Monday, November 20, 2017

weekend auctions

If you like quilts, it was a good weekend for auctions.
A mid-19th century botanical applique quilt from South Carolina was one of two items I won over the weekend at auctions. It was offered by Wooten & Wooten auctioneers in Camden, South Carolina.

The quilt was one of several textile lots in the auction, but the only lot I wanted. It is approximately 74" x 79" and I can't wait to see it in person.

The second quilt was a whimsical piece, most likely made in the first half of the 20th century. It was covered with creatures and critters, and was offered by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries in Maine. The quilt was described as 1920s, but I think it's a bit later than that. The Nile green edge finish may be a good clue.

These photos were from the auction house, the only ones I've got until the quilt arrives. The figures could be appliqued, or they may be drawings with coloring. The grid was visually tied together with a web of dark, chainstitch embroidery.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

unusual applique design

applique quilt, cottons, unknown maker, California, c. 1950, 43 & 1/2" x 49"
Six years ago, Karen Alexander wrote a blog post about an unusual applique design she discovered in an auction. The design was a silhouette, representing a Native American chief wearing a feathered headdress while shooting an arrow. The motif appears elsewhere in decorative arts and folk art, such as sheet metal weathervanes, but is rarely seen in quilts.

Recently, I acquired one of these quilts. It came from an Etsy seller in Three Rivers, California. Other examples share design elements, such as the zigzag sashing, which leads me to believe it was a published pattern at one time. It is red, white and blue, hand appliqued and hand quilted, 43 & 1/2" x 49" and the binding is applied using a matching red fabric. Condition is fair with some fading, bleeding and staining.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Carolina Lily, c. 1865, New Hampshire

Carolina Lily, cottons, unknown maker, New Hampshire, c. 1865, 76" x 82"
A couple weeks ago, Mandy Leins and I were chatting about quilts when she spotted this one on Etsy.  It is a lovely, 19th century Carolina Lily quilt. The Carolina Lily was a popular motif in the middle to late 19th century, and the block included both piecing and appliqué work.

Mandy and I talk about old quilts often. In fact, we just finished working on a new book together. It will feature free motion quilting designs inspired by old, elegant quilts in my collection. The book will be released some time in the next year by C&T/Stash.

We chatted about the Carlolina Lily quilt. It was a bargain. The item description said it was made in the 1930s, but the quilt was surely much older than that. It was a "red, white and green" quilt with Turkey red, cheddar orange and overdyed green. Those fabrics were Civil War era, not Depression era. Obviously, the seller was not a quilt historian.

We decided one of us should really buy it before anyone else discovered it. Since she found it, I let her have first dibs. When she passed, I snapped it up, but I promised to sell it to her at the same price should she ever want it.

The quilt came from a seller in North Carlolina. It originally came from her grandmother who lived in New Hampshire her whole life, although she may have been born too late to be the maker. It was most likely made just after the Civil War, c. 1865. It is 76" x 82" and T-shaped to fit a four-post bed. There are small stains throughout, but mostly on the white fabric. I think it will clean up well.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Collin Ruff Fellows

Collin Ruff Fellows with "Mars" - part of his "Otherworld Visions" series
The quilting community lost a rising star yesterday morning when Collin Ruff Fellows passed away suddenly. He was 49. Collin was a friend. Less than two weeks ago we had dinner with his husband Marlin at Pepitas, their favorite Mexican restaurant. They were excited about the future, and we talked about their upcoming plans.

"Neptune" by Collin Ruff Fellows
There was nothing ordinary about Collin, and that's why I liked him. He was a big, burly guy with lots of ink and piercings. He enjoyed cigars, leather and motorcycles and had a soft spot in his heart for pit bull pups. He was passionate about social justice, especially with regard to the LGBTQ community, and was working on a new quilt exploring social justice themes.

Collin Ruff Fellows
Collin stuck out at quilt shows, but his alternative appearance never fooled me. He was intelligent, articulate, and surprisingly soft-spoken for such a big, bearish man. He was also an unusually talented artist. When I first saw his work, I was so impressed I went directly to my friends who worked in print media. Generation Q Magazine picked up a story last year, and his quilt "Earth" appeared on the cover of the November/December 2016 issue.

More recently, his work was juried in to the upcoming exhibition of quilts by men at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. I urged him to enter, never imagining he would not be here for his museum debut.

