazine.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rare Yellow Work Quilt Leads to Research

Rare Yellow Work Quilt Leads to Research

Patricia L. Cummings
Several years ago, a friend who loves quilts and Redwork embroidery came to visit. Little did I know that one reason for seeing me that day was to give me a rare quilt rendered in yellow thread rather than the customary red hue used for a technique called Outline Stitch Embroidery.

Sandra Munsey had acquired this treasure in 1990 from a quilt vendor, Mildred Fauquet, who was selling quilts at the Nebraska State Fairgrounds in a booth called “Raggedy Ann’s Antiques.” A city bus shuttle from the American Quilt Study Group seminar site in Lincoln, Nebraska had transported Sandra to the fairgrounds. She had seen a quilt of this type only once before in all of the years she has been collecting examples of outline-stitch embroidered quilts in different colors (Bluework, Greenwork, etc.). After previously letting a Yellow Work slip through her hands to another buyer, she decided to purchase this quilt, in spite of its lofty price. I was very elated to receive this gift!

Quilt Features Fine Stitches

This quilt is the work of an experienced needlewoman and is very well made and nicely hand-quilted. The Baptist Fan or Methodist Fan style of hand quilting (so designated according to one’s personal choice of religion) is employed over the surface of the blocks and sashes. The outer edge sashes form an enclosed frame around the center and the other two borders are added. The three strips together feature a zigzag diagonal quilting pattern. The quilting lines are spaced at ¾” intervals.

The overall quilt size is 76 1/8” x 79 3/8” with the individual blocks being an average size of 10 1/8”. Sashes are 2.5” wide, the first white border is 2.5” and the outer yellow border is 3 1/2”, including the outermost part covered by a separate 1/4” binding (the size visible on the front). The backing is the same yellow fabric used to construct the top. A curvi-linear botanical motif is repeated (7 times) on each side in the white border.

Designs on this Quilt

Floral motifs and other 19th century designs, including owls, a woman leaning forward to hand an umbrella and hat to an unseen person, a girl jumping rope, a Jack and Jill motif and the customary inclusion of spider webs, cattails and a water scene are seen. All of the designs are stitched with fine pearl cotton thread in a deep ochre color.

Typical 19th Century Motifs/ One Source Found

In searching for the source of some of the designs, I leafed through the J.F. Ingalls' catalog and found three of them. The block of two birds sitting on a pine branch is the reverse image of the design he calls #880. The price of that 7” x 9” patterns is listed as $.15 cents. The second design I found, a girl jumping rope, is reminiscent of Kate Greenaway’s work. (She was a British illustrator of children’s books). Listed as #823, the 4” x 8” design sold for $.10 cents. The third design offered by Ingalls is the one I call “three chicks in a boat.” Originally intended for making a “splasher” (to keep water from off the wall when one used a pitcher and basin to wash up in a bedroom), the design area was 12” x 25” and the price was a whopping $.50 cents!

Mindboggling Number of Sources for Designs

Encouraged by finding these designs, I looked through the many pages of the M. J. Cunning & Co. catalog with its 3,000 designs but found no matches there. That company bragged of offering the most designs for sale than any other company, the same claim made by their competitor, T. E. Parker. At the height of the Redwork phase in the 1890s-1920s, a trend that began in Kensington, England, quite a few women’s magazines for women offered designs as premiums for subscribing.

The book titled
Briggs Transferring Designs: Patented for the United States of America and published by J.F. Ingalls, Lynn, Mass. The back page of the 234 page book, full of all kinds of botanical motifs, stylistic letters of the alphabet, designs to decorate handkerchiefs and more, features an advertisement for Briggs’ Silks for Embroidery and states that they can be used with the transferring designs and are available from J.F. Ingalls. Other companies made offers for cloth to be used with their products.

Many companies offered collections of designs. A non-comprehensive list would include
magazines and journals such as
The Modern Priscilla, Ladies Home Journal, McCall’s
magazine and
Godey’s Lady’s Book, sometimes offering sets of free designs as a premium for new subscribers. The Montgomery Ward catalog, the Victoria Art Manufacturing Company (William Pinch), and Virginia Snow Studios (a.k.a. Grandma Dexter) were soon competing for their share of the market by offering designs.

