Monday, February 27, 2017

Weekly update: this and that

Last week began with quilts when I gave "Every Quilt Tells a Story" for the Antioch chapter of Questers. (Here is more about the national organization.)  Two members are friends from AAUW and I knew one of the other women in the group.

The AAUW board met Thursday evening.  Joanne brought this lovely quilt which came from her husband's family. It's made out of neckties. There's no batting and the top is not tied to the backing. The edge is finished with knitted (I think) lace.  The feather stitching is very even.  There's a quarter to show how small the blocks are.

I listed items for sale on the Quilters Classified FB group -- a big box of cross-stitch leaflets, unused craft patterns, and 19-3/4 yards of fabric will be mailed out today!  (However, I do need to check before I send Paypal invoices. Mailing rates have gone up. [Note to self.])

I have all the bricks sewn onto the quilt that I'm repairing. I have to figure out how to attach the replacement binding.  That is this week's project.

I've begun a batch of 9" Ohio Stars in red, white, and blue.   I'm using up pieces of white-on-white and light cream-on-cream. I also found a partially-filled shoebox with star-print squares (set aside for a project I've forgotten) that are proving handy.  The blocks will go to Karen, the moderator of the Block Swappers group. She is also a Quilts of Valor coordinator. My goal is to make 365 blocks using stash on hand. Here are the first 28.

Monday linkups:
Oh, Scrap!
Monday Making
Main Crush Monday
Design Wall Monday

P.S. I also made the March Block Lotto blocks: blue broken dishes.  I used up some blue prints that I've had for a very long time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Orchid Show

The Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid Show opened this past week.  It's  a not-to-be-missed event.  I went on Sunday with Magpie friend Debs who is in Chicago on business.

The weather was so mild -- high 60's in Chicagoland in February! -- that we ate lunch outside.
It's impossible to take a bad picture.

Weekly update: African-American quilt history

Pnwheel Flower, Missouri, ca. 1860
This is the Perspectives column for the March 1 Zion-Benton News. (Yes, I wrote it a week early.)

This month’s special exhibit at the DuSable Museum of African-American History encouraged me to make good on a long-held wish to spend a day exploring that museum.  When the Zion-Benton Public Library hosted the DuSable’s mobile museum on February 13 I was doubly-encouraged. (I hope you, too, took the time to walk through the museum “bus” when it was parked in front of the library.)

My friend Rosemary was glad to join me.  It was a crisp and sunny day, perfect for a walk from Ogilvie station to Michigan Avenue where we got on the CTA bus that took us right to the museum at  Cottage Grove and 57th in Washington Park.

“Unpacking Collections” features quilts acquired by  Cuesta Benberry.  She was a pioneer in the field of quilt history research with an emphasis on quilts made by African-Americans.  As exhibit curator Marsha McDowell says, “Every collection reflects a point of view, a passion,a mindful purpose of the collector who made it.”  A literal unpacking of a collection involves its care, interpretation, and accessibility.  A figurative unpacking of a collection considers the scholar and the subject of the research.

Benberry (1923-2007) lived in St. Louis. She had degrees in education and library science.  Her interest in quilts was sparked shortly after her marriage.  “All of the women in my husband’s family were very proud of their quilts and what amazed me was that the quilts had names,” she wrote. “They’d put their quilts in competition in county fairs. It was the quilt designs and patterns that first attracted me.  I found out there were pattern collectors and I became one, too.”
Red Boots by Fanny Cork ca. 1890
Cuesta's husband's great-great grandmother

Her expertise grew. She wrote numerous articles and four books about African-American quilts. She was a consultant for nearly every major exhibit of African-American quilts.  She was a founding member of the American Quilt Study Group, the premiere association for scholarly quilt studies. She was a well-regarded mentor to other quilt historians.

WPA Tulip, by Minnie Benberry, ca.1930
Interestingly, Benberry was not a quilter herself.  She made several blocks but not entire quilts.   The DuSable exhibit features 52 items from her collection.   The oldest is from the mid-19th century.  Another was made by her mother-in-law. It features a tulip pattern.  The story was that during the Depression the Works Progress Administration (WPA) distributed the pattern to many women in one rural area. The next spring when they gathered at their church to quilt their tops they discovered they’d all used the same pattern. 

I didn’t want to leave the quilt exhibit but we wanted to see other parts of the museum.  There is  a history of African-Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces from the Revolution to the present day.  “A slow Walk to Greatness” is a permanent exhibit that tells the story of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington.  Galleries display paintings and sculpture by African-Americans.