"Jupiter" by Collin Ruff Fellows
He was very curious about quilts, especially the history of quiltmaking in America. Whenever he came to visit, he made a beeline to my quilt history books. He worked with a clear sense of historical context and always pushed the boundaries. I photographed some of his quilts from the "Otherworld Visions" series and hoped to photograph "Jupiter", his latest completed quilt before Thanksgiving.

work in progress from the "Otherworld Visions" series
Collin completed several quilts in the series, each representing one of the planets in the solar system. I am not sure how many he finished, but the ones I could find from the series are in this blog. He started making quilts just a few years ago, drawing on his creative experience as an accomplished glass artist and former dealer of vintage mid-century modern collectibles. Decades before getting seriously involved with quiltmaking, he made panels for The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Even though Collin's heart condition was no secret -- he and I both had heart attacks in 2016, and talked about it often -- I am thunderstruck. It reminds me of something people say when they lose a friend or loved one suddenly to a heart attack. "His heart was just too big."

"Earth" by Collin Ruff Fellows
Writing a memorial for Collin is not what I expected to be doing today. Selfishly, I miss my friend terribly, but I was lucky to know him. The world can only wonder what he would have done. At the same time, we are fortunate to have the quilts he left behind. Collin Ruff Fellows will live on through his work.

Monday, November 6, 2017


Yesterday I bid in an eBay Live Auction for the first time, and came away a winner. This stunning applique quilt was offered by Clarks' Auction Company of Scotts Valley, California. The live auction started at 3pm Pacific Time and the quilt came up before 5pm. The bidding was fast and furious for a few moments, but I kept clicking the bid button until it said I was the lead bidder, then the bidding abruptly ended and I won. It wasn't super cheap, but at the same time it was an outstanding bargain. 

The quilt comes with some documentation, and one photo shows a label with a lead to information about the maker of the quilt. The "strawberry" design looks almost like a thistle because of the green appliqué points coming out of each berry. I have seen a few quilts with this basic design over the years, but never saw one with the additional applique points coming out of the berries.

The circa date was 1870, and it could be just a bit earlier but probably not later. Toward the end of the 19th century, fewer of these red, white and green applique quilts were made. It was more of a middle 19th century trend in quiltmaking. Dimensions are 98" x 98" and the binding appears to be a quarter-inch, applied red binding. The quilting is superb, with small-scale grid diamond fill and feather wreaths.

These details seem to point to an earlier circa date, pre-Civil War, when many large, square quilts were made with beautiful, decorative quilting and fine applied bindings. Depending on what I learn about the maker, I could see backing up the circa date to 1860. There are some stains on the back, but they do not appear to show through on the front. I think it will clean up well. My head is still spinning from the auction and this magnificent, masterpiece quilt. I can't wait to see it in person.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Pinwheel Hawaiian Scrap Quilt

This Hawaiian scrap quilt came from one of my favorite online vintage sellers in Waipahu, Hawaii. I love the island color with the tropical blue, jungle green and molten red and orange lava. The patchwork design is a variant of the pinwheel block, and it has an interesting design.

Each pinwheel is made of four square blocks, and each block consists of two pieced half-square triangles. One of the half-square triangles is pieced with two smaller, identical triangles; and the other is made of a larger triangle with a strip patch at one edge. Four of these blocks go together to form each pinwheel. This piece is more like a duvet cover than a quilt. Two layers with the pieced top and backing, it has an opening at one end but no batting, quilting or ties. It is 60" x 70" and was likely made in the 1960s or 1970s.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Polyester Dresden Fans

Dresden Fans, polyester, unknown maker, Texas, c. 1975, 82" x 96"

Solid color fabrics can make a quilt look modern, but there's nothing new about that idea. Some of America's earliest geometric pieced quilts were made with all solid color fabrics. Solids came back at several points -- some folks would say they never really went away -- but they were back in full force in the 1970s, when this Dresden Fans quilt was most likely made.

The quilt came from one of my favorite online quilt dealers, Susan Watson, who found several of the great polyester quilts in my collection. Susan's sister, Marjorie Childress, is one of my favorite collectors. The fans quilt is polyester, machine pieced and machine quilted, backed and bound in off-white cotton muslin and embellished with red zigzag stitching. It is 82" x 96".