Should be- Could be- in The Quilters Hall of Fame

I’ve been writing every week about Honorees of The Quilters Hall of Fame, but this time I’m going to switch up and write about people who haven’t been inducted—yet.

My inspiration, if you can call it that, was my sewing experience earlier today.  Did your mother ever say, “Don’t sew on Sunday or the Devil will make you pick out your stitches with your nose”?  Well, that’s what happened to me; seventeen seams in, all but four taken out.  But thank goodness for my seam ripper!  Or as I like to call it, the Mulligan Stick. (If you or your husband golf, you’ll recognize a Mulligan as an opportunity for a do-over.  My husband turns on a wood lathe, and he can’t correct his mistakes like I can, so I try to keep a cheerful attitude about un-sewing.) 

We all joke about seam rippers and the stitch removal process.  We use terms like frog stitching/ ribbit; reverse sewing, etc. I recently ordered some tools online that were called stitch fixers: same thing, but with a more positive spin. So, who invented the seam ripper, and why isn’t he in The Hall of Fame?

Here’s the answer to the first question, from Tenrandomfacts.com:

Seam rippers where probably invented sometime in the late 1800s, and one of the earliest patents for a similar tool was a thimble that had the addition of a small knife that was patented in the United States by W Miller in 1883, that was used to rip threads in a similar way; while a later patent exists for a tool designed for the sole purpose of ripping seams, in 1898 by John Fisher from Canada.

Fisher’s device was a piece of twisted metal with a small blade held between two pincer-like ends. The drawing with the patent doesn’t show up well here (a better view is in the link below the photo), but you can recognize this as an ancestor of what we use today.  The design evolved from the single slicer between tiny jaws into a curved blade by the 1950s, with a little knobby protector appearing later. We’ve come a long way and today we even have electric ripper scissors, but that’s too modern for me.

US604675A May 24, 1898      John Fisher

As an aside, I learned that I have been using my ripper incorrectly—or at least not as originally designed. Fisher prescribes the method of slashing along the seam line, but I insert the blade into every third to fifth stich on one side, and then pull up the uncut thread on the other side.  At the risk of starting something akin to the toilet paper role debate, I’ll ask, “Which way do you rip?”

I couldn’t sew without John Fisher’s invention, and there are many other tools that have changed quilting in a dramatic way. How about the rotary cutter and mat? Or all those specialty rulers we know and love?  And, of course, the invention with the biggest impact on our craft/art—the sewing machine.  I’m sure you’ve got some favorites too.  Why aren’t these inventors in the Quilters Hall of Fame?

And for that matter, why isn’t Jenny Doan of Missouri Star in?  Or someone from the Modern Quilt Guild? Or that fabric designer who always comes up with a new line for you to fall in love with?

Well, the number one reason someone doesn’t get in to the Hall of Fame is that they haven’t been nominated. Yes, everyone agrees that Elias Howe and Isaac Singer made invaluable contributions to the world of quilting, but unless someone puts those names forward, they won’t be honored.  There is no group at the Hall of Fame whose job it is to cast their collective mind around the quilting world and see who is worthy. Instead, the Selection Committee relies on you—actual quilters, quilt enthusiasts, scholars and historians — to present a name for consideration. It’s a way to ensure that the Committee doesn’t play favorites or skew the decision to their own ideas, but it doesn’t work unless you give them something to work with.

The process is quite simple; you can find the nomination form and instructions on the Hall of Fame website (link below). But essentially, all you have to do is “Tell how he/she has made outstanding contributions to the world of quilting.”, and provide some back up info.  The website doesn’t tell you, but there are two categories of inductees, one for contemporary nominees, and the other for persons who lived/quilted 50 years ago or are deceased (Heritage Honorees).  

One caution: nominations close on August 30th for selection/ announcement at following Celebration. So, you either need to get organized quickly for a 2020 submission/ 2021 decision/ 2022 induction, or take your time knowing, that the earliest your nominee would be honored would be 2023. Either way, it’s worth doing.

