March 14, 2013

February 2, 2009 How many more weeks?

Filed under: General,◦Books,◦Country Living,◦Vintage — sharon @ 1:58 pm

Here it is the second of February – winter’s almost over! I wish! Unfortunately, when the groundhog made his appearance in Punxsutawney this morning, he was frightened by his shadow, thereby decreeing that we’ll suffer this season for another six weeks.

the Groundhog
Note that the fellow in the picture is looking askance down to his left at the darkened area on the snow where his corpulent form has blocked the sunlight. Living here in Pennsylvania, we have come to accept the ubiquitous grondhog as a part of life; scarcely a summer’s day goes by that we don’t see one along the roadside, or skittering off under the bushes as we approach the garden. The picture above, therefore, is also something of a favorite.

For a number of years I’ve accumulated/collected books illustrated by Charles Livingston Bull. His subject was nature, and he illlustrated more than 135 books from the turn of the century until his death in 1932. I especially like the simplicity of his style, influenced by the Japanese print. At the same time his representations of animals are lifelike and capture moments of motion that typify the actions of those animals. Among the most famous of the books he illustrated were Jack London’s Call of the Wild and White Fang. His leaping tigers poster was one of the most famous used by the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey circus.

In addition, Bull illustrated magazine stories, articles and covers, far too many to count. About 1980 there was a small traveling exhibit of his works that I attended when it was at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadd’s Ford, PA – home of the late Andrew Wyeth. The Brandywine has a penchant for the art of illustrators, since it’s the home of a considerable amount of Wyeth art, and Andrew’s father N.C. Wyeth was famous for his illustrations of many an adventurous tale. The exhibit was sponsored by a museum in Alberta, the Glenbow Museum, which itself has a considerable holding of the paintings and drawings of illustrators.

Back to the picture above – it’s an original mixed media on illustration board which I bought at a local auction years ago. It was published as the cover of Country Gentleman Magazine, January 29, 1916, just a couple of days before Groundhog Day – which has been celebrated in PA since at least 1887. Today, posters of this Country Gentleman cover are available online, given the title “Beaver in Winter”!! Though I suppose he could be construed as a beaver, I doubt that his appearance would have been so close to Groundhog day – and since Bull lived nearby in New Jersey, it is hard to imagine that he was unaware of the custom. Additionally, Bull was a stickler for accuracy, and the erect posture is characteristic of the groundhog, while a standing beaver would usually be more forward-leaning. Compare to this picture of a groundhog from Wikipedia:

Little doubt in my mind, even down to the coloration, Bull has drawn a groundhog here. Too bad he drew a shadow, too! Aren’t you tired of winter?

March 13, 2013

January 30, 2009 Feedsack Friday – Yipes! Stripes!

Somewhere among our hundreds of books there is a copy of one called The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric about the (mostly negative) implications of striped fabric and striped clothing. I must confess to not having read the book; perhaps the nest time I encounter it on our shelves I’ll take it down and give it a look.

The fact is, there’s plenty of striped fabric in the world in endless variety. So naturally, the same holds true for feedsacks. Some of the most popular are the simple monochromatic stripes of color on white (the red and white is popular with those who make rag dolls in the style of Raggedy Ann):
striped sackstriped sackstriped sack
striped sackstriped sackstriped sack

Even one color stripes on white vary in width and density. Add another color, and the possibilities are even more various. Following are a number of studies in patriotic red, white and blue.
striped sackstriped sackstriped sack
striped sackstriped sackstriped sack

And of course we can’t stop there. Every color of the rainbow is fair game, and every combination of colors. From simple combinations to fabrics that in themselves resemble rainbows, there have been striped feedsacks in more variety than I can count. The selections I’ve included here represent less than half of the one’s I’ve recorded; I’m sure there are easily as many that I haven’t seen. (more…)

January 27, 2009 John Updike, Author, Dies at 76

Filed under: ◦Books,◦Friends — sharon @ 10:52 pm

John Updike

What a shock to see this in today’s New York Times online. I sent this in response:

I have known John Updike for nearly thirty years. He was more than generous to me, a fellow Berks County Pa writer. Before her death nearly two decades ago, his mother was a close friend of mine. Linda Hoyer Updike was a writer in her own right, but ferociously proud and protective of her famous son. She adored that boy. I can think of no better way to honor a great story teller than by telling a telling story:

One afternoon many years ago I phoned Linda (at the Sandstone farmhouse) to tell her I’d just received word that a story of mine had been selected for inclusion in Best American Short Stories, my first. Of course I was ecstatic. My news fell into a pit of deep silence. Finally Linda responded. “Well, dear,” she said, “I’ve never heard of that book but I’m sure it’s very nice.”

