The Final Stop for Art Quilts of the Midwest—the Texas Quilt Museum

In August I had the opportunity to visit the Texas Quilt Museum in LaGrange. (I was in Texas to speak to the Lone Star Quilt Study Group, but more on that later.)  I’ve written about the museum and visited once, last February, but this time it was personal—Art Quilts of the Midwest is on display there through the end of September.

The exhibition space is beautiful and I loved seeing some quilts hung on an exposed brick wall in the airy gallery. I talked with a lovely employee (whose name I swore I wouldn’t forget, but have) and thoroughly enjoyed “saying goodbye” to the pieces in the show—this is the last of the four exhibitions based on Art Quilts of the Midwest.

When I wrote that book I never imagined it would lead to exhibitions at four museums (the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, the National Quilt Museum, and the Iowa Quilt Museum) and their curators, that I would be listed as a guest curator at two of them, and that I would get to help hang a show at one. Though I’ve met only a handful of the 20 artists represented in the book, I’ve spoken and corresponded with them all over the past five years and learned so much about their creative processes and by continuing to follow their careers.

Having a vocation that lets me “look behind the curtain,” to ask questions about what makes creative people tick, expands my life exponentially and for that I am truly grateful.

There is an unexpected coda to this story, though. Little did I imagine during the visit on that hot, hot Texas day that just a week later parts of LaGrange would be underwater. Though the museum was uphill from the river, museum staff and volunteers sandbagged the doors and raised the quilts up high via their pulley system. Power was lost. I was grateful to the curator, Sandra Sider, for taking the time to keep me informed in the midst of all the issues surrounding Hurricane Harvey. In the end, the museum was spared and they are working to reduce humidity in the building. You can read about it in this letter from museum founders Karey Bresenhan and Nancy Puentes.

If you’re in the area, I encourage you to visit as soon as they reopen. The exhibition (and two others, including some gorgeous, traditional quilts from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum) are on display through October 1.

Two Fall Favorites: Quilt Shows and Leaf Peeping

I’ve never been to New Albin, Iowa, but got word of a quilt show in October you might want to add to your calendar. New Albin is on the Mississippi River, just south of the state line between Minnesota and Iowa. Driving along the river in the fall is always lovely. Our first year back in Iowa we took our girls and drove to Effigy Mounds to see the autumn color. At dinner that night, in the tiny town of Harper’s Ferry, we waited our turn in a restaurant and noticed two women giving us the eye. One of them leaned over to the other and said, sotto voce, “Leaf peepers.” The other nodded solemnly. “Leaf peepers” instantly become a McCray family favorite phrase. But I digress.

The photo I got about the New Albin quilt show features cow quilts, based on the book by Mel McFarland and Mary Lou Weideman book: Out of the Box with Easy Blocks. You may remember when Mel brought samples from the book to my parents’ house, or when everyone was stitching them at our Lake Tahoe retreat.  The variety is endless (and often hilarious). Looks like the quilters of New Albin have caught cow-fever, but there will be other quilts, as well: this is the show’s fifth year and in years past they’ve had as many as 200 quilts.

The show will be held int he New Albin Community Center on October 11 to 13 (Friday, 4 to 7pm; Saturday, 10 am. to 5 pm; and Sunday, 12 to 4 pm).

Baby Sewing Machines

After delaying a trip to Minnesota due to the weather, I got brave and drove north to visit my aunt. She’s about to turn 87 and I wanted to wish her Happy Birthday in person. She’s an amazing person—still so enthusiastic about life and willing to try new things. 

She saw that the local guild was sponsoring a quilt show and off we went. There were some lovely quilts, but one of my favorite things was a sewing machine display. 
The woman who owned the machines had bunches of books identifying and dating the machines and enjoyed talking with people who came up to share stories of their own antique machines. 

I was especially taken by the toy machines. She told me that while many of them were created for children, they all actually sewed and were sometimes used by women when they traveled. I loved the decorative elements on the machines—one even had mother-of-pearl inlay. I’ve bid at auctions on a few small machines, but never been willing to shell out the big bucks for one…after seeing this display, I may change my mind.

On the Road, Again

Phew! I’m a bit discombobulated right now and I haven’t finished half this month’s comings and goings. But suffice it to say that I’m a little bit here and a lot there—there being Virginia, Minnesota, and Chicago. I love to travel, but I’m also a real homebody and so there’s always a little conflict in my soul when it’s time to head out. There’s never a trip I’m sorry I made, once I’ve made it, but I always resist going away…always!

