Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Thorne Rooms

After I soaked in the wonderful Quilts as Souvenirs exhibit yesterday (see the previous post) I spent a half hour revisiting one of my favorite Art Institute exhibits:  the Thorne Miniature Rooms, or the Thorne Rooms for short.  I suppose I was six or seven when I first saw these elegant dioramas.  Every day in ThorneRoomLand is sunny, but the quality of the light is at once yellow, cool, and slightly dusty.  (I pressed my face against the glass to try to see the light bulb. I think I succeeded once.)  I could imagine tiny people just around the corner, waiting to come out and use the rooms after all the museum visitors left.
Quilty floor!  / 16th C France
Narcissa Niblack was born in Indiana in 1882 and grew up in Chicago. In 1902 she married her childhood sweetheart James Ward Thorne, an heir to the Montgomery Ward department store fortune. They had two sons.   Her interest in miniatures began early when her uncle, a Navy admiral, sent her trinkets.

During the Depression she engaged unemployed skilled craftsmen to create the 1:12 scale models of period rooms from upper-class homes from France, England, and the U.S.  (And a few others (see the Chinese room, below).)  Early exhibitions were private charity fundraisers. They were displayed to the public at the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition (Chicago) and the 1940 World’s Fair (New York). 

The Art Institute created a permanent gallery for 68 Thorne Rooms. It opened in 1954.  The Phoenix Art Museum has  20 rooms and the Knoxville Art Museum has nine rooms.  [We saw the Phoenix rooms some years ago. It was so odd to see Thorne Rooms that were unfamiliar-yet-familiar.]
Traditional Chinese Interior 

The rooms are cleaned with cotton swabs and tweezers. There is a detailed layout plan for each room to ensure that items are put back in their proper places.   

My favorites have always been the American rooms, especially the 18th century. 

A Shaker scene. I appreciate this much more now!

A new room was installed in 1999 to commemorate Frank Lloyd Wright.  It took 800 hours to create! 

Friday, March 30, 2018

"Quilts as Souvenirs" exhibit

The Art Institute 's exhibit Quilts as Souvenirs opened in January and closes on Sunday.  Plans to meet a friend

downtown ultimately fell through. I still wanted to see the show so I went today, by myself.  The weather was sunny, the temperature crisp -- perfect for the one-mile walk from the station.

It was a small exhibit -- all of the quilts are part of the AIC permanent collection and understandably it's a small part. (There was no explanation of why AIC decided to feature these.)


  Bertha Stenge was a renowned quiltmaker. This is "Quilt Show." The miniature quilts and the teeny border blocks -- plus the hand-quilting -- are stunning!

Another one of Bertha's quilts was on display. This is "American Holidays," made after WWII. (Among the holidays, in the border: VE Day and VJ Day.)

I think that Vic would like this one! The center is a printed handkerchief of the Philadelphia exposition.

Note the scrappy patches in the pinwheels.

Another handkerchief center. These gents are Garfield and Harrison.

Album Quilt, c 1854, by Sarah Ann Wilson (a slave).

Friendship Quilt made for Ella Maria Deacon, 1824.  (This would be a wonderful sampler to reproduce (like Dear Jane or Nearly Insane).)

Some of the blocks would be tough to make.

The Circuit Rider Quilt, made for Rev. G. C. Warvel in 1862.

Four quilts by Dr. Jeannette Throckmorton, M.D.
are in the AIC collection. This state birds and flowers was the one on display. I'm pretty sure the designs were stamped transfers.  The embroidery and quilting are exquisite.  (There was no explanation of why an Iowa doctor's quilts were acquired by AIC.)

Boxer John Sullivan is the subject of a crazy quilt.

 Another crazy quilt features animals.

Since the quilt is so obviously directional why is the top border oriented
upside down?

Aren't these bonnet ladies charming?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Weekly update: bargain books, churn dashes, a backing, Magical Mystery, and wedding wheels

 We voted in the Illinois primary on Tuesday.  It will be a long, nasty, and expensive campaign season.

Saturday was Tech Savvy , a STEM exploration program for middle school girls held at Triton College in River Grove.  Pat, Janet, and I were the volunteers from the Waukegan Area Branch.  We each assisted at one of the hands-on sessions and then staffed the AAUW information table.

# # # # # # # # #

I gave up buying fabric for Lent, Quilt books aren't fabric  When the Martingale blog announced its annual warehouse sale I went shopping right away. These 19 books were $6 each with free shipping. They arrived on Tuesday.  I am taking my time reading them.

54 churn dash blocks arrived this week.
Barb hosted the swap.

I put some of them to use in the pieced backing for the tall churn dash quilt that I showed last week.

Today Libby will reveal the Magical Mystery  .  I made all the clues but I didn't have the creative energy to figure out how the units go together.

I have been dithering about the design for my niece's wedding quilt. She and her fiance are WWII reenactors. I bought three books about WWII quilts. Nothing clicked.  I decided to scrap (ha!) the vintage idea and turned my thoughts to boho (bohemian), like Kathy Doughty or Jen Kingwell. Last week Em wrote about the wedge block project she'd begun.  That inspired me -- more than a lightbulb going off, more than a kick in the pants, more than I don't-know-what. I dug out the Fons & Porter wedge ruler that I had never used.  I pieced strip sets. (Why did I choose 1.5" strips? The process would have gone much faster with wider strips.)  Here's the result.

The wheels are 22" across. I cut big squares of the background (a soft green stripe, bought years ago for window valances). The stripes alternate horizontal/vertical.  I need to swap out some of the wedges to distribute color placement (example: too many darks at the lower right Iedge of the center block).

I will need to refer to someone's instructions to attach the wheels to the background and finish the hole in the center.  Sashing or not? Border or not?  What do you think?

I counted so carefully. How did I get extra wedges?

I trimmed the cut-off edges of the strip sets and have a scrappy something-or-other underway.

Monday linkups:
Design Wall Monday
Oh Scrap
Monday Making
Moving It Forward