March 12, 2013

November 27, 2008 Giving…. Thanksgiving 08

It’s that time of year again, and this year it seems more important than ever to give thanks for the things we have, as there are so many who have so little and need so much. With the growing economic crisis. more and more people are losing the ability to survive without help; those of us who can still support ourselves and our families have an obligation to help others as well. Here are a few simple ways to donate food to needy families, in the US and around the world.

Feeding America, fomerly known as America’s Second Harvest, sponsors food banks all over the US. According to the latest statistics, 1 in 8 Americans live on the brink of hunger.

Operation Blessing is non-denominational, fights hunger here and around the world with your donation.

Even if you can’t afford to donate, a little of your time will help on these sites. They contribute to hunger relief based on the traffic on their sites, so do visit them. The first, Freerice.com is my favorite; you can take quizzes on various subjects, and for each correct answer you earn a donation of 20 grains of rice.

At the Hunger Site, a simple click generates a donation, while shopping and purchasing products from sponsors adds to the total.

To show our thankfulness for our own good fortune, we’ll be donating a portion of our Rickrack.com holiday profits to Feeding America this season.

November 26, 2008 Redwork Quilts

Filed under: General — sharon @ 8:26 pm

Embroidery has long been a popular form of needlework. By the second half of the nineteenth century, ladies were expected to have some needlework skills beyond simply making clothing and household items; they were encouraged by the magazines of the time to develop their skills to beautify themselves and their surroundings. Embroidery was used to decorate nearly every type of textile, and because Turkey red was one of the very few colors that was unfading and didn’t run, it was chosen as the preferred color, so what we now call Redwork became very popular.
redwork towel
Detail from a redwork decorated towel, c.1920’s

Good night sham
Good morning sham
Rabbits scarf
Two shams and a dresser scarf in redwork.
And below, a pillow cover in a cousin: “bluework”.
Bluework pillow

Redwork is generally defined as embroidery with a red thread on a white ground – usually linear stitches creating a pictorial motif. It was commonly used to decorate towels, splashers (hung behind the sink to absorb wayward drops of water), dresser scarves, shams and more. After crazy quilting took hold in the 1880’s, the idea of using embroidery to embellish a quilt was in vogue, so it wasn’t long before redwork embroidery made its way to use in quilts.

Beginning late in the 19th century, and continuing on into the mid-20th century, many quilts were decorated in redwork, with the height of their popularity probably in the 1920’s. Pre-printed muslin squares (called penny squares because of the popular price) with embroidery patterns, stencils and transfers were widely available, and young children often learned early to embroider simple designs. Many quilts were made using squares with these printed designs, some quite simple, some much more elaborate.
redwork squares quilt
redwork quilt square

Some quilts used combinations of several patterns within some blocks; the one shown below also added a redwork decorated border and red lines between blocks.
redwork squares quilt
redwork quilt squares

Click on any quilt images to see details from the quilts.

But not all redwork quilts were made from commercially designed patterns. Many creative needleworkers designed their own motifs and themes. Two weeks ago we saw a dealer in Lancaster County who had a redwork quilt packed full of images of fruits and flowers, as many as a hundred or more. Over the years we’ve had a number of redwork quilts – while the two shown above are more or less the standard type, we’ve had others that were very different, like this one dated 1904.
Angels and seasons redwork quilt
I’m sorry I don’t have a better quality overall picture, but if you click on it you can go to a page of detailed pictures from the quilt.

Another redwork quilt I sold early this year was a true original, with some historical significance. The theme was the Lindbergh kidnapping, and it featured images adapted from published pictures in the news media of the time. It was made by a woman in Hunterdon County, NJ, where the trial was held.
Lindbergh kidnapping redwork quilt
Again, if you click on the image, you’ll be taken to a page that shows all of the individual blocks.

You can see that the possibilities are literally endless. We’ve had redwork quilts that were labeled as a child’s first effort, others that were remarkably skillful. Given the skill of some needleworkers, the only bounds are those of the imagination – and today with sophisticated computerized sewing machines that can be programmed to do the embroidery, as well as widespread availability of patterns, redwork is still a popular form.

November 20, 2008 Hunker down, snuggle up!

Fall was exceptionally short this year – it’s only November but feels like midwinter already. This week the high temperatures have barely reached 40, and it’s been in the low 20’s when we wake up.

At this time of year we curtail much of our selling activity – it’s not much fun setting up at outdoor markets in the wind and cold. But we still have our online outlets that we can access from home, so we basically stay there and hunker down for the season. Over the last couple of years we’ve taken to setting our thermostat lower because of the rising cost of heating oil, and even though the price is coming down in recent weeks, we’ve gotten used to it and intend to continue to conserve.