Mammy Dolls [date?]
Cuesta included depictions of racial/ethnic stereotypes in her collection

The DuSable Museum was founded by Margaret Taylor Burroughs in 1961.  It moved to the present location in Washington Park, a former Chicago Park District police building, in 1973. A wing was added in 1993.  For more information and to plan your visit go to 
Kiss 1, Kiss 2 by Faith Ringgold, 1993

Weekly update: winnings and a finish

The  Benartex blog had a scavenger hunt to introduce its upcoming fabric collections. I diligently searched and found each of the clues and submitted my entry. I won this bundle of ten fat quarters!

One finish this week:  Scrappy Detour En Route to Provence.

Here are the three fabrics I used for the backing. I did not acquire them in the year they were printed. The green leaves are a truly vintage print (36" wide).

Around Christmas time a friend asked if  could take a look at a quilt that needed repair. It has been in their family since their children (now 31 and 24) were little.  She brought it over and I said I'd give it a try.  I have no excuse not to get going!

The machine-pieced bricks are 2-3/4 x 4-3/4 finished. The fabrics are cotton prints, some blends, and some heavier garment and home dec. The red ties are heavy cotton (not perle; maybe crochet?). Polyester batting.

The backing is intact but the self-binding is worn. About two dozen of the bricks are torn. I contemplated taking the entire quilt apart,, replacing the bricks, and then retying (or, preferably for me, machine-quilting) it but my friend doesn't want to pay that much.

I'm making new bricks faced with lightweight interfacing. I will machine-applique them over the old bricks and put ties in the center of each. (I've tried one applique -- with red bobbin thread it blends into the backing.)

 Here are two replacement bricks. One shows the interfaced back.   The "pillow" keeps the raw edges of the brick turned under better than just pressing the raw edges.

I was not surprised to find how many 1970's-80's ditsy prints were in my stash.

Linking up with
Main Crush Monday
DesignWall Monday
Monday Making
Oh Scrap!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Weekly update: two finishes and bargains

While New England is bracing for another blizzard, here in Chicagoland we are having late-March temperatures.  As I drove home from a meeting one evening last week I smelled skunk spray. On Saturday morning a fox strolled across the street.                                                           The mild weather made it easy to deliver spaghetti dinners to shut-ins later on Saturday morning. This is the sixth year that our Rotary Club has prepared the Valentine's Day treat. Stevens' and my list has women from our church. We took time to chat with them, too.      

I started physical therapy with two sessions this past week.  My foot is much less swollen but the big toe does not hit the ground when I walk. It's not painful but it still throws my gait off. 

However, I can sew with my right foot! That's good for free-motion quilting.  I can boast of two finishes (quilted/bound/labeled):  Ripples and Cross-Cut Strings.
I went to two estate sales in Waukegan (a block apart).  I got nothing at one but the second yielded office supplies (partially-used packages of mailing labels, an unopened package of print-ready postcards (list price about $22; I paid $5)) -- and two all-cotton bed sheets. The gray one was a full-fitted, never used. The print is Ralph Lauren, king-fitted.  I've washed them, cut off the elastic, and ironed them.  12-1/4 yards for $10!  (As I have said before, if I can't avoid acquiring fabric at least I can get good deals.) 
P.S. I leafed through a 1971 high school yearbook at one of the sales to see if I knew anyone. (Yes, one.)   One of the photo collages used as a section title page included a photo of a driver's license. (A rite of passage for teens.)  In those days Illinois driver's licenses included social security numbers as well as date of birth. I wonder if the girl (now in her 60's) realizes her social security number was published for all to see?  

Monday linkups:


Monday, February 6, 2017

Weekly update: totebags finished

2/23 update:  I'm linking to the OMG February Finish page here

My One Monthly Goal  for February was to make two totebags.  I'm pleased to say that I finished both by February 4!

They will be filled with advance reader copies (books I shipped back from ALA Midwinter).  They will be raffled at the Lake County Women's Coalition brunch on March 4, the annual Women's History Month celebration.

The bag on the left uses an orphan block (Eddystone Light) and a swirly print by Paula Nadelstern that I've had for a long time. The bag on the right is adapted from a totebag I saw in a catalog.  I used Bo-Sal In R Form .* It's a lot like the car head liner that I used in the daisy totebags last year.  The firm-yet-flexible foam allows the totes to stand up.

