Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ta ta 2009

My last quilt of 2009 is another rescue.
I found it in an antique mall two years ago in Macon, Missouri, a town on route 36.

It was too grand in former days to risk leaving for someone to cut up. It features techniques I can't imagine mastering, mostly wonderful trapunto hand quilting.....

There are justifications for acquiring a quilt in fragile shape like this.
You can admire and replicate the pattern.
You can study the incredible quilting.
You can note how the fabric aged.
You can marvel at the cool fabric - I love the flower center at the top.

I truly enjoy writing this blog. A reporter in a former life, it seems I still have the urge to report. I am "easily entertained" (as a co-worker I did not click with once opined) and delight in things people say and things I see. I love thrift, I love quilts and I adore good writing. All come together in the simple title hung on this blog quite quickly last March. I find it remarkable I can share what I enjoy and hear back from others with the same sentiment in Canada, and England, and Kansas City. It's satisfying and most of all, fun.

Happy New Year! See you in 2010......

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Green & Red Log Cabin

I hang up this Log Cabin every December. It measures 72" x 78". I found it at the antique mall in Ottawa, Kansas in 2003. For $15, how could I leave it behind.

The Log Cabin block centers of blocks are red wool with the exception of the 3 red cotton centers in the middle of the quilt. The green logs are wool also. Blocks measure 12” — there are 36 total.

The quilt's condition is fair. The fabrics are fragile—you can see through some but that is valuable because you can see that some blocks of this quilt were foundation pieced (the foundations show through) - others were not. It is hand pieced.
This quilt is tied with red yarn. Note that some of the red yarn color faded to white on the log cabin side but is red on the backside.
The front of this quilt is brought to the back to bind this quilt. I love the backing, it is such sweet fabric.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas past

Our family Christmas celebration was delayed this year because we were snowed in. The snow plows finally got here the day after Christmas so everyone came over and celebrated, then celebrated again today.

Here are some Christmas past pictures from the family album.

This picture is inscribed Preparing Xmas dinner. That is my Grandma Anna Gehlbach in 1954.

A candid shot of Grandpa and Grandma Gehlbach surveying the gifts under the tree in 1954.

 My cousins in 1955. It looks like Philip is holding a puppy.

Our family in 1963. Note the tree on the table -  away from baby Gregg.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A snowed-in Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Luckily, ace stringer Roseanne got this festive photo BEFORE our big snow arrived yesterday. Today, these little beauties may be buried in snow drifts. They are a much-admired holiday display in her neighborhood.

We are enjoying a white Christmas! It's delayed the family dinner a day or so......drifts are almost 2 feet deep in our yard. Merry Merry!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas miracle

This is the season when I venture in to retail stores.

Because I go there rarely, I am astounded at the things I see. Look what I discovered at our Gap store yesterday.

It's presented as a scarf but you will see it's yardage! This scarf is cotton plaid, as so many of us store a great deal of in our homes. It is long and unseamed so they had to use the length of the fabric. The ends are either cut tapered or straight across and the edges are raw, so they fringe a little. There are shirts in the same fabric nearby.

This might just be a christmas miracle for thrift shop regulars. I am off to rip up a few last minute gifts.
Merry Merry!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Hat for Tom (Happy Birthday Betsy)

You might remember I make toothbrush rugs. They fill several needs for me: to use up fabric, give my hands something to do, and play with color and texture.

I visited my cousin Tom in LA (Los Angeles, not lower Alabama) last spring. It was cold as we flew out of the Midwest so I wore my toothbrush hat. I learned to make these last Christmas - we saw one downtown and my daughter Betsy wanted one. Here she is wearing her hat. My friend BB played with the photo and wondered if this could also be a bowl......
Tom liked the hat AND he had a favorite old flannel shirt he was being nagged to let go of. We agreed the shirt would make a nice hat. Tom tried the hat on when he was home for Thanksgiving and I just finished it up. He asked for part of the shirt too so I made up this little blankie to go with the hat. It's ready to go in the mail this week.  Merry Christmas Tom! Don't go koo koo and burn the blankie, Van! and Happy Birthday today, dear Betsy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Good Week

It has been a good week, one that has left me a little visually overstimulated, as you will see.
I am lucky to have friends who like to shop creatively. We walk through innovative shops and admire their creative merchandise. Then we have a good lunch and hit the thrift shops (for items we can afford).
Here are a few items we admired, courtesy of the wonderful Anthropologie shop on Kansas City's Country Club Plaza.

The coolest chairpad ever (made from old sweaters).

Applique on a felted wool throw.

Folded ribbon adorns a jacket.

A button star on a Christmas tree.

We exclaim that we could make that often (but we don't get around to it). It is a treat to see such creativity.

