From the door of the upstairs classroom at the New England Quilt Museum, you look in to see a new exhibition of quilts, large and small, that are vibrant, colorful, and enticing. Once in, you bend to inspect the stitchery and have a visual jolt. This exhibit titled Advocacy Quilting: Inspiring Social Change (on view through May 3, 2015)
is the work of impoverished, victimized, and discriminated against people from around the globe who have been given the chance to spread their messages through the needle arts. The work includes beading from the Maasai widows in Kenya who tell of genital mutilation, magic marker drawings from children who live in the trash dumps of Delhi, and brightly stitched figures from the Congo graphically recording rapes of individual women and other atrocities. Each of the 120 contributors of blocks has a story to tell – often a denunciation to verbalize. Gypsies from Bangladesh and transgender people from western India speak out. Small, marginalized groups were guided by a local artist, but their designs were their own; and then 50-55 quilters from across the US took the blocks and created the finished quilts, helping influence and inform viewers of global issues which have often been disregarded.
Georgetown University Adjunct Professor Iain Guest, the Founder and Executive Director of The Advocacy Project
based in Washington, D.C., explained to the audience at NEQM how his organization is working to inspire social change through quilting. Exhibits of these quilts have been staged at the United Nations in New York City and in Geneva. His group hopes to influence government agencies and financial institutions, but also inspire individuals to react and get involved.
Rhode Island quilter Allison Wilbur was also on hand to clarify how fiber and thread are universal, thus making it understandable to those in power and also accessible to those marginalized. Wilbur will be a Brown Bag guest speaker on April 2, 2015, to discuss charity quilting in the U.S. For more information about these organizations and their volunteer needs, visit http://www.advocacynet.org or http://quiltforchange.org/
Henna Pride, India
Detail: Henna Pride
Detail: The First Ahadi (Promise) Quilt, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Gutcheon Cape . 2014.14
Jeffrey Gutcheon was an architect, musician and quilt artist, and he excelled at all three. Jeffrey trained as an architect at MIT and later taught architectural design there. He also designed homes and commercial buildings. As a musician, his work appeared on many albums including some hit records. He also collaborated on the hit musical, Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Jeffrey Gutcheon also was known as a quilt artist, teacher and book author. He started by illustrating Perfect Patchwork Primer written by his then wife, Beth, in 1973. He went on the author and co-author three more books and write a regular column in Quilters’ Newsletter Magazine. He was a popular quilt teacher who used traditional block designs to create contemporary quilts. His quilts used fabrics from the New York garment district, near where he lived. Later he was one of the first people to design fabrics for quilters. In 1990, Jeffrey Gutcheon was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame. He passed away in June, 2013.
We are very fortunate to have Jeffrey Gutcheon’s cape, Divine Elevations, in the collection of the New England Quilt Museum. Divine Elevations hung in an exhibit titled Pioneers: Teaching the World to Quilt at NEQM in 2003 that was curated by Nancy Halpern. Divine Elevations was donated by E. Judith Berger and Samuel Berger of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Divine Elevations is currently on exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum in First Impressions: New to the Collection until March 14. Also on exhibit is Lone Star with Wild Rose Applique, by Glendora Hutson, which also was shown in Pioneers: Teaching the world to Quilt.
Centennial Tumbler Charm Quilt detail
Since 1940 is the last Federal Census available for research at this time, I have no way of tracing Alberta and Marjorie Ackler once they married to see if either of them ever moved to the Rochester area, bringing the family doll quilt with them to Fairport. I enjoyed contacting elderly women in the Connewango area for research help. The former town historian of Randolph, NY found maps showing where Thankful and Richmond Bennett’s farm was located, now the site of Amish dairy farms, and a nearby cemetery with graves of (probably) his parents. The Connewango Registrar found Thankful’s death certificate and with that exact date, the Randolph Town Historian found her obituary. On another website I found cemetery headstones for Thankful and several others in the family.
