Monday, May 31, 2021

Still One Flag, One Country

As our country continues to struggle and unite, I thought about a story from Allentown that has always touched me.  When I went to research it again, I found I had already written about this in a blog post from 2015.  It's still a great story and I thought I would reprint here.

This weekend we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to insure our freedom and way of life.  This holiday originated after the Civil War and was originally referred to as "Decoration Day."

Members of the First Defenders, The Civil War Allen Infantry under Captain Thomas Yeager gather at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Allentown's Center Square on Decoration Day (Memorial Day), 1911.

I began reading about the monument while researching our Civil War program called Money, Myth, and Madder.  I was touched when I read that the grave of a Confederate soldier buried in Allentown's Fairview Cemetary was also decorated by the G.A.R. (a fraternal society of Union soldiers called the Grand Army of the Republic or G.A.R.).

Further investigation revealed that the Confederated veteran had not died in war.  He was Stephen Albion Repass (1838-1906), a Confederate soldier wounded and imprisoned as a POW during the Civil War.  After the war, he became a Lutheran minister.  In 1885 he was assigned to St. John's Lutheran Church here in Allentown.

At a time when our country is so divisive, we could learn a lot from Rev. Repass and our local G.A.R. forefathers.  When the Reverend's death was reported in The Allentown Leader on June 2, 1906, the newspaper reported that "when he arrived here, he was somewhat sensitive about public sentiment in regard to him having been a southern soldier."  

The paper went on to report that "Some years ago he delivered the Memorial Day address at Hazleton.  His audience, especially the G.A.R. veterans, were immeasurably pleased with his speech.  At the close of his address he said:  'Now, soldiers and patriots, I hope you will think none the less of me when I tell you I fought on the other side.'  The old soldiers broke out in applause and crowded around Dr. Repass to assure him of their good will.  'We admire and respect you for your bravery.  If we had been born and reared where you were, it is probable that many of us would have been in the Confederate army too.  We know you are a patriot, and as such we welcome you."

When the Soldiers and Sailors monument was dedicated in 1899, it was Reverend Repass who was chosen to do the blessing at the ceremony.  Our monument here in the center of  Allentown includes figures of both a Union and Confederate soldier with an inscription underneath:  One Flag--One Country.  Excluding Gettysburg, it is the only monument north of the Mason-Dixon Line that honors soldiers from both sides of the Civil War.

Local historians have suggested that the inclusion of the Confederate soldier was in large part due to the respect that our valley had for Reverend Repass.  Although I haven't found any document to support this yet, it is undeniable that the man changed people's perception about the enemy.  In 1909, The Pennsylvania German magazine wrote extensively about Repass:

"The Reverend Dr. S. A. Repass did more, wherever he was known, to restore fraternal feelings between North and Southern people, and especially among the old soldiers of both sides than any other known to the writer."  

On this holiday, I am always looking at my textiles I collected from the years surrounding World War 1.  "Remember me" is imprinted on so many things.

Above: a World War I handkerchief that a soldier might have left with his sweetheart before embarking overseas.  Below:  a woman's apron with a 5 inch long border.

Remembrance on this particular holiday is in itself, an action of gratitude.  When we come together to celebrate this holiday with honor and prayer, we learn that differences in opinion can be bridged, reconciled like Reverend Repass and the G.A.R.

We are bound together like the binding on this early 20th century quilt, one flag, one country.  

Today please take a quiet moment to thank those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Have a safe and happy holiday.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Flower Friday: May 28, 2021

 Happy Flower Friday!

Today we have lots of cheerful flowers to raise our spirits before the holidays!  Thank you Lorraine and Sue for participating this week!

Lorraine sent some wonderful photos from her garden:

A pretty peony that seems unusual to me because it appears to have single petals.  Isn't it lovely?

Honeysuckle vine!

Siberian iris
2 clematis with dame's rocket in the background!

Dame's rocket



Siberian iris with German iris

Itoh peony.  It is a cross between a tree peony and a herbacious peony!

Sue sent photos of two of her peonies.  She said the white ones were from her children's great-grandmother who died in 1968.  She said she has been "schlepping them around with me since then!"

