Sunday, August 16, 2015

DWM: weekend before vacation edition

I quilted and bound the music quilt.  Can anyone help with a name for it?  I am not at all happy with the quilting -- the meandering in the background is okay but the outline quilting in the bright parts wobbles pretty badly. I am counting on the colors and the design to appeal at the silent auction.

The backing is a thrift-shop cotton bed sheet.
I chose to make the lengthening contrast as an insert rather than adding it to the top or bottom.

Here are blocks for this month's Block Lotto. The triangles are made with the Tri-Recs set and are 4.5" high.

I thought I'd assemble some of the 1.5" postage stamp twosies/foursies that are the current leaders-and-enders.  These blocks are 9.5" unfinished.  The only color placement is light/dark.  I am not sure how many blocks I'll make or how I'll set them.

This has been a last-minute catch up week -- quilt guild, AAUW, and a couple of other projects as organizations get ready to reconvene after the summer hiatus.  I've been particularly pressed to get things in order because we leave on Wednesday for back-to-back Road Scholar programs in eastern Canada.  The drive is 1700 miles each way and we're opting to take the Canadian route.   My next post will be after Labor Day.

I'm linking up with  Judy's Patchwork Times .

Book reviews (not just Newbery)

This is a Throwback Thursday picture posted on Sunday.  It shows that I have been a book reviewer for a a long time!  The Pink Motel was copyright 1959 and published as a Weekly Reader Book Club selection in 1960.

I re-read it this weekend, inspired to do so when I wrote the review of Carol Ryrie Brink's Newbery Medal winning book Caddie Woodlawn .  I remembered the gist of the story but this time I appreciated small jokes, like the gangsters' names (Jack Black and Jimmy Locke).

Newbery Reviews: biography and almost-biography

By Cornelia Meigs

I confess:  I have never read Little Women.    I was given An Old-Fashioned Girl when I was eight. It was too hard for me and I didn’t get through it.    Had I gotten LW instead I would surely have become an LMA devotee.   However, I am an LMA fan. She lived during my favorite historical period and place: mid-19th century New England.  Because of, or in spite of, her unorthodox upbringing she determinedly “paddled her own canoe” (p. 94).

Cornelia Meigs’ 1933 Newbery-winning biography, Invincible Louisa, is about the Alcott family as much as it is about Louisa.   It took me couple of chapters  to get into the rhythm of Meigs’ style. The sentences are long, comma-filled, and convoluted. (“Two years they had lived in the pleasant, square, farmhouse-like dwelling…”)

Louisa became a writer to support her family.   “Whatever it was, she was going to be it with all her might….She saw plainly that her father…had very little real knowledge of the jostling world about him, that her mother was worn and worried over the problems of living…The way in which Louisa adored them all, as the years passed, could never be put into words—the way she loved them and intended to take care of them….One of the most interesting tales in the world is the record of how resolutely Louisa kept that promise….”

 Bronson Alcott was brilliant and impractical --  “a strange, interesting, rather marvelous figure . . .a student, a scholar, and most of all a teacher, to the last depths of his nature.”  Abigail “Abba” May was devoted, patient, and long-suffering.  “She knew that he needed somebody to take care of him as he furthered his great ideas. Joyfully she undertook to be that person….unquestioning and ungrudging in the outpouring of her strength….”   The four Alcott daughters were Margaret, Louisa, Elizabeth, and Anna, immortalized as Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.   The family moved often as Bronson started a school, then tried a commune (Fruitlands, near Harvard, MA), and eventually settled in Concord when Ralph Waldo Emerson befriended them.  Both Bronson and Abba were generous to a fault. (Meigs recounts a story of the winter when the Alcotts were too poor to lay in firewood. A friend delivered a load of wood as a gift.  An indigent came to the door and Bronson gave him the firewood. Another friend, not knowing about the first gift, came to the Alcotts’ with another load.)

Louisa's first story was published in 1852,  followed in by a story collection in 1855. From December, 1862, to January, 1863, she was a volunteer nurse at a military hospital in Georgetown. She caught typhoid fever and returned to Boston.   Her short experience was enough for a series of “Hospital Sketches,” published first in a magazine and then as a book.

In 1868 publisher Thomas Niles asked if she would write “a book for girls.” She wrote Little Women in three months. It was published that October.  Its success led to seven other children’s novels and assured her place in literary history.  (“A completely fresh story it was to them, a book even of a different kind from anything they had read before, a book just about themselves, or so it seemed, by someone who understood them completely.”)   