Shortly thereafter Linda ended the conversation and I went about my business. Maybe ten minutes had passed when the phone rang. To my surprise it was Linda.

“You know that book you’re going to be in?” she said. “I just called John.” (i.e., John Updike, of the towering literary stature, of countless awards and prize story inclusions!) “Well guess what,” she said triumphantly. “He’s going to be in it, too.”


That famous Updike edge. John came by it naturally.

He will be sorely missed. His like will not be seen again.

January 25, 2009 An art deco quilt design

One of our quilts has probably the most art deco styled geometric pattern of any I’ve seen. Thanks to some help from a fellow member of MAQSG (Mid-Atlantic Quilt Study Group), we were able to determine that the quilt was professionally designed. Hubert Ver Mehren’s designs were published in the DesMoines, IA Register, and were often available in kit form, sometimes pre-cut, sometimes outlined on uncut fabric, and sometimes only the pattern. We had some help from Sue Miller, who’s done the most extensive research on Ver Mehren and published an article on his work in Uncoverings 2000. vol. 21 of the journal of the American Quilt Study Group.

ver Mehren Chrysanthemum quilt

We bought this quilt here in eastern PA about 8 years ago, mostly because it was so different from anything we’d seen before. Using all solid colored fabric in a geometric design reminiscent of the broken star pattern, it was intensely captivating. When we realized that the central star had eleven points, we thought it even more remarkable. According to Sue, this is Ver Mehren’s Chrysanthemum pattern, a copy of which was printed in the Register as below:
Chrisanthemum pattern

You may notice that the original pattern has a 12 point central star and a narrower border section. In addition, our quilter has apparently changed the border layout somewhat, as the sections in red have three protruding points each, rather than just two, and there’s no transitional area between the red points and the green. There’s also a bit more white space between star and border than called for in the pattern.

Apparently Ver Mehren’s intricate geometric patterns were often difficult to piece, and it was therefore not unusual that in endeavoring to assemble a 12 point star, the quilter found her star complete with only eleven. Additionally, apparently the central junction of all those points was rather sloppy, so she added a disk in the middle to cover the disarray.

Sue said that she believed this pattern was available only as a paper pattern, so the color and fabric choices were most likely those of the quilter – we found the use of an orange-red in the star and a deep red in the border was a not unfortunate choice but added an additional level of interest. The quilt is quilted as shown in the pattern, and hand bound around all those little points. Sue also mentioned that even with the modifications, this was the first and only example of this pattern that she’d actually seen “in the cloth.”

More pictures of this quilt can be seen on our website here.

January 23, 2009 Feedsack Friday – Cheaters

This week for Feedsack Friday we’ll discuss cheater cloth patterns – patterns printed to look like patchwork or applique. Since there have been many patterns of faux patchwork printed for many years, feed sacks were of course destined to follow suit, and can be found printed in a wide array of designs. You’ll find them in simple squares:
Cheater feedsackCheater feedsack

There are half/square triangles, in random or pinwheel patterns:
Cheater feedsackCheater feedsackCheater feedsack

You’ll find hexagons, both in mosaic and flower garden patterns:
Cheater feedsackCheater feedsackCheater feedsack

And there are wedding ring patterns:
Cheater feedsackCheater feedsackCheater feedsack

Feedsacks seem to reflect mostly the popular quilt styles of their time. We haven’t seen a cheater feedsack in a 9-patch pattern, nor a log cabin. The styles of the 30’s and beyond seem to predominate, along with the primary and pastel color pallettes. But the above are not all of the cheater cloths found in feedsack; there are many more variations. (more…)

January 22, 2009 Feathered Friend

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Friends — sharon @ 10:45 pm

After the Turkeys on Monday, and the chickens before that, this blog is really for the birds. But I couldn’t help posting about our nearly constant companion.
He was tapping at the window by my computer again this morning. He’ll perch in the tree just outside, then fly up to the window and tap on it, then back to the tree. Every few seconds for what seems like a long time, but probably no more than 8-10 times at a clip. Later in the day he might move to the side window, where there’s a convenient wire to perch on, but we’ve no lack of trees, either. And if we’re staying in bed late, or working in the bedroom, sometimes we’ll hear him tapping at the bedroom window, too.

