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.

PictureCentennial 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

PictureBloodroot 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
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!