Sunday, May 1, 2016

Lydia the Dealer in Purple Cloth

This morning at church the Bible reading was from the book of Acts, when Paul sails to Macedonia and meets Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth.  I started to think about purple cloth and wondered what was involved in Lydia's business 2000 years ago.

I know that, once upon a time, purple dye came from murex seashells.  When I need to find out something about seashells I never bother to google.  My husband is a very keen shell collector, and also collects books about seashells and the sea.  I'm quite pleased with my own quilt history library, but hubby's books on shells take up four times as much space as my quilting books.  So I asked, how is purple dye made from shells, and after glancing through four different volumes I can now tell you.

Tyrian purple dye was made from murex brandaris, commonly called the Mediterranean snail.

The Phoenicians perfected the dye process and had a monopoly on the colour purple from 300 BCE to 150 CE.  The high cost of purple dye was due to the hours needed to collect the thousands of shells so tyrian purple was reserved for royalty and the wealthy.

So, how do you get the dye from the shells?  Well, you don't use the shells, you use the secretions from the snail itself.  First, gather the snails from the rocky shoreline.  Then break the shells up to get out the snails inside.  Next soak the snail bodies in salt water for three days, then boil.  Ewww.

At the same time in the British Isles the nucella lapillus or dog whelk was used as a purple dye for illuminated manuscripts.

Enough of  seashells.  I went to my own smaller bookcase and found Natural Dyes and Home Dying, a Dover Publication.  Purple dyes in the 18th and 18th century were made from orchil, a dyestuff derived from the lichen Rocella. 

 Lichens were soaked in fermented urine (?) or slaked lime for about three weeks.  To get the right shade of purple you added either an acid or an alkaline - orchil was not only a dye but was the stuff that litmus paper was made from. If you want to learn more click here.

Once the coal-tar dyes of the industrial revolution were created orchil's use gradually declined.  One of the first of the new chemical dyes was mauve, Queen Victoria was quite amused.

from the blog Chromatic Notes

This week at the Chester Criswell Quilt Revisited - Reuben Stubbs' Block 6.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Duck, Duck ... Brown Goose

Do you remember this signature quilt?  It's my second favourite antique quilt and it was featured in an article in Down Under Quilts in 2013.

Malaga, Washington 1937

It has been a bit neglected but I have returned to the documentation of the blocks and the women who made the quilt in 1937. I have unearthed some more fascinating material about the quiltmakers and their families (but it's a bit of a secret still).

I have also been researching the block patterns.  Last week's search was for the name of this block.

Gussie Herr's block

My block

I tried all my books and BlockBase; the closest name I found was Brown Goose.

Brown Goose or Double Z

It doesn't look the same, does it?  But just turn around the corner half square triangles and the blocks are the same.  I don't think Brown Goose suits my blocks so I have called them Hourglass Star.

Last week's CCCQ Revisited block was Block 18 Mary McKissick and this week's is Block 28 Mary McDowell.

Mary McKissisk

Mary McDowell

 If you don't want to miss out on each week's CCCQ Revisited block you can put your name on the mailing list.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Stash Sale and How About an E-Book

What are you doing next Sunday?  Our patchwork group is having a sale.

We all have stashes and we thought it would be a good idea to clear out our cupboards and try to sell/swap/giveaway some of our no-longer-needed fabric.  The idea has grown like Topsy - there will be twenty-six tables of quilting goodies, included stock from some quilt shops that are no longer trading.  Bring your husbands too; they can go to the Sunday Variety Market while you spend some time with our tempting tables.

I will be in attendance with I Spy fabrics from the Two Bits Patches website. and I still have some Twisted Stitcher Quilt Block socks as well.

In one of the Facebook quilting groups this week the topci of quilting e-books came up.  Do people buy e-books about quilting, the question asked.  Yes, was the answer, lots of people favour e-books because of price and space limitations.  Some folks try out the e-book first and then buy a print book if they like it.  Both Kindle and pdf books are good - Kindle is easy to download if you have a Kindle, and pdf files are usful because you can read them on any device.

I was very pleased to follow the conversation, because I offer my e-book as both a Kindle book on Amazon and a pdf e-book from my website.

You can get it as a Kindle book at Amazon.

Or you can download as a pdf from Two Bits Patches.

This week's Revisited CCCQ is Block 5, the Crazy Nasturtiums.  So you can read about it in the e-book or go ahead and make it from the pattern.

Or you can come to our stash sale and just say hello - I'd love to meet you.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

There and Back Again

My flying trip from Australia to USA and back is over.  Due to some unforeseen circumstances I was delayed in Los Angeles for an extra two days, but I'm back now and over the jet lag.