Meigs’ biography has more intellectual heft to it than “series” biographies for kids (e.g. Childhood of Famous Americans).  For an up-to-date study, I would read Harriet Reisen’s Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, and watch Reisen’s  documentary film of the same title.

By Ruth Sawyer

What a delightful book! 

In “189__” Mr. and Mrs. Wyman went to Italy for his importing business and for her health.  Aunt Emily thought that 10-year-old Lucinda should live with her and Uncle Earle and their four daughters to ensure that Lucinda would be exposed “to the social training and behavior demanded in a daughter of a family of our position.”  Fortunately for Lucinda, her parents arranged for her to live with the Misses Peters, one teacher at Lucinda’s school and the other a seamstress.

Lucinda is a delightfully irrepressible girl (“headstrong, far too independent, and outspoken,” according to Aunt Emily).  She zips around the neighborhood on roller skates. 

She is obviously a child of privilege – an Irish nursemaid, private school, summers in Maine. (Her allowance of $1/week would be $25 nowadays.)  But she is kind and generous to everyone, if rather bossy.  She makes friends with the Irish hansom cab driver, the Irish beat cop, the Italian greengrocer and his son, and the rag-and-bone-man, as well as the boarders at the Misses Peters’ lodging.  Her New York is far from the impoverished immigrants crowded in   tenements on the Lower East Side, but it’s not all paradise.    There is a murder, and Lucinda discovers the body. A child dies, despite Lucinda’s enlistment of the family doctor.  

Lucinda stages “Twelfth Night” for her friends and cousins. “There was one terrible moment in which the audience nearly brought an end to the performance…Uncle Earle made booming sounds like a muffled drum, and Mr. Night Owl started to whoop with laughter…Two or three of the ladies gave little gasps…It happened when Lucinda sang the song of the drunken butler because she thought it has such a lovely swing to it.”   The verse:  “None of us cared for Kate / For she had a tongue with a tang/ She loved not the savour of tar nor of pitch / Yet a sailor might scratch her wher’er she did itch / Then to sea, boys, and let her go hang!”   
Afterward Uncle Earle whispered, “The song of the drunken butler—out it goes. You’re not to sing it again.” “But Uncle Earle, it’s an elegant song.” “For a drunken butler, perhaps, but not for you. I’d have given a guinea to have had your Aunt Emily here tonight and seen her face when you sang it.”
Ruth Sawyer

I’m sure that scene has gone right over the heads of the hundreds (thousands?) of children who have read Roller Skates over the last 78 years!  I wonder if any adults have objected to that scene, or to the murder or the death.  

Ruth Sawyer was a noted storyteller and children's literature expert.  How much of Roller Skates really happened to Ruth Sawyer?  The Wikipedia entry  hints at it, and the Lucinda depicted by illustrator Valenti Angelo
certainly looks like Sawyer. 

I look forward to reading the sequel, The Year of Jubilo

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Getting ahead of schedule

I have many other things I should be working on, both nonquilting and quilting.   However . . .The 2" strip bin is empty. (Not because I used them -- I gave them away! See yesterday's post.) I looked at the tangle of strips in the 1.5" bin and here's what happened.

The block centers and corners are made from the same gray print.
There are still a lot of strips in the bin.

Monday, August 10, 2015

DWM: August HeartStrings and a fling

Mollie, the listmom and chief cheerleader for the HeartStrings Quilt Project , encouraged us to use light-centered strings  this summer.  Because I am using only fabric in my stash for the monthly 48-block HS quilts I'm making this year I have to come up with interesting combinations.  I pulled out a piece of light blue large enough for 48 strips (2" x 15").  Hmmm, what next? I found some pieces of softy minty green and used two alike to flank the centers . . . more light blues and greens, a few mediums, and here's what resulted.

Even the scraps look  minty-cool

Blue and green are considered "calm" colors and indeed that's how I felt as I made the blocks. I'm calling it "Summermint."

There are three popup hampers under the cutting table where I toss strips (1.5", 2", 2.5") as I generate them. Some of the strips have been around for a long time and have been in several quilts. I dumped out the 2" bin, rolled all the strips, and sent them to Bev in Maine for the HeartStrings sew-in later  this month.  I weighed the box -- 4 lbs. -- so that's 16 yards flung to a good cause!

See what other quiltmakers are working on at Judy's Patchwork Times and Beth's Love Laugh Quilt .

