Friday, April 30, 2021

Flower Friday: April 30, 2021

Happy Flower Friday!

Today Libby shared her azaleas from her secret garden! I just love the idea of a secret garden and that iron fence really makes the garden secretive!

Sue had a different tale to tell and some great life insights:

"Today was my birthday (42 again).  This morning the kitchen sink backed up.  After clearing it, I put the plunger on the front porch to dry off.  I wonder what the delivery person thought when they dropped off my daughter's gift.  My minister says the picture is a great metaphor for life.  Sometimes you're the windshield and sometimes you're the bug.  Some days call for flowers and some days call for a plunger."
Happy Belated Birthday Sue!

My Fern Leaf Peonies hadn't bloomed in years and I've been moving them around the garden the past years trying to find a place they like.  I'm thrilled I have at least one flower now!

Sandra's Fern Leaf Peonies are absolutely fantastic!! This gives you a better idea of what they should look like.  She said she must have moved them 6 times before she found the right place for them!

My sweet neighbors bought these begonias for me.  Aren't they lovely?

Have a safe and happy day!

Thursday, April 29, 2021

I Spy and Imagination Quilts, Part 2


I've heard from a lot of you about how much your grandkids love "I-Spy" quilts!  As I wrote about yesterday, "story block" quilts were simply invented because that game wasn't on our radar years ago when we were raising our kids.  But lots of quilters are doing fun things with kids quilts these days.  Some put two blocks of each fabric in their quilts so that the child can also play "Memory".  Many quilters are using their quilts for actual games like this one here.

Many of these make great Project Linus quilts, a group I was very active in before I joined the guild.  Now I make Camp Erin quilts and donated them before the pandemic.

I've always liked to play with different kinds of layouts and I'm seeing more quilters do that as well.  One year I had a lot of small Christmas scraps and made a quilt featuring different images on 3 inch block tea cups.  I called it Cups of Cheers and it was paper pieced:

When my granddaughter Helena was young, she loved a song called Who Let the Dogs Out.  Together we created a couple quilts that we called Who's In the Dog House.  Helena loved to pick the fabrics and it was also paper pieced:

I also liked the You've Got Mail quilt pattern from the book, Patchwork Please and made another with different images in the envelope.  This one is at the quilter's now:

This Doll House Panel was perfect for my cousin's granddaughter and gifted right before the pandemic.  I just added assorted blocks around it:

But the best part of these quilts is the reaction from kids!  My favorite story from a child came from my great nephew Nicholas.  Here he is at age 3 with his handsome grandfather (my brother):

Nick loved his story block quilt but he refused to tell his stories to his mother.  I think it was classified information.  One day his Mom decided that she would tell him the story she saw in the quilt.  As she began, he interrupted her,

"You're doing it wrong," he informed her.  Children even at 3 years old, know they have the advantage over adults when it comes to imagination. He told her what he saw that day:

"The children decided to go on adventure.  Except they ran into pirates who chased them through the fields and by the cows.  They tried to get an airplane to pick them up but a dog was there.   They finally got away and went on a nice picnic together...

and got eaten up by bugs!"
Nik's headed to law school this fall and I imagine he would be mortified that I shared this story.  I can't wait to tell him😂

Most of my quilts are just 4 patches at this point.  It's easier and although I haven't bought novelty kids' fabric for years, I still have quite a stash to use up.
Owen's quilt top that I finished last spring.

Beth used to own a daycare center and she suggested working with kids to see correlations.  "Where might you find a bird?"  In a tree block or a cloud block or something more fun that a could would imagine like a car.  She also said it is a great way to teach colors and numbers to kids.

I just like making them.  They are fun and remind me what it is like to think like a child (child-like not childish).

I'd love to see quilts you've made for the kids in your life and encourage you to share some photos for us.

Before I go today, I just want to see that I appreciate all the emails about the bleeding red quilt.  I'll be posting about that next week after I complete some of the things that Beth suggested.

