The museum has been very fortunate to receive an unusual item: an antique dollhouse that the owner has donated for the benefit of the museum. This dollhouse will be raffled off on December 26, 2015; raffle tickets are $1 each or 6/$5.
This doll house was made in the early 1930’s by John Birkenhauer (1888-1940) of Albany, New York, for his only daughter, Mary Ellen (Birkenhauer) Mounteer. Mary Ellen gave it to her daughter, Ellen Mounteer, who recently sold her house and downsized into a condo. Ellen gave it to the museum with the hope that someone new will love it.
The house was handmade and is very sturdy. It measures 44” wide by 21” deep and stands 33” tall from the base to the top of the chimney. The roof is shingled in a diamond pattern. There is woodwork around the windows and the four-panel doors. The window openings have double-hung glass windows that open and close (two of them need repair), and the house was originally wired for electricity, although this does not work at present. There is a bay window on the back of the house off the dining room. One side of the house swings open on hinges to reveal six rooms, all fully furnished with period 1930’s furniture. It is not known if the furniture was also handmade, but some of the items are conversation pieces: an old-style refrigerator with the condenser on top; a tall radio case; a carpet sweeper; and stuffed furniture upholstered with 1930’s fabrics. There are two dolls (and a dog!) included but this house is perfectly sized for use with 3 ½” to 4 ½” dolls, widely available at toy stores. There are also dishes, an oven, and a Hoosier-type cabinet in the kitchen, as well as a telephone, rugs, a quilt, lamps, nightstands, bureaus, tables, chairs, and many other items.
Included with this house is a low, rolling table built specifically to hold the house. The table measures 44” wide by 25” deep and 13 ½” tall, including its four wheels. This table puts the house at the perfect height for a child sitting or kneeling on the floor to be able to reach into the rooms.
See the photos for more details. Better yet, come to the museum shop to see this 80-year old beauty in person, and buy a raffle ticket or two - or five!
Written by Dottie Macomber, Museum Library Volunteer
Looking for a unique gift, one that she doesn’t already have? How about a gift with a connection to Japanese tradition but one you don’t have to go to Japan to get? How about a haori? What’s a haori? Well, let me explain.
Most people are familiar with the Japanese kimono, but they may not know that the traditional jacket worn over the kimono (in place of a sweater or a light jacket) is called a haori. The construction of a haori is slightly different from that of a kimono; on a haori, the banding around the collar and down the front is narrower than on a kimono, and the haori is not worn overlapped in the front, as is the kimono. The sleeves are very much like the kimono sleeves and are great as pockets. Traditionally, a haori is fastened with a small, removable tie (himo) which is often made with beads and is hand woven. These ties are made to be used on multiple haori, like a piece of jewelry.
We have haori in our museum shop, ready for you to purchase. Our haori do not come with the ties but they can be worn open, belted, or fastened with a brooch. Haori can be worn in place of a jacket or sweater, and they look great with pants. Some of the more formal haori have metallic threads and go well with formal wear. Haori are usually made of silk, although there are cotton, wool and synthetic versions. Sometimes you will see a haori that has large basting stitches (shitsuke) on the edges. These stitches are added to help the haori keep its shape while being stored or dry-cleaned. They can be removed easily or just left alone.
Haori are custom-made for each individual so you won’t find a size anywhere. We have regular haori in stock and also carry a version that is remade from a double-breasted Japanese coat; these will fit larger ladies. They are made out of the same beautiful fabrics and have the same sleeves but do not have the banding around the neck and front.
So if you are looking for a unique gift you may want to consider a haori. A gentleman from out of town stopped in the other day to buy his second haori. He had purchased one last year for his aunt and his lady friend was so jealous that he had to come back for a second one!
Written by Jo Myers, Museum Shop
Edited by Dottie Macomber, Museum Library Volunteer
The shop at the museum has many wonderful items for sale, both old and new, and we try to take photos of them and show them on the website. However, the biggest problem with this system is that the inventory changes on a daily basis; often someone will spot a quilt or other special item for sale in a photo but by the time they call about it or come in person, that item has been sold. Adding and deleting items from the website on a daily basis is a difficult task, but we want to keep information as current as possible. Therefore, we are going to try posting photos here on the blog so that if/when the items sell, we can note it easily in the comments. It will also be easier to post new items for sale in a timelier manner. We are hoping that you will find this helpful, especially as the holiday season approaches, and will check the blog often for changes in shop inventory.