Since the dealer did not have more information, I will never know the identity of the family that sold the quilt to the dealer who in turn sold it to Pat Nickols. Without that information, I have no way of proving that the Thankful Bennett I’ve researched is really the maker of this quilt.
The moral of the story is that we need to thoroughly label every quilt we make ourselves and every quilt we inherit from our family or buy from strangers. Every quilt has a story to tell but only if that story is preserved and passed down through the generations with the quilt.
I’m busy making a quilt for our new grandson, due in August. As soon as it’s done, I plan to make a doll quilt based on the pattern of the Centennial Tumbler Quilt donated in 2012 to the Mingei International Museum
by Pat Nickols, the owner of the Thankful Bennett doll quilt also on exhibit now at our museum. I have a collection of 19th century fabrics given to me by a 92-year-old family friend who inherited them from her grandmother. I have the genealogy information on both these women and will include it on the label I put on the back of the quilt. It will say who made the quilt, when and where, the origin of both the pattern and antique fabrics, and how the exhibit of charm quilts now at our museum inspired the project. If that little quilt survives past my lifetime, those who see it won’t have to wonder why 19th century fabrics were made into a doll quilt by a woman with no granddaughters in the 21st century.
~Martha Supnik, Library Volunteer
On Thursday, April 17th, some of the museum staff and volunteers toured the new exhibit, “Charmed: Every Piece is Different”
with guest curator Pat L. Nickols. I noticed that one little doll quilt’s sign said that it was from a family outside Rochester, NY where I grew up and planned to go for a family wedding in May. I learned that the name “Thankful Bennet” and the date 186_ (or maybe 187_) were faintly written on the binding in one corner of the little quilt. Since the name was unusual and the location convenient, I told Pat that I’d enjoy researching the origin of the quilt.
I began by using online resources to look for that name in that location with no luck. When I broadened the search to include all of New York State at that time period, I found a woman named Thankful Bennett living in Connewango, NY which is 70 miles south of Buffalo. In the 1880 census, Thankful and her husband Richmond had an unmarried daughter Julia Evaline 21-years-old and her niece Georgia Seely 11-years-old living with them. The 1890 Federal Census was lost in a fire. By 1900, their daughter was married to Charles W. Miller for 13 years with no children. Pat Nickols felt the quilt was made in the 1870s to 1880s. Since Thankful had no grandchildren, I guessed that perhaps she made the doll quilt for her niece, Georgia, who was actually counted twice in the 1880 census, once at her parents’ home in nearby Leon, NY and again living at least temporarily with her aunt and uncle in Connewango.
Pat Nickols told me that she bought the quilt from a dealer on E-Bay within the past 5 years and the dealer said, “The quilt came from the estate of the Priest family in Fairport, New York, which is near Rochester. This was most likely from the mother’s stuff and it is believe that her last name is Bennett. The mother would have been a little girl in 1915.” Before leaving for Rochester, I found phone numbers for several people named Priest in the area and called them to ask if they had Bennett family members. None were able to help me. I also met with the curator of the local historical society there who said there were many families named Bennett in local history but nobody named Thankful.
Since Thankful’s niece’s last name was Seely, I realized that it was also Thankful’s maiden name and found that she was perhaps the 3rd of more than 10 children of John D. and Sibyl Seely of Leon, NY. Georgia was the only daughter of Thankful’s younger brother Mial Seely and his wife Louisa. I got help from a reference librarian who is experienced in genealogy research at the town library in Brighton, NY. She traced Georgia as she married John Ward and had one daughter Mary Cecelia who married Harald H. Ackler and had 2 daughters, Alberta and Marjorie who were teenagers listed in the 1940 Federal Census, still living in Leon, NY after several generations.
~Martha Supnik, Library volunteer
Bloodroot by Ruth McDowell
In July, 2014, Ruth McDowell of Colrain, Massachusetts, will be inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana. This is a great honor and recognition of a lifetime of quilt artistry and teaching. The New England Quilt Museum is fortunate to own two of Ruth’s quilts: Bloodroot, 1986, commissioned by the New England Quilters Guild for the New England Quilt Museum and Bee Balm Screen, 1982, a gift of the Binney family.
