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
Dear Martha,

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.

Nancy Skala

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.
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
Mary & Tom James with Interim Executive Director Sarah Fujiwara
At Tuesday’s reception to honor Tom and Mary James’ many years of volunteer service for the New England Quilt Museum, one of our newest volunteers, Anita Blackaby, made a comment to me about the importance of volunteers to this museum. I retorted that volunteers are important to every not-for-profit organization, to which she replied, “yes, but here, they are REALLY important!” Indeed, Anita, indeed.

A group of volunteers founded the New England Quilt Guild in the 1970’s which became a 501 (c) 3 educational organization that eventually founded the New England Quilt Museum in 1987. Volunteers staffed several huge fund-raising quilt shows, formed committees, formed a board of directors, did site searches, and opened a quilt museum. They staged exhibitions, borrowing quilts from all over New England and all over the world. Volunteers made a plan and started a collection for this museum, commissioning important works from important quilt artists. They continued planning and put in place professional staff. And volunteers kept coming in to fold quilts, mount exhibitions, teach children to quilt, and staff our world-class library.

Today, volunteers are just as important to the present and to the future of the New England Quilt Museum. We need you still, for all of the “jobs” listed above—the library needs volunteers on a weekly basis, and volunteers are needed as docents on a monthly basis. Collections volunteers are needed for folding and vacuuming quilts, and installation volunteers are needed to mount exhibits going up this summer and in the fall. If you have just a few hours a month, or can give a few each week, let us know. Your volunteer time is greatly appreciated and needed in the busy summer months to come, as we welcome visitors to Lowell from across the world.  Do come—it’s a wonderful place for fellowship and service in the name of quilts!

~ Pamela Weeks
Binney Family Curator

Guest blogger Donna Hopkins posts today about spending a day with some other of our fabulous volunteers to make contributions to the TO BOSTON WITH LOVE project. [See our Home page for more info.]

Many of you may have seen the e-newsletter from the museum about the To Boston With Love project being spearheaded by the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild.

In time for Memorial Day, quilters worldwide are creating hundreds of banner flags to show support for Boston in wake of the Marathon bombings.  The banner flags will be on display Memorial Day weekend at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. 

Several volunteers at the museum worked together on banner flags this week.  Working with wonderful batiks of blue and yellow, the group decided to spell out Boston Strong across 6 flags with silhouettes of runners anchoring either side.  Bright pink hearts are featured on the back of the flags. 

It was a great project for the group to collaborate, design, and learn new techniques.  In a small way it allowed us to show our support for those affected by the tragedy.  If our string of flags is any indication, the display at the MFA will be a touching tribute.

                                                                                                                             ~ Donna Hopkins  

Our flags flying high at the Museum of Fine Arts!
Mike's dog-bit quilt (top) and Marianne's crazy quilting (bottom)

I love my volunteer job in the library and research center at the NEQM.  I see myself as a matchmaker, helping people with questions get together with the people or written resources that can help them.  That’s why my e-mail address is:              

Recently I got an e-mail with photos from Mike in Dunstable, MA whose family quilt had previously been documented by the volunteers at MassQuilts.  His problem was that the dog had chewed some holes in his quilt and he wanted to know whether we could send him to someone who could restore or repair it before he passed it along to his daughter.  I checked our records which showed that the quilt was already well-worn before his dog got it and was never of museum quality but simply loved for its memories.  I explained the difference between the skill and expense of professional textile restoration versus basic repair.  Then I e-mailed several people on my list of “resources for repair” with his contact information and the photos.  One of the people on that list replied to me and then contacted the quilt owner who took the quilt to her and thanked me for my assistance.

Marianne Hatton, a museum member in Sudbury, MA e-mailed me to ask for advice on books about “Optical Illusions and Dimension in Quilts” for a future class she plans to teach.  I sent her a list of suggested titles and she asked me to mail them from our library which I did.  A week later, she came into the library, browsed in more reference books from the shelves, discovered even more great titles, and signed them out as well.  While she was there, she had time to see the exhibit of contemporary quilts by SAQA members.  Marianne teaches a variety of subjects in quilting with a one day workshop coming up on Friday, June 7th about silk ribbon embroidery and crazy quilting at the museum.