Tomorrow is Flower Friday and please feel free to email me your floral images at

Have a safe and happy day!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

I-Spy...and Imagination Quilts, Part 1


Linda is my oldest friend.  We raised our kids together and they are still as close as siblings.  A while back I called Linda to tell her some bad news:

"Our children were neglected." 

"Do tell,"  Linda is quite accustomed to my eccentric ramblings.

"We never taught them to play the I-Spy Game."

Linda paused for only a second, "I'll bet they're all in therapy about that now."

We loved that our kids invented their own games and we both agreed that our children would have found the traditional game of I-Spy boring.  

For decades, I lived outside the quilt community.  In the 1970s and early 80, I cut or embroidered blocks, Linda often pieced them, and Nana and I would tie the quilts.  I wish I had photos to show you but it was before the digital age and that quilt album is packed away in the back of the attic.  

For those of you who are interested, the British played the traditional game of "I-Spy" in the late 19th century.  But according to one turn of the century book printed in the United States, the game was quite different and resembled the game tag:
"All the company hide, except one; who is kept blinded, until she hears them call, 'whoop!'  She then takes the bandage from her eyes and begins to search for them.  If she catches a glimpse of anyone, and knows who it is, she calls her by name, 'I spy Harriet!' or 'I spy Mary!'  The one who is thus discovered must start and run for the place where the other was blinded.  If she does not reach the spot, without being touched by her pursuer, she must take her place."  

I vaguely knew of the I-Spy game but it wasn't until I joined my quilt guild that I heard it applied to quilts.  "Nice I-Spy quilt," someone said about my children's quilt.  "What?"  The kind guild member explained the concept to me.  I was too embarassed at the time to tell her that for years I had made up my own name for my kids' quilts.

I called them "Story Block quilts" and I didn't apply the I-spy game to them at all.  I told each child that I had sewn 4 million stories into each quilt and asked if they could see any of the stories.  Each child could at one glance.

By the late 1980s, I went back to quilting when some friends at the college began to teach me the new and easier methods of quiltmaking.  

A new generation of children was also being born in my family.  One day, my niece phoned me to tell me she had just gotten a Jenny such-and-such purse.  "Is that a cartoon character?" I asked her.  She laughed and told me it was a designer and the purses usually sold for over $100.  My niece was 4 years old.  It was clearly time to make Story Block quilts for the new youngsters.

In the early 1990s, a friend opened a stall at a craft mall.  She asked me to make some Story Block quilts for her stand.  As you can see from the photo above, they aren't anything really remarkable as far as piecing.  The real magic was what the kids imagined.

Tomorrow I'll talk more about that.  I need to get working in the garden before it gets too warm!

Have a safe and happy day!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Color Fast Fabrics

 In the early twentieth century, the phrase, "color fast fabrics" was used extensively in marketing clothing and fabric.

1923 ad

During the early part of the twentieth century, a movement was started to really insure that fabrics would remain color fast.  During  World War I, European dyes were not available due to blockades.  The American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists was formed in 1921 and is still in existence today.  Their website is fascinating and has a great textile timeline here.

Color-fast fabrics are an interesting topic.  Originally the thought was to inhibit fading of fabrics and a lot of work was done by a UK manufacturer, James Morton.  He literally tested fabrics not only at home but sent fabric swatches to his brother in India to see how they would withstand extreme sunlight.  With the assistance of a chemist named John Christie, he developed "sundour" fabrics that could withstand sunlight.  A great website is here that explains some of his work.

By the 1920s, most ads promoted that fabrics were "color fast":

1930 ad

My problem today isn't fading of fabric though.  Despite all the technology that has evolved since then, we can still have problems with our dyed fabric.  Last night I was measuring a quilt for binding when I realized I had pricked my finger and gotten blood on the quilt.  I quickly tried to dab up the blood with cold water when the dreaded bleeding of the red fabric occurred.

I always use Color Catchers and wash all my fabric when I get it.  In this case, the product didn't help and despite using some Dawn to try to eradicate the problem (I had read online that some women used that successfully), I have red bleeding around one block and apparently another looks like it could go as well.

