Tuesday, October 30, 2012

French Reproduction Quilts at Quilt Market

Stars or Baby Blocks
Marie-Paule Nedelec and Anne-Helene Nedelec

I just returned from Quilt Market in Houston where the exhibits are, as always, fantastic.
The French Guild France Patchwork showed winners in their contest Legendary Quilts.
Botanical Page
Louise Marie Stipon

I am showing you just a few...

The Life of Phoebe Cook
Jocelyne Picot

There were many familiar faces.

Upside Down
Marie-Josephe Veteau
These quilts will be up at Quilt Festival this week too.

As you can see by this label the contest rules required hand quilting.

Baby Blocks
Catherine Guy

Diamonds with Flowers
Dominique Husson

Ladies of the Ocean
Francoise Bertrand

Ewa Guerin

Mosaic Quilt
Isabelle Etienne-Bagnot

I especially liked this one because Isabelle used my Civil War reproduction collection called Civil War Homefront from a few years ago.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Sanitary Commission in the Field

The funds raised at the 1864 Metropolitan Fair supported the United States Sanitary Commission, an enormous civilian affiliate of the Union Army. The Sanitary Commission assumed many duties during the War.
Here men and women in Augusta (Georgia?)
hand out doughnuts to Union soldiers.
They acted somewhat like the USO in 20th century wars, giving soldiers beverages and refreshments.

This Philadelphia "saloon" adjacent to a soldier's hospital announced it's presence with a magnificent eagle sculpture. Volunteers gave soldiers a place to rest, socialize and drink non-alcoholic beverages.

Another volunteer saloon adjacent to a hospital.
The Sanitary Commission ran the hospitals too. Following Florence Nightingale's leadership in England's Crimean War, this civilian organization saw a need and filled it.
They managed large hospitals in cities like Washington
And field hospitals such as this one in Gettysburg.
Activities went beyond physical nursing.
They had systems for troop mail.
Drawing by Alfred Waud
showing the Sanitary Commission tossing tobacco to freed prisoners.
The USCC also ran lodges---rehabilitation homes for convalescent soldiers.
Above a Lodge for Invalid Soldiers in Alexandria, Virginia.

And a Lodge in Washington.

The activities of the Sanitary Commission were well documented. The leaders realized that good public relations increased donations. In many of the photographs we see women, as in this photo of a field station in Fredericksburg.
Women were not at the very top of the organization but they were, as we might say, middle management throughout the country. In many of the photographs we also see crates and barrels full of materials headed for the hospitals and recovery lodges.

One of the major functions was coordinating donations for the hospitals, lodges, saloons and doughnut stops.

Women knitted socks, pieced quilts, stitched underwear and nightcaps for recovering soldiers.

Barrels and boxes from the Christian Commission.
Wagons full of supplies heading for the front.
The Libary of Congress is the source for these photographs of the volunteer societies.
They have scanned many Civil War photos at a high resolution so you can open the TIFF files and examine the smallest details.

Click on this one and open the smaller TIFF file.
You can see so much in their faces. I am always interested in how each working woman found a solution to the hoop skirt dilemma. There is quite a range of circumference.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Helen Blanchard

Helen Blanchard's 162nd birthday
is October 25, 2012
She invented the ZigZag attachment.
You may have thought that was a 1950s idea.
Because that's when they were promoted for home sewing machines.
A 1957 ad for a Stitch-O-Matic with attachments
But Helen Augusta Blanchard received patents for what she called a zigzag or overseam attachment in the mid 1870s.

Here's one of her patent drawings for a stitch useful for joining knits.
Newspaper articles and a short 1897 biography said she ran a sewing machine company called the Blanchard Overseam Machine Company and got rich off these patents. Like other sewing machine inventors she probably made her money in patent royalties rather than in literally shipping machines.
She made the news at the end of the 19th century because of her unique position as a female inventor. One article actually said she was rich "beyond avarice," but Autumn Stanley for her book Mothers & Daughters of Invention found few records to confirm that. Blanchard's most important paper trail is in her patents which you can see at Google patents.
There was a time when Miss Helen Blanchard's name might not have been feted in the quilt world.

The 1950-1990 reaction to the zigzag attachment for the home machine could be called aesthetically limited.
Raw-edged polyester doubleknits lent
 themselves nicely to the zigzag stitch.
But over the years stitchers have mastered the zigzag.
Better mechanisms built into the machine
And adjustable widths and lengths have gone a long way to making the zigzag stitch indispensible. We should also thank whoever invented the fusible innerfacing too. And then there's the glue stick. But the basics---the zigzagger demands
A toast to Helen A. Blanchard!
Here's the text of an 1888 news article syndicated by the Boston Globe.

A Maine Girl's Profitable Invention
The story of one Portland girl deserves to be recounted. This is of Miss Helen Blanchard, now a resident of Philadelphia, who was specially gifted, and who succeeded in a field commonly supposed to be open only to the masculine intellect. She is of an inventive mind, and with a passion for mechanical contrivance from her childhood. Naturally she was foreordained to invent something, and she did it. The something or rather the first thing she invented, was an attachment for sewing machines to sew "over-and-over" stitches. The story that was told of her runs to the effect that one day, while at work at a sewing machine, she got out of patience with the way it worked, and in a passion kicked it over, with the remark that she could make a better machine than that herself. Straightway, continued the veracious chronicler, she proceeded to invent the "over-and-over" attachment. In point of fact, the account thus given is largely a myth. Miss Blanchard did not and does, not kick sewing machines, but she did very decorously and properly, after long and careful study, invent the "over-and-over" attachment, and obtained a patent on it. This laid the foundation for the large fortune which it is pleasant to be able to say she now enjoys. She owns large estates, a manufactory, and many patent rights. Her fortune, royalties and income, without venturing statements accurate enough to be impertinent, may be described In the fluent language of the divine novelist or sensational reporter, as "beyond the wildest dream of avarice." She earned it all herself. She had no assistance from any one, and hired money at 25 percent, to pay her first Patent Office fees.
1955 ad

See a preview of
Autumn Stanley's,  Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology at Google Books
And see Blanchard's patents here
by doing a patent search for Helen A Blanchard