Friday, June 28, 2013

Fabric Retailing: The Peddler's Wagon

Broom peddler, New York

When we consider how 19th-century quilters obtained their fabrics
we tend to forget the peddler.

Peddlers served urban and rural customers.

In the city a retailer could specialize.
Here a pots and pan specialist in New York
in the 1930s. Photo by Berenice Abbot.

Boston, about 1900

About 1860
In the rural areas a peddler might stock a general store.

In her diary Sarah Waldsmith Bovard of Scott County, Indiana, recorded her visits to the peddler right before the Civil War. She and her neighbors bought baskets, yarn, coffee and sugar from a traveling store.

"March 24 1859: A peddler comes by and Mrs. P. buys some oil cloth."

Her entries give us a little insight into how the rural retail exchange occurred.

A peddler's card announcing his schedule.
"I am coming June 20th"

"April 7, 1859. Cool, quite windy. James sows oats and I go to Mrs. Spears to the peddler. Get some sugar and coffee"
Apparently she knew when he would be at the neighbor's. He might have left cards like the above.

In September:
"Here we go, James and I to Mr. Foster to the house raising. Cool cloudy. We have a fine time. I come home at noon, then go to Catherines to the peddler, he does not come."

Brooms and baskets for cash and barter

Perhaps a broken appointment.There were other problems too:

In October: 
"I start to the peddler but do not go all the way--he did not have no cotton yarn."

She might have heard he was out of yarn from a friend returning empty-handed.

Read more of her diary here:

The Peddler's Wagon from Harper's Weekly in 1868.

A detail shows he is holding up a textile---
A whole-cloth quilt, a plaid tablecloth?

Peddler, early 20th century

A Colorado resident recalled a "dry goods store on wheels...fitted with drawers and cupboards...The storekeepers in Walden, Laramie and Fort Collins didn't like him; for he'd not only undersell them he'd deliver."

Peddlers also took to rivers. About 1820 Jerry Church bought 250 yards of "domestic cotton goods" in Cincinnati and went into partnership with a man who owned a "small store-boat on the Ohio River". Their boat carried "calicos, domestic cottons, and some grocery and ...teapots, pitchers, jugs, and anything that would make a show like a store; and after having arranged them pretty fair, we raised a flag on a pole with the name of store-boat wrote upon it."

"We stopped at every little town or village...as we passed along the Kentucky or Indiana shore."

Some peddlers walked with a yoke holding their goods.
I wouldn't want to sell calico on foot.
Maybe needles or watches.

UPDATE: Years Later: Memory of the Tinkerman in 2020.
Eunice Anne Fowler told us at the QuiltHistorySouth Facebook page that she recalled being at her
grandmother's, Eunice Howell, Selmer, Tennessee, when the Tinkerman came. She bought fabric from him, as well as thread, &  kitchen and household needs. She made most of their clothing, aprons etc.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Posing with Patchwork

Posing with Patchwork: Quilts in Photographs, 1855-1955 is one of the current exhibits at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. The show features the collection of Janet E. Finley who has about 1000 photos of people and quilts. The exhibit pairs photos with quilts made in the same pattern.

Photo from Finley collection

Quilt from IQSC collection

It will be up through November, 2013.
Read about the exhibit here 

You will notice at their webpage at top right above the poster you can click on the words: View the Exhibition.

So if you can't get to Lincoln you can still see the show online.

In the case of Bertha Niedan in the show poster
they actually have the quilt in the photo.

Janet's also done a book
Quilts in Everyday Life, 1855-1955: 
A 100-Year Photographic History from Schiffer Publishing

See a book review at the blog Why Quilts Matter.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Artichokes on the Internet

Star Quilt
by Esther at Threads on the Floor

While trolling for projects made with my Morris reproductions I found this one by Esther at Threads on the Floor. On her blog she showed this star quilt she finished last winter.
She's a long arm quilter so I am assuming she did those fantastic feathers in the corners.
I helped---well---she used my Moda prints from the Morris Apprentice reproduction collection.

She made it as a gift for her son's teacher. See the story here:

She used the Artichoke print from the Morris Apprentice for the back.
That terrific large-scale print was originally designed by Henry Dearle.
It makes a good border too.

Mary's Flowers kit from Common Threads Quilting

This kit uses the Mary's Flowers pattern from Primitive Gatherings with my Morris Apprentice line and the dark blue Artichoke for a border. See Common Threads page here: 

Steps to the Altar
from Patches & Prints

And  here's a blue and gray wedding quilt finished with a gray Artichoke print border.  
Click here and scroll down to see she got it finished in time. 

Long Tall Sally by Jeanne Zyck

Jeanne Zyck has used the Artichoke to border a tessellated pattern in which one shape repeats. It's made in strips and the pattern Long Tall Sally comes from Miss Rosie's Quilt Company.