Eva Niles capitalized on the needlework fad by writing her own book,
Fancy Work Recreations: A Complete Guide – Knitting, Crochet, and Home Adornment (Minneapolis, Minn.: Buckeye Publishing Co., 1884), in which she pirated Kate Greenaway designs, in some cases. One design in her “Outline Designs for Patchwork” is almost identical to a Greenaway design, yet no mention of the British artist is made. In the days before copyright was stringently enforced, any artist’s drawings were up for grabs. In fact, one magazine (that shall go unnamed) suggested that people trace Kate Greenaway designs directly from her books and from the look of some extant Redwork quilts, many ladies took that advice!

Designs Frequently Offered by Sales Catalogs

Common images of designs to be copied for embroidery were butterflies, musical instruments, sayings, religious icons such as Jesus or Mary, squirrels, owls, canes, vegetables growing animals, Nursery rhyme characters (often call kindergarten blocks and intended for children to embroider), and border edge motifs and corner fillers for square corners of doilies. Water scenes appear on many splashers, some of which feature herons, the rising sun, children jumping off a bridge into water, children in a rowboat, cattails, or sailboats at sea.

What is the Best Way to Transfer Designs? Companies Compete

Companies that sold designs also provided advice and products for transferring designs to fabric and in the 20th century, they began to sell linen already stamped with designs. Before that time,
The Art Amateur: A Monthly Journal Devoted to the Cultivation of Art in the Household provided a recipe for making a stamping paste.

The M.J. Cunning Co. includes a huge perforated pattern that is the same size as their oversize catalog (10 7/8” x 15 3/8” large) as a sample in their 1886 catalog.  One must hold it up to the light to see the design. In their 1905 catalog, they offered stamping pads to use as a dry stamping method. Other methods included wet stamping by soaking a wool cloth with gasoline, running it over stamping wax and in turn, rubbing it over the top of a perforated pattern weighted at each end. J.F. Ingalls sold a stamping paint. In addition, women found they could use flour, starch, charcoal with perforated designs, or pencil lead that filled a whole sheet of paper in order to transfer designs to cloth.

Let a Sewing Machine do the Work!

Sometimes, ladies would also draw their own designs and purchase a sewing machine attachment called “Little Wonder Perforator” to perforate their own paper. Presumably, a home sewing machine could do this work with an un-threaded large needle, reserved for just that purpose because over time, the needle would become dulled. A dressmaker’s tracing tool with saw-tooth edges could manually perforate the design lines. Failing that, M.J. Cunning Co. offered to perforate anyone’s design sent to him and charge prices similar to those seen in their catalog for designs the same size. The catch was that the company would consider those designs an acquisition to their own library of patterns and could very well include them in their next publication.

More Innovation during the Victorian Age

Briggs developed the iron-on transfer method which they first demonstrated at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. Iron-on transfers became the mainstay of companies like Aunt Martha Studios. The bold embroiderer could draw designs directly on the fabric with the indelible pens developed for inscribing quilts with signatures. Failing that, there were rubber stamps for imparting designs to fabric.

Skilled Transference of Designs

We do not know exactly how the quilter who made this quilt transferred her designs but the manner is imperceptible on the finished quilt. After checking all of the major catalogs and books in my personal library, I did not find any other exact matches for the designs of this Yellow Work quilt. At least one purveyor of patterns encouraged his clients to use their own creativity in combining designs.

Is this a Case of Humility or Humor?

There are two motifs that are purposely added in an upside down orientation. There are those people who believe in the myth that quilters included a “humility block” in the past, in order to show deference to the Almighty who is perfect in every way. As a quilter, I can safely say that this quilter either had a sense of humor or was doubly humble!

