Monday, June 13, 2011

Helping Hands

Ladies' Aid Album - Week 24
One of the projects I am currently working on is the Civil War Commemorative Album quilt I'm doing with an online group.   I've been learning so much.  Our block this week honored the first Sanitary Commission, an organization that grew from the work of an association of New York women influenced by Florence Nightingale's efforts.  It is astounding to realize that as recently as 150 years ago, governments didn't take responsibility for the care of those wounded in war. So, women volunteered as officers and nurses.  They collected supplies for the hospitalized and sewed blankets and clothing.  They formed commissions that were the forerunners of the Red Cross. Barbara Brackman cleverly alludes to this in the block design.   

Can you see the clamp holding my block? These sewing birds were like a third hand and assisted the seamstress in holding the fabric taut with one hand so the other could stitch. Some were more elaborate than others and also held pincushions, emery balls or thimble and spool holders. Bird clamps date back to the early 18th century. At about the time of the Civil War, they were considered luxury items and young men presented them as gifts to their intended in the months before their wedding. 

One of the largest collections of sewing birds in North America is at the Monmouth Museum in New Jersey.  I think a field trip may be in order this summer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

New York City and Reproduction Fabric

Marcus Fabrics was founded 100 years ago, on Franklin Street in downtown New York. In 1987, in collaboration with Judie Rothermel, they became the first fabric company to create reproduction fabrics for quilters. Judie's name is printed on the selvedge of many fabrics in my stash. 

Just across the river, in Jersey City, Baum Textile's division, Windham Fabric division has also been producing lovely reproductions of historic fabrics.

I love my hometown but I have to tell you if you are looking for reproduction fabrics, New York City isn't the place to find them.  So, I buy them at quilt shows, when I travel, and I order them online. 

I love Barbara Brackman's collections best.

 Brooklyn Botanic Garden  2003
My Beautiful New York was made after 9-11 using Barbara Brackman's collection, Remember the Ladies. The quilt was made in tribute to the inner resilience, spirit and strength of the people of New York City.

William Morris Stars 2010
lately I've been sewing with the William Morris reproductions Barbara has produced for Moda. These prints are composed of densely layered designs, drawn from nature. Birds, flowers, and fruit are intertwined and rendered in soft vegetal colors and rich indigo. 

When I sew with reproduction fabrics, I feel a connection with the past. Participating in the Civil War Quilts Block of the Week this year has given me an even stronger sense of continuity, as I experience something akin to what quilters must have felt as they followed the weekly newspaper columns that provided patterns and advice.