Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Red and Green Quilts

OQP# 2010.01.002, from our first day of documentation in Sisters.

'Tis the season for red and green quilts, so we thought We would share a few other favorite red and green quilts seen in the first few months of the Oregon Quilt Project statewide documentation. Today's blog is pictorial, so without further interruption, here are the quilts!

OQP# 2010.01.011, also seen in Sisters on out first documentation day.
OQP# 2010.002.008, from our third documentation day in Sisters.
OQP # 2010.02.013, also from our third documentation day in Sisters.
OQP# 2010.002.029, also from day three in Sisters.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Virtually Whole Again

This lovely old quilt is not what it appears to be. The quilt, OQP # 2010.02.066, appeared at the crack of dawn on June 27th, our third day of a three-day documentation event in Sisters. It was not in one piece, though. It was in three. Still is, as a matter of fact.

How are we looking at a picture of a one quilt, you may ask? We did a virtual restoration, digitally reconstructing the image of a whole quilt using a clever piece of software called Adobe Photoshop. We are pretty sure Photoshop wasn’t around when the earliest quilt documentation days were held back in 1981 in Kentucky, but we are sure glad we have it now! Too bad more people don't know how to use it.

There was one big piece, and two narrow strips with swag borders. One end of the big piece was finished with applied twill binding, where it had been cut. We photographed all three pieces, and talked to the owner about the quilt. She wasn’t sure what to do with it.

We talked about options, from restoration and conservation, to storage and where it could go in the future. Even though she seemed a little distressed about the quilt in three pieces and the conundrum of what to do with it, we reassured her. We told her about the quilts we have rescued, and how we feel they have definite cultural, educational, and artistic value despite condition.

While we were talking, Someone casually mentioned that great things were possible with Photoshop. If there was an opportunity, we could digitally recreate the image of a whole quilt. It was a side comment, and we are sure she didn’t really expect us to do anything about it, but we did. We hope she is pleasantly surprised when she receives the pictures of the quilt, virtually whole again.

Note: to all participants in the June documentation days, the packets are in the mail and should arrive shortly. All other information packets for July documentation days are still being processed.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sisters: Jean Wells Keenan is the Toast of the Town

Jean Wells Keenan during the artist’s reception for her show at the High Desert Gallery in Sisters.

by Bill Volckening 

I should be sleeping right now. Big day (yikes!). It’s my first time attending the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, Oregon. Sisters is a small community in central Oregon with less than 2000 residents. But each summer in early July, the town transforms into a quilt mecca welcoming tens of thousands of visitors for Quilters Affair and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. 

Approximately 1200 quilts are displayed outdoors during the quilt show, now in its 35th year. Quilt show founder and quilt guru Jean Wells Keenan displayed just a handful of quilts in her first show, and she wanted it to have the feel of an arts festival. After many years and tremendous growth, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show remarkably maintains the feeling of an arts festival. 

The Oregon Quilt Project is here, and we’re trying a mobile quilt documentation all over town - but the real story is Jean Wells Keenan, who is absolutely the toast of the town! Keenan has been present at most of the events throughout the week, including Thursday’s artist’s reception at the High Desert Gallery, where she is showing recent work; an exuberant presentation by Ricky Tims later Thursday evening, and Friday’s picnic and quilt retrospective with Alex Anderson. During the evening, Karen Alexander and Mary Bywater Cross payed tribute to Keenan with news and notes about her induction in the Quilters Hall of Fame. And what a lucky guy I am - I had a seat toward the front!

Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims brought enthusiasm and humor to the quilt presentation at Friday’s picnic.

I’ve only been here for the last couple days, but it’s been going on all week - and what a mind-blowing experience! It’s serendipitous to be here for the first time when the town is celebrating Keenan, who has had such a significant and far-reaching positive impact. Quilt Show Director Ann Richardson, who appeared at the picnic to thank the sponsors and pay tribute to Keenan, also deserves much credit for the success of this amazing community event. - as do the hundreds of volunteers, staff, and community partners. It takes an army!

So, I’m ready for the main event! The camera battery is charged, I’ve got a flip-cam for shooting some video footage, sunscreen and extra towels. We’re setting up the Oregon Quilt Project booth early, so I really should try to get some sleep. I’ll be dreaming of an entire town covered head-to-toe in quilts. Sounds like heaven!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Two Patriotic Quilts

OQP # 2010-01-002 - “My American Log Cabin” by Sally Powers Rogers 

Two patriotic quilts made a huge impression on me during our first documentation day on April 28th in Sisters, Oregon. Both quilts were made by Sally Powers Rogers of Redmond, and both took classic patterns to a whole new level. 

The first quilt was called “My American Log Cabin” (pictured above) and was machine pieced during “Desert Storm” in 1991 in Tacoma, Wash., and hand quilted in Redmond during the 2003 Iraqi War. I was immediately struck by how well made and sturdy the quilt was. It was perfectly square, had a nice weight, and included a wonderful selection of fabrics in patriotic red, white, and blue. Rogers’ artistry and sense of purpose made a well-known pattern something completely new.