I submitted a nomination last year, proposing a woman from my hometown, Chicago, who had begun her quilting career around the time of the 1933 World’s Fair.  The process was enjoyable and gave me the opportunity to get acquainted with my quilter’s descendants, learn more about quilting and the Century of Progress, and practice using the Quilt Index. If you go this route, you’ll soon become an expert in your area.  If you propose a current quilter, you can rely on your own experiences (maybe your nominee gave a lecture or workshop at your guild), you’ll find it easy to gather data from the internet, and you may even make a connection with your nominee. Please consider making a nomination.

Next week, I’ll be back to writing about actual Honorees. Don’t ask yourself why that person was chosen.  Ask why you haven’t made your choice known. (Channeling JFK here—sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

You’ve been very attentive to all this narrative, and I know that Fourth of July is coming up, so here are some photos of my Patient Piecers Bee group and our patriotic projects. The first two are a round robin started with some unusual (read: ugly; Americana prints don’t often have that coppery green) fabric, and the second is Quilts of Valor.  Have a good Fourth!

Your quilting friend,

Suggested Links:



Thank you!

The House That the Jameses Built

I’m writing on Father’s Day and realized that we often talk about our mothers and grandmothers in relation to quilting, but rarely are fathers mentioned.  So, I thought it would be fitting to focus on a “father” whose baby has been a joy to all of us quilters: Robert James.  The baby is the International Quilt Museum at Lincoln, Nebraska. Of course, there’s no father without a mother, so Ardis is included too.

You can read about Robert and Ardis’ life at the link below— including a spy connection! Who knew? We can just be glad that their collection took a turn to textiles.  And what a collection it was. When they helped establish the IQM (then called the International Quilt Study Center), they gave a total of one thousand— that’s right, 1,000– quilts.  And you thought you had too many.

The collection was originally housed at the University of Nebraska Home Economics building, but the Jameses and others were instrumental in moving it to a separate facility, the building affectionately known as “Quilt House”. I’ve been there a couple of times for American Quilt Study Group Seminars, but I never noticed that the lobby is designed in the shape of a needle. I guess I was too busy drooling at eye candy in the store, anticipating the quilts on display upstairs and looking forward to the “backstage” tour of the storage rooms. This is a quilter’s bucket list must!

I definitely can’t tell you about all of the James’s quilts at the Museum. There are scores of Amish quilts, medallions and mosaics, crazy quilts and wholecloths, geometric patterns, albums and floral designs, modern quilts and kit quilts from Marie Webster. If you have time to see them all, there’s a link below through IQM and a link to the collection on the Quilt Index. There are 54 pages on the IQM site, so you could do one a week and still not be done in a year. But, in the meantime I can give you a representative peek.

There are currently seven Amish quilts from the James Collection on view through the IQM website (link below). Here’s one from Wayne County, Ohio that just glows.

Thousand Pyramids
Probably made by L. Miller
Probably made in Wayne County, Ohio
Circa 1975

In addition to the original quilt donation, the Jameses continue to fund, through their Acquisition Foundation, the purchase of other quilts including these two modern ones.  They were part of the exhibit Perspectives: Art, Craft, Design & the Studio Quilt which can be viewed at the link below.

Ardis was especially supportive of art quilters; her interest dated to the mid-70s when most of the country was busy with the Bicentennial (what a visionary she was!)  When she passed in 2012, 26 quilters donated studio quilts to IQM in her honor.  Here’s the one by another Quilter’s Hall of Fame Honoree, Michael James. The full collection of these gifts is linked below.

Michael James, Daybook: September 2006, 2006

Robert James’s overseas work is probably the spark for the international aspect of the collection. Here are some examples, ranging between modern and traditional.

