Twins and a Few Poppies

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And I found this beaded example by Crystal Behn, A Dine and Carrier artist:

The first Embroiderers’ Guild shot looks like a quilt, so I’m somewhat on topic, but since this is the Hall of Fame blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t show Marie Webster’s Poppy quilt (The above version was made using Quiltsmart printed interfacing). You’ve all seen it in red, and maybe pink; this is a rather rare colorway from the collection of Suzanne Hardebeck:

Photo: TQHF

Marie’s design has inspired many interpretations.  Here are two that have been exhibited at the Quilters’ Hall of Fame. The one on the left is “Love Returns” by Susie Goodman, and the one on the right is from Bonnie Browning’s lecture at Celebration 2013.

I could tell you that the takeaway here is “Poppies are popular”, but my real intention was to provide a segue to an idea that struck me when I was at the Milwaukee Museum of Art a little while ago: twinning art and quilts. I thought it would be fun to see how many paintings would put me in mind of a TQHF Honoree.

You may be familiar with the story of how TQHF Honoree Jonathan Holstein noted the connection between the work of artists like Josef Albers and Amish quilts, and went on to mount the seminal exhibit of quilts as art at the Whitney Museum fifty years ago. Here are two Albers compositions from Milwaukee, and you can readily see the similarity between them and a log cabin quilt.

The paintings also made me think of the progressive color bands in the American Tapestry (Trip Around the World) kits sold by Heritage Honoree, Mary McElwain.

Ranville, Caro. The American Tapestry. 1995. From Michigan State University Museum, Michigan Quilt Project. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=12-8-5855. Accessed: 11/15/21

These were just the first connections I made.  When I turned the corner, I came across another potential pairing, Georgia O’Keefe and Ruby McKim. What different interpretations!  Where O’Keefe is organic in form, piecers have to be more angular. I personally find the painting to be almost sensual, but I also love the orderly arrangement of the quilt.

Next up was a fun artist who was totally unfamiliar to me: Cleveland Brown. I thought at the time that he and Honoree Yvonne Porcella would probably be kindred spirits.  Their work shows a real sense of whimsy and action. Contrast these two treatments with Ruby McKim’s “take” on a circus. (I’ve put them one after another because I couldn’t figure out how to create a three-ring circus and still show detail.)

Cleveland Brown. “George Melly at the Circus.”
Porcella, Yvonne. “Keep Both Feet on the Floor.” Photo: The Alliance for American Quilts.
Ruby Short McKim. “Roly Poly Circus.” Photo from McKim Studios website.

And finally, another Porcella/ painter visual connection can be made with Yvonne’s first quilt, “Takoage”, and an intriguing 3-dimensional piece by Israeli artist Yaakov Agam, “Union II”.   The painting is done in such a way that it changes colorway as you move in front of it. First the quilt, and then a left-center-right view of the painting.

Yvonne Porcella. “Tacoage.” Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The painting also makes me think of Honoree Michael James’ early work.  Here’s one of his quilts in the same colorway as the right view of Agam’s work.

Michael James. “Aletsch.” 1990. National Quilt Museum.

If I count an O’Keefe/ Webster poppy match, I’ve linked six Honorees with paintings (some with multiple connections): Marie Webster, Jonathan Holstein, Mary McElwain, Ruby McKim, Yvonne Porcella and Michael James.  I’ll bet you can think of more.  I invite you to try to try this fun exercise the next time you visit an art gallery or museum, and let me know what you find.

Your quilting friend,


Coming Soon…

I’ve read that the French have no good expression to say “I’m excited about….” A direct translation “Je suis excitée” would more often be understood as talking about physical arousal—not appropriate. This vocabulary gap is most unfortunate because they would have no way to tell you about how happy I am that there will be an in-person Celebration this year. There’s a link below for an interesting article exploring the different cultural outlooks behind this linguistic issue, but don’t go there yet; we’ve got quilt-related things to talk about.

Celebration is going to be pared down—no meal events, social distancing arrangements, etc.—but it’s happening. Yippee! You may remember that I wrote about taking part in the nomination process for our 2021 Heritage Honoree, Mary Gasperik; I’m super excited now to see her inducted. I have seen some of her quilts in person, and I’m looking forward to seeing more. She made one masterpiece that was on display in the Smithsonian for a year, and I hope that one comes to visit at the Hall of Fame. You can get a preview of her work on the Quilt Index; but it would be better if you can come to Marion and see the real things. (Link below.)