OQP # 2010-01-003 - “Patriotic Nine-Patch” by Sally Powers Rogers

The second quilt (above) was called “Patriotic 9-Patch” and included birthday blocks from the Ridge Rippers Quilters. It was machine pieced, strippy, a la Kaye England, and hand quilted with wool batt. Rogers made the quilt for her father on his 100th birthday, June 21st, 2005, and the array of patriotic fabrics was simply unbelievable! This quilt transported me to the 19th century, and made me feel like I was looking at a very old quilt the day it was finished. It was fantastic! 

OQP # 2010-01-003 - “Patriotic Nine-Patch” by Sally Powers Rogers (detail)
We don’t always think of recently made quilts as historic objects, but these quilts truly captured history. Both arrived for documentation as cherished family objects in perfect condition, and both were eloquent, concise statements about the era. The last two decades were a time of incredible change - a time when people of the United States felt and expressed patriotism in the face of many great challenges. The two quilts from Sally Powers Rogers are strong visual and cultural statements. They celebrate freedom, paying tribute to the past, saluting the present, and looking optimistically toward the future.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day Two Favorites

OQP # 2010-02-035 - rescued by owner, who pulled it from a trash dumpster.

By Lori DeJarnatt

I was so pleased when Bill and Martha asked me to be a guest blogger on the OQP site. They thought it would be beneficial to have a participants' perspective. I'm qualified only because I love quilts and believe in the importance of documenting Oregon's quilting heritage. (I think I'm getting better at hanging quilts too!)
Last Saturday was my second day spent volunteering with the Oregon Quilt Project!! I'm hoping for more opportunities to help in the future. It was a great day and we saw some awesome quilts and heard some terrific stories. So let's get to it!! Here are a few of my favorites.

OQP # 2010-02-030 - Ocean Waves with printed background fabric.

I thought this Ocean Waves was interesting with the use of a printed background. It was a traditional pattern done in an untraditional way. The variety of fabric was astounding!

The Double T quilt (pictured at top) was rescued from the trash.  Can you even begin to think about this beauty in the dumpster!!? I hope the quilt project raises awareness to non quilters about the historical value of quilts!!

Because I was helping with the photography I didn't hear the story about this signature quilt (below). Bill figured out it had about 800+ embroidered signatures!!  

OQP # 2010-02-036 - Signature quilt, made in Portland and written in German

This graphic postage stamp quilt (below) was one of my favorites. The patches finish at  7/8"! I'm pretty sure it was made before strip piecing!! Amazing!!

OQP # 2010-02-041 - postage stamp patchwork quilt with a multitude of fabrics

My favorite story of the day is from the maker of a yellow nine-patch strip quilt. A mom and daughter brought several quilts in to be documented. The "mom"  started this quilt when she was 11 years old!! She was the cutest lady (I think we all would have loved to have her as a grandma)  and really enjoyed telling us about her quilts. These are the stories we need preserved!!

Do these ladies look like they take their job seriously or what? They are very knowledgeable and actually record in writing all the pertinent information about the quilt.

I encourage you all to be a part of the Oregon Quilt Project. There are many opportunities to volunteer or bring in a quilt or two to be documented. Do you know someone who has a quilt that should be a part of this project? Check the calendar and participate in the Oregon Quilt Project.

Lori DeJarnatt started quilting around 1983, before her first child was born. She took her first quilt class with Jean Wells at the Stitchin' Post in 1993, and was inspired. After being exposed to quilts, Lori started noticing older quilts and all their fun, “make-do” quirks. She appreciates all kinds of quilts, but her favorites are the old ones. Lori blogs about quilts on her personal blog, called “Humble Quilts”. To visit Lori’s blog, click here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monumental Quilts!

OQP # 2010-02-078, “SuperSymmetry” 2010, by Wendy Hill - made for Lucas Hill

The Oregon Quilt Project returned to Sisters last week for a three-day quilt documentation, and the event was a huge success - in more ways than one! 

During our first documentation last April in Sisters, we had one physical data recording table. This time, we had more space with two data recording tables, located next door to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show Office. Having two data recording tables quickened the pace at the photography station, but luckily, there was still time to interact with the quilt makers and owners. They told many wonderful stories. 

As the quilts started to arrive, we all noticed a deluge of monumental scale quilts. Several exceeded 100 inches in length, and some were so large the quilt stand touched the ceiling while the quilts swept forward touching the floor. It was absolutely jaw-dropping.

OQP # 2010-02-038, “Millennium Y2K Quilt” 2010, by Anna Marie Bates.
One of the largest quilts was a “Millennium Y2K Triple Irish Chain” (pictured right) with 2000 pieces of fabric including signed patches collected from around the world. The scale was considerable, but the cultural significance was even greater. One signed square came from Kuwait. Others came from Australia, Canada and Switzerland. The quilt offered a hopeful statement about connecting people around the globe at a pivotal time in history, and that’s what made it so monumental.

Another stunning example in the parade of enormous quilts arrived on our third day of documentations. “SuperSymmetry” 2010, by Wendy Hill (pictured top) really knocked my socks off! The quilt was made for Hill’s son, Lucas. That’s one lucky lad! 