Maker, Unknown. Medallion. c1880. From International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ardis and Robert James Collection. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=60-DC-4A9. Accessed: 06/21/2020
From Germany: Rauch, Ursula. Judge and Victim. 1976-1999. From International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ardis and Robert James Collection. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=60-DC-4D6. Accessed: 06/21/2020
From Japan: Kuroha, Shizuko. Poetry of Indigo. c1985. From International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ardis and Robert James Collection. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=60-DC-43E. Accessed: 06/22/2020
From France: Clarmont, Mariel. Bleu, Rouge, Marine (Triptyque) [right]. 1976-1999. From International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ardis and Robert James Collection. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=60-DC-320. Accessed: 06/22/2020

There are also five quilts from China, including the 1992 Reproduction of Bride’s Album [E.J. Baile (1850-51)] and Reproduction of Harriet Powers Bible Quilt. It may seem odd that the Jameses chose to collect these mass-produced copies rather than textiles in traditional Chinese style, but they are historically significant as representative of the “knock off” market trend.

Starting with these modest examples in the James Collection, the International Quilt Museum is now truly international, with textiles from 50 countries and numerous cultural groups. You can find Russian, Ralli or Native American quilts, quilts representing the Black experience, Hawaiian quilts (which aren’t international to us, but definitely cultural), and of course European antiques. It’s exciting and comforting to know that textiles are made and treasured the world over.

There’s lots more to be found on the IQM site, but I’ll let you poke around on your own.  For now, let’s just say Happy Father’s Day to Robert James, and thank him and Ardis for all they’ve done to make Quilt House a home for quilters.

Your quilting friend,


Biographical info https://quiltershalloffame.net/ardis-robert-james/

James Collection  IQM https://www.internationalquiltmuseum.org/collections/search?title=&field_quilt_primary_pattern_tid=All&field_quiltmaker_value=&field_quilt_geo_origin_country_tid=All&field_quilt_geo_origin_state_reg_tid=All&field_quilt_predominant_techniqu_tid=All&field_quilt_object__value=&field_quilt_collection_tid=3212&field_quilt_date_range=&field_cultural_group_tid=All

James Collection Quilt Index http://www.quiltindex.org/search_results.php?keywords=Ardis+and+Robert+James&search=go

Amish quilts https://www.internationalquiltmuseum.org/exhibition/variations-theme-virtual-pop

Perspectives exhibit https://www.internationalquiltmuseum.org/exhibition/perspectives-art-craft-design-studio-quilt

Ardis Tribute https://www.internationalquiltmuseum.org/exhibition/tribute-ardis-james

Marie’s Garden

I had planned to write about Mary Barton who had a birthday last week, but I spent time weeding my  garden, and that put me in mind of Marie’s Garden at the Hall of Fame.  Let me show you a little of what’s blooming here, and then we’ll head to Marion.

When you park in the back lot at the Museum, you wander through what was Marie Webster’s original back yard. Take a pictorial stroll up to the house like this group of visitors did.

Did you notice the brick walk? There’s something special about it: the bricks are impressed with names, quotes, and dedications.

If you or your guild would like to have a brick engraved with their name, the cost is only $100 and the form is on our website: https://quiltershalloffame.net/brick-order-form/ (Also, if you have already purchased a brick, they are now all online in a searchable database: https://quiltershalloffame.net/bricks-in-the-garden/ )

We know Marie was a gardener. It’s said that her first quilt, American Beauty Rose, was inspired by her garden. She later submitted that design for a contest in the Ladies Home Journal magazine and caught the attention of the editor. The editor then requested three more designs from Webster, and she supplied “Iris”, “Snowflake” and “Windblown Tulip”; all were featured in the magazine on Jan. 1, 1911, turning Webster into a “national celebrity.” Here’s a photo of the article, followed by “Iris in Baskets” and “Windblown Tulip”.

“Iris in Baskets” unknown maker, unknown date.
From the collection of The Quilters Hall of Fame.
Windblown Tulips Pieced, appliqued and quilted by Mollie Belle Vancil Mitchell and friends in Carbondale, IL. From the collection of The Quilters Hall of Fame.

Back to the garden.

For all the beauty, I’m pretty sure this is not what the yard looked like in Marie’s time. Her style would probably have been simpler and somewhat old-fashioned, leaning more towards bedding plants and perhaps a border. The garden is now maintained by volunteers… thanks to every one of them! And while it is still a lot of work, many hands make the work lighter. But there is still one element of the original: hollyhocks. The seeds from which these plants were grown were found in the basement of the house when The Quilters Hall of Fame took ownership of the house. Are they left over from Marie Webster days?! In the fall we will sells seeds from these plants.