We’ll also be inducting Marti Michell whose acrylic templates have made it possible for me to attempt a Seven Sisters quilt (no photo; I said “possible”, not “done”), and recognizing the Lutheran World Relief for their charitable work. No live auctions, but there will be small lectures. As excited as I am about the inductions, it’s a toss-up whether I’m more excited about seeing quilting friends. This will be the first non-Zoom, live get-together I’ve had in almost a year and a half, and I know most of you are in the same position. Come if you can and we’ll have a great time. Stay tuned for more details on the website.

We’re having some pretty nice weather here in the Chicago suburbs, and I’ve been out in the gardens. Maybe I can post some photos when things start blooming. In the meantime, how about looking at some flowering quilts? We can tiptoe through the many variations of tulips and then see what else I can find.

First, let’s see some real tulips.  These photos are taken from the backyard of the Quilters Hall of Fame Museum which operates at what once was the home of Honoree Marie Webster.  According to her granddaughter Rosalind Perry, Marie loved gardens and many of the quilt patterns she sold were floral designs.

Thanks to Comfort Landscapes, LLC, Marion, Indiana for their years of help caring for Marie’s garden!

Marie Webster had more than one tulip design for patterns or kits which she sold by mail order from her upstairs bedroom, placed in department stores like Marshall Field in Chicago, or distributed through the shop of another Honoree, Mary McElwain. 

Here’s one of Marie’s trade publication showing a graceful arrangement called “Windblown Tulips”, along with an actual quilt in that pattern from our collection.

From the collection of The Quilters Hall of Fame
From the collection of The Quilters Hall of Fame. Pieced, appliqued and quilted by Mollie Belle Vancil Mitchell and friends in Carbondale, IL.

The design looks different in the next quilt—there’s sashing, corner-stone borders, and a variation of the tulips in the borders—but you still get the sense of flowers bending in an early Spring breeze.

Crowner, Bertha E. (1891-1972. “Tulip Time”. Late 1930s. From American Folk Art Museum, New York Quilt Project. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=49-142-1066. Accessed: 05/02/21

The breezy look disappears in Webster’s “May Tulips”. It’s pure Art Deco, and would have been so “on trend” when it first came out.

From the collection of The Quilters Hall of Fame

In the 1930s-50s, Honoree Mary McElwain operated a quilt shop in Walworth, Wisconsin (in what was then a high-society resort area) and another in swanky St. Petersburg, Florida. Here are two pillow kits from the Wisconsin shop that I just recently cataloged (they’ll be searchable as soon as I can do the data entry). “Dutch Tulip” has the blue border and “Tulip Plant” is in peach.

Dutch Tulip could be repeated to make a bed-sized quilt like this one shown in a trade “card” from another distributor, BOAG Company of Chicago.

The final McElwain tulip offering we’ll look at borrows an element of movement from Webster although Marie was not the designer; it’s called “Tulip Swirl”. This version really makes a statement, and I think it should have an award for “Best Use of Rick Rack Trim”.

Quiltmaker, Unknown. “Tulip Swirl”. 1935. From Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=24-20-329. Accessed: 05/02/21

Here are three blocks made by Honoree Mary Schafer. I’m puzzled by the fat stems in the first one (although they make a great secondary daisy), and I wonder about the green petals in the second, but these are all readily identifiable as tulips. 

That isn’t always the case. Look at these blocks from the collection of Honoree Cuesta Benberry, who may have acquired them in a round robin exchange. That first one has more of a poppy leaf and I just don’t understand the layers of petals (maybe it’s a parrot tulip). The second makes me think of angel wings and halos. But these are both cataloged as tulip blocks.  The last in the group clearly qualifies as a tulip; it’s from Cuesta’s “Always There” quilt.

Honoree Ruby Short McKim did some tulip designs too. The first photo shows the one in her “Flower Garden” quilt, and the second is from her “Flower Baskets”.