One of my problems is that if one or two bled, the rest are likely to as well:

My first recourse is to call Beth today because she used to do conservation and restoration of quilts.

One of my friends had this happen and although she had pre-washed her red fabric, just the humidity of her hands while she appliqued the fabric caused the color to bleed.  She contacted our local fabric store and picked up a product that removed the bleeding.  

Should I bind the piece anyway?  Should I wash it again and use another Color Catcher?  I'm in a quandry and any advice would be appreciated!

Thanks and have a great day!

Monday, April 26, 2021

WPA Sewing Rooms: Pleasantville NJ

"Give a man a dole and you save his body and destroy his spirit.  Give a man a job and pay him an assured salary, and you save both body and spirit."  --Harry Hopkins, architect of the WPA

This quote could be applied to both men and women during the depression.  On Wednesday I posted some tidbits about WPA Sewing Rooms.  

WPA Sewing Poster

But let's not get nostalgic or sentimental about the New Deal and sewing. 

There was a backlash against married women working during the Depression.  Unfortunately many women had been deserted by their husbands in what was called "the poor man's divorce." 

I had noticed in my local newspaper a lot of articles about our city funding WPA sewing rooms.  Women were given a salary of $35/month (in contrast to men who earned $41.70/month) which was paid for by the WPA.  But local municipalities were required to pay a portion for all the WPA projects.  Often, the local towns or counties were expected to pay for materials and rents of the sewing rooms.  It often put the women in precarious positions when funding was being renewed.  Case in point:  Pleasantville, New Jersey.

In late November/earlyDecember of 1936, the city council and mayor of Pleasantville decided that they could not fund the two local sewing rooms; the rooms employed about 112 women.  The women did not take this decision passively.  They decided to literally fight city hall.

In a move that appeared to have surprised the local politicians, the  women organized and staged a sit-in at city hall.  "We want work not relief," the women told the politicians.  They chose to use strike tactics to fight for their jobs and made headlines not only in the United States but in Canada as well.

Article published in British Columbia, Canada.

The women refused to leave city hall, even sleeping there at night:

Part of the reason for the cuts may have been political.  Republican Mayor Thomas Crawford had just lost his bid for re-election:

"They can stay up in city hall until they rot or Hell freezes over.  We've done everything to show them we are sympathetic and that we just don't have the money.  But they won't listen.  I have only one more month to serve, and nothing to worry about, so to Hell with em."

The community of Pleasantville rallied behind the women.  Merchants sent the women food, hot meals were provided by the local Democratic headquarters.  WPA workers from other areas made signs for the women:

For two night 88 "pickets" slept in the City Hall, often with their children.  After that they took shifts while some of the women picketed the homes and workplaces of the council members, including the mayor who worked at a local pharmacy.  

And then the women began to picket other areas.  The chose to picket establishments that were known businesses that supplied illegal gambling.  Placards with slogans like "Open Gambling Allowed but No Works Sponsored. Why?" and "The Politicains Can Still Eat.  How about Us?" were held up by the women.

Local detectives said they didn't find illegal gambling at any of the establishments but newspaper reporters were skeptical.  At one store, the proprietor told reporters that he had been closed for five weeks.

"But how about the people we see in the back room--there must be 75 inside?" asked a reporter.

The man was somewhat embarrassed.  "Well it's closed anyway, the chief just told me to close it up."

I wish I could tell you a satisfying ending for this story.  It appears that the WPA Sewing Rooms remained closed and in fact, other sewing rooms in Ocan City and Hammonton were also closed in New Jersey that year.  In fact, it seems like whenever there was a budget crunch, WPA Sewing Rooms became the first cut that local municipalities made.

1940: Whiteworth, Texas

The mayor of Pleasantville had been quoted as saying "we've done everything to show we are sympathetic..."  Unfortunately sympathy doesn't pay for rent or put food in the mouths of children.  A record number of children were placed in orphanages or foster homes during the Depression.  By the time the Depression was wound down, about 200,000 children were "vagrants" outside the system.

We can completely understand how these women chose to fight for their jobs and their families.  