Now let’s take a look at how the garden inspired the famous Webster designs. What’s a garden without at least one rose bush? (Up until last year, I had 40, but it was just too much work, so I cut back to six.)  After that first “American Beauty Rose,”  Marie patterned “Magpie Rose,” “Cherokee Rose,” “Wreath of Roses,” “Cluster of Roses,” and “Wayside Roses.” Here are two of those quilts.

Mounts, Euphemia Medora Anderson. Magpie Rose. c1933. From International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ardis and Robert James Collection. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=60-DC-21A. Accessed: 06/15/2020
Wreath of Roses. (Maker not recorded). 1930’s. From Minnesota Quilters Inc., Minnesota Quilt Project. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=49-7E-15C9. Accessed: 06/15/2020

Daisies are another old-time favorite. An early daisy pattern is recalled today in clumps of daisies from Marie’s Garden.

And here’s a shot of the current dogwood tree along with an original pattern for one dogwood quilt, followed by a Webster dogwood quilt in a different setting. If you would like to see the complete Dogwood pattern, and two others (fascinating to imagine using those old templates), there are links at the end.

Laughlin, Sarah. Pink Dogwood. c1927. From International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ardis and Robert James Collection. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=60-DC-34A. Accessed: 06/15/2020

I imagine any old-fashioned garden would have poppies, and that flower inspired one of Webster’s most iconic quilts.  Here it is in the yellow colorway; it’s also popular in pink and stunning in red.

Marie didn’t just have a quilt design business; she actually made quilts.  Here are some which might have come from her own flowers. Morning Glory, followed by two versions of Morning Glory Wreath. This graceful design first appeared in the Ladies’ Home Journal in August 1912, along with five other baby quilts she designed. Marie made this larger version of the pattern for her granddaughter, Katherine Marie, about 1940. From the collection of Katherine Webster Dwight.ned.

“Morning Glory” by unknown maker. From the collection of The Quilters Hall of Fame.

Here are two more Webster-made quilts based on popular flowers, nasturtiums (I’ve grown them; they’re edible) and pansies (an early-spring pop of color).

Webster, Marie D.. Nasturtium Wreath. 1930. From Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, The Heritage Quilt Project of New Jersey, Inc.. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=4A-7F-C3A. Accessed: 06/15/2020
 Webster, Marie D.. Pansies and Butterflies. 1912. From Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, The Heritage Quilt Project of New Jersey, Inc.. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=4A-7F-C3B. Accessed: 06/15/2020

Of course, there are other popular designs growing in the Webster flower bed: more tulips, sunflowers, baskets of blossoms.

Marie Webster’s designs have a timeless appeal in and of themselves, but her style is not in vogue today—maybe more white than we want, maybe too ordered.  But her flowers still work in present day contexts. A friend of the Hall of Fame collaborated with one of Marie’s granddaughters on this book which adapts the designs to pillows, small quilts and other contemporary uses.

I saw one of the designs at the Museum a few years ago, and it’s a great sampler of Marie’s flowers. The addition of the ticking fabric gives it a fresh, modern look.Image may contain: indoor

Marie Webster Sampler Bouquet Quilt. This quilt utilizes many of Marie’s flower designs, “Sunflower,” “Poppy,” “Gay Garden,” “American Beauty Rose,” “May Tulips” and others. The quilt was made using Quiltsmart printed interfacing. The interfacing is available exclusively in The Quilters Hall of Fame gift shop.

And in Fall, 2017, there was a juried exhibit called Dialogues: Contemporary Responses to Marie Webster’s Quilts with contemporary quilts by Midwestern members of the Studio Art Quilt Associates juxtaposed with Marie’s designs. Here are some photos from that exhibit to show you how the two styles both capture the essence of the flowers.