Detail of Flower Garden Quilt designed by Ruby Short McKim Circa 1930 made by Oma Greer Morris (Mrs. C. T., b. Oct. 20, 1894 in Comanche County, TX, m. Charlie Thomas Morris in 1914, d. Feb. 11, 1985, De Leon, Comanche County, Texas). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Pierson (Leslie), TTU-H2021-006-002.
Detail of The Quilters Hall of Fame Opportunity Quilt 2017.

Tulips weren’t just popular as quilt motifs in the 1930s. Here’s one from fifty years before that which was collected by Honoree Mary Barton.

Detail of: “Tulip variation” Quilt, c. 1870. Gift of Mary Barton. In the Farm House Museum Collection, Farm House Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. 80.3.2

And they continue to be popular as seen in this panel of blocks made from a 2003 pattern in the magazine of Honorees Marianne Fons and Liz Porter. (Okay, the center block has daisies, but I didn’t want to crop.)

Section of “Jubilee Album” by Sue Nickels and Pat Holly. This quilt was the block-of-the-month for “Love of Quilting” and was on exhibit at The Quilters Hall of Fame in 2019.

That’s a pretty good romp through the tulips of our Honorees. But wait; there’s more. I’ve put more than one tulip on a quilt myself. These are somewhat stylized—they must be hybrids.

The Quilt Index claims 834 entries under the tulip motif. (Some look more like lilies or roses, but who am I to question?)  Lots of those are straight set like Webster’s  “Windblown Tulips” and the red McElwain “Tulip Swirl”, but many are grouped in fours. This first one has no leaves and makes your eye jump from the “x” of the actual block to a secondary pattern with a quatrefoil center.

Alexander, Esma Lea Brow. “Tulip Baby Quilt”. 1950-1975. From Indiana State Museum, Indiana Quilt Registry Project. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=39-40-3568. Accessed: 05/02/21

Here’s another layout that fools the eye; the stems of the satellite buds make a hashtag/pound sign design. (Why are those buds round? Unopened tulips are ovoid.)

Lahr, Elizabeth; Strawser, Jenn. Tulip. 1880. From Michigan State University Museum, Michigan Quilt Project. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=12-8-8433. Accessed: 05/02/21

This one has lost its stems and gained a four-lobed center, but it still has that diagonal symmetry that is so pleasing.

Blair, Mary M. Dickerson. “Tulip”. 1940. From University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska Quilt Project (Lincoln Quilters Guild). Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=29-24-3114. Accessed: 05/02/21

But I’m also pleased with this quilt where symmetry has been ignored. (Dare I say “tossed out”? It does have a nice, tossed appearance.)

Unknown, quilt. Tulip Applique. 1850-1875. From Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives, The Heritage Quilt Project of New Jersey, Inc. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=20-16-346. Accessed: 05/02/21

And there’s always someone who is totally unconventional. This quilt has an appealing vining border design and blocks where the stems form a circle instead of a cross.

Vaught, An. “Applique and Tulip”. From Indiana State Museum, Indiana Quilt Registry Project. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=39-40-3334. Accessed: 05/02/21

Most of the tulip quilts on the Quilt Index are constructed as blocks, but here’s an unusual medallion setting. The layout is similar to what you see in Webster’s “Poppies” and “Sunflower” (that’s for another day), and the stems have taken on an interesting Art Nouveau curve.

Maker, Unknown. “Tulip”. 1930-1949. From International Quilt Museum, International Quilt Museum; Ardis and Robert James Collection. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=36-34-358. Accessed: 05/02/21

Here are two more curvaceous ones.

And finally, an overall layout from the 1970s. This “first quilt” was made from a quilt kit purchased from Lee Ward’s Craft Company in Illinois.

Grzyb, Albina; Kasprzyk, Sally. Terry’s Tulip Quilt. c. 1972. From Arizona Quilt Documentation Project, Arizona Quilt Documentation Project. Published in The Quilt Index, https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=fullrec&kid=38-36-857. Accessed: 05/02/21.

And with that we’ve come full circle from Marie Webster’s kits, so it’s a good place to stop.  We never got past the tulips, so before I go, I want to show you Marti Michell’s “Wild Rose”.

You can consider it a floral teaser for either Celebration or another blog, or maybe for both.