When we were hanging the quilt for pictures, Hill’s mastery of color was immediately apparent. I commented on it, because she accomplished something that isn’t easy. As we continued to observe the quilt, dazzling, three-dimensional optical illusions started to rise from the surface. I asked Hill about the source of the block pattern, and she said she’d just made it up. Again, my jaw was on the floor.

OQP # 2010-02-078, “SuperSymmetry” 2010, by Wendy Hill (reverse side)

The reverse side (pictured left) featured a center panel with a large scale, contemporary bird and botanical print with an Asian feeling, and borders on both sides with a multicolored bar print. It was amazing!

During the three days in Sisters, the Oregon Quilt Project documented nearly 100 quilts, and I took almost 1200 pictures! Many thanks to all the local volunteers and core documentation team members for a job well done. Special thanks to all the participants who brought such magnificent quilts and so many great stories. We look forward to our next documentation day in Sisters during Quilt Show weekend!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What is an Oregon Quilt?

This week, the Oregon Quilt Project officially commenced in beautiful Sisters, Oregon - home of The Stitchin’ Post and theSisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Sisters is situated in the heart of Oregon, and for over 35 years has been a center for quilt making activity. 

I’ve passed through Sisters several times on the way to Bend, and even stopped in The Stitchin’ Post once or twice, but I really haven’t spent much time in Sisters. This year will be my first time attending the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Hard to believe, right?

When Jean Wells Keenan opened her shop in 1975, it was one of the first quilt shops in the United States. She hung the first Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show the same year, showing just 12 quilts. Over the last 35 years, the show has grown to include 1200 quilts. The largest event of its kind, it draws as many as 30,000 visitors and brings an estimated $2.4 million to the area each year.

This year, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show has a special reason to celebrate. Not only is it the show’s 35th anniversary, but later in the summer Keenan will be inducted in the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana. 

After 35 years as a fixture in the community, Keenan has not become the least bit complacent. When I walked in she was teaching a class at her shop. The class included people from all across the country. Later, she shared a quilt that she was determined to rework, even though it was already stunning. She just felt it had greater potential.

During our visit, Keenan was remarkably open to new ideas about how to improve her quilt. And being open is a quality she associates with the west coast. It’s something you can feel in the air in Sisters, a geographically wide-open place. It didn’t take much time for me to realize that openness and responsiveness to new ideas is exactly what led Keenan to become such a prolific artist and influential teacher. She really knocked my socks off!

After spending three amazing days in Sisters, I have to say I’mextremely impressed!! My head is still spinning. The experience of being in Sisters brought me back to one of the original questions I had when first considering the idea of documenting quilts in Oregon. 

What is an Oregon quilt?

Keenan’s masterpiece quilt, “The Wedding Garden” (above) is an Oregon quilt! She designed the quilt to commemorate her daughter’s wedding, which took place in the garden at their home. The overall quilt image is a landscape, featuring snow-capped, purple mountains, lush greenery, and abstracted flower heads constructed as varied New York Beauty blocks. 

The three mountains represent the Three Sisters, volcanic peaks along the Cascade Range that are all among the five tallest peaks in Oregon. Two of Keenan’s children had been married in that garden, and according to friends who attended the weddings, the garden was full of wildflowers. Although some of the flowers didn’t survive the celebration, the vivid memory of the wedding garden remained with Keenan. She wanted to preserve the memory in a quilt, and brilliantly translated her vision into a memorable, important quilt. 

In our first two documentation days we saw about 30 quilts spanning 150 years. When I first saw “The Wedding Garden” I said, “That is an Oregon quilt!” But there are many other quilts that represent Oregon and Oregonians in various ways. The first quilt in the door was a gorgeous mid-19th century red and green applique quilt with unusual borders, exquisite quilting, and provenance. We also saw two quilts that were finished just the day before the documentation. All of these quilts have reasons for being here in Oregon. They are all part of Oregon’s quilt heritage.

Oregon has some of the most incredible natural scenery, and that beauty is certainly present in our state’s quilts and quilt makers. On behalf of the Oregon Quilt Project, I’d like to extend a huge thank you to all the participants and volunteers in Sisters, particularly our gracious hosts, local volunteers and OQP core volunteers for a job well done! We are delighted to begin our documentation in a place with such a vested interest in quilts and quilt making. We look forward to returning to Sisters, and to visiting the many other intriguing places around Oregon in the coming years.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Yesterday the Oregon Quilt Project held its fourth quilt documentation training day in Eugene, and the session included “mockumentations” of some very interesting quilts. A “mockumentation” is a mock documentation, and we tested ourselves by viewing quilts and recording information on the OQP Physical Data Forms.

We started the day by presenting Martha Spark with an antique brass name stencil found on eBay. When we first saw the stencil we thought, “this really has Martha’s name on it.” The name on the stencil: Martha Briggs. Close enough! Martha was thrilled. 

About halfway through the session, we began looking at quilts and started with a very appealing 1940’s flower basket quilt, followed by an early 1900’s redwork quilt, a 1940’s double irish chain and a nine-patch on point with applied beard guard, and a related 36-patch quilt top. Fascinating! The group had great questions and a lively discussion.