Thank you Lorraine and Sue for sending such inspiring photos!

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Gardening Day

 I'm taking a gardening day today and will be back tomorrow with Flower Friday!  If you have an image of flowers/garden, etc. you would like to share, please email it to me at

Have a safe and happy day!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Story Time Stitches: A Forward



Like some of you, I spent most of my childhood reading.  I rarely went anywhere without a book.  I was particularly drawn to older books and found a wonderful supply in our elementary school library and at my grandmother's house.  But I really didn't care what I was reading:  picture books, books written for boys, whatever I could get my hands on, I read.  As an adult, I collected vintage/antique children's picture books and illustrated ephemera long before I collected quilts.  

In part, I was always in search of my favorite childhood picture book, My Dolly and Me, written by Patricia Scarry and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.  My mother had discarded it because as she explained, "you wore that book out!"  As a chld, the book was my Velveteen Rabbit; as an adult it became my Holy Grail.


One of the reasons I loved this book was the setting.  I grew-up in a post-war house.  Every residence in the neighborhood was a different color but essentially the same rectangular box.  The little girl in my book (whose name we never learn) lived in a charming older home with an actual front porch, complete with rocking chairs.  Pretty wallpaper decorated the walls of the rooms in the background.  I wanted to live there and was convinced her home had wonderful nooks and crannies like some of the older houses of my family members.  

As I write this, I am in my home of a nearly twenty-five years.  The house is a century old cape-cod cottage with a few nooks and crannies.  Pretty wallpaper decorates the eaves of the attic sewing room.  I realize now that it isn't ironic I live in this house; it's kismet.

Many of Patricia Scarry's books continue to be printed, including books she wrote with her husband, Richard.  When my granddaughter was little, a special collection of books and stories that featured Eloise Wilkin's illustration was published.  My Dolly and Me was not included in the volume.  My Dolly and Me must have been coveted and rare.  It took me years to not only find a copy but one I could afford.  Used copies of the picture book are lower in today's deflated market and now range from $30-$140.  

All this is a nice story but I know you are wondering: what does this have to do with quilts?

When I began to study antique and vintage quilts--particularly the juvenile themed ones--I often forgot to look at the quality of the stitches or the construction of the textile.  I'd focus on a particular image and think:  I've seen this before.  The reason the embroidery or appliqued block resonated with me was because I had seen the image before:  in picture books or the illustrations I had amassed.

In "Story Time Stitches", I hope to demonstrate that illustration became a unique component in quilts from the late 19th century to the present.  

"If you want to understand art, look at the history during the time it was made," an artist friend once told me.

History is not merely memorizing dates and facts.  It's about finding connections.  As I tell my audiences in every lecture about quilt history:  quilts are artifacts, impacted by economics, technology, sociology, historical events and a variety of other factors.  Story Time Stitches is a great example of it.  The quilt blocks and illustrations we will look at reflect a variety of facets that intersect like the spiderwebs we so often find in our beloved crazy quilts.

Children internalize the messages in books they hear and read. There are many academic papers that support the thesis that what a child sees at a young age is also imprinted in the child's view of the world.  So too do our quilts.  A woman I know who had never sewnd once told me about a handmade quilt at her grandmother's:  "I studied every picture on the fabric.  I can still see the animals and little people that were there."


My hope is that many of you will share with us your favorite childhood books and/or illustrations and perhaps even images you found on vintage or antique quilts.  I hope you have as much fun through this series as  I had during my exploration of this topic.
Have a safe and happy day!

1. Illustration from unknown source.

2.  My Dolly and Me by Patricia Scarry and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin.  I have found many sources that indicate it was originally published in 1960.

3. Illustration by Chloe Preston from Nursery Rhymes for Children, 1942.

4.  Brigg's iron-on embroidery transfer from the later part of the 19th century.  Various sources indicate that spiders and spiderwebs were symbolic of (depending on the source) hardwork, creativity, wisdom or good luck.

5.  Illustration by Emma Clark from the Metropolitan Mother Goose, No copyright.  This was a booklet published by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in the first half of the 20th century and distributed to clients (or potential clients) with children.

