Monday, June 7, 2021

Quilt Finished

 The "Woodland Creatures" quilt that I designed is now finished. I asked Janet-Lee Santeusanio of Woodland Manor Quilting in Hampton Falls, NH to machine-quilt it for me. I think she did an outstanding job! This is a just-for-fun quilt. I chose Hobbs 80/20 batting. Here are some photos.


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

New Exhibit to Feature Sweetheart Pillows

 According to the Wright Museum of World War II's website, that Wolfeboro, New Hampshire museum will feature a special exhibit from August 17 to October 31, 2021 which will include sweetheart pillows from World War II. "Shaped by Conflict: Mementos of the WWII Era" is a much anticipated exhibit that was supposed to have been presented last year but was postponed a year due to the pandemic.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with these once ubiquitous textiles, sweetheart pillows and mother pillows were commercially-produced during World War II and were mostly rayon or acetate, except for those silk-screened pillow covers made during World War I (also featured in my book).  I donated the World War I pillow covers to the National World War I Museum & Memorial. 

In 2018, I donated all of the pillow covers and other related WWII textiles I had collected to the Wright Museum as the Patricia Cummings/Lyell D. Henry, Ph.D. collection. When I was writing the landmark book Sweetheart & Mother Pillows, published by Schiffer Publishing in 2011, Dr. Henry sent me 103 of the pillow covers he had collected over a 40 year span. To those, I added the many pillow covers I acquired which, in all, amount to a hefty collection! Included is a quilt made of pillow covers; and a silk pilot's map of China, as well as other small assorted items. I enjoyed the two humorous ones I collected the most!

I thoroughly enjoyed the research I did on these textiles and my book is the first and only one so far published on this topic. Included is a chapter about the Civilian Conservation Camps, the C.C.C. Pillow covers were available for the recruits to purchase and send home and I found some dandy ones to show in the book. I have since donated all of those pillow covers to the C.C.C. Legacy Foundation.

Mark your calendars now. You won't want to miss this exhibit, if it is possible for you to attend. The museum closes on October 31 so the display will be up until that date.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Woodland Creatures Quilt

 I have just completed a quilt top that I am calling "Woodland Creatures." Each hexagon in the hexagon rosettes is fussy-cut and represent various animals. There are bunnies, deer, bears, owls, chickadees, hedgehogs, etc.  In person, the quilt is very colorful!

The hexagon rosettes are appliqued onto various brown print fabrics. The alternate blocks are pink fabrics that I had in my "stash." The border is a batik brown print. I really enjoyed putting this quilt top together. I planned it as I went along. I kind of outsmarted myself. Initially, I cut the brown blocks at 8" square. By the time I had appliqued on the hexagon rosettes, I needed to square up the blocks to measure 7 1/4" which leaves me with blocks that are 6 3/4" square when sewn into the quilt. I have always enjoyed seeing quilts that have a combination of brown and pink squares. I'll be happy to put on the binding and label, once I get it back from the machine quilter. This "snuggle" quilt measures 58" long x 45" wide.

Patricia Cummings


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Quilt History

 The history of quilts is a fascinating one. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate class "History of Quilts" that I participated in when the class was newly-minted just touched the surface of the topic. The American Quilt Study Group with its publications "Blanket Statements" and its annual journal "Uncoverings" is constantly expanding our awareness of the subject of quilt history, in general, and it also highlights individual quilts and quiltmakers. State project books, of which there are many, further elucidate the study of quilt history. And, individual museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Colonial Williamsburg have published their own books to show off their quilt collections.

I have been studying quilt history for years now and there is always more to learn. Quilt collectors share information about their quilts which adds to a greater understanding. Online, the Quilt Index shows quilts as does the International Quilt Study Center. Sometimes new information trumps older information which needs to be updated. There are those who study and try to keep up with current data and there are those individuals who may base their information on one source that is not reliable.