I’m convinced he’s a reincarnation of someone we knew – and he’s been at this now for 3 years or more.

January 20, 2009 Words we all need to hear

Filed under: General,◦Family,◦Friends — sharon @ 10:41 pm

A historic day. America has a new president, one who inspires a clear majority of our people and who wants to serve and lead us all. Our new president

Historic, because he is our first African-American president, yes, but for many greater reasons as well. As he spoke today in his inaugural address, President Obama said many things we all hoped, wanted, needed to hear. After enumerating the challenges we face as a nation, not the least of which was the “sapping of confidence across our land – a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights,” he gave us ideas with which to meet the challenges.

He once again eschewed the divisive politics of the past – saying that ” in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.”

He invoked the promise of our founding documents, extolled those who’ve struggled to keep that promise strong: ” more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom. ”

“For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction. “

As a Vietnam veteran myself, this is the first time in my memory that a president has actually acknowledged the contributions of those of us who served there. And he went further to include and unify, referring to the quiltlike nature of our society and the importance of each part of the whole:

“For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

He used the promise of the ideals of our nation, and of his pledge to return to those basic ideals, to inspire us to join him – as I earnestly hope we all might – exhorting us with the words of Washington to carry forth the great gift of freedom and deliver it to future generations.

May the Lord, and every one of us in any way we can, help our new president in the difficult job he faces in the days ahead. We all know it’s worth it, and now we have the audacity of hope to power us forward.

January 19, 2009 Turkey tracks

Filed under: General,◦Antique quilts,◦Country Living — sharon @ 10:38 pm

This morning we awoke to another dusting of snow, the third in the last two days. It was gray and misty, looking as if it might snow again at any minute. Then I looked out the front window and saw our visitors.
Flock o' turkeys
Strolling across the front lawn, apparently hunting for food, was a flock of wild turkeys; the picture shows about 2/3 of them – must have been at least fifty. (The bird in the foreground is not a turkey but a concrete chicken, perched permanently on our garden wall.) It’s not a rare occurrence around here, we see a flock at least several times a year. A few times we’ve gone outside and been startled by the loud beating of wings as they took off from the branches of the trees around the yard. It’s definitely an imposing sight, looking up to see a large number of these great birds perched high in the tall oaks.

In order to make this post quilt-related I decided to publish herewith a free quilt pattern – turkey tracks:
Turkey tracks

January 16, 2009 Feedsack Friday – Colorways

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Fabrics,◦Feedsack Friday — sharon @ 12:59 pm

As with many fabrics, both vintage and new, feedsacks were often made in several different color combinations in the same pattern. Last week we posted three different colorways of the collectible Gone With the Wind feedsack. This week we’ll show a several patterns in a number of variations – an of course there could be more variations of a pattern than we’ve ever had or seen. Here’s one pattern in five variations:
yellow feedsackpink feedsackblue feedsack
red feedsackgreen feedsack

There are no simple rules of creating separate colorways; often just the background changes, sometimes other elements. While the first three of these change only the background color, the background of the fourth one necessitated another color change as well.
apples on blue feedsackapples on  yellow feedsack
apples on green feedsackblue apples feedsack

As much as possible, we always try to feature different colorways of the same pattern all on the same page of our website.

January 12, 2009 Chickens in the Bedroom

Filed under: General,◦Country Living,◦Vintage — sharon @ 12:46 pm

Some people refer to feed sacks as “chicken linen”, since the sacks most often held chicken feed. Years ago, before we started dealing in feedsacks, indeed even before we realized there was a market for feedsacks, I collected various chicken items, even kept chickens for a brief spell. Though the chicken collection has long been given up, some of it since sold, there are still any number of chicken items we didn’t want to part with scattered around the house.

There are only two chicken items in the bedroom. One’s this unsigned turn of the century oil painting that we found particularly pleasing.
Chicken painting

The painting was one of our many, many antique market finds, maybe a dozen years ago or more. One of the most famous painters of chickens, Ben Austrian, lived and painted nearby; he was of course famous for painting baby chicks. Since there’s not a chick to be seen in our painting, we are not holding out hope for it’s being a Ben Austrian.

The other bedroom chicken is one of a very few items that were actually purchased new, though it’s somewhat vintage in its own right by now. It’s our alarm clock – or should I say alarm cluck?
Chicken painting

Yes, when it’s time to awake, this battery powered fowl emits all sorts of peeping, then clucking, and finally loud crowing. Never slept through it. And it’s hard to wake up grumpy with such a silly face greeting you in the morning!