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Field trip: the Driehaus Museum

(This is my "Perspective" column for the August 13 Zion-Benton News.)

(photo from the museum website)
My good friend Pat retired July 31. I treated her to a welcome-to-retirement outing on Wednesday. (Her bookshelf quilt is here.)

She and and I had both walked past the building at 40 East Erie St., just north of the Loop, but until this week we’d never gone inside.  Once Chicago’s most elegant residence, the Nickerson Mansion is now the home of the Driehaus Museum, one of the city’s newest museums. 

After the 1871 fire Chicago rebounded to become the industrial, transportation, and financial hub of the Midwest.  It was an era of great fortunes and conspicuous consumption, aptly called the Gilded Age.  

Samuel Nickerson, president of the First National Bank, spared no expense for his family’s 24,000-square foot mansion.  Construction took four years, from 1879-1883, and employed 500 craftsmen. The project  cost $450,000, equivalent to more than $80 million today. 
Dome in the library/sculpture gallery 

The Nickerson family suffered financial reversals and sold the house, completely furnished, for $75,000 in 1900.  The new owners, Lucius Fisher and his family, lived there until 1916. A consortium of businessmen bought the house for $100,000. They donated it to the American College of Surgeons which occupied it until 1963. ACS leased it to several businesses, including an art and antiques gallery. Richard Driehaus, founder of Driehaus Capital Management, bought the mansion in 2003.  Restoration took five years and the Driehaus Museum opened in 2008.

 The restoration conserves 95% of the original structure.  It is furnished and decorated much like it was in the Nickersons’ time.   The style is a mix of Asian, European, and Classical motifs.  Rooms feature craftsman-style built-in cabinetry.  Fireplaces have elaborately carved mantels and ceramic tile surrounds. The oak floors have intricate parquet borders.  A stained glass dome dominates the library and sculpture gallery.   Period furnishings are complemented by decorative pieces from Mr. Driehaus’s collection.

Tiffany lamp with matched nautilus shells
“Maker and Muse: Women and Early 20th Century Art Jewelry” is the museum’s special exhibit.  More than 250 pieces of jewelry made by American, British, French, German, and Austrian craftsmen are on display.  There are brooches and necklaces, hair combs and hat pins.  The exhibit runs through January, 2016.

The Driehaus Museum provides a glimpse into an era of grandeur and beauty.  It’s close to home and a great place to visit!

This brooch features a Billiken . It was made by the Craftsmen's Guild of Highland Park, IL.

A women's suffrage necklace -- green / white / violet (Give Women the Vote). (Unknown maker; silver, amethyst, pearl, enamel, circa 1900-1920.)

P.S. Quilters take pictures of floors.  These are a few of the parquet borders.

Newbery Reviews: riotous scrolls and roses!

By Carol Ryrie Brink
Caddie Woodlawn
1973 edition
When I mention my Newbery Medal project many people have remarked that they loved Caddie Woodlawn.  It was the second book by Carol Ryrie Brink that I read, the first being The Pink Motel which was a Weekly Reader Book Club selection that I read and re-read (and that I think I should read again).

But, back to Caddie and her appeal.    Brink based the book on her grandmother’s childhood stories. Caroline “Caddie” Woodhouse (1853-1939) grew up on a farm carved out of the woods in northwestern Wisconsin.  Her father was from England and her mother was from Boston.  The book is set in 1864 when Caddie is 11, a tomboy keeping up with older brother Tom and younger brother Warren.  Life on the farm, long winters, and school days – getting into and out of scrapes – visits from a favorite uncle --  family secrets revealed – a sympathetic and memorable portrait of a loving and supportive family.

For many years I have remembered a funny couplet:  “If at first you don’t fricassee / Fry, fry a hen!” I found out that I first read it in Caddie.  At the end-of-term program the children make recitations. Caddie’s dramatic reading “went off perfectly, gestures, Boston accent, and everything.”  Warren is not such a confident speaker. His pithy “If at first you don’t succeed / Try, try again” is sabotaged with “fricassee” by Tom and Caddie.  Warren is humiliated and Tom and Caddie are suitably chagrined. 

I was delighted to discover this episode:
Clara and Annabelle had set up the quilting frame and were busily at work on the quilt which Clara had been piecing all winter….Caddie came and looked. “Do you think I could learn how?” she asked.  “I guess if I can mend clocks, I ought to be able to quilt,’ and nobody contradicted her. By noon she was quite as good as Clara or Annabelle.