I'll link up with OMG at the end of February.
Meanwhile, here are the Monday link parties:
Monday Making
Oh, Scrap!
Main Crush Monday
Design Wall Monday

* When we lived in Maine I made several shopping trips to the Bo-Sal outlet which was in Scarborough (or Saco?) in those days. They had rolls and rolls of high-end upholstery/home dec fabric. I bought a ginormous bag of fiberfill that I used for pillow stuffing. I hauled that slowly-diminishing bag from Maine to North Dakota to Illinois (two houses) and finally used it up in 2010.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Estate sale: sarong, so right

I went to an estate sale on Thursday.  I had driven past the house many times. Though I knew who the owners were, I didn't know them well enough to go inside their house. (Want to see? Here is the listing.)

Thursday  was the first day of a four-day sale so all items were full-price (25%, 50%, 75% reductions to follow). I was sure someone would scoop these up the first day so I bought 'em.

Mint-in-package souvenir.  It's poly-cotton (alas) but I'm going to keep it in the wrapper anyway.

Another souvenir.  This is a sarong -- 39 x 70.

The gold foil label says "Batik Asli / tjap / Daftar No. 71566 / Bibir Manis."  (Tjap (pronounced "chop") is the stamp used to print batik designs.) Batik Asli is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (It's also the name of a restaurant/hotel in the Netherlands Antilles.)

To read more about Indonesian batik sarongs: this article

I have other sarongs in my batik stash. I used one as a quilt back a few years ago. Some day I'll use the others.

[I'm counting the batik sarong as "fabric in." I'm not counting the Hawaiian sarong since that is an addition to my vintage textiles collection.]

Estate sales are a good source of office supplies, too.  Partially-used legal pads, small and large. I couldn't resist the "Miss Steno" stenographer's notebook.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Newbery Reviews: two views of 13th-century England

I thought I’d begin this post with an observation about our fascination with the Middle Ages.  Stories of knights and fair ladies, crusades and pilgrimages, serfs and clerics are part of our literary and cultural heritage from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Sir Walter Scott, Malory to Tennyson to T.H. White, Lerner & Loewe to Game of Thrones.   It turns out that other people have observed the same phenomenon:  here  and here

These Newbery winners were published 66 years apart and describe English life in the 13th century. 

Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray, won the 1942 Newbery Medal.  It is set in England in 1294.  I first read it when I was in sixth grade or so.   It was a delight to read it again.

The setting is England in 1294.   Ten-year-old Adam’s is the son of Roger Quartermayne, a minstrel who makes his living singing and playing at noble households in southeast England. Adam is becoming an accomplished harper and has learned many of his father’s songs. The Quartermaynes are on the road, sometimes on horseback but mostly on foot, when an unscrupulous rival minstrel, Jankin, steals Adam’s beloved spaniel Nick.  In his frantic search for Nick, Adam and Roger get separated.   Adam is honest and kind. He is  resourceful and determined despite travails. He travels with a merchant who is set upon by robbers.  He cracks his head when he falls off a wall while watching a mystery play. He joins a family of buskers who are less scrupulous than his father brought him up to be. Happily he is reunited with his beloved dog and his loving father.  

There are references to the Magna Carta (the gaffer, an old man at one house where Adam stays, was at Runnymede that day in 1215), to “raising a hue and cry” (“a mighty shout . . . according the statute made at Westminster” by King Edward in which the warning would be shouted from town to town until the criminal was caught) , to Oxford students singing Gaudeamus Igitur   (which dates to 1287).

I wondered how far Adam walked.  St. Albans to London to Dorking to Guildford. Back to London, to Amersham, to Oxford:  sixty miles east to west, sixty miles north to south.  Mostly on foot, by a ten-year-old!  Was Adam’s pluck and persistence a reflection of the British spirit during WWII?

Robert Lawson’s detailed pen-and-ink illustrations include a touch of whimsical detail (Adam’s freckles, Jankin’s sneer) even in tense situations. 

Elizabeth Janet Gray Vining wrote books for adults and children, many about Quakers (she became a Quaker as an adult).   Windows for the Crown Prince is her account of her experience as tutor (1946-50) to Japanese Crown Prince Akihito.

# # # #

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!  Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz.   2008 Newbery Medal.

GMSL is a story told in dramatic verse.  The characters live in “a medieval manor” in England in 1255.  There’s Hugo, the lord’s nephew, who recalls the day he killed a wild boar.   Taggot is the blacksmith’s daughter who shoes Hugo’s horse. Will is the plow-boy, Jake is the half-wit. Jacob is the moneylender’s son and Petronella is the merchant’s daughter.  Each character has a scene with an episode from his or her every day life.