A Fun Research Project

As usual, I cannot undertake a research project without learning a lot more about old quilts. Unfortunately, we do not know the name of the lady who made this quilt in the early 1900s. Influenced by the designs that were all around her, the quilter put together this unique quilt that has been “well-loved.” At one point in time, someone apparently spilled ink on the surface. In an attempt to remove the stain, a harsh substance was used that did not totally succeed in that effort but also inadvertently removed some of the yellow color from the sash. Nothing and no one leaves this life unscathed, un-scarred or perfect. With these old quilts we have to love them for what they are even when we can only envision what they had been like when new. I hope you have enjoyed this special feature as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Patricia Cummings is the author of books about Redwork and its History (as well as other books). She is an E.G.A. certified master craftsman in quilting, a quilt historian, a quilt judge and a free-lance writer.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Winter is for Hibernating

This winter I have been doing more reading than quilting. I read the entire 12 books of the continuing novel whose main character is "Ross Poldark." The series was written by the late British novelist Winston Graham. The books are so well written, they are riveting, if not lengthy. I first became interested after seeing the (first) televised series on PBS. The second series is to be offered later this spring. It will be interesting to see how much the plots align between the books and the televised version.

Pat hand quilting. Photo taken in 2015. This project is taking a long time!

Wholecloth Quilt Work Continues

Winter is the time for hibernating. We have enjoyed watching the woodpeckers at the suet feeder and I have found the opportunity to work on the queen size white wholecloth quilt that I am hand quilting. I prefer the straight lines to stitch rather than the curvilinear lines or "feathers."

Redwork Kit a Challenge!

The only other project I am currently working on is a Redwork design that features barn quilts. It is a kit that was purchased at Colonial Williamsburg and given to me by a well-meaning relative for Christmas. The work is very demanding, with stitches that are supposed to be only 1/8" large and with frequent stops and starts on the larger, main design as the one strand thread called for cannot be carried on the back more than 1/4". It means re-threading the needle constantly. The pattern also called for basting on a piece of batting to the back of the printed muslin before beginning work, an unusual and new-to-me way of working.

The "other" designs feature line drawings of actual barn quilts as documented by the book Barn Quilts. Coincidentally, I was also given that book by another party who had no idea that I would also be given the Redwork kit. There is a suggestion to make the 4" barn quilt designs into ornaments or to (somehow) add them to the main design that depicts the back of a boy and a girl looking at a barn that has a barn quilt. The instructions are very scanty and leave much (expertise) up to the (advanced) needleworker.

We cannot wait for gardening season. This is a view of one end of our herb garden.

Spring is on the Way!

Daffodils have peeked through the soil and are budded up here in New Hampshire just as temperatures are dropping to 20 degrees and below after a spring-like past week when the temperature high reached 73 degrees in Nashua. We have brought some forsythia branches in and put them in a vase of water to "force" blooms. It will be nice to have an early touch of spring in the house.

Of course, spring also means quilt shows! We are looking forward to the MQX Show at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire as well as other smaller venues, local shows that are always fun! We hope that you have been busy quilting or collecting quilts that others have made. Remember that March 18 is National Quilting Day, a day to celebrate all things quilt!

Happy Quilting!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Book about Feed Sacks

Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric by Linzee Kull McCray is a book that successfully romps through the history of Feed Sacks, that economy fabric whose first use was to hold animal feed, flour, sugar, and many other substances, as explained in the introduction. The book provides a comprehensive view of the subject and is illustrated with countless clear photos of feed sack cloth, including the many pieces of cloth that featured doll cut-outs.

Published by UPPERCASE publishing (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) in 2016, this 544 page book is a must-have for any textile historian who is interested in feed sacks. The print and the captions are very small print so make sure that your reading glasses are up to the task. The book is truly encyclopedic in nature. This book will provide many hours of reading pleasure.

I was lucky enough to have received this book as an unexpected holiday gift and it is a most welcome addition to my library. I have collected a few pieces of feedsack including a clothes hanger cover that was found in this old (1821) house when we moved here. I also bought a half-finished dress made of feedsack and finished it (not that it was my size!). I also have a quilt that is made primarily of feed sacks. Feed sacks is a subject about which I have written for publication in several articles. It is always fun to learn more about a favorite topic and McCray's book provides many little-known details! I would highly recommend her book which is full of swatches, quilts, and fabrics including a piece of cheater cloth that is also in my collection! Fun reading!