To celebrate Ruth’s induction into the Quilters Hall of Fame, the New England Quilt Museum is featuring quilts from our Permanent Collection made by contemporary Massachusetts quilt artists. Many of these quilts appeared in our 2007 exhibit Contemporary MASSters, curated by Anita Loscalzo. Since 2007, we have acquired a few more quilts by our talented Massachusetts art quilters, which will be shown as well.
Phase One of Contemporary MASSters II is now on display in the Nancy Donahue Permanent Collection Gallery until July 6. Featured is Archipelago by Nancy Halpern of Natick, which was named one of the hundred best quilts of the twentieth century. Also on display are works by Sylvia Einstein of Belmont, Dr. Michelle David of Boston, Beatriz Grayson of Winchester, Carole Ann Grotrian of Cambridge, Barbara Lydecker Crane of Lexington and Judy Becker of Newton. Phase Two will be on display in our Classroom Gallery from June 2 to July 31 and will include collection quilts created by Ruth McDowell.
On June 7 at 1 pm, New England Quilt Museum will honor Ruth McDowell with a reception at NEQM. All are welcome!
Archipelago by Nancy Halpern
Sombath “Charlie” Kim is a senior at Lowell High School. He was born in the USA of Cambodian immigrant parents. Describing himself he says, “Many people smile when they see me.” Here’s his recent experience at the New England Quilt Museum.
I would have never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be making my own wallet, instead of buying one. It all started on a hot day at the Lowell Folk Festival
last summer. For those who don't know about the festival, it's annually held in downtown Lowell where many Lowellians celebrate their cultural backgrounds by selling food & goods representing their ethnicity. I stumbled upon a stand that sold various quilted goods, such as sewing accessories, mini-quilts, bags & purses, and so on. While looking around the shop, I found a rack full of wallets, which was convenient since I needed a new one. It was a basic open and close pouch with an attached loop to tightly secure it. It was simple and I loved the floral print on both the inside and outside of the pouch. Although it was eight bucks, I thought it was a good investment.
Sadly after having it for about six months, I suddenly lost it. At first I was a bit sad because it held my debit card. I contacted my local bank and got a new one, but the wallet was something I'd grown attached to. While surfing on the internet, I found out about the New England Quilt Museum
where they might have the wallet I was looking for. As soon as I walked in, I got more than I bargained for.
Immediately, I was greeted by a woman named Debbie, and a neighbor who volunteers at the museum and apparently knew me when I was a toddler. Anyway, I told Debbie I needed a new wallet and she told me that she had none. Before I left, she asked me, "Would you like to make one?" I reluctantly accepted her generous offer and returned the next day.
When I entered, she quickly gave me instructions on how to make a bi-fold business card holder, which was basically a wallet. The steps were pretty simple and Debbie was kind to prep the materials, so all I had to do was the dirty work. The directions had me take the prepared materials and sew them together, piece by piece. It was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, where you had all of your pieces and the only thing left was putting it all together. This was also my opportunity to use a sewing machine for the first time. At first, it was scary since the machine could sew my fingers to a piece of fabric. But after using it for a while, it seemed harmless. Debbie told me the material we were using was too thin, but it would be fine to use. The only part I had problems with was understanding how a sewing machine worked and attaching a latch on my little project.
Moving on, I learned so much about sewing, like that men were the first professional tailors and that the New England Quilt Museum building
was originally a bank in its golden years. There are many reasons why people chose sewing as a skill including personal use, necessity, beating boredom, or having an interesting hobby. After creating my little wallet, I thanked Debbie and her friends for everything they did and left.
Even though it is a tad small and a bit sloppy, I'm proud to be carrying something that can weave quite a story.
~Sombath “Charlie” Kim and Martha Supnik, Library Volunteer
Julie Boatner of Keizer, Oregon e-mailed us on Feb 23, 2014 saying:
“I saw from your website that you had done some research for the pattern for the airplane quilt. I have looked everywhere for the pattern without any luck. Any ideas as to where to get a copy of the pattern for the quilt block? I know that it was originally in the magazine Successful Farming in 1929.”