In the foreword Schlitz explains that her favorite way to study history is through people’s stories. She is a librarian (good research) and a playwright (good dialog). 

Marginal notes explain holy days, unfamiliar words, and other details.  (“The miller was socially superior to peasants and villeins, but greatly inferior to the lord.” “Pottage is a sort of stew. Poor people just threw whatever they had into the pot and hoped for the best.”)  Essays provide “a little background” on the three-field system of farming, the Crusades, and the Jews in medieval society.  There is an extensive bibliography.

Robert Byrd’s illustrations are in the style of the everyday people depicted in illuminated manuscripts. It’s fun to look closely for details.   

Newbery Reviews: folk heroes

The White Stag, by Kate Seredy (1938)

I adored Kate Seredy’s The Good Master and its sequel The Singing Tree.   Her illustrations enhanced the wonderful stories about her native Hungary just before and during World War I.  I recall checking out her other books, including The White Stag.  It’s also about Hungary but set many, many, many centuries earlier.   When I reread it I realized that I did remember the story of the Huns and the Magyars, the nomadic tribes who migrated north from the Caucasus to settle in what is now Hungary.

Seredy retells the legend of the founding of Hungary.  She begins with the great Nimrod, his sons Hunor and Magyar, and his grandson Bendeguz.  The Magyars were peace-loving and wanted to settle. The Huns were opportunistic warriors who conquered other tribes and took slaves. The kindred tribes migrated alongside one another and eventually crossed the high mountains. Bendeguz married a beautiful slave girl, Alleeta.  She died in childbirth. The son lived:  Attila.

Seredy’s lithograph illustrations are magnificently heroic and show a strong Art Deco influence. The people are long-legged, the horses are well-muscled. The wings on the men’s helmets swoop up and away. The swords are long and sharp.  Sharp shadowing foretells extremes (great victories or great defeats). 

There is a foreword by the author to put some of the story in context.  She explains why she omits historical and anthropological details.  “Those who want to hear the voice of pagan gods in wind and thunder, who want to see fairies dance in the moonlight, who can believe that faith can move mountains, can follow the thread on the pages of this book. It is a fragile thread; it cannot bear the weight of facts and dates.”

Superheroes aren’t just in comic books. They’re the stuff of civilization!

# # # #

Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry (1941)

“It happened many years ago, before the traders and missionaries first came into the South Seas, while the Polynesians were still great in numbers and fierce of heart. But even today the people of Hikueru sing this story in their chants and tell it over the evening fires.  It is the story of Mafatu, the Boy Who Was Afraid.”

Mafatu has feared the sea because he was with his mother when she drowned in a tropical storm. His fear disappoints his father and makes him the object of ridicule from the other boys on the island. He determines to conquer his fear by sailing out on his own, accompanied by his faithful dog.  His canoe goes off course in a storm and he lands on an island. There he puts all his skills to use: building a shelter, harvesting food, making a fire from two sticks, pounding mulberry pith to make cloth. He makes a knife from whalebone. He kills a wild boar and takes makes a necklace out of the tusks and teeth as his trophy. He cuts down a tree and makes a dugout canoe for his return trip.  Just as he is about to embark for home a tribe of savage cannibals (who hold ceremonies on the island) find him and begin to chase him. He manages to out-paddle them.  Eventually he returns to Hikueru to a hero’s welcome. No longer will he be the Boy Who Was Afraid – he has earned the name of Stout Heart.
Sperry’s pen-and-ink drawing are very evocative. They’re printed in dark turquoise (teal) ink in the library copy I have. (I’m sure modern paperbacks just use black.)  There are several marginal illustrations as well. 

Some inconsistencies in the text were obvious to me.  Why were some Polynesian words italicized while others were not?   The word “millrace” was used twice.  The basalt cone of the island volcano is “as soft in hue as an amethyst.”  Would Mafatu have known what a millrace or an amethyst was? (Would an American fourth-grader recognize millrace?)  He uses the Southern Cross as a compass, writes the author.  Since the story was set before the traders, why not call it by its Polynesian name? (I looked it up. It’s Hanai-a-ka-malama.) 

I note yet again the lack of notes – nothing about the author and how he learned the legend, no suggestions for further reading.  Of course, thanks to Wikipedia and Google, I can find out a lot.  (He trained as an artist. He traveled around the South Pacific fin 1920-21 and in 1924-25, visiting various islands.)  But think of the generations of kids who read the book before Google.  Background information would provide context and prompts for reflection.

(P.S. His brother invented the Sperry Top-Sider.)