I was able to do something that I was looking forward to - rummaging through stacks of quilts at the antique malls.  I must say that there are a lot of unattractive quilts for sale and for a while I thought I might have to bring home an ugly duckling.  But I found two that I am very pleased with.

This is a scrappy Tree of Paradise. It's machine quilted and the binding has been replaced.  The fabrics have a lot of variety, I think 1890s for the materials.

I bought a redwork cot quilt too.  It is hand quilted with little or no batting - just right for the bottom of a suitcase.

My cousin showed me her own embroidered quilt made by her other grandmother.  She was a little concerned that I might try to fit it in my suitcase as well, but I assured her that all a needed was a photo.

John's (guinea) pigs

Back to reality.  This week's CCCQ Revisited block is Block 27 Susanna Criswell.  I christened this one Floral Medley, it's a bit of this and that.

Bother reality.  Here's some holiday snaps. Enjoy.

St. Pete's Beach, Florida on the Gulf of Mexico
Santa Monica Pier, California on the Pacific Ocean
Tiled shopfront in Hollywood
Art deco tiles
More ugly ducklings

Sunday, March 13, 2016

CCCQ Block 17

Just a quick post this week.  This week's block is Block 17, Andrew Criswell Gibson, one of the bride's male cousins. 

There are nearly as many men's names as women's names in the Chester Criswell quilt, I assume that women still did most of the sewing and quilting.

This is a quick post because I am flying to the USA in two days time.  I am traveling with a few family members to a memorial service (which is sad) but we will be staying with cousins (which is fantastic). So, no block next week because I won't be around but there should be a block the following week along with the Easter bunny.

Back to packing!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Block 4 Nancy Carlile Smith

This week's block is Block 4.  It was made by Mary McClellan Criswell's cousin, Nancy Smith.

My block with some collectibles

My block, quilted with Block 31

James R. Smith   Nancy C. Smith  East Nottingham

Nancy Smith's block in the Chester Criswell Quilt.

You'll find more photos of Block 4 here and here.

You can get the pattern at Two Bits Patches.

The video clip of the Chester Criswell Quilt blocks is currently playing on YouTube.  The music is from my own band, The Sale City Band (est. 1871).  I'm playing the timpani.

Brass Band Day at Federation Square, Melbourne - the stage slopes and the timpani kept rolling away

Last night I basted the final two blocks.  Once they are quilted and sewn together, then the last row can be attached and the quilt bound.  I find it hard to believe that I'm nearly finished.  I don't think I will hand quilt such a big quilt again, it just takes too long. 

So, what comes next?  I have some ideas.  Like every keen quilter, the next quilt project can hardly wait until the current one is finished.  I better hurry up with those last two blocks.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Story of CCCQ Block 26 - A Broken Betrothal

This week's block is Block 26, Elizabeth Cummins.

Elizabeth's daughter Ellen also made a block for the Chester Criswell quilt.  Ellen's block had two names, Ellen Cummins and Humphrey Hood.

Ellen and Humphrey must have been betrothed when the quilt was made, but they did not marry each other.  What happened?  Humphrey Hood was easy to trace, he served as a surgeon in the American Civil War and went on to be a well respected member of his community.  His big claim to fame was being a representative at the Republican convention that elected  ....  Abraham Lincoln.  Ellen Cummins did not marry but worked as a domestic servant.

When I made each pattern and block for the quilt I also wrote a story to go with the block.  I'd like to share the Cummins story here, it's one of my favourites*

Margaret Dickey felt satisfied as the Faggs Manor congregation gathered outside the church building, waiting to greet the new Mr and Mrs Jesse Jackson Smith. A sensible match with good prospects for health and prosperity. As the wife of a congressman Margaret was used to being the focus of social gatherings, but today she was free to pay her attentions as she chose.  Margaret’s coachman would not bring the carriage around for another twenty minutes and Margaret was enjoying a chance for a little gossip before returning home to her busy husband and her eight children.
Margaret made her way across to John and Elizabeth Cummins.  Elizabeth looked well, thought Margaret, but their daughter Ellen was very pale with dark circles under her eyes.
“Mr. Cummins, Mrs. Cummins, so lovely to see you once again.  What a lovely day, and didn’t the bride look charming.  Good afternoon, Ellen, are you quite alright? You don’t look your best.”
John Cummins glared at his daughter and left the women.  Elizabeth spoke hesitantly. “Good afternoon to you, Mrs. Dickey, it is very kind of you to ask about our Ellen.  You see, uhm, well… Ellen’s young man has broken their engagement.”
“I am sorry to hear your news, no wonder you look distressed.  That was Mr. Humphrey Hood of Philadelphia, was it not?  He is at the medical school there, isn’t he?”
Mrs. Cummins nodded. “Yes that is correct, Mrs. Dickey.  He has recently qualified as a doctor but has decided to return to his home state of Illinois to start his practice.  We were expecting that Mr. Hood and Ellen would be married soon, but he informed Mr. Cummins that he no longer wished to be betrothed to my Ellen.”

