Friday, September 25, 2020

Happy Flower Friday!
What's blooming where you live?

Betsy sent this cheerful Autumn Crocus!  
It's lovely and happy!

The Toad Lily is blooming in my garden!

The bush below is caryopteris.  Gardeners:  I can't recommend this bush enough!  It blooms late in the season, attracts butterflies and bees, and even the leaves are fragrant (not unlike lavender).

Some interesting embroidery:

If you like embroidery and Art Noveau/Arts and Crafts Motifs, here is a lily you can sew:


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Sewing Together: Blooming with Friends

Mary Cassatt,  Young Mother Sewing
 Cassatt had a long friendship with Edgar Degas.

 I enjoy reading about artists and it always interests me to learn about the friendships between artists.  Picasso and Manet, van Gogh and Gauguin, the list of artistic friendships goes on and on.  I've always gravitated to creative friends--artists, writers, etc.  Their perspective even--and maybe especially--when it is slanted has enriched my view of the world.

It's the same for quilters.  We thrive when around other sewists--even if our contact is virtual.  What would we do during these days of the pandemic without pinterest, quilting tutorials, websites and blogs?

I'm very protective of my research--it's my intellectual property and I often guard it by copyrighting my work.  Quilts are another matter.  I'm very much flattered when something I've sewn has inspired another quilter to do something similar.  Sometimes it is as simple as the fabric choices.  A few months ago I made a quilt and a wall hanging for my niece:

My friend Sam who is a member of my guild and participates on this blog, loved the concept and later texted me photos of fabric she was inspired to buy and use.  In this case, imitation is the highest form of flattery and I was enthused that she found inspiration in something I made, even if it was just the fabric choice!
Sewing together is synonymous with growth.  We learn new techniques, easier ways to do things, and new ways to integrate color and pattern in our work.  We form friendships--in person or virtually--that become valuable assets. 

Diann recently posted adorable blocks called "Preeti's Petit Sisters" and I'm enamoured with these blocks.  She found them on Preeti's blog and you can see them on her blog --along with a link to Preeti's tutorial-- Little Penguin Quilts, here.

Sometimes our quilting friends take us out of our ruts--LOL--even the ruts we aren't aware of ourselves.  A few years ago, I was building a program that celebrated the designer Ruby Short McKim.  The program was called "Designs STILL Worth Doing:  A Celebration of Ruby Short McKim."  I went shopping with my friend and fellow guild member Kim.  I needed to buy fabric for projects that would illustrate McKim's versatility.

I gravitate towards pinks and blues but Kim put a halt to this.   She told me--in the nicest way--that I needed to step out of my rather conservative pallet and began pulling fabrics that I would NEVER have chosen.  It was a game changer for me and it forced me to look at the sum of my work in a different way.  Here's one example:

The quilt is electric and utilized orange--a color I don't normally appreciate and batiks which I had never purchased or worked with before.

Meeting our sewing friends--no matter how you choose to meet--keeps us sewing.  Our guild does a virtual show and tell right now; on my other blog, 3 Poodles and a Nana, I participate in To-Do-Tuesdays, and write along with my other blogger buddies, a list of sewing goals I hope to accomplish.

Throughout my life, I've sewn with other women, starting with my Nana Betty, my friend Linda, a group of women in the late 1980s and early 1990s; the women I worked with at the college; and now via my guild and the internet.  All of my sewing companions have enhanced my work and all have increased my commitment to spreading love through my sewing.
Many of you do that as well.  Libby wrote this week that she has been spending the pandemic making baby quilts for "Jack's Baskets" a group that celebrates Down Syndrome babies and also for the local pregnancy center.

During these troubled days, sewing together also helps us cope. During the Depression, Franklin's philosophy was (in sum): do something.  Working and sewing helps us endure.  Sewing allows us to contribute to each other and our communities.  We sew.  We share.  We gift love in the form of a fabric hug.  We bloom.

Tomorrow is "Flower Friday" and if you want to share a photo of flowers, be they real,  textile or illustrated, email me at

Have a safe and happy day!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Sewing Together: Busy as Bees!