“Iris in Baskets” designed by Marie Webster and made by Unknown on the left.
“Iridaceous” designed and made by Linda Witte Henke on the right. 
“Morning Glory” designed by Marie Webster and made by Unknown on the left.
“Purple Trumpets of Glory” designed and made by Mary Ann Van Soest in the center. “Morning Glories: A Joy Forever” designed and made by Joanne Alberda on the right.
“Poinsettia Paradox,” by Pamela Burns

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk through Marie’s Garden of quilts. When you’re able, try to visit in person. It even looks good in the winter.

Your quilting friend,


Suggested links:

“American Beauty” pattern https://quiltershalloffame.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/42E3C360-77E5-45E7-ACEE-559504503319

Complete “Dogwood” pattern https://quiltershalloffame.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/52FC825B-AA24-4391-BC00-995383132853

“Pink Dogwood” kit https://quiltershalloffame.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/2D593DFC-0BB6-46D6-9F70-172460710460

Write About What You Know

Honorees Mary Barton and Bets Ramsey share a birthday today, June 9th. I thought to write about them together, but there’s too much to say about each of them. I’ll start with Bets, and get to Mary next week.

Before I start though, I want to thank all the gals in my guild (shout out to you, Faithful Circle) who helped with suggestions on how to improve this blog.  For one thing, I was told that the links I include would be better at the end, so the reader isn’t skipping away from the Hall of Fame site; I’ll try that this time.  Also, administratively we are going to add more “tags” to make it easier for someone browsing the internet to find us.  If you have other ideas to help us increase visibility or to provide better information, please leave a comment. Now, on to Bets Ramsey, who turns 90 today and is the 2005 inductee.

You can read a full biography of Bets on the Honoree page of the Hall of Fame website (link below) or get a visual recap of her life in the video (another link below). But I want to focus on one big part of her life: her writing. Bets is best known for her authorship of books on quilts in the South.  She was born in Tennessee, and lives there today, so she was writing about what she knows. Here are three in the Hall of Fame Collection.

The first of these books, Quilts of Tennessee, derived from a four-year project documenting, with Hall of Fame Honoree, Merikay Waldvogel, almost 1500 quilts in their home state.  If you search the Quilt Index (link below), you’ll discover over 250 Tennessee quilts that they documented.  And, just because no blog of mine is complete without a Quilt Index citation, here’s one of the earliest they found; look at that quilting!

Ragsdale, Miriam. Rose. c. 1860. From Tennessee State Library and Archives, Quilts of Tennessee. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=4C-83-832. Accessed: 06/8/2020

Much of this documentation was spun off into six scholarly articles published in the American Quilt Study Group research journal, Uncoverings. The first of these, “Design Invention in Country Quilts of Tennessee and Georgia”, attributes a characteristic of country quilts observed by Ramsey: compromise brought on by necessity. She gives as examples the use of cut outs (broderie perse), string piecing and natural dyes. There’s a certain effort at organization, and her premise couldn’t be fully developed in an eight-page essay, but what really comes across, is the soft spot Bets had in her heart for the cherished family quilts she was learning about, and her respect for the quiltmaker-artisans she interviewed.

Again, writing about what she knew, in “Recollections of Childhood Recorded in a Tennessee Quilt”, Ramsey detailed a project spearheaded in her capacity as crafts specialist with the Senior Neighbors of Chattanooga, Inc. Her thought was, “Every quilt is a piece of history.  It is a record of the fabric of a given period. Its pattern and design reflect the style of the time. The quilt is an essay about the maker’s ability, training, taste, and feelings.” But for this project, she wanted a quilt which would visually record history.  Jumping off from the tradition of Baltimore Albums and other quilts which depicted items of symbolic significance or the maker’s contemporaneous surroundings, she invited a group of mostly blacks who had grown up in rural areas to make a quilt depicting a story from their youth. The article with charm and a tremendous feeling for the quiltmakers describes many of the stories that came out during the making of the quilt.  Why isn’t this quilt on the Quilt Index?