I was on a ski vacation when the e-mail arrived but briefly replied that, if she joined the museum, I could mail her the same 2 books I had loaned to Nancy Skala 1 year ago. Nancy had also asked for the pattern for the Lucky Lindy’s Plane block. She wrote a lovely guest blog entry on Feb 26, 2013
telling everyone how helpful our library volunteers were. On March 8, 2013
, Laura Lane, our collections manager, saw Nancy’s blog entry and added an entry telling that the museum has an airplane quilt with the same pattern in our collection. Nancy made 2 small airplane quilts and showed them at the Maine State Quilt Show in July. On November 6, 2013
she sent us a photo of her quilts and again thanked us for our help.
Just 5 days later, Julie had joined our museum through our website
and I mailed these 2 books to her.
Marino, Ragi. Flying high : the airplane in quilts.-- 1st ed.-- Waupaca, WI : Stardust Publications, 1994. 67p. : ill. col. : pb. ISBN 0-929950-18-6 : $19.95
This book tells the history of many airplane quilt patterns and led me to
Better Homes and Gardens. America's heritage quilts.-- 1st. ed.-- Des Moines, IA : Meredith Corp, 1991. 320p. : ill. col. ISBN 0-696-01905-1
This book has a photo of the quilt and complete instructions for making it.
What’s really funny is that the library book I took with me to read in the evening after skiing is "One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
published last fall. It tells all about Lindbergh’s life and historic flight.~Martha Supnik, Library Volunteer Coordinator
Lone Eagle Airplane
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I am attaching a picture of the two Lucky Lindy's Plane quilts I made because of your help and direction. They were entered in the Maine State Quilt Show in July. The quilts were custom quilted by Ramune Dailide in East Orland, Maine and she did an incredible job.
I want to thank you again for all of your help. Those of us that are "out here" appreciate your researching skills and we benefit a great deal from them.
Penny's old family quilt
In January 2012, Penny e-mailed us from rural Ohio to say that she was trying to duplicate a worn out Chained Star quilt her husband’s mother and grandmother had made during the Depression. She was having trouble copying the pattern and wondered if we could find it for her. I printed templates in her preferred size from our Electric Quilt software and sent them to her.
Penny's first new block
She sent us this photo of the old quilt and a donation to thank us for our help. She said, “How I wish I had thought to contact your museum a year ago. I've been working on this for over a year, finding fabrics, making & remaking templates, trying to make all fit together correctly.”
In September 2013, we heard from Penny again. This time she had seen a string star quilt in a flea market and wanted to copy it. She knew how to do string quilting (an old technique with renewed popularity among Modern Quilt Guild members who love improvisation). But she needed help to draft and assemble the Lemoyne star blocks.
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I encouraged her to join the museum
which she did. Since she’s 60+ and lives outside New England, her membership is only $25 per year. I picked two books from our library that showed how to draft and piece a Lemoyne Star and how to do string piecing and mailed them to her. Penny said if she lived nearby, she’d be our most loyal volunteer and she’ll share the information about our resources with her quilting friends in Ohio.
We look forward to hearing about Penny’s future projects and getting more members from across the country who want to make use of the terrific resources in our library
. We think it’s the biggest, most accessible collection of quilting books, magazines, videos and patterns in the country!
I’ve just ordered a book on Amazon titled The Quilters Hall of Fame: 42 Masters Who Have Shaped Our Art (published in 2011). I had brought home a duplicate copy from the New England Quilt Museum Library; but when I started reading it, I had to have my own copy. First of all, it got me thinking that my next project should be to get Sally Palmer Field into the Hall of Fame, located in Marion, Indiana, and, secondly, because so many of the people already inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame share Sally’s attributes. She knew many of them and they’re in our Sally book!