I also got to help with a photo shoot in Bennington, Kansas for an upcoming Star book. I don't want to give away much of it now but suffice it to say, Lynne Hagmeier wins. I do believe she has the most quilts and most interesting antique collection I have ever seen. And displayed so well.  Stay tuned for an upcoming book showcasing both! Below you'll see Star photographer Aaron Leimkuehler shooting a portrait of Lynne.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hearts & Gizzards

Here's a dandy red-and-white quilt, found in an antique shop in Bethany, in northern Missouri.

In Brackman's Encyclopedia, the block has many entries (#1500), names like Hearts & Gizzards, lovers knot, hearts & flowers, wheel of fortune. The pattern dates listed are in the early 1930s.

This quilt came with an envelope attached (sewn to the quilt with yarn). The outside read: Inside Red Ribbin 2 place sept 2000 Calamity Jane Days. Had got red once before at C. J. days, Labern Curtis quilt. (I wonder if they meant Lavern.)

They were asking only $30 for it so I could not pass it up. It measures 65" x 85". It is hand pieced and exquisitely hand quilted - look at the detailed quilting in this red detail shot (I count 10-12 stitches per inch. There are 56 blocks plus a row of 7 half blocks at the bottom. If you break the quilt down into this simple block, here are 238 of those blocks total.

The quilt's red fabric has faded and the quilt has been used, evidenced by the wear around the edges. The muslin back has worn thin in several spots. At first I didn't think there was batting inside, it is that light. But there is a very fine batting used, almost like a light flannel sheet.

The Calamity Days ribbon is from Princeton, Missouri. which is 28 miles east of Bethany.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Barkley's Birds

My friend Barbara Brackman is a dog person, as am I.

In our middle-golden years, we have both acquired dogs that remind us of a beloved childhood pet. Hers is a dachshund with the clever name of Dottie Barker. Dottie is a great snuggler with an unfortunate need to dominate other dogs. Mine is a dear little terrier mix named (aptly) Barkley. He too is a great snuggler with a need to bark and bark, often at the wind or an imagined noise (at first, I thought it was just at birds).
BB entertains us with creating photos of our pups in exotic spots - check out Barkley above taking in the bright lights of Las Vegas.

My quilt named after Barkley is on Barbara's web site this week and since it's a red-and-white quilt, i'll show it here too.  Barbara describes things so well, she writes:

Barkley's Birds, by Deb Rowden, 2005, Lawrence, Kansas, quilted by Lori Kukuk.

Deb took an old pattern named "Path Thru the Woods" or "Hill and Hollow" and added an applique border with birds inspired by antique quilts. Her dog, aptly named Barkley, loves to bark at the cardinals in her yard all winter.

For more about birds on antique quilts click here to see Julie Silber's blog entry for November 28th: "Birds on Quilts".

Deb again: do check out Julie's birds, she has the best quilts of all.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Guest photo of an old face

Oh dear I've been trying to make this more tasteful lately but this newly-submitted photograph will put an end to that.

I enjoy referring to this as my personal newspaper (which shows my age). People who submit things for use in newspapers are called stringers (history lesson). Stringer Carol Jones took this picture on her iphone yesterday at stitch group and isn't it unique. Terry Thompson and I compete to buy these face potholders. Terry just snagged this one in Hutchinson.

It is one of the older ones I have seen. The very observant B Brackman noted it had to be after 1920 because of the colored thread.

We would hesitate to call it a beauty but I thought you might enjoy seeing it for yourself.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A red and white wedding gift

I like to get out my red and white quilts in December.

This one was given to me by my friend, Maxine Olson Burner. It comes with a sentimental story.

Maxine received this quilt in 1945 when she married First Lt. Sherman French. Maxine's mother asked a neighbor to make the wedding gift. Sherman, a pilot, flew into a typhoon near Iwo Jima and was declared missing in 1945, then officially dead one year later.  But our story has a happy ending. Maxine met Elton Burner several years later. They married in 1949 and were together until Elton died last year. Maxine's son Jeff had this quilt for a few years but when she found out he was using it for picnics, she took it back and gave it to me for safekeeping. And I'm keeping it safe.

This quilt measures 63" x 74". The pattern is similar to the Wheel of Time block (#1796, probably in Comfort magazine) in Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. There are 30 of these intricately pieced (the small triangles are only 3/4 inch long) blocks in the quilt, which is hand pieced and machine quilted.

Behind the scenes: Maxine called our house when my daughter Kate was little. Kate answered and reported "Backseat Burner" was on the line. "Everyone's favorite date!" declared my husband. We have called Maxine "Backseat" ever since, to her delight.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I decorate with quilts

I'm no Martha Stewart, for sure. Erma Bombeck is closer to my housekeeping and decorating style.

 But I do pull out some seasonal quilts to enjoy this time of year.