Next came “Roses Real and Imaginary: Nineteenth-Century Botanical Quilts of the Mid-South”, a comparative study of the influence of rural and agrarian life on chosen quilt patterns, interspersed with diary entries mentioning the quilts being made. And then “The Land of Cotton: Quiltmaking by African-American Women in Three Southern States”, based on oral interviews with rural quiltmakers who had moved to the city. In both cases, Bets was writing about what she knew, or rather, what she went out and gleaned.

Bets also knows about art.  Her grade school and high school years were spent in Oak Park, Illinois (famous as the home of Frank Lloyd Wright) and she decided early on to be an artist. In that vein, her fifth AQSG publications for Uncoverings  was “Art and Quilts: 1950-1970”. I don’t think of those years as being a flourishing time for quilts of any style, let alone art quilts, but Bets was writing about what she knew, from her personal acquaintances, her experience with mounting the Holstein/ Van der Hoof exhibit when it travelled to Tennessee, and decades of craft work. Her remaining article, given as a special presentation at AQSG was a recognition of fiber artist Mariska Karasz.

Bets doesn’t just write about quilts, she actually makes them, and takes this artistic endeavor seriously. She even has a Linkedin profile describing herself as a fiber artist, but I’m not savvy enough to get there.  Although my focus was intended to be about her writing, it wouldn’t be fair to leave you without a quick view of some of her work.

Artists, unlike the rest of us, often work in series to try out their ideas, and Bets is no exception. Whether she planned it deliberately or not, she has produced a number of items from other people’s scraps.

First is “Wild Goose Chase” with pieced strips made by Elizabeth Richardson and given to Peto. (As an aside, I’m sharing 30’s Christmas fabric with friends as a challenge. Do you ever do that?) And then, a little quilt made of a chunk of fabric from one of Marie Webster’s dresses. At the bottom is “Peto’s Centennial Challenge”, made from Hall of Fame Honoree Florence Peto’s scraps from her challenge to Bertha Stenge (another Honoree) and Elizabeth Richardson.  The Quilters Hall of Fame boasts a dozen more of these scrap quilts, and there’s a link below. Sometimes, if we’re especially lucky, Bets will contribute a piece for the annual fund-raiser live auction; keep your fingers crossed and eyes peeled.

And now for something completely different, “Valley of Forgotten Dreams”. (Well, not completely; it does use scraps of kimonos.)

And, “Fog Days on Cranberry Island” will round us out where Bets’ artistic career got started in 1967 when she and her family summered off the coast of Maine, and she participated in local arts and crafts fairs. 

Tennessee Arts Commission

If you want to see more of her quilts and hear Bets talk about them, there’s a great video link below.

Phew, I didn’t even tell you about her lectures and quilt columns!  Maybe another time. But for now, let’s just all wish Bets a Happy Birthday.

Your quilting friend,


Links mentioned above;  if you can’t Control+Click, then cut and paste the reference into your browser.

Hall of Fame Honoree site https://quiltershalloffame.net/bets-ramsey/

Gov. Award video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GihxVuJxYeA

Documentation of Tennessee Quilts (all listed as Tennessee State Library and Archives) http://www.quiltindex.org/search_results.php?keywords=Bets+RAmsey&search=go

Art and Quilts  http://www.quiltindex.org/journals/article.php?Akid=2-B-C7

Design Invention in Country Quilts of Tennessee and Georgia http://www.quiltindex.org/journals/article.php?Akid=2-B-FF

Recollections of Childhood Recorded in a Tennessee Quilt http://www.quiltindex.org/journals/article.php?Akid=2-B-12F

Roses Real and Imaginary: Nineteenth-Century Botanical Quilts of the Mid-South


The Land of Cotton: Quiltmaking by African-American Women in Three Southern States http://www.quiltindex.org/journals/article.php?Akid=2-B-98

A Tribute to Mariska Karasz (1898-1960)


Ramsey’s Peto/ Richardson fabric collection quilts  https://quiltershalloffame.pastperfectonline.com/webobject?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search_criteria=Bets+Ramsey&searchButton=Search

More quilts video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT93EchD7b8

The Dogwoods are Blooming in Marie’s Garden

Marie Webster loved the flowers of the Dogwood tree, among the earliest to bloom each spring. She loved them so much she designed two quilts featuring Dogwood flowers.