The term "bees" were used for a variety of get togethers with a theme.  For example, there were "husking bees"and "paring bees" (these focused on paring apples).  Often bees were organized to assist neighbors and centered on some kind of work.  As one 1866 article offered "an accident or calamity of some kind may have occurred throwing the settler behind-hand with his owrk or doing damage to an extent he cannot repair by his own undivided efforts."  

Another website offered that sewing bees in the United States sometime in the first half of the 19th century.  Often sewing bees focused on helping the poor and indigent, I found a number of articles that cited sewing bees were making clothes to distribute before winter.

Bangor Maine, 1857:  An interesting aside on this article is the use of 2 sewing machines.

Quilting Bees became one of the favorite tools used by the Ladies Aid Society.  Somewhere in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, I did a program for a guild in the basement of the church.  It was many years ago and I can't find the photograph but there was a Ladies Aid Society quilt from the 19th century hung in the social room.  

Ladies Aid Societies were--to my knowledge--formed during the Civil War, usually out of groups of women who already met or sewed together.  They used their skills to benefit the Union cause and after the war, their communities.  A few societies existed even to the end of the 20th century.  Yesterday Kathie emailed me about her grandmother:

"My grandmother was a hard-working farm wife with 8 kids. My mum says that one of the joys of her life was the Ladies Aide group at our church where they joined together for quilting. She was the designated person to mark the quilt designs."

Quilting Bees still occur today.  My own guild had a daytime and an evening bee until recently.  

So why the allure of sewing together?  We'll talk about that tomorrow!

Have a safe and happy day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sewing Together: Sewing Societies


Didn't expect this photograph today, did you?  Guilds and sewing groups tend to focus on community projects.  Most guilds have a non-profit status and donate a portion of their yearly earnings to charitable causes.  

I've never been to a guild where there wasn't some kind of drive:  colorful pillowcases for children in hospitals, Quilts of Valor for veterans, quilts for bereaved children (children who lost a family member) via Camp Erin, quilts for premature babies at hospitals, people at hospice, teddy bears to be distributed to sick children in the emergency rooms at hospitals.   The list goes on and on and on....
Premie quilts, sorry about the shadows..

And now during the pandemic, we have been making masks and ppe for hospitals and community groups.  You probably have as well.

Our tradition of sewing benevolence comes from sewing societies.  I never found an actual history of sewing societies but as early as 1821, I found reference to them in newspapers:

Sewing societies were often linked to a particular religion and church.  This tradition continues today in many areas.



Sewing societies could even allow the ladies to express their political perspective, even if they couldn't vote.  In particular, many Anti-Slavery Sewing Societies sprang up before the Civil War:
1836 Vermont

And 1843 Vermont

The sewing societies also held fairs and sold various sewn and crafted items.
Freehold, NJ 1838

Of particular note was the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Fairs which were held right before Christmas from 1835 to 1861.  The Anti-Slavery organizations became key factors in the Sanitary Commission and the U. S. Christian Commission.  The commissions were founded in the beginning of the Civil War and the Sanitary Commission was eventually sanctioned by Lincoln (who discounted it by referring to it as "a fifth wheel on a carriage").  The Sanitary Commission may have had men heading the group but the real power and organization came from women.  The Sanitary Commission alone raised 
$4,924,480 in cash and contributed another 15 million in supplies.

Sewing societies did not have the full support of men.  I found letters to the editor and editorials that questioned the integrity of the sewing societies:  "I sincerely believe, that the wish to be considered charitable far exceeds the wish to do good," wrote one man in 1834 who was too cowardly to sign his name to the letter.  Other men questioned whether women were competent to run fundraising.  For their part, the women ignored the men and sewed on.

Benevolence continued after the war by various groups of sewing women and supported causes such as suffrage, hospitals, aiding the poor or infirmed, and other charitable work.

It seems as if the word "guild" began to be used by quilters and sewing groups in the 20th century.  The first one I found was in the 1920s and affiliated with a church; in the 1930s, I found active guilds that were independent of a particular group in Michigan.