This is an oldie but goodie, one of my first garage sale finds. I bought it in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of  Indianapolis when we lived there in the mid-1980s. I loved it so much I added a border and backing. It's in fragile shape, with some shattered silks, but I love the vibrant colors. The block measures 19" x 19". Most of the year I store it carefully wrapped around a cardboard tube.....

We have some lovely photos of Christmases past, thanks to my dad's sister Marianne who kept them carefully in albums.  Here she is, posing in front of her Christmas tree in St. Louis in 1954.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Sougan

Time for another quilt.
We've been sleeping under this one all fall. I made it and it's a rarity for me because:
1. it is made out of all purchased quilt store fabrics.
2. it mostly follows a pattern with no improvisation.

I made it as a sample for a Sunflower Pattern Cooperative book, Calico Cowboys. We wanted to show another colorway, the quilt in the book is darker, with off-white stars. My brick fabrics are all flannels, as are the stars. The stars are appropriate: sougans are tied comforters used by cowboys camping on the range.

It measures 72" x 80", a nice fit for our queen-size bed. It was fun to make because it went together quickly. Lori Kukuk went wild with the quilting, it is gorgeous.

I appliqued my initials and the year onto the top before it was quilted, I wish I thought to do that on my quilts more often.

I'm reading the best book about cowboys and more now. It's Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls' new book. I'm having a hard time putting it down. Click on the book name above and you can see a video of Walls talking about the book!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Behind the scenes with the Tile Quilt Revival

We are all in for a treat soon. Our friends Carol Jones and Bobbi Finley have a new book that will be out in January. It's called Tile Quilt Revival: Reinventing a Forgotten Form. It's been fascinating to learn about this style of quilt and to try it myself. I made a small tile quilt and it will appear in the book gallery. And I can tell you a little about the author photo. We shot it a year ago when we were in Cleveland for the American Quilt Study Group conference. We were looking around town on a lovely fall afternoon and came upon this beautiful garden! The owners might be stockholders in a miracle grow product, we marveled at the very large and lovely plants. I shot this author photo of Carol (on the left) and Bobbi there. Aren't they cute?

If you can't wait until January to try a tile block, you're in luck. There is one to start on now in a special issue of Quiltmaker,  100 Blocks from Today's Top Designers, that should be on newsstands now. Their block is called Winding New Ways, it is block #3.

Here is my tile quilt. I used a drawing my daughter Kate made when she was 5. I've always loved it, Kate titled it Hot Mama. You can't improve on that name, can you?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

John Brown is Alive and Well Here

I read in this morning's New York Times that this is the 150th anniversary of John Brown's death by hanging on December 2, 1859. The author, David S. Reynolds of the CUNY, opines that John has been consigned to the loony bin of history.

One very good thing about living in Lawrence, Kansas is that history is quite lively and far from forgotten here. We remember John Brown's exploits often. We do know he was a wild man and did things that would get one into trouble.

To celebrate this, we drink a beer named after him! We wear t-shirts with his famous image (the original 18 1/2" x 29" mural "Tragic Prelude"  by artist John Steuart Curry (1937-1942) hangs in the Kansas State Capitol - they sell a poster of it there too). I have a car plate with his image on it.

Sports events between Missouri and Kansas teams are often referred to as border wars. At last year's basketball game, KU students unfurled a huge banner with John's famous image on it - clutching our national basketball title trophy in one hand.

To learn more about John Brown and form your own opinion, read Reynold's article. Is a pardon due?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What I did Saturday night

Saturday night, I did something I have never done before.

I rode in this combine harvesting corn, in the rich but soggy fields of central Illinois. We were having pizza at my Uncle Charlie's house and he said his boss Randy was still working and if someone wanted, they could ride along. 81-year-old Dad rode first, then I ventured out. I was nervous. It was dark, the combine and fields are huge. I climbed up the steps into Randy's very big John Deere and off we went. I had heard combine cabs were the lap of luxury, with tvs and loud music, etc. Randy's had the loud music and an amazing computer screen that showed where we were in the field, what kind of corn we were pulling in, how wet it was, how many acres he'd worked just went on and on. I was so amazed.

We were up pretty high, looking down into the rows of corn crumpling as we passed. Looking backwards, I could see shelled kernels of corn shooting into the bin behind us. Before long, the back window view was blocked  by all the corn. From then on, we depended on the computer to tell us how full it was.

Suddenly, another trailer appeared beside us. The auger (a big pipe-like device) swung out and corn started shooting out of our vehicle into the truck! The back window was clear again! Keith Urban music was  blasting in the cabin! Randy was calling his co-workers on his cell phone! A possum scooted out ahead of the combine as we finished the row!! We came upon a cornless patch spot and Randy went wild speculating about why that was there. Lightning strike? Tornado? UFO??