When Tom and Warren came up from the barn she hailed them enthusiastically and began to exhibit her skill. “Golly, I could do that, too!” said Tom. “Girls think they’re so smart with their tiny stitches. Where’s a needle?” “Me, too!” said Warren, and before Clara knew what was happening to her precious quilt, the three erstwhile adventurers were making riotous scrolls and roses all over.

                Clara protested to Mother, “You’ve got to make them stop. Their hands are all dirty!”

                Mrs. Woodlawn replied, “Let it be, Clara. The quilt will wash, the quilt will wash.”

Riotous scrolls and roses!  I wonder what the fictional Woodlawn quilt looked like.  I doubt that a mid-1860’s quilt looked like the one in Trina Schart Hyman’s 1973 illustration.. (And if they were quilting, why is Warren holding an unpieced triangle?)   I need to find a copy with Kate Seredy’s original illustrations.
Original cover (Kate Seredy illus.)

Newbery Reviews: all across the land

By Lois Lenski

Lois Lenski wrote picture books, early-grade chapter books, and the American Regional series. 
I read many of them – Blue Ridge Billy, Bayou Suzette, Judy’s Journey, as well as the Newbery-winning Strawberry Girl.    In the foreword to SG she explains,  “In this series of regional books for American children, I am trying to present vivid, sympathetic pictures of the real life of different kinds of Americans, against authentic backgrounds of diverse localities. We need to know our country better; to know and understand people different from ourselves; so that we can say: ‘This then is the way these people lived. Because I understand it, I admire and love them.’ Is this not a rich heritage for our American children?”

Strawberry Girl is set in central Florida in the early 1900’s, “still frontier country, with vast stretches of unexplored wilderness, woodland, and swamp.”  Ten-year-old Birdie Boyer and her family have come south from Carolina to reclaim an abandoned farmstead where they will grow a new cash crop: strawberries.   The neighbors are the hot-tempered and shiftless Slaters who hold grudges and who refuse to fence in their cattle and pen their hogs.  The Boyers are generous and extend aid and hospitality to the Slaters.  

There are some genuinely funny scenes – schoolhouse pranks and sibling antics --  and some very poignant ones.  The Slaters sell a steer but Mr. Slater “took all the money and blew it in. He gambled most of it and got drunk with the rest,” sobbed Mrs. Slater.    Later on when Mrs. Slater and her daughters come down with a fever, Mrs. Boyer and Birdie nurse them back to health.  Mr. Slater grudgingly thanks them.

I was reminded of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ books, written a few years before Strawberry Girl, especially her memoir Cross Creek.   This is a very different central Florida from today’s retirement and tourist destination. 

Here is the list of all the American Regional series:    

By Rachel Field

In the early 1820’s a peddler carved a small doll out of a stick of mountain ash. He gave her to young Phoebe Preble, a Maine sea captain’s daughter.  Phoebe named the doll Mehitabel, or Hitty for short.  Over the next century Hitty traveled with Phoebe and her family on a whaling voyage, was shipwrecked on a South Sea Island where she was venerated by the natives,  was owned by a “Hindoo” snake charmer, taken back to the U.S. by the daughter of American missionaries,  lived on a plantation in Louisiana, was a prop for an itinerant portrait-painter on the Mississippi River . . . and made her way back to the State of Maine where, from a shelf in an antiques shop, she writes her memoirs.

What I remembered from my first reading (circa 1962) were the old-fashioned Bodoni bold typeface, Dorothy P. Lathrop’s finely-detailed pen-and-ink illustrations (with Hitty’s unchanging half-smile, whether she was floating in the seaweed or sitting in a haymow), and the pink-and-green foulard pattern on the book cover (vintage fabric before I knew what that meant).  I now appreciate the State of Maine references – I have driven on the Portland-to-Bath road where the Prebles lived (it’s US Route 1). 

“Hitty” is a gentler version of the Wandering Jew literary device (a person whose peregrinations span the years and the globe).  I wonder what she’s been up to in the 85 years since she first wrote her story!

By Will James

I got over horse books the summer that I read all the Black Stallion series.  (That was how I discovered that library books could be put on hold, which in those days meant filling out a 3 x 5 salmon-colored ‘reserve’ card. I think I was more interested in the bibliographic phenomenon of a ‘series’ than I was in the Black Stallion stories themselves.)