Three new (vintage) quilts are being put on the floor for sale today. All three are on consignment and the consignee dates them all as being from the 1890s. The first is a log cabin in the barn raising pattern with a split center, measuring 80” x 80”. The next is a quilt in a herringbone pattern (90” x 86”), and the third is a Goose in the Pond (89” x 92”). These quilts do have some stains and issues with some of the fabrics, which we have tried to show in some of the detail shots.
As an aside, a young gentleman came into the shop recently with a relative who was a quilter, and it was fun to listen to her explanations and descriptions of some of the quilts we had at the time. When we chatted, she said she has some vintage quilts at home which were made by family members and that she worries about giving them to members of the younger generation who are totally unfamiliar with quilts and quilting. We discussed the wisdom of giving them cleaning directions for the newer quilts vs. the older, more fragile quilts, and we talked about the technique of washing quilts in a tub with a sheet placed under the quilt so it could be lifted without straining and possibly breaking fragile stitches. Another idea to preserve these quilts so future generations can enjoy them is to purchase Plexiglas boxes at local craft stores; these boxes are often used to display sports jerseys and other items and are great for displaying fragile or damaged quilts and other textile pieces. These boxes frequently go on sale at such stores. Another suggestion is to have older quilts professionally appraised so the other family members will have a good idea of the monetary value, and document the maker and other information when available to preserve the personal value to the family.
As we finished chatting, the young man was across the room looking at the older quilts for sale. He remarked, “Look at how much money they get for used quilts, even those with stains and worn spots!!” Until his quilting relative can get her treasures appraised, it looks like she has some educating to do!
[Note: The title of this blog entry is a nod to the Lowell Offering, a literary magazine started in 1840 for the Lowell mill girls to showcase their poems, essays and fiction.]
Written by Debbie Janes, Museum Shop and Dottie Macomber, Museum Library Volunteer
Ed and Fred- or is it Fred and Ed? I was always fascinated by the tintype photo of two gentlemen in 1800s garb, one with his arms crossed in front of him and the other jauntily holding the lapel of his suitcoat with his other arm over the shoulder of his brother. One had a full beard and was clearly older; the other was clean-shaven and the younger brother. This photo was something my mother had, and she always told me that they were Ed and Fred, my maternal grandfather’s uncles. However, through my research on Ancestry.com and from other sources, I have found that my great grandfather, Daniel Augustus Wills, was married twice: once to Charlotte Parker of Vermont; and the second time to my great grandmother Annie Melville of New Brunswick. I have also discovered that he had two sons by his first wife, Charlotte, and their names were- you guessed it- Edward and Frederick! Aha! Those two dapper gents were not my grandfather’s uncles but his half-brothers!
And what, you may ask, does this have to do with the Quilt Museum? In the winding ways that family history and stories often take, I’m getting to that!
I was told, again by my mother, that Annie worked in the mills in Massachusetts. However, whether that was in Lowell or elsewhere we never knew for sure. Again, with the help of Ancestry.com, I found that Daniel, who was born in Maine (as was I), married both his wives in Lowell, returning to Maine after each marriage to be a farmer. This lends credence to the family story that Annie worked in the mills, probably in Lowell. I never knew what Daniel was doing in Lowell (other than getting married!) until recently. I discovered that when Daniel married Charlotte in 1853 and when he married Annie in 1873, his occupation was listed in marriage records both times as “Operative”, which is what the mill workers were often called. I even found out recently that Daniel Augustus Wills’ uncle, Daniel Marten Wills, was an overseer for the Lawrence Corporation, which was one of the mills in Lowell. This information was found in old City Directories for the city of Lowell, again on Ancestry.com. I imagine that Daniel Augustus Wills may have come down from Maine to work in the mills (and maybe to find wives!) because his uncle Daniel Marten Wills was there.
While searching through some of the online records of The Center for Lowell History at U. Mass Lowell, I found that one of the holdings contains bank records for the period of 1829-1992. www.library.uml.edu/clh/LIS.htm I searched through the records and found that Daniel Wills, listed as a weaver, opened an account in 1871. Edward Wills (who was born in 1853), also listed as a weaver, opened an account in 1872 and Fred, who is listed as a Minor (consistent with the date of birth that I have found for him of 1857), also opened an account in 1872. And where did they open these bank accounts? In the Lowell Institute for Savings- the very building where the Quilt Museum is now!
My ancestors walked some of the same streets that I do when I come to Lowell, and they did business in the very building in which I am now a volunteer. When I discovered this, I found another piece to the puzzle that has been “Ed and Fred”, and now I feel more than ever that I was meant to volunteer at the Quilt Museum!