Story Time Stitches © 2021: Michele McLaughlin

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Not So Crazy

 From the NOT file I keep are these two ads that I find interesting and you might as well:


 I call them "not" because the quilts depicted are clearly not crazy quilts.  They were most likely pre-printed patchwork fabric (cheater cloth) and machine quilted and sold to resemble a hand-made piece.  The illustrations and the wording reflect the lack of quilting knowledge of the marketing staff.

I also like looking at the prices.  According to an inflation calculator I found online, $4.75 is equal to $72.90 today.  

The terminology used in the ads is also revealing:  "quilts that will stand many tubbings" reminds us that women had a heck of a job cleaning their bedding.

1928:  the pre-printed patchwork is zig-zagged!

Have a safe and happy day!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Happy Monday

During the Suffrage Centennial, I had a few giveaways before the pandemic hit.  One winner was Susan P. who received some blue and white suffrage fabric.  Just look at what she did with hers!

WOW!  What a way to feature a fabric!
Great job Susan!

Susan had taken a zoom class with Australian quilter, Racheldaisy Dodd.  The workshop was called "Whizz Bang"; Rachel Daisy's website is here.  

In other news, Wendy sent a link that is both helpful and interesting when your colors bleed.  I hope this never happens again but I bookmarked the article just in case.  You can read it here.

In other developments, the copyright for Story Time Stitches arrived!  I'll be starting the series with a forward this Wednesday.  I've decided to use a footnote format for the illustrations and some information because it makes it easier to read.

Have a safe and happy day!

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Prayer Plant

 Many thanks to Libby who emailed me and asked:  "Where's Diane P's prayer plant?  Whoops!  So today's post is an apology to Diane and a thank you to Libby.  

Love that teeny flower in the center!

Have a safe and happy weekend friends!

Friday, May 21, 2021

Flower Friday: May 21, 2021


Happy Flower Friday!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that my Fern Leaf Peony had finally bloomed.  Today is a good day to celebrate gifts from our garden!

Diane P. share this photo of her columbine and a prayer plant that she has had for years and is blooming for the first time!

Sue P.'s clematis has a story too!
She wrote that her 100+ year old friend Dottie gave her the clematis.  She had the plant for year and though it always came back it never bloomed.  The year Dottie died, it bloomed!  Sue can't help but think that she had something to do with it and I agree!

Also from Sue's garden is this lovely peony and iris!

It's definately Iris season and the tubers Lorraine gave me are going to town this week!

I'm also very fond of these rose colored snapdragons that I got at the nursery.  It's a color I've never seen before!

Have a safe and happy weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Seeing Red

 In April I posted about my poodle quilt that had begun to bleed when I tried to get a spot off it.

  I asked all of you what I should do.  I even asked if I should just get rid of it.  I was certain it was a goner.  But many of you responded particularly the Sues...and guess what, I took ALL of your advice!  

It just took me longer because a) I was so upset about the bleeding and b) I had to get the garden ready for summer.

The first piece of great advice came from Sue P.:

"Of course you must bind the quilt.  It already has a story.  I would call it: "Black and White and Bled All Over!"

Sue made me laugh which was great!  She reminded me that it was a quilt and not the end of the world.  The great thing about a quilt is that you can always use your failed experiments or wonky pieces for picnics or other things.

Did you know that poodles actually originated in Germany and not France?  The word "poodle" comes from the German word for puddle and the dogs were bred to be water retrievers!

Sue also suggested dabbing the bleeding area with Walmart all purpose cleaner with bleach which she highly recommended.  But I then talked to Beth and she suggested a more organic approach.

"First place the area that bled over a basin or bowl and tie it down firmly so that the weave of the fabric is showing.  Then squeeze lemons--actual lemons--remove the pulp and seeds and carefully poor over the stained areas.  Follow that procedure by rubbing some salt over the stains as an abrasive.  Then hang the quilt out in the sun to get a good bleaching."

I did that and guess what the red disappeared!  Or I thought it did, because afterwards I realized was that the dye was also all over the backing! 

I finished binding the quilt and along the way realized that the lemon had stained the white and even had turned a little tan.  It gave the piece a nice urine stained look.

"This quilt is cursed," I told my husband.