And so, Smoky, the Cowhorse was yet another Newbery winner that I had not read until this project and it is another that I would not have appreciated as much when I was ten as I do now. 

Smoky is a “cloudy-colored” bronco born on the Rocking R in Montana in the early 1900’s. Clint is the cowboy who spots him in the roundup and sees the horse’s potential. They have a long working relationship on the ranch. Smoky is stolen.  He is abused and misused and eventually is sold to a rodeo outfit as a bucking bronco.  Many years later Smoky and Clint are reunited. 

Will James tells the story mostly from both Clint’s and Smoky’s points of view.  He avoids cutesy anthropomorphizing. Smoky never “talks.”   Clint is pretty taciturn himself.  There’s lots of cowboy lingo and dialect – it would sound great read aloud, in character.

This is a great tale of the not-so-Old West:  open range, cowboys, cattle, horses, rustlers, justice.

I read a reprint of the 1926 edition that includes James’ illustrations, which reminded me of Remington sculptures.   At I learned that he was born Joseph Ernest Dufault in Quebec. “He came West in 1907 at age 15, becoming a cowhand and changing his name . . . He gained a reputation for his sketches of lie on the range . . . He was accused of rustling cattle in Ely, Nevada. During his 15-month prison sentence he turned to his art, and after his release he became one of the best known Western writers and artists.”  He wrote and illustrated more than 20 books.  He died in 1942 at age 50.”

Sunday, August 2, 2015

DWM: an online anniversary, a finish, and a new flimsy

Twenty years ago today -- August 2, 1995: my first post to the UseNet newsgroup rec.crafts.textiles.quilting (RCTQ). I was director of the Fargo Public Library then.  The public television station offered inexpensive internet (email) access, called Prairie Online.  The library got accounts for all the staff to learn how to "do" email. The service included a range of newsgroups, among them RCTQ. I was a novice at both quilting and the internet back then. RCTQ provided a wonderful community, a virtual quilt guild, acquaintances that I value, and friendships that I treasure.

It's nice to begin a month with a finish!  I quilted and bound the red rails flimsy that I made in April. I used regular stitching (feed dogs engaged, regular presser foot) in a "hanging diamonds" pattern (diagonal lines + vertical lines (or horizontal, depending on the way you look at it )).  3-1/8 yards for backing and binding.

Indigo (dark blue) is the color for the August Rainbow Scrap Challenge .  Here's the latest of the bubble blocks I'm making, one for each month. 

I was asked to make a quilt for the Full Score Orchestra gala this fall. I knocked myself out to make Noteworthy for the event last year. I wanted to make something less involved.  When I saw Dottie , a pattern by Moda, I knew that would do it.  I bought musical note fabric for the background and rootled through my stash for a variety of brights. The top is finished and I'm making the pieced back now. 

The blocks are 12 x 12 so this is 60 x 72. 

I think the design packs a contemporary visual punch and it was certainly easy to make.  The block is basically a nine-patch.

I'm linking up with other quiltmakers for Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt  and Design Wall Monday at Patchwork Times .

July stash report

July: fabric in:  20-3/4 yards received as a gift + 5 yards purchased ($25) = 25-3/4
       fabric out:  26-1/2 sewn, 23-1/8 sold = 49-5/8
January-July:  fabric in: 80-7/8 yards ($275)
       fabric out: 196-7/8 yards
net decrease:  116 yards

I finally advertised fabric on two online sales groups (Quilters Flea Market and Quilters Virtual Yard Sale).  23-1/8 yards sold!

Not only is my fabric stash smaller but so also is my quilt stash.

Cindy came to get the second batch of pillowcases I made for her daughter (as well as two dog bed covers that I'd sewn). She purchased three quilts, too -- Batik Rails and Choqua and Framed Four-Patch .
 She gave me the leftover pillowcase fabric, too.  (It weighed about 5 lbs, so I estimated just over 20 yards.)

The proceeds from this entrepreneurial flurry ($621) went right into my savings account, designated for a new sewing machine.

How do I determine the price on a quilt? It's what I think the customer will pay.  I know I don't adequately compensate myself for my time and hardly for the materials. I don't sell quilts to earn a living. If I hadn't sold these they'd be given away to a community event, charitable project, or on a gift-giving occasion.

These are the quilts "on hand." Some have destinations (like the brown/green HeartStrings on top which is going to the Spelling Bee this fall); some have been in shows but were not purchased; three had some problems with fabric bleeding after they were washed. Every quilt has a story!