Written by Dottie Macomber, Museum Library Volunteer
Imagine opening presents all year and the excitement of never knowing what you might find inside those boxes and bags! Now imagine that those incredible finds can benefit countless individuals. This is what happens every week at the museum’s shop. Donations come in all the time in bags, boxes and plastic tubs. These donations benefit not only the museum, but also untold numbers of quilters, crafters, teachers and charitable organizations.
The museum has a tradition of recycling donated quilting and textile-related supplies through a sale in April called the Text and Textiles Sale, where attendees buy a bag and stuff it full with fabric, notions, yarn. As the donations arrive all year, shop employees sort through the contents. Old and new fabrics are found inside the containers, which sometimes hold wonderful surprises too, like finished quilts, quilt tops waiting to be quilted, and antique notions. Beautiful old hexies made from vintage shirting material are waiting to be framed and turned into wall art, and molas made by reverse applique find new homes. Quilting cottons and wool are prized fabrics used to fuel a quilter’s passion, and both sell well during the T & T Sale.
Many donated items are put into the shop right away to be sold to grateful quilters and visitors who appreciate handmade things. Heavier materials such as twill, duck, denim, and even upholstery and decorator fabrics are used to make totes and bags sold in the shop. Some of the quilting fabric is used to make placemats and table runners, which bring in more money for the museum than the fabric alone would do. These items are made by volunteers who are happy to lend their talents to helping the only museum in the Northeast that is devoted to quilt history and art. The shop also makes up bags of scraps and donated fat quarters to sell; this benefits scrap-quilt makers and the museum! We sometimes have vintage scraps, blocks and tops that can be used to repair old quilts or to construct new quilts made with period fabrics. We also have a “Free” basket, where crafters, teachers, and quilters can find treasures for their use.
You never know what you will find! Recently, we were given some beautiful wool suiting fabric stamped Lord Richard and England; it was bought by a tailor who was thrilled to find four yards at a bargain price! A young woman asked for bright and novelty fabrics suitable for use at a child’s birthday party. A year later she returned to the museum with the quilt made from the scraps she got here; the blocks were printed on and colored by the girls at the party.
Donations are never wasted and are used in many ways; they are sold as is or made into items for sale in the shop; they are made into items that are taken to senior centers; and they are made into quilts that are given to charity. So many people benefit from your donations that it truly is like Christmas all year!
Written by Debbie Janes, Museum Shop, and Dottie Macomber, Library Volunteer
On Tuesday, May 19, 2015, the staff and volunteers of the Museum were treated to a visit by Joe Cunningham- quilting teacher, author, singer/songwriter, musician, and quiltmaker extraordinaire. Joe was in the area to meet with the Merrimack Valley Quilters, so he and some members of that guild made a trip to the museum.
After viewing the current exhibit, “Seasonal Palette”, quilts made by members of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates), as well as quilts from the permanent collection, Joe held court in the museum library and led a lively and impromptu discussion on a several topics, focusing on two: the traditional dismissal of women’s quilts as “merely” women’s creations; and the phenomenon of quilts as gifts.
On the first topic, Joe decried the traditional trivializing of women’s quilts as mere bed coverings instead of the works of art that they are.
Often when women in the past placed two startling colors or block patterns next to each other, that juxtaposition and the creativity needed to make it were dismissed as accidental.
However, as modern art developed and male artists started to make those same unconventional choices, their creations were deemed to be art and the makers were considered master artists.
Far from being accidental, those pattern and color choices were manifestations of women’s creativity and were some of the only choices that women could make in eras when women were controlled socially, politically and legally.
Joe, who said that he recently sold one of his quilts to a museum, is on a mission to promote the showing of women’s quilts as art in major museums other than just quilt museums.
Another topic that Joe has been exploring recently, and that he discussed during his visit with us, is the concept of a quilt as more than just a bedcovering made for one’s personal use.
He talked about the phenomenon of the quilts as gifts and how, once women have made enough quilts for everyone in their families to have on their beds, they find outlets for their gift-giving so they can continue the process of creating quilts.
All my kids have two quilts apiece and don’t want any more quilts?
That’s okay; I’ll make charity quilts to donate to a hospital, a nursing home, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, for flood or fire victims, and for our military heroes.
The need to create leads to the production of quilts that can be used to warm the lives of people we may never meet.
Joe’s visit to the library concluded with Library Volunteer Coordinator Martha Supnik rounding up all the books that Joe has authored or co-authored and getting Joe to autograph the library’s reference copies.
Way to go, Martha!
You can find out more about Joe by visiting his website, http://www.joethequilter.com/
Written by guest blogger and library volunteer, Dottie Macomber
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 exhibition 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