My most recent venture was to Virginia, for my niece Anna’s vocal performance senior recital. For an hour my sisters and I and our husbands and my nephew, Anna’s brother Karl, sat dumbfounded as we listened to Anna sing. I don’t see her often and was in awe at the growth in her vocal abilities and at her stage presence. Even her parents and brother were left with their mouths hanging open. I loved the way her friends pitched in and performed parts, both from operas and musicals, to add fullness to the evening.  (That’s her to the left, wearing a honey cowl. She’s so gratifying to knit and sew for: I’ve made her two Birdie slings  —here and here—and she’s used them until they fall apart. This time she opened the honey cowl and immediately put it on and wore it all afternoon.)

Photo courtesy of VA Quilt Museum

While the event was lovely and it was fun to be with family, Virginia itself was a real highlight. Daffodils, forsythia, and budding trees gave me hope that spring might eventually come. We wandered through the farmer’s market, sampling doughnuts from Mennonite bakers and locally roasted cups of coffee. We took a little hike along a rushing stream, where bloodroot and May apples pushed up, through the forest floor. And we even stepped inside the Virginia Quilt Museum for a look at Material Witnesses, an exhibition by the Manhattan Quilter’s Guild of New York City. There were also a few Civil War quilts—so graphic and so amazingly preserved.

VA Quilt Museum civil war display—hexagons have a long history!

Heading out to MN tomorrow for a weekend with my aunt, in honor of her 87th birthday. I delayed my trip by two days, as we’ve been having torrential rains and flooding and she’s getting snow. But she says it’s for the best, because there’s a quilt show there this weekend. I’ll try and take a few photos!

Quilts in Des Moines

Japanese quilt—the flowers are obi fabric

I’m getting ready to go on the road off and on for the next few weeks, so there will mostly be photos on Pearl the Squirrel. Today’s are of some of the quilts I had the pleasure of seeing last week at the AQS show in Des Moines. I thought it was one of the strongest shows I’ve seen at this particular venue. In particular, I loved the Japanese quiltsGwen Marston‘s quilts, and the Tentmakers of Cairo. There were many other great quilts, as well. Here are photos of some of what I saw (apologies for the photo quality—all phone photos—as well s the poor job of getting quilter’s names). More apologies—I can’t get Blogger to post the photos with appropriate captions. For some reason things won’t work beyond the antique quilt below. Will try again later!

Love this, and that it challenged my perceptions of Japanese quilting

Detail of the above quilt—made of kimono fabrics
An vendor’s antique quilt for sale. Absolutely amazing! Originally from St. Louis area

Antique quilts from Kalona

I managed to fill the last couple of weeks with a big ol’ project that put blogging, sewing, knitting, etc. on hold. However, one of my regular assignments was due at the same time as the big one and required that I go to the annual Kalona Quilt Show, so not only did I get a break, but I got to look at quilts.

Norwegian Girl 1930-40s. We thought some of them looked a bit demonic

Delectable Mountain

My friend Holly and I went out one evening after a meeting and because I was shooting photos for a magazine story, Brenda Herrington, one of the organizers of the show, the owner of the Kalona Antique Company, and a long-time friend, let me go up top and shoot some photos of the whole thing. Compared to many sales, the Kalona show has a “rustic” feel, as quilts are strung in somewhat haphazard rows from clotheslines tightly strung above the gymnasium floor. As they sell, they’re taken down and another quilt takes its place, so attending more than once means you’ll see something new each time. Every single quilt, old and new, is hand-quilted.

Amazing hand quilting. This quilt was purchased for Kalona’s Quilt Museum

While all the quilts are lovely, the old quilts truly are my favorite. They ranged in price from several thousand dollars for Amish crib quilts (people are willing to pay so much because they can use them as art on a wall, as opposed to bigger quilts) to a couple of quilts for less than $200.

Holly’s quilt and her kitty, Primo

As happened last year, I managed to buy a quilt, even without Marilyn Woodin there to encourage me. Holly got the best one, a postage stamp Irish chain done in sweet feedsack tones that are punched up with a red border and keystones. She sent me this picture of her kitty, Primo, enjoying it the very next morning.

My starry quilt—1930s-40s feed sacks

Mine is quite different from the graphic, dark-toned one I got last year. But it’s orangey shades go well with the walls in the room where I write. I’m planning to use it in the summertime and the other in winter. (Last year’s was stitched in the 1880s, this year’s in the 1930s-40s.)

Iowa-made Log Cabin 1880-1910

 Last year Marilyn told me that the quilt I bought was the perfect one to start my antique quilt collection. I told her I didn’t intend to start such a collection, but I may have been wrong. Brenda assured me that it’s not a collection until there are three. So I’m safe, unless I decide that bed also needs quilts for both fall and spring.

Love the border on this Dresden Plate