In the 1970s, more guilds were formed as I mentioned yesterday.
So back to this photograph...

Many years ago, my own guild had a sale of a woman's stash that was held for months.  Each meeting, volunteers carted in fabric that they had measured and priced.  It was explained that a member of the guild had passed away.  The guild was selling her stash for a very special purpose.  

The lady had two cats that she adored and a family was found that agreed to adopt both cats.  The fabric sale raised money for that family to supply the cats with funds for the food, vet bills, and other supplies needed.  
As a pet lover, I thought it was an extremely sweet and thoughtful gesture.  I don't know how much money we raised but I suspect it was a hefty fund.  As you know, we quilters love to buy fabric--especially when it is for a worthy cause.

What kind of charitable causes do you like to sew for?  Email me at

Have a safe and happy day!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Sewing Together

The best part of my job is visiting guilds and meeting quilters!

Sewing with friends is fun.  
Socializing about sewing is even more fun!

Some of us belong to guilds, others have built an online community through blogs or participate in online forums.  All these friendships have been imperative to us during the pandemic.  

We sew but we aren't alone and we love to be chat with folks who share our enthusiasm--in person or virtually.   This week, as part of my tribute to the 30th Anniversary of my own Crazy Quilters Quilt Guild, I thought we could look at women sewing together.

You might be surprised to learn that actual quilt guilds mostly emerged in the 1970s.  My guild was established in 1990.  Until my business took off, I belonged to two guilds; the Colonial Quilters Guild in Bethlehem (city next to mine) which was established in 1983.  

Are you a member of a quilt guild?  Do you know when your guild was established?

A "quilting party" was one of the ways women socialized and quilted.  From what I've read, it sounded more of a social event than women just passionate about quilting.  The parties were held infrequently during the early history of our country and concluded with men joining for a party type occasion. There's a fine article about quilting parties at the womenfolk website here.

I didn't find many newspaper articles about quilting parties in the beginning of the 19th century but I did find a few that referenced the parties such as this one from 1826 (which is more about breach of promise than actual quilting):

More articles that referred to "old fashioned quilting parties" were published from 1840 on. These articles were more nostalgic than factual and often in the form of fiction.  From 1849:

Of course, I'm certain women sewed and quilted together when possible.  It is likely that I couldn't find articles about one or two ladies who visited a friend to help finish a quilt because it wasn't deemed "newsworthy";  later in the 19th century and throughout the first half of the 20th century, I found more articles (in small regional newspapers) that relayed women sewing together this way.  Most of the documentation that would record this activity was likely found in women's diaries.  

Tomorrow I'll be writing the importance of early sewing groups that paved the way for quilt guilds.  

Have a safe and happy day!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg


Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If you haven't turned on the news yet, RBG passed away last night.  There was an impromptu gathering in front of The Supreme Court last night and folks lit candles, left flowers, and sang Amazing Grace.   Today and most of this week, there will be  lots of new coverage on this amazing woman.  To put it simply, she was small in physical stature but she cast a big BIG shadow that provided opportunities and an example for many of us.

Thank you Justice Ginsburg for all you have accomplished for us and our country.  

Our sympathy to her family and in fact, to our country.  She will be terribly missed and I dread the coming months and the pending storm.  

Stay safe and well.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Happy Flower Friday!  

On Friday, we celebrate the beauty of our world with floral images!  This week we have some lovely photos from readers:

 From Betsy:

From Alice, pretty cosmos with a wee butterfly!

From Lorraine:

See the butterfly above?

Thank you for your participation!  
Have a safe and happy weekend!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Comfort Sewing Part 2

 Happy Thursday!  Just a brief follow-up from Tuesday's post on Comfort Sewing.  I forgot to mention on Tuesday that using up my stash brings me great comfort as well!  

Over the weekend, I could actually do a small project that used up mini-charms.  I made doll quilts to accompany the quilts I am making for three little girls. 

I'm hoping to get them quilted over the weekend.  I got the idea from a vintage doll quilt I own:

Close up of one of the patches:

This vintage quilt consists of sample pieces that women could buy in the 1930s and 1940s.  Like our pre-cuts now, the pieces had a variety of colorways and were for the most part, uniform in size.  