Margaret gave an exasperated "pshaw" at the unreliability of young men. Obviously an unsuitable match from the outset, and one her parents should not have approved.  “You poor girl.  I imagine that Mr. Hood has tempted by another young lady?”
Ellen spoke with a quaver in her voice.  “I made the block for Mary’s quilt with his name and mine. He doesn’t have anyone else, Mrs. Dickey, he’s going to Illinois with his sister!”  A tiny sob escaped Ellen as she hid her face in a much used handkerchief.
Margaret Dickey was used to being in charge. “This will never do, here, use my hanky.  That man doesn’t deserve you, Ellen, I hope his sister is a horror to him.  Now, I need some help at home now that my sister-in-law Rachel is aiming for her own medical career.  I need a nanny for the little girls not in school, that’s Sarah and Maggie and the twins.  Get your mother to help you with your wardrobe and your father can bring you over, say in ten days’ time.  I will get Mr. Dickey to settle terms with your father.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Just say yes, there’s a girl, don’t cry. Men are not worth crying over, they don’t notice anyway.”


* I'd like to take full credit for this story but my editor and daughter Jennie waved her magic wand around my words.  The end result is a collaboration.

The stories are all collected in the e-book "Round is the Ring". Why not download it now?

Friday, February 19, 2016

An Aussie Explanation of the American Quilting Bee - 1955

While I was away last week I was on the lookout for vintage magazines.  I was after women's magazines, preferably with craft and patterns.  I managed to find half a dozen from the 1950s and 1960s.

 The first one I found was 1955, an Australian magazine called The Australian Woman's Mirror.  There were a pile of magazines at the collectibles shop, but this issue had an article on Quilting Bees.  That was a bit of a surprise - Australian women weren't making quilts in the 1950s.  The article was written by B.L.L., who I don't think had ever attended a quilting bee.

First requirement is a light wooden frame of a size to make a double-bed quilt; smaller quilts may be made just as easily on the larger frame.  This is set up like a table on its side, so that several women may work side by side, fastening the ground material in place with drawing-pins (thumb tacks).
Over this the cotton-wool (batting?) is pinned.  The patterns are drawn on; the already-sewn patterns go on the the drawn outlines; the quilting is done and the appliqued designs completed.  Finally, the edges are bound.

Sorry, B.L.L., but I think a bit more research is needed.   I don't know if B.L.L. read about it in a book, or overheard half of a conversation between strangers, but I don't quite see a quilt resulting from the above actions. A quilting frame is more like a table on its legs than on its side.  How does one draw the pattern onto the cotton-wool batting, and why would you finish the quilting before the applique is complete? It's a mystery.

Next stop - Woman's Weekly 1971.  Part 6 of the Handbook of Homemaking A-Z is Q for Quilts.  The quilts are are shop-bought but the description is still interesting.
Many quilts are now filled with man-made fibres, such as Terylene.  Synthetic fillings are dust-free and moth-proof, but they tend to have less buoyancy than feathers or down.
Ideally, a quilt should be placed on top of all the other bedclothes.  A gentle shake will keep it fluffed up - and a hot water bottle in the bed helps to make it buoyant.
That must be a big water bottle - it sounds like the quilt is bobbing around inside, buoyant and free of dust and moths.  Terylene is the trademarked Dacron in the USA.

Last week's block of the CCCQ Revisited was Block 3 and this week's is Block 16

Block 3 Priscilla Turner

Block 16 Adaline Gibson
Previous Chester Criswell Posts:

Block 3 - Priscilla and Joseph Turner
Photos of Block 3
Block 16 Adaline Gibson
Photos of Block 16

Friday, February 5, 2016

Seven Quilts in Seven Days

On Facebook I have just finished sharing Seven Quilts in Seven Days.  Would you like to see which ones I chose?

Day 1 - Ohio Sampler.  This was by project for December, when I needed a break from Christmas hustle and bustle.

Day 2 - Fifty Cats, made for my brother's birthday.

Day 3 - Aviatrix, made for my granddaughter Amelia's birthday.

Day 4- Baskets and Flying Geese, two of my favourites.

Day 5 - Economy Four Patch, with my own layout.

Day 6 - Malaga 1937.  I didn't make this one but I have made most of a reproduction.  I'm just waiting for it to move up in UFO ranking.

 Day 7 - This week's finish.  I got the blue fabrics from Threadbear at Christmas and this was my January project.

Chester Criswell Revisited

This week's block in Block 25, Sarah Stubbs.

The pattern is at Two Bits Patches.  The original blog post is about Laurel Blocks.
Hope your progress is pleasing.