Hope you will have a safe and happy day!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Flower Friday: April 23, 2021

 Happy Flower Friday!

Betsy sent this photo of what I think is a lenten rose.  She called the photo "Spring Greens" which is a wonderful phrase for the springtime!

Diann sent a photo of some daffodils she picked from her garden in Colorado!

Sue sent an unusual grape hyacinth--the flowers are white!
I've never seen that before and they sure are pretty!

My tulips began blooming earlier this week. Unfortunately we had two nights of freezing temps and some of them are now laying down :(

Have a safe and happy day!

Thursday, April 22, 2021


 Hi!  I hoped to share another WPA story with you but I now need to run and help a family member and then take Scout to the vet.  Will resume the WPA next week.  Tomorrow if Flower Friday and if you want to share a floral image, email me at

The Six Know-It-Alls had another discussion yesterday and if you want to listen, click here.

Here's a nice quilt to enjoy:

Album quilt, first half of 20th century, Pennsylvania

with signatures!

Have a safe and happy day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

"We Patch Anything."

Finding work for women was one of the facets of the New Deal.  First run by the Women's Division of the Federal Relief Administration and later by the Works Progress Administration.
WPA sewing rooms were a large part of the project, two sources cited that there were over 10,000 sewing rooms throughout the country.  Some sewing rooms were equipped with treadle machines and some had electrical machines as well.  Women learned to mend clothing and dubbed the program "We Patch Anything."  Creating new clothing was an imporant aspect as well.   All the new clothing had to be donated to the needy--which sometimes included the very women that worked at the rooms.

From Allentown the 1937 headline read:  
"WPA Sewing Room Employs More than 200 Women.  Has Fashioned Tens of Thousands of Garments so that Not One Family Need to be Poorly or Shoddily Clothed this Christmas."

Each item made by the women had a special WPA tag in it that instructed "Not to be Sold."   The women made about $35/month and "needy" women who were heads of households or single were encouraged to work in the rooms.

One source sited that over 121 million pieces were made by the sewing rooms.  The articles included all types of clothing and linens.  Some interviews I read suggested that even quilt patterns were taught in the rooms.

1937 in Latimer County, Colorado: the women of the sewing rooms made gingham stuffed animals for the Salvation Army to distribute to needy children as Christmas presents 

In Knoxville TN, 1939:  In springtime the WPA sewing room requested used clothing to be "re-conditioned" to make back to school wear for children in the fall.  "Even discarded neckties or men's scarves can be used in brightening up re-done dresses.   Photo above:  The women at this WPA wore matching smocks of the same fabric.

The need for these sewing rooms was great and it's a big subject.  I'll post another story about the WPA sewing rooms tomorrow!

Until then, have a safe and happy day!


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Cost of a Crazy Quilt

 "A certain girl has pieced a 'crazy quilt' containing 9,000 bits of ribbon.  It must have taken at least three minutes' sewing to the piece.  That would make 27,000 minutes--an hour a day for a year and nearly three months.  In that time this foolish girl might have learned a modern language, become an accomplished cook and housekeeper, studied no end of history and science, or have done benevolent and educational work among the ignorant and poor that would have lasted to the eternities."--The Morning Call 

This blurb was found in an Allentown PA newspaper in 1884.

This is in my file about number of pieces per quilt.  Newspapers (or perhaps quilters) loved to share the amount of pieces in a single quilt well into the twentieth century.  I've often wondered if quilters shared the number of pieces in a quilt so that their work would garnish more respect.

I also dislike the editor's comment about the "foolish girl" who could have used her time better to study history or science...for what end?  Women were excluded from those fields at this time.  There's a lot we don't know about this girl.  Did she work in a ribbon factory and collect scraps that were to be discarded?  Was she infirmed and spent her days making her life more beautiful by creating this piece?

One of my favorite pieces in my collection is my crazy quilt dated 1883.  Today's eye candy features this lovely piece.  To me, crazy quilts are often like textile scrap books, full of images that were meaningful to the maker.  What do you think?

Have a safe and happy day!