White Dogwood, pictured above, was first published in January, 1912 in Ladies’ Home Journal. Instead of a traditional square block format, White Dogwood has blocks set on point with the center block reserved for special quilting. The on-point blocks create a lattice of intersecting branches dotted with pink-tipped blossoms. The background is pale green linen, the branches are of heavily textured linen suggesting bark, while the petals are of smooth white cotton. This was her first quilt with a scalloped border. More information and the pattern for this quilt can be found in A Joy Forever: Marie Webster’s Quilt Patterns by Rosalind Webster Perry and Marty Frolli.

Some 15 years later, Marie was once again inspired by the dogwood’s beauty. “Pink Dogwood in Applique for the Bedroom” was featured in the Ladies’ Home Journal issue of September 1927, pictured on a four-poster bed. In this strong design four large baskets anchor the corners of the quilt. Light pink flowers tumble out of the baskets to form a large wreath, surrounding a neat arrangement of dark pink blooms in the center. In the border, garland of light and dark blossoms echo the curves of the scalloped edges. The pattern for this quilt can be found in the book Marie Webster’s Garden of Quilts by Rosalind Webster Perry and Marty Frolli.

The Quilters Hall of Fame has one example of this quilt in its collection. Unfortunately, the maker and date of construction are unknown. The quiltmaker creatively added purple to the handles of the baskets. Hand quilting runs 9 – 10 inches per inch. The binding is pink and is echoed along the inner edge by a half-inch band of pale pink bias fabric. The fabrics appear quite faded and the binding is worn, but it is a lovely quilt nonetheless. Thanks go out to Shirley Nowakowski for the generous donation of this quilt.

It is the mission of The Quilters Hall of Fame to honor our honorees for their contributions to the world of quilting. If you enjoyed this look into Marie Webster’s garden and Dogwood designs, please share this post with a friend.

Happy Quilting!

Deb Geyer

“Brown Doesn’t Go With Purple.” “Oh, Yes it Does!” Says Jinny Beyer

How’s this for a tee shirt or Facebook meme?

Everything I needed to know about color, I learned from Jinny Beyer.

It’s not quite accurate; I’ve known the color wheel most of my life, and as a dyer, I’ve read lots about color. But if there is one person in modern quilt history who is inextricably associated with color, it’s Hall of Fame Honoree Jinny Beyer.

Her quilting story began in India (read a full account here: https://quiltershalloffame.net/jinny-beyer/ ) where things were different from quilting in the States. At a time when dusty rose, dusty blue and seafoam green were the standard, Jinny worked in vibrant colors. Here’s her first quilt, made with Indian fabrics.  It wasn’t going to fit in with the country look of the 1970s, but she worked with what she had—and achieved spectacular results.

If you read her Hall of Fame bio, you know that Jinny came home to the US and received lots of encouragement from Hall of Fame founder, Hazel Carter. (I love the inter-connectedness of the quilt world.  And I especially love the theme of women helping women.) With Hazel and her guild cheering her on, Beyer jumped into competition. Here’s a photo of Jinny’s “Ray of Light” which won the Good Housekeeping and U.S. Historical Society contest, “The Great American Quilt”.

Photo: Mother Earth News Staff November/December 1981

If you are up for a  dip in the pool of hippie/ self-sufficiency culture (and some context for Jinny’s work), check out the full article at https://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-and-environment/jinny-beyer-master-quilter-zmaz81ndzraw   Among other things, they describe Jinny’s paper folding technique for adjusting pattern size.  There are better photos of the quilt on the internet, but I couldn’t resist the throwback.  And if you want to see more quilts that Jinny has made, view the gallery on her website: https://jinnybeyer.com/quilt-gallery/ .

But let’s get back to the notion of color.  This is a quilt that is currently for sale as a kit or pattern on the Jinny Beyer website. 

