As a long-time lover of all things antique, over the years I’ve been the friend or family member that gets the “old sewing stuff” that no one wants. This can be anything from rusted straight pins, to fabric scraps, to sewing patterns and wonderfully- old quilting patterns! Sometimes I get these collections in envelopes or cardboard boxes, sometimes in paper sacks and once even in an old sewing basket!
I’ve always treasured them, but just recently I found that the Alliance for American Quilts not only encourages documentation of quilts and quilt makers but also quilt ephemera (Boxes Under the Bed project). All that old sewing stuff I’ve accumulated over the years has a formal name- who knew? Ephemera is an interesting word that sums up this “stuff” beautifully.
The Quilt Alliance has a wonderful page that lists the steps to document and submit quilting ephemera; I’m preparing (this may take a while) the first collection for submission and I thought I would share it with you!
This particular group was given to me by a friend of a friend years ago (1990’s sometime?). Someone heard I was a quilter (VERY new at the time) and gave it to my friend to give to me. I’ve since lost touch and only have the name on the original Farmer’s Wife mailing envelope to guide me: Mrs. John Rupright; the mailing address shows RR 1, Marysville, Ohio.
The collection consists of a mailing envelope containing newspaper clippings, cardboard templates, some old needles, fabric patches and an Alice Brooks pattern. Another envelope inside this larger one also has similar items (I’ll detail that one next time).
Here’s the Alice Brooks “Shooting Star” pattern:
I was looking through some of the quilt templates to see if they matched this pattern, but the only thing I found that looked close were these:
They match pattern piece F minus the seam allowance? Hmm… not sure if that was planned or not. Maybe she was hand piecing and adding the seam allowance when she cut out the fabric? The more I think about it, the more that makes sense.
Then we have these lovely articles from Better Homes and Garden – Ruby Short McKim (1932) and the Farm Jounal:
I’m actually kind of liking that Firecrackers and Rockets block; I may need to play around with that one. And here’s Alice Brooks’ Wheel of Fortune pattern from the Toledo (OH) Blade.
There were a small number of fabric patches (next time), but there was also one small section of a pieced block:
Looking at this poor piece makes me want to invite her over for a bottle of wine (hey, it always helps MY piecing look better!). The dark triangles were all cut a bit too small and the pieces didn’t fit well together, but she persevered to get at least this small section done. Looking at the back , you can see the struggle continues.
I found a smaller mailing envelope in the mix that said “Ocean Wave,” so I wonder if she got the pattern or template from someone else? Then got frustrated with the pieces not matching well and quit?
Whooaa Nellie, that sounds like me and the “Dreaded Basket Quilt” I blogged about here; could it be that across the decades her collection of ephemera could teach me something about perfection not being the goal at all? That loving what you create, loving the process- the good, the bad (and yes even the ugly), is the true expression of ourselves as creative beings?
I’m looking at all of her old quilting “stuff” with new eyes; machine quilting articles, less than perfect templates, complicated patterns- she was an adventurer! And while her collection tells us a little bit about who she was, it tells us lot about who WE are; she’s leaving a trail for us to follow; we can do no less than to become adventurers in our own right.
Be bold- love your work, your process, no matter what. Do it for Mrs. John Rupright :)