Another e-mail came from Cathy in Southern New Hampshire.  She had inherited 3 quilts from her grandmother and thought (probably from watching Antiques Roadshow on PBS) that she needed an appraisal to learn more about them.  When she asked an appraiser about it, she decided she could not afford to pay $40 per quilt.  She asked me if I could find someone less expensive for her.  I replied by explaining that a written appraisal requires time and extensive training but is only needed if she wants to insure, sell or donate the quilts.  If she just wanted more information about them, she could bring them to show us and we’d tell her what we can without providing the market value which we’re not qualified to do.  If she lived in Massachusetts, we would have given her an appointment to have them documented by our team of MassQuilts volunteers.

Some questions come by phone (978-452-4207 X 15).  Ruth in Ayer called to ask how to clean the Bicentennial Quilt at the Littleton Historical Society.  The volunteer on duty in the library gave her some websites to read and she learned about how to safely vacuum the dust but also how to protect the quilt from fading.

And some questions come in person from visitors to the museum.  Susan who teaches in Ipswich, MA asked about quilts and the Underground Railroad.  I gave her a page I’ve written to answer this very frequent question that explains the controversy and lists both fiction and non-fiction books on the topic of slave-made quilts before the Civil War.

These five are just a sampling of the kinds of questions we get, all happening just this month.

                                                                                                 ~ Martha Supnik, Library Volunteer Coordinator

Today's guest blogger is longtime museum volunteer Judy Buswick. You can read Judy's blog here.

In an attempt to make today productive, I want to write a short piece on what volunteers do at the New England Quilt Museum.

I’ve had a wonderful experience learning about the niche library collection. If you think about it, books here can’t be shelved by the Dewey Decimal system, since all the books have something to do with quilts.

This library has the largest collection of quilt books anywhere. Cataloging and evaluating them takes special training; though we all greet visitors. We meet local friends and quilters from all over the world, as well as answering phone calls on topics from how to document a quilt to “Are there quilt books that show butterfly patterns?” Sometimes we do “scutt work” like putting labels on envelopes — someone’s gotta do it!

Some other volunteers enjoy sewing, either by hand or machine. Sometimes they put sleeves on the back of quilts to be hung in exhibits and sometimes they make new items for the Museum gift shop. Lots of tracing, cutting and appliqueing goes on, as well.

I haven’t even mentioned the creation of “Home of the Brave” and other charity quilts that volunteers work on. There’s always something going on that needs willing hands.

Debbie Janes seems to have a new project every time you see her.

Marie Leone showed up one day dressed to match the quilt she was working on!

                   ~ Judy Buswick, Museum Volunteer
Marie wears her Native American shirt to work on "Sundown Star" in the museum.
Satara with her fish block.
Lynn C applying stickers to a postcard mailing.

Deb with a truck quilt made for the Museum Store..
SPIRIT OF AMERICA: LIVE FREE OR DIE by Cocheco Quilters Guild, 2002
April 19, 2013

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.”

                           ~ PAUL REVERE'S RIDE
                  by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere made his now famous “midnight ride” which marked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War and our national independence from Great Britain.  We celebrate this day every year with a state holiday, Patriot’s Day.

This past Monday, on Patriot’s Day, I went to watch the Boston Marathon as I do every year.  My daughter was running, so I went to cheer her on and to cheer on all of the runners at this great event.  It was a beautiful day for a marathon and a beautiful day to be outside.  Unfortunately it ended tragically with death and violence.  Although everyone I know personally is safe, this act of terrorism touched me personally, just as the events of September 11, 2001 touched me and all of us.. 

Quilters have a long history of expressing their political views and emotions through quilting.  Perhaps the quilting brings some healing.  After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, hundreds of quilts were made as a response.  Last summer, during the Backstitch exhibit we had on display such a  quilt made by Rosemary Bawn.  Recently, the Cocheco Quilters Guild [based in Dover, NH] donated to the museum the quilt they made in response to 9/11.  The quilt is titled, Spirit of America, Live Free or Die   This morning, I hung this quilt in our classroom gallery.

                                                                                                                     ~ Laura Lane, Collections Manager