Would you look at that? It’s brown and purple, and it works! What is this sorcery? It’s not dark magic, it’s Jinny’s color theory in operation. Using the method described in her book, Color Confidence for Quilters, you can put any colors together, as long as you make the proper transitions. And how do you do that? Well, to truly understand the process, you should read the book, but I can give you a very simplified visual using an object in the Hall of Fame Collection, a “Jinny Beyer Palette Poster”. (Warning label: I’m really leaving out a lot.  The book is worth your time.)

The Jinny Beyer Pallette

The poster shows 100 fabric swatches in the original fabric line that Jinny designed—all tone-on-tones or blenders. Start with a brown in the upper right, and go counter-clockwise around to the purples in the upper left.  You’ll notice that this took you through some reds and oranges.  And now go back to the quilt image, and you’ll find the same color range there. 

This was heady stuff when it first came out (and still useful today).  So much so that Wikipedia says, “Encyclopedia Britannica and RJR Fabrics credited her for being one of the first designers to form a fabric collection suited to the needs of quilters.” Of course, you can apply the Beyer method with other fabric, but it’s just too yummy to look at the palette pre-cuts she offers.

And now, here’s my quilt that I also called Marrakesh. 

You’ll notice that I did not blend successfully (the green doesn’t fit—it’s in the inner border fabric, but I should have gone clockwise on the poster, from the reds through some yellows and golds to get to it) and I need to learn to miter.  But I thought I was pretty creative when I ran out of outside border fabric and compensated with a stepped-in frame—kinda like a rug you would get at the market in Marrakesh.

So that’s my segue into another thing that Jinny Beyer has contributed to the quilting world: border fabrics. Talk about bang for your buck!  Border fabrics do the work so you don’t have to. If you want an easy traditional quilt, you can alternate strips of the border fabric with columns of a simple block. All the design impact, and half of the piecing.  It’s been on my “To Do” list; note the date in the selvedge.

Or, if you’re doing a round robin with friends, or otherwise going for the center medallion-style, border fabrics are your friends. (Timely for the AQSG 2021 Quilt Study which is “Framed Center/Medallion Quilts: History of a Style”.)  Dare I say it?  Border fabrics can really cut corners.

Or, if you’re truly ambitious, you can use border fabric as a design element, as in this quilt from one of Jinny’s many books.

Waite, Audrey. Tripoli. 1980-1992. From Arizona Quilt Documentation Project, Arizona Quilter’s Hall of Fame. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=67-EC-8C1. Accessed: 05/31/2020

Or, sometimes, the border fabric inspires the colors of the field as in this original design using blocks from Jinny’s book ‘The Quilter’s Album of Blocks and Borders’.

McCabe, Mary Jo. The City Surrounded. 1976-1999. From American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Lands’ End All-American Quilt Collection. Published in The Quilt Index, http://www.quiltindex.org/fulldisplay.php?kid=22-42-20. Accessed: 05/31/2020

Here’s the Casablanca border from the Marrakesh quilt. (You’ll notice it’s really red, not brown.  But it reads as brown in the photo above, so I took some poetic license to make my brown/purple point.)  Next to it is a different print showing Jinny’s design genius. Many border prints on the market just repeat a single design, leaving you to figure out what part you want to lose in the cutting.  But these all have a built-in seam allowance and two sizes, proportioned to the Golden Mean ratio to give you flexibility.

Although her designs are suitable for reflective piecing (think four patch posey or one block wonders), Jinny seems to use border fabric mostly as a frame for her quilts. I enjoyed reading about Jinny’s design decision-making on her blog at https://jinnybeyer.com/category/blog/borders .  You can she how she works with color and decides which border best complements a quilt—a real step by step journey through the creative process..  There’s also lots of information about working with border fabrics here   https://jinnybeyer.com/tips-and-lessons/working-with-border-print-fabrics/ .

There’s also lots of free stuff on the general site, including a pattern for table runners. Notice how the designs are perfectly matched, and compare mine using a non-Beyer border print.

I think I need to get the pattern and go shopping for some more Jinny Beyer fabric; this is going to be a costly blog, but all of Jinny color and opulence has made it worth it. Stay tuned to see if I actually sew something.

Your quilting friend,