Only a few of you answered my question as to what kind of sewing or crafting gives you comfort.  Nann said:

When in doubt I sew HSTs. My default size uses two 3" squares cut diagonally. I trim to 2.5". My other go-to size uses batiks -- neutral and a color -- starting with 4" squares, trimming to 3.5".

Diann also shared her thoughts:

Sewing is always comforting to me! I've been on a roll with 4 patches, too. Embroidery is another craft I've been enjoying - it's so soothing to pull thread through fabric and create a pretty design!

No matter what you do, make sure you have something that gives you some peace of mind.  

Next week is "Guild Week" and I'll be looking at women sewing in groups.  My own guild, Crazy Quilters Quilt Guild is celebrating our 30th year this month!  Do you belong to a quilt guild or sewing group?  Do you have a story you wish to share?  Feel free to email me!

Tomorrow is Flower Friday and I've already received one submission from Betsy.  If you want to be included in Flower Friday and share a photo of a flower, floral textile or quilt or illustration, email me at

Have a safe and happy week!


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Chain Letters Quilts


During the Depression, a chain letter encouraged recipients to "send a dime" to friends and family.  It is believed this chain letter originated in Denver, Colorado.  The Smithsonian has a great article (here) on the origin of the chain letter with a photograph of the more than 100,000 letters that hit the Denver post office in 1935.

Desperate times create desperate scams and this one was no different.  But shortly after the "send a dime" chain letter subsided, newspapers began to report on a new chain craze:

Sayre Pennsylvania, 1935

The chain took a variety of forms and names throughout the United States.  In Maryland, the rules of the chain were explained:
In Wisconsin, the scheme was called the World Friendship Chain.  The chains required a fabric square in variety of sizes: in Sayre, Pennsylvania a 6 inch square; in Decatur, Illinois the chain required a 9 inch square of fabric; Sheboygan, Wisconsin requred a 6 inch square.

In September of 1935, it was reported that actual quilt blocks were being sewn and exchanged in this format.  In Marion, Ohio it was reported that the blocks must be embroidered with the sender's name and address similar to this:

The quilt would then form "a veritable map" of blocks from different states.

Rereading this file, I realized that my friend Pam had sent me similar blocks which included the one above.  However many are dated 1927.  These blocks (mailed to someone in Emmaus, Pennsylvania) remain a mystery:

The newspaper in Ohio reported "Few needlewomen can resist the urge to show their skill to others, and that is probably why the quilt block chain hasn't gone haywire yet."  This sentiment was echoed in the newspaper in Green Bay, Wisconsin which cited that a Mrs. C. J. Kyle was "planning to keep up the chain just to see how much of a quilt she will get."

Other textile chain letters of this era included a handkerchief chain letter and in 1937, a chain letter consisting of dishtowels.
1937 Hankie Ad

A similar ploy was made in 1941 in Vancouver.  This time  specific quilt pattern wasn't required but it did call for a quilt block of some sort.  The letter indicated "When your name appears at the top you will receive 12 quilt blocks, enough for one quilt.  Take them to your nearest Red Cross station."  The article continued:

 I haven't been able to find photos of any quilt made from chain letter blocks but I think this might have been mentioned in a book I read years ago, called The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt which included letters of women during the depression.  Unfortunately, the book is in our guild library and I can't access it during covid.

You may have even been a recipient of a similar chain letter.  I remember years ago receiving a letter with a square of fabric and I found a lot of evidence that many other quilters did too.  I explored various internet cites and found mention of this in  2009, 2011, and 2015.  For whatever reason, most of the chain letters wanted purple fabric exchanged.  I can't remember what color I received, I just tossed it because I don't do chain letters.

If you're interested in doing a mail themed quilt, I recommend this paper pieced pattern from the Patchwork Please! book by Ayumi Takahashi.  But don't do it as a chain letter; chain letters are illegal in the United States and you would need Ayumi's permission to share her pattern.

Have a safe and happy day!