Briefly, but starting at the front of the book, Hazel Carter was the founder of the Hall of Fame in 1979, while she was running the second quilting convention known as the Continental Quilting Congress. Hazel thought that quilters at the convention “were ignoring our quilting heritage.” Sally did too. Sally and some others from New England attended one or more of the Continental Quilting Congresses in Virginia and invited Hazel Carter to join Lewis Karabatsos and Carter Houck as judges for the first Images Quilt Show in 1983. This show was a fundraiser staged by the New England Quilt Guild for creating the New England Quilt Museum.
Merikay Waldvogel wrote the introduction to the Hall of Fame book and also was inducted in 2009. She explains that the honorees “devoted their lives to the preservation of quiltmaking, quilts, and their history.” Sure sounds like Sally to me. Merikay further describes the inductees as “passionate about quilts, skilled, assertive, and resilient. They are not afraid to reinvent themselves.” This description fits Sally to a T! (A quilt historian, Merikay is in my book because she helped me find information about the Sterns and Foster quilt block in a national contest that Sally entered in 1974.)
Next is Lenice Bacon, a lecturer on quilts, who spoke to historical societies and sewing groups. She collected quilts to use in her talks, she dressed in costume, and she drew on her training in speech and drama. Sally did all this too. Some of Mrs. Bacon’s quilts were exhibited by her family (after her death) at the first Images show, where Sally was very active.
Sally first met Shiela Betterton at the American Museum in Britain near Bath, where Shiela (no typo there) was the museum’s textile and needlework specialist. She’d come from the Northumberland area and Sally wished she could see Shiela’s collection of antique quilts. She felt that area was the most creative, using more than simple blocks. Sally was proud to have sample blocks she’d donated on exhibit in the museum in Bath where she visited often.
Jinny Beyer is another featured in the Hall of Fame book and in the Sally book. Sally greatly admired her quilting skill and took the first class that Jinny offered in Hilton Head in 1981.
Jeffrey Gutcheon (who died very recently) co-authored a book on quilt design with his wife Beth. They ran Gutcheon Patchwork on Broadway that Sally and her sisters visited and later where thirty New England Quilt Guild members attended an all-day “Diamond Patchwork Workshop” in 1980. He later came to Boxborough to speak at a NEQG conference.
Sally knew Carrie Hall and Rose Kretsinger as co-authors of The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt in America, published in 1935. This was one of the early books on quilt history.
Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof were the artists who “sparked renewed interest in quilts as an art form through their 1971” at the Whiney Museum in New York City. About that time Sally and her sisters started sharing weekends together in NYC, which makes me wonder if they went to that Whitney show. Sally was not directly involved with the show, but she considered her quilts “Art” and did not use them on beds.
Carter Houck published American Quilts and How to Make Them in 1975. Because she was invited to judge the IMAGES show in 1983, it’s reasonable to assume Sally knew both the book and the author.
Another author, Marguerite Ickis wrote “the quilter’s bible” titled The Standard Book of Quilt Making and Collecting in 1949. Sally met Marguerite at an early NEQG meeting in South Yarmouth in 1977, before her Quilters Hall of Fame induction in 1979. Sally and some other NEQG members visited Marguerite and shared quilting stories with her. She told about how a neighbor had great stories (gossip?) to tell but did terrible stitching. Still, Marguerite’s mother and grandmother invited her to sew with them and then tore out her work the next day.
I think I’m going on too long. Just two more: Michael James and Bonnie Leman. Both were at a Continental Quilting Congress meeting that Sally attended. Michael took an art degree from UMass Dartmouth and contributed to the art quilt movement; he spoke at the New England Quilt Guild meeting in 1978. Bonnie was the long-time editor of the Quilter’s Newsletter to which Sally subscribed to as a charter member since 1969. Bonnie published Sally’s award-winning Minuteman 1775 quilt.
I’ve got to finish reading all the fascinating stories in this book and then ask some key quilters for guidance in submitting Sally’s name. I’m sure she belongs in the Hall of Fame. Any readers have insight into the process?
~ Judy Buswick, author of Sally Palmer Field: New England Quilter
Sally Palmer Field with Jinny Beyer