Scout as a baby.  She is a "blue" poodle and was born with a grey face!

 I didn't take a photo although I should have.  Instead I decided to bind the quilt and try Sue S.'s and Susie Q's advice.  

Susie Q. first commented to wash the quilt  "I would use 3-4 color catchers and then I would wash again until no more bleeding."

Sue S. completely agreed with Susie Q:  "And don't dry it until it's through bleeding.  I had a quilt with lots of black fabric on top and an old red childrens' fabric on the back.  I was expecting the black to bleed so threw in a few catchers.  It was that dang red and boy!  did it bleed!  I washed twice and then warned my daughter-in-law about her washing it too (it was for my grandson)."

Scout with her boyfriend Mac.

In the middle of multiple washings and half a box of color catchers, I realized that we needed to always keep this quilt no matter how it turned out.  My husband and I had already invested so much time in it and if it remained flawed that was okay too.  We are all flawed.

I hung it on the line and hoped for the best.
Every stain was gone.  On the front and the back.  And the lemon stain was gone as well.  It looked perfect and even good enough to give away.  But we are keeping it.  It's part of the family now.
The photos look slightly yellow but that is because it was still dark here this morning and sunset when we took the quilt off the line.  Believe me, it's a nice crisp white!

I want to thanks ALL of you for helping me save the poodle quilt!  Your support and advice was invaluable during this learning lesson.  Thank you! Thank you!  Thank you!

My only problem now?  Is that I made this top earlier in the year:

Beth told me to test some scraps of the fabric to see how stable the dye was:

Okay so not so stable.

 Per Beth's suggestion, I'll zig-zag the edge of the top and repeatedly wash it with color catches until the dye holds before quilting.

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful day and remember that tomorrow is Flower Friday!  If you want your photos included, email me at!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Tuesday's This and That: May 18, 2021

Happy Tuesday!  Here are some tidbits for your week!

The American Quilt Study Group recently shared a story on Facebook.  It's about a quilt that was started during the 1918 pandemic.  Great story and you can read it here.

Preeti over at Sew Preeti Quilts is sponsoring a Quilt Along (QAL) for a neat plus (positive) quilt.  Not only is she offering the tutorial for the quilt but a really REALLY great schedule which provides us liberal time to finish it.  Read the post here! 

Many of you had a lot to share during the last week's posts!  In particular regarding the Church Ladies:

Kathie shared that her grandmother, aunts, and mum all were church lady quilters at a church in Slippery Rock, PA.  Kathie's mum is the last survivor and turned 95 on Saturday.

Happy Birthday Mum!!!

Sue S. belongs to a church where they still make "prayer quilts".  The members say a prayer for the recipient as they tie the quilt!  What a great thing to do!

Libby also is a Church Lady Quilter and her group was finally going to get together after 15 month separation due to the pandemic!  Have fun Libby!

Robin has a quilt from her grandmother that was quilted by "The ladies at the Methodist Church."  COOL!

Tomorrow I'll have some more tidbits.  I have to pick up groceries for the young man comes to mulch!

Have a safe and happy day!

Monday, May 17, 2021


 I hope you had a pleasant weekend!

I spent the entire weekend and most of last week working in the garden!  I'm trying to get the garden set-up so I can switch to maintenance and not the massive weeding, planting, mulching and soaker-hose set up I've been doing.  I'm tired and a bit sore but it's a good tired.  This past week I haven't done much sewing (or anything else for that matter).

It's lovely being outside right now.  The rhododendrons and tree peonies are beginning to bloom:

The tree peony flowers are those large pink flowers with the yellow centers.  Yes, the flowers are bigger than the rhododendron clumps.  The purple rhododendrons are always the first to bloom for me.  The pink rhodies are just gradually showing their petals right now.

I know I 've shown this top before on this blog but that was some time ago and I thought I would share it again.

This is a vintage rhododendron quilt top from my collection.  It was a kit offered by the Progress Company and sold in the early 1950s.

Individual flowers grace the border of the piece:

I have a weakness for 20th century floral kit quilts.  I just think they are lovely and a wonderful way to show off your favorite flowers!

Have a safe and happy day!