Of course the winter months are not all about deprivation! It’s the time of long-simmered soups and stews, lots of comfort food to warm you from the inside. And to keep warm on the outside, at day’s end we just snuggle up! And what better way to snuggle than under one of these:
velvet fan comforter

Known variously as comforters or comforts, or as tied quilts, these are the ones made more for utility than for show; though of course there was no reason to sacrifice beauty for comfort. This one, in the grandmother’s fan pattern, is made entirely of Victorian velvets stitched with decorative stitching reminiscent of crazy quilts of the same era. It’s filled with a heavy cotton or wool batting, and along with a single sheet, provides plenty of covering for warmth in a cool house.
velvet fan comforter detail
velvet fan comforter detail

In past winters we’ve used a number of different comforters; we’ve worn out one or two with the help of our cats. This one we won’t subject to the kneading of little paws and claws, but will pass on to a new home while it’s still in excellent shape.

November 15, 2008 Fraktur writings and quilts

In Pennsylvania German country, when you deal with antiques you become familiar with the term “Fraktur”. Short for Frakturschrift, it’s the gothic script used in formal penmanship by the Germanic peoples, brought to Pennsylvania in colonial days by the early German immigrants. Because of these peoples’ love of colorful decoration, many of the manuscript items were decorated with colorful embellishments of birds, flowers, angels etc. Examples of early watercolor decorated Fraktur baptismal certificates, bookplates and other manuscript work sometimes sell for many thousands of dollars, depending upon the skill of the artist and the scarcity of his work, among other factors. At one time, we had a few modest examples in our collection, but have passed them along. Nevertheless, they are often glorious examples of Pennsylvania German folk art. Below are two examples from the estate of a long-time dealer friend of ours.

F.Krebs Taufschein
Fraktur Bookplate

When it comes to textiles, however, there are not many examples of the use of fraktur. However, during the middle 1800’s, there were some quilts made – many in the pattern called Rolling Stone – whose individual blocks bore names of various people. They may have been friends of the owner or maker, members of a group sponsoring or donating the quilt, or celebrating a particular occasion. In most cases the lettering in the fraktur script was done by an experienced penman, often identified on the quilt itself. Several scholars of quilt history have made studies of so-called “Fraktur Quilts”, most notably Lucinda Cawley of Maryland, who presented an article in the 2004 issue of Uncoverings, the annual publication of the American Quilt Study Group.

We have one fraktur quilt in our collection.
Lehigh County Fraktur Quilt
According to one central block, it dates to 1877, which according to Ms. Cawley is later than any other she’s seen. The name in the block with the date is that of the scrivener or penman who lettered the inscriptions, one Edward Dinsh, whose work is found on paper fraktur items from both Lehigh and Berks Counties dating from 1875 to 1879.
Lehigh County Fraktur Quilt
The rest of the blocks bear names of Lehigh County residents, mostly from Upper Macungie Township. We have been unable to confirm that they were members of the same church or of any other particular group. We bought this one just because we knew so many of the names: Schmoyer, Grammes, Krock, Schwoyer, Schrader, Schlicher, Becker, Steininger, Lichtenwalner, Haines – including Joseph Haines, owner of a local grist mill which is now a historical site.
Lehigh County Fraktur Quilt
We have pictures of more of the blocks, plus other detail pictures of the quilt on this page.

Years ago we also found a pair of patchwork pillowcases (which are much scarcer than quilts), one of which was inscribed in the gothic Fraktur script with the name of it’s Lehigh County owner or maker. These have since been sold to a new home.
Lehigh County Pillowcases
Lehigh County Pillowcase

If you took German in school before a certain time, you may have learned to read a version of Fraktur; most of the texts were printed in this font before the 1970’s or so. So Bill doesn’t have much trouble reading these and other inscriptions; it’s considerably more difficult however, in old-style German longhand.

November 11, 2008 Veterans Day

Filed under: General,◦Family,◦Vintage — sharon @ 7:13 pm

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918 was when the armistice ending the hostilities of World War 1, “the war to end all wars”, or “The great war”. When we were little children, November 11th was still celebrated as Armistice Day, despite the fact that another, larger war had since intervened. However, because of that fact, and because also the military action in Korea had also taken place, in 1954 November 11th was renamed Veterans Day, to honor the American veterans of all wars.
The last time we were at the VA clinic, the people there wished Bill (a Vietnam veteran), “Happy Veterans Day!” We would like to extend that sentiment to all of America’s veterans, and thank them for their service to our country.
In honor of the holiday, (which only seems to be a holiday for the banks and the post office) I decided to feature a couple of items from the time of the original celebration. These pillow covers no doubt made it home to the USA from soldiers stationed in France during WWI.

WWI souvenir pillow cover
WWI souvenir pillow cover
If you’re familiar with the souvenir pillow covers found at many military bases, as well as vacation spots around the country, you know that they’re usually flimsy, printed with verses for mother or sweetheart; these are a whole different animal. Made from fine silk, and embroidered with silk and metallic threads, the workmanship and composition are beautiful. Another example of how wonderful things were back in the early 1900’s – and especially textiles from France, which were of course bordered in fine French lace.

WWI souvenir pillow cover
WWI souvenir pillow cover

One of these can currently be found for sale in our eBay store, the other has been sold.