Myths have circulated about quilting. These "stories" which are nothing more than "feel good" attempts are spread by well-meaning but deluded people. Before sharing information of a historical nature, it is best to document it using multiple sources.

One of the two biggest myths that I have taken on in the past is twofold: the story that slaves used quilts as signal devices on the Underground Railroad and that quilts were hung on clotheslines to denote "safe houses" for slaves. Both theories have been discounted as not plausible and with no evidence to support either one.

The second myth that comes to mind is the mistaken name of Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster about whom I wrote an extensive e-book in 2008. A previous researcher thought her name was Emily Webster. In my book, I describe the association between Ellen Webster and her non-related friend, Emily. Once a statement is in print, it is hard to rectify an error as people will continue to seek out source material and sometimes seize on the first reference they find, not looking any further, which is why multiple references are always a good idea. I gathered "proof" and know for certain Ellen's true name. She was a wonderful teacher, researcher, quilt chart maker and deserves to be known by her actual name.

New quilt discoveries and connections are being made all the time. It's an exciting time to be involved with quilt history. For those who are interested, I urge you to read all that you can and try to get the "big" picture of when quilting started, the many examples of types of quilts made for various purposes, the years when quilting was most popular, and so much more! It is a rich field! 

For those of you who are interested in block history, there is a new book out, actually the 3rd edition of The Encyclopedia of Pieced Patterns by Barbara Brackman. Color has been added to this volume and more blocks than the 2nd edition. To accompany the book, there is a software program that can be purchased separately called Blockbase+. This program is useful for printing out templates for blocks of various sizes.

There is always more to discover. Happy Quilting!

Patricia L. Cummings

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Knitting: The New Craze

 Crafts seem to come and go in phases. During the 1960s Crewel Embroidery was "big." Then came a wave of Counted Cross Stitch and Needlepoint. I have works in all of those mediums. Then, in 1985, I made my first quilt and was "hooked." I wanted to know anything and everything about quilting and I tried many techniques. At first, machine quilting as it is practiced today by longarm quilters was a new thing. Most people who quilted in the 1970s and beyond were actually making comforters for not a quilting stitch by hand was in sight except by those who had learned the art of quilting from their mothers or grandmothers.

I made hundreds of quilts in all sizes ranging from miniature to queen size. I'll admit that many of the bed quilts were tied to secure the three layers together, not quilted by hand or by machine. As time went on, I took on a few large hand quilting projects (quilts) that took me a year each to quilt (like the Calico Garden quilt hanging on the wall in the photo below). Lately though, I have succumbed to the ease of having quilts quilted by a longarm artist. There is something gratifying, after all, in having a project finished and not hanging around as an unfinished object.

Today, the latest trend in "crafting" seems to be knitting. I belong to one circle of knitters. I find that I need to choose projects in which I don't have to think or count because I am too distracted when people start talking. So, I have taken to making winter scarves for needy children. I donate them to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program at the local Friends organization and they distribute them. Since March 2020, when the pandemic set in, I have made six scarves to donate. I use the knit stitch only for the scarves and leave the ends without fringe, per the organization's request. Fringe can get caught in zippers.

It seems that others, including some famous people, have taken up knitting, too. I learned to knit when I was about 12 years old through 4-H, about the same time I was taking 4-H sewing lessons. My mother neither sewed nor knew how to knit. I managed to make some sweaters for myself and family members but I did not knit for many years. I was too busy participating in the master craftsman program for quilt making and completed that certification in the year 2000 (after 9 long years of submitting projects to be judged).

As a quilt historian now, I find the field to be very rich with information. There are less details available about the history of knitting but I did find one book with some interesting facts about the topic. I shall have to sit down with that book soon and enjoy learning what I can from it. 

For now, quilting projects have taken a back burner to my knitting. I am sure I shall make more quilts but this has been a nice interlude. I like to make useful articles that people can enjoy and it cheers me to think of "forgotten" children enjoying my colorful scarves and hats!