Your quilting friend,


French language. http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20181104-why-the-french-dont-show-excitement

Quilt Index Gasperik quilts. https://quiltindex.org/view/?type=artists&kid=18-47-2

Easter 2021

I’m writing on Saturday, but you won’t read this until after all the eggs have been found.  I hope you had a happy Easter. And I hope you will enjoy this quick look at some of our Honoree’s Easter quilts.

Since Ruby McKim was last week’s topic, I’ll start with her. Here are the rabbits from the Peter Rabbit quilt; it was first published in 1916 in the Kansas City Star and is now adapted to a panel available on the McKim Studios website.

McKim was noted for the squared-off (quadratic) shape of some of her designs, but she also had softer images like the lambs in her Spring appliqué.  This was part of the Four Seasons series originally published in the 1930s and also available on the McKim Studios website. What do you think of the triangular dandelion?

McKim Studios

I had to look hard to find other Easter animal images by Honorees.  Ruth McDowell has an entire farm series, but her work, although wonderfully realistic, doesn’t say “Easter” to me. I only found one other rabbit, this one by Yvonne Porcella (who usually does those happy, frisky dogs). But she did an Asian-inspired quilt and included a rabbit (from the hare-in-the-moon tradition) on the back of it.

Yvonne Porcella, This is a Long Distance Call; reverse.

The Quilters Hall of Fame has, as part of the collection, a number of objects that are not necessarily connected to our Honorees, but are used for education. Among these is an extensive number of family quilts, historic fabric samples, and quilts made by our great friend, Arnold Savage.  This is one he finished in 2005 from a top constructed in 1934 of tiny Nine Patches that he made as a child while recovering from rheumatic fever. He hand quilted it with Easter eggs and named it “Opus 4 / Recovery Quilt 4 Easter Egg Quilt.” What an odd, but charming image to put in those alternate blocks! I wonder what made him choose that motif; maybe he was working on this at Easter-time.

When I thought about the Easter theme for this blog, the first thing that came to my mind was the Marie Webster French Basket pattern. Even though it’s filled with flowers instead of eggs and chocolate bunnies, it reminds me of an Easter basket. There is a good example of a completed quilt in the Hall of Fame collection, along with a pattern. As you’ll see in the third photo, instructions were sparse; but since this was sold as a stamped kit, maybe that was sufficient.

This design was very popular and appeared in other colorways. A few years ago, Honoree Georgia

Bonesteel designed reproduction fabrics based on Marie’s designs – this panel shows it in pink.

And here’s a French Baskets with a green background—which I like better, even though I’m usually a blue gal.

Indianapolis Museum of Art/Newfields

Webster designed three other basket quilts, Dutch Basket, Magpie Rose, and Pink Dogwood.  Here are some shots of them from our collection.

And she also had a Bunny quilt, with eggs on the ground and in the baskets.

Other Honorees made basket quilts. This is a Ruby McKim Flower Basket quilt in the Hall of Fame Collection. McKim also had a fruit basket design, but again, nothing with eggs (and certainly no Peeps).

Honoree, Anne Orr was famous for her postage stamp designs, and she created at least two basket images in this style.

And a dishware pattern was the inspiration for Grace Snyder’s tour de force, Flower Basket Petit Point. There is a small plate in that pattern in the Hall of Fame Collection.

Of course, Marie Webster and many other pattern creators had lovely Spring flower designs which would be timely to show, but I’ll save those for another time. I want to stay on the Easter theme—unlike the editor here who really stretched the connection. I would not call those motifs “Easter Lily”, even if Honoree Ruth Finley did; it looks more like pomegranate and coxcomb to me.

The Advocate-Messenger, Danville, KY. April 12, 1930.

I’m going to close with a quilt that looks more Autumnal, but which I think really conveys the Easter message.  This quilt was made in 1939 by Mary Gasperik, our 2021 Heritage Honoree who will be inducted in July. In her own words, this quilt is about a woman “trying to bear the trials of poverty inflicted upon her by the depression” who must stop and rest “to gather fresh courage to reach the ‘World of Tomorrow’…. The birds are singing songs of encouragement.  Beyond these mountains lies Recovery.”

Mary Gasperik. Road to Recovery.

And isn’t that an appropriate thought for us this year?  We’ve been through a lot with the pandemic, but we’re on the road to recovery and there’s hope for the future. There’s always hope for a new beginning at Easter-time.

Your quilting friend,