November 7, 2008 Seeing Red

Filed under: General,◦Country Living — sharon @ 6:58 pm

This time of year, I’m used to seeing red. Every time I approach the front of the house, the brightness catches my eye through the window. This Japanese red maple is my favorite tree, just on the other side of our garden.
Red maple glory

November 5, 2008 Election 2008

Filed under: General,◦Country Living,◦Friends — sharon @ 6:29 pm

The presidential election of 2008 was a historic event by anyone’s standard. We voted in our accustomed place, a local church.
Friedens Church, Election 2008
We arrived around 8:00 AM, and we were #52 and #53 to vote. Pennsylvania has been a blue state the last 5 elections; but until this year our county was red.
Friedens Church, Election 2008
This year, we helped to turn the county blue. A hopeful spirit pervades the area, and our country. May our hope prove well founded, and may our country move forward, bringing all of us closer together rather than dividing us more deeply.

These photos, along with thousands of others from around the country (and the world) are featured on the New York Times’ Polling Place Photo Project.

October 31, 2008 Happy anniversary to us!

Filed under: General,◦Family — sharon @ 6:26 pm

Today Bill and I celebrated our 13th anniversary together – and we always celebrate the same way. Good thing it’s on Halloween, so it’s easy to remember.

It was the day of our first “date”, really just a quick conversation over coffee at our local espresso bar, Uptown, in Kutztown, PA. Every year since, we go back and have coffee together – and none of the magic of that first time has worn off. We knew then, and know now that we both found the love of our life that day.

October 22, 2008 Bowmansville quilts

Filed under: ◦Antique quilts,◦Country Living,◦Vintage — sharon @ 6:23 pm

Bowmansville is a small town in Lancaster County, just over the border from Berks. Though it’s close to many other centers of PA German culture, including Amish settlements, for some reason it’s developed its own characteristic style in quilts. Bowmansville starWhat they have in common is that they employ a large number of small square patches to create a larger-scale design. The best known of these is the so-called Bowmansville Star, with a large eight-pointed central star, formed completely of diagonal rows of small square pieces set on a field of rows of contrasting pieces, the whole surrounded by a variety of different border treatments. In the only examples of pictures we found available, two Bowmansville stars show different borders, one a zigzag or dogtooth pattern, the other a zigzag with alternating lights and darks creating more of a sawtooth pattern.

Bowmansville star
Once you’ve seen the Bowmansville star, it is easily recognized. But not every quilter in Bowmansville preferred the star pattern. Also found among the typical Bowmansville repertoire are variations of the Philadelphia pavement or mosaic style, Bowmansville crib consisting of a number of juxtaposed areas of concentric diagonal rows of squares.
The one shown at left, a crib quilt, recently set a record for crib quilts at auction, selling for $25,000+. Apparently this one uses strips of fabric instead of squares in the border treatment, but the idea and scale are still the same.

Another example of this style is this full-sized quilt that I found on eBay, which uses only small squares, including all the border areas.

Bowmansville quilt

I happen to be lucky enough to have one of these quilts in my own collection.
Bowmansville quilt

This one dates from c.1920, but includes mostly fabrics from the turn of the century. One of the charming features is that each of the small squares in the center of a larger square is fussy-cut from one of two different fabrics, centering a flower blossom.
Bowmansville quilt
Bowmansville quilt

Again, it’s easy to see why this regional style might have developed; that is, these quilts do seem to cause a quilter some inspiration. Indeed, several of my friends have been so intrigued with this style that they’ve decided to make reproductions for themselves.

I continue to be intrigued by regional styles in quilts; certainly, Pennsylvania German quilts as a whole have their own style, but within this broad category are many sub-styles. The Lancaster County Amish quilts are recognizably distinct from quilts fashioned in other Amish communities. Certain other groups or areas had their own particular fabric choices, patterns or designs. But most intriguing of all are these insular examples, from one town or county, such as the Bowmansville quilts or the applique quilts I featured here earlier. There are probably many, many such designs, and I hope to learn of more and possibly present them here.

October 20, 2008 Fall on the farm

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food — sharon @ 6:17 pm

autumn color We’ve had our first frost, so except for a few things that were covered, the growing season has come to an end. We’re still picking some late red raspberries, and we’ll harvest the last of the basil to make pesto. The leaves are in full color.

Yesterday, Tim had a party to celebrate the end of the season – a pig roast, along with all sorts of side dishes and a large number of desserts, many brought from New York by guests. The attendees were the very picture of diversity – a large number of Mexican farm hands, complete with a mariachi band: trombone, trumpet, clarinet and drums! There were Mennonites who arrived by horse & buggy, family and friends, and a number of Manhattanites, from Tim’s agent and editor to various chefs.

The weather was perfect, cool but not a single cloud, and just a light breeze. All in all it was a fitting tribute to the products of the farm this year (including Tim’s book) and to all those who helped make it happen – and as usual, all the food was delicious.