Sort of like a Gothic trellis in a cathedral.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Emancipation Celebration, Georgia
Library of Congress

Juneteenth celebration
June 19th is celebrated in Texas as the anniversary of Emancipation---

Not the day that Lincoln issued the Proclamation, which was in September, 1862
or the day enforcement began, which was January 1st, 1863.

But the June day that Texas slaves
 heard that they were free.

Today we tend to celebrate abolition and emancipation in general on Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday in January, which is a national holiday.

But after the Civil War and into the twentieth century different cities celebrated on different dates.

In Washington City a celebration of abolition was held on April 15, 1866
captured in Harper's Weekly.
April 16th is still celebrated there as the date when slavery was abolished in the capitol in 1862.

Details capture the usual festivities:

Dressing in one's best and reunions with old friends.

Music was an important part of the celebration
Above, the Slayton Jubilee Singers in the early 20th century.

There were parades like this one in Richmond, Virginia on April 3, 1905,

And mourning for Lincoln, the "Great Emancipator"

...as in this 1888 photo. Both of the above pictures are from the collection of Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. April 3 was the date that Richmond was captured by Union troops.
Read more here:
Click on those decades at the bottom of their page to read newspaper accounts over the years.

Parades continued in Essex County, Virginia on April 3rd for decades.

In Preble County, Ohio, people celebrated "The Blessings of Liberty" on September 22nd in 1881, the date Lincoln signed the Proclamation in 1862. The poster is from the Ohio Historical Society's collection. 

Gallia County, Ohio has been celebrating on the September date since 1863.

Laurel, Maryland
September 1

Portland, Oregon, January 1, 1869

Several cities celebrate on January 1, the day of Jubilee, when paraders and picnickers might suffer from inclement weather in the depths of winter. Baltimore celebrated on November 1 in 1864.


Tallahassee celebrates in May when Florida's slaves were freed. Canadians celebrate in August as do Kansans in Hutchinson

Joplin Missouri, August, 1952
A toast of Pepsi

1916 Celebration and Reunion of Former Slaves
Washington D.C.
Library of Congress

As the generations who lived through slavery aged, their grandchildren came to forget the meaning in the dates and most of the local celebrations died out. The 150th Anniversary of Civil War events has inspired some revivals.

My latest reproduction collection from Moda celebrates
this year's 150th anniversary of  the Emancipation Proclamation.
See more here:

Monday, June 17, 2013

How I Use BlockBase: Redrawing Old Blocks

I have kept this photo of some fairly sad blocks from an online auction for a while. They look to be from the 1930-1950 era.

It's an interesting block, if badly made, and I thought it might make a good pattern to use Moda JellyRolls, the precut 2-1/2" strips. But I had to figure out how to draft it. The photo isn't too clear. I was hoping to find it in BlockBase, my digital Encyclopedia, but where? was the question. There are not a lot of patterns that are constructed like this. It's kind of a log cabin....

I saw it as a grid of 7 for proportion and drew it up from scratch in Electric Quilt.
I liked the cactus look and thought about Echeveria, the succulent, when I colored it.

Once I drew it up though I realized it had a diagonal seam, which encouraged me to look in BlockBase again in the rather small category of Two-Patch quilts.

Blocks divided in half diagonally.

And here is something very close to those original blocks.
A rather obscure pattern, #3177.
Modern Flame, published twice.
Once in Woman's Day magazine in September, 1942
And also by the Spool Cotton probably around the same time.
It is very modern looking.

The old blocks may have been made from one of those patterns, but unfinished without the last strips.
And when you look at the original pattern design you can see why.
There are those tiny corner pieces in the longest strips.

Well this would make an excellent block for 2-1/2" strips---a 12" block.
Except for those little corner strips which would drive you crazy. You can see why no ever one made it.
So back to my point, which is how I use BlockBase with EQ...

To fix BAD DESIGN. I imported the BlockBase block #3177 to my EQ file.

Then while I am in the EasyDraw mode I go up to the top left and highlight that little arrow which is called The Pick. When I am in that mode I click on a line and it highlights the offending line. And I can delete it.
Here's Block #3177 with an easier to piece outer strip.

It's probably a better design (based on a grid of 6) than my Echeveria based on 7.

But the Echeveria is so cactus-like I kind of like it.

In EQ I rotated the blocks around.

It's quite directional with a lot of possibilities.

Here's a free pattern with templates  for a 7" version based on 1" finished strips. Click on the picture and print out at 8-1/2" x 11"
Or click for a PDF:

If you wanted to use 2-1/2" strips cut the square 8-7/8" and cut diagonally in half  for the large triangles. You don't really need templates.  I'd just join dark and light strips with a 45 degree seam and line them up to look spiky.

After I wrote this post I was looking through some pictures and found this version of Modern Flame. At least one quilter made it mid-20th-century.