Can you tell, I found it exciting. Here's a picture of my dad, with Randy in the middle and Uncle Charlie on the right. When we drove home to Kansas today, I saw the corn fields in a new way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our day of listening

We are having a family reunion in central Illinois today. So we'll be celebrating the national day of listening all weekend. I'm a huge fan of NPR's Storycorps, a wonderful oral history project. This is a little story of what I heard:

We drove around my dad's hometown of Lincoln, Illinois. I was driving as we looked for my cousin Donna's about-to-open quilt shop. As we circled the downtown square, Dad called out the names non-stop of the stores that USED to be there. He remembered Bushell's Beer Hall (where grandpa used to go every Saturday night to visit with neighbors), Ritchharts Auto Service (their son Bob used to be the quarterback on dad's football team), Hauffes Doughnuts (their 2 boys represented their products, being rather doughnut shaped) Langellier Ford (where his family always had our cars serviced and traded) JCPenneys and Sears (no longer downtown, which Dad finds disturbing). He pointed out the spot where he and his brothers parked their truck every morning when they got to high school. He pointed out the courthouse, where EH Lukenbill's office was (the former superintendent of schools - they went there to be tested at the end of 8th grade to see how their school measured up against others).

Last but not least, he pointed out the spot where he said his grandparents house was, not far from Route 66 as it passes through Lincoln. Today, the house is gone and it is home to this new Lincoln landmark. It's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Largest Covered Wagon (the canvas is put away for the winter).

My husband and his 4 siblings gathered last night. They have not all been together for many years. The oldest
is 74, the youngest 56. They poked fun at each other and talked about things like gallused overalls and helping with washing with old machines with agitator levers ("kids were the motor") and wringers (a scary memory). And they so clearly loved being together....

We found my cousin Donna Becke's shop, the Log Cabin Quilt Shop. She will open for business on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 118 N. McLean Street in Lincoln. To start, the shop will be open Saturdays 9-3, and Mondays noon-6. They have notions, patterns, books, a quilting machine and high hopes to keep adding and adding to the shop's exciting!

Record your own family stories whenever you can. It is so satisfying, to take a few notes and save your story for posterity.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A workhorse survives

Sometimes I find a quilt that was clearly meant for use and marvel that it has survived for us to study. Quilts made for utility in a thrifty style fascinate me. This one is constructed of strips of squares, 4 squares wide, with strips of fabric inbetween.

Pecualiarities can be exposed when I add a sleeve to the back of a quilt and hang it on the wall. Look how this one is skewed. Was it stretched that way by siblings tugging for a bigger share of the blanket on a cold night? and wouldn't you like to see what the home was like where this was used? I imagine a cabin on the prairie....

Indigos are predominant in this quilt. I looked up the chapter about that in Barbara's book about quilts and fabrics from 1890 to 1970, Making History.  Synthetic dye developed in 1897 made this shade cheaper and thus widely used in quilts made between 1890 and 1925.

I also love the way the plaids are wonky in some squares. And notice the backing on this quilt. it's a wonderful indigo woven with lots of slubs. (I use the word slub as often as I can.) And note the whisker guards on each end of this quilt. They are well worn....

This quilt measures 65" x 76". It is machine-pieced and hand quilted in diagonal lines.

Check out Barbara Brackman's blog for more information about indigo, she wrote about it just days ago......

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank goodness

Thankfully, I have friends who drive by signs like this and go back to get a photo. The very sharp-eyed Roseanne saw this one in Minneola, Kansas.  She didn't notice the second sign under it until she went back.  When Roseanne and I travel together, it takes us a while to get there - and it is isn't dull, for sure. Rural Kansas can be highly entertaining.

I'm grateful to have a best friend who plays a mean ukelele. Yesterday we visited our friend Bill who is ill too soon. Ray whipped out the uke and Bill's face really lit up when he played Blue Hawaii. There is just something about grownups strumming those little ukes that make other grown people smile. It's a wonder.

I'm also lucky to have friends who send me articles like this. It's the best recipe for tomorrow.....
Relax and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Red Flower Garden

This was an emotional purchase,  a rescue.
I found this quilt when I visited a Baldwin antique shop a few years ago. As I walked in, it was on the floor! Just laying there! So of course, I had to pick it up and inspect it.

It's a classic flower garden, measuring 63" x 77". It is hand pieced and hand quilted.

Some of the fabrics are funky in a good way (see the detail shots - notice the huge navy polka dots and the odd little orange leaf/lip shapes). I am a sucker for red. I think that clinched it - it is so cheery. We had stitch group in the room with this quilt yesterday and noted the red bled and turned the whole quilt a little pink. It would look like a different quilt if the whites were white. It has some mouse holes too.

Oh well. Antique shop owners, take note. There are soft-hearted shoppers out there, like me! Throw those quilts on the floor, and look out!