Sunday, October 31, 2021

Quilt Index Improvements: If I Do Say So Myself

Years ago when I was young I had this idea (perhaps not something other 25 year-olds were thinking about....) What if you gave every quilt pattern a number and then you wouldn't be so confused by all the names. Then a person could design a computer program where you could ignore the names and just
use the number and people could communicate with the number.

Well, now you can.

(My father was a computer programmer in the 1960s and this is sort of how our dinner conversation went.) 

Electric Quilt has published two versions of my idea, the computer
program BlockBase+ and the bound book Encyclopedia of Pieced
Quilt Patterns, both revised last year.

Every pattern (over 4,000) has a number.

Ducks in a row!
You can find the pattern, its relatives, its names and in BlockBase+
draw it any size.

But one more thing.
The Quilt Index.

The Quilt Index is a magnificent database, a project of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University, an open access, digital repository of images, stories and information about quilts and quiltmakers drawn from hundreds of public and private collections around the world.

One hundred thousand quilts are up there for quilt historians to look at and compare, for quiltmakers to obtain inspiration and for people waiting in the dentist's office to scroll through on their phones. It is an impressive tool.

So the other day Marsha McDowell and Beth Donaldson (the human beings behind the database) asked the Six Know-It-Alls if we'd make any changes to it. 

See Six Know-It-Alls here:
(There were actually 7 of us offering advice---one is behind the quilt
like the Wizard of Oz.)

Not to be tooooo self-serving I brought up the point that many of the quilt projects and museums when entering their data looked up the number of each quilt in my Encyclopedia and wrote it on the form. What if you could search by that number: the Brackman number?

Beth said she could do it!

And now there's a search box where you can type in the number (Brackman ID Number) and find all the quilts in that pattern.

You look up the number in BlockBase+ or the book

Here we have #2811, Boy's Fancy, Boy's Nonsense, etc. 4 names in BlockBase+.
Type the number in the box.

Four projects wrote in that particular number on their forms and here
you have 4 quilts entered with various names, Boy's Nonsense
but also Multi-Colored Pattern and Block Sampler.

#1700 has more names: Nine.
You can look it up by number and find 40 hits:

Some with traditional names like Cat's Cradle or Harrison Rose

But some you'd never find without the number like "Nine Patch" or "Bobbie's Dresses."

Here's "Beuhla's Quilt."

If you try this in the Quilt Index you notice you get some false positives; for some reason some Wedding Rings come up as #1700.

See more about the Encyclopedia & BlockBase+

And not every project or museum had a pattern fan who enjoyed going through the Encyclopedia to find the number.
But for me: It's a dream come true.
(I re-iterate, strange dreams for a 25 year old....)

One other improvement we suggested. The text used to be white letters on a dark blue background. We had a hard time reading it and it was a pain to copy text into another format. And Beth fixed that! 

So there is a new interface, easier to read, less scrolling involved.
(One thing you have to do though to see the new format is Clear Your Browser for this site or you will see white text on a white ground. In other words: Nothing.)

Thanks, Beth, for asking us what we'd change and for changing it!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Pie Town Quilts


Otis Staggs showing the photographer her
quilt made from recycled tobacco sacks, Pie Town,
Catron County, New Mexico

Russell Lee, working for the W.P.A.'s photography project in 1940, took hundreds of photos of the people of Pie Town, all of which are online at the Library of Congress. He and wife Jean came from Texas and stayed quite a while among these dust bowl refugees.

Otis Staggs had several quilts to show.
Her photos are labeled Mrs. Bill Stagg. The census shows her as Otis Staggs.

She is 44 in 1940, having been born in 1896
in Louisiana.

Husband Bill was also 44, a native Texan
as were many of the 300 people in Pie Town.
It looks like a tough life to us 80 years later but what a beautiful place to live!

They farmed.

Otis's quilts are quite mainstream, pretty and popular patterns of the time.

The Staggs had lived in Texas and Oklahoma before
homesteading land in New Mexico during the Great Depression.

She probably stored her quilts in a trunk by the
bed inside her log house.

Otis seems proud to show off her dinnerware and meal for the

They had no running water but drew it from a well on a porch.
It's always good to look at the context of a quilt. Seeing
Otis Staggs's home in such detail helps us understand a little about
their meaning and use.

Other women in Pie Town had quilts.

Mrs. George Hutton's guest room.
An extra bedroom (a bedroom even!) was a luxury to many of the
recent arrivals.

George & Bessie Hutton, 1940

The extra room belonged to Bessie
Hutton born in Kansas in 1882. Her son was George
who lived with her according to the 1930 census. She & husband
George had lived in Pie Town long enough to improve their house.

She kept a photo of her pretty former home in Oklahoma on the wall.

Beatrice Moler Whinery was an 18-year-old mother in 1940, born in
Texas. Husband Jack was from Texas and baby Robert was born in New Mexico.

 Jack's family nickname was Snook.

Beatrice, Jack and Robert with four children who are probably
Beatrice's relatives. The captions tell us they are 18-year-old Beatrice
and 25 year-old John's children, but the census indicates only the youngest
is theirs. 

The Whinery's log dugout.

Bessie Holley holding Geraldine. Bessie, 31, was born in Texas and
had lived in Arizona and California. A fashionable Rolling Star quilt
on the bed.

The size of the typical room in these homesteads is shown in a series of photos taken at a domino
party, probably at the Caudill dugout. Bessie and Geraldine are playing on a table pulled up to a bed in
the cabin social area.

Josie Caudill, about 5.
Classic wedding ring on the bed.

Doris Caudill ironing. She was 25 in 1940, born in Texas.
She made quilts by hand she told her biographer Joan Myers as she
did not have a sewing machine.

The Caudills did have a radio, making their home a center for community get togethers.
The calendars indicate it was May, 1940.

Faro and Doris Caudill's dugout. When the Lees were in town to photograph they
were working on improving it. They lived 10 miles from Pie Town.

Kids and coats on the spare bed while the adults square danced.

Lee also photographed a square dance, perhaps at the newly wallpapered
Hutton house with its large rooms.

Notice the quilting frame pulled up to the ceiling. Quilting parties must
have been another social event in Pie Town.

See a 2005 article about Pie Town in the Smithsonian magazine here:
"Savoring Pie Town" by Paul Hendrickson:

Read a preview of Pie Town Woman, by Joan Myers who interviewed Doris Caudill years later.

They tell me you should stop by Pie Town for the pie. (And the view)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Lucian Freud & Francis Bacon


Painter Francis Bacon by his friend Lucian Freud

Here are two of my favorite painters.

Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon

Bad-boy London artists in the mid-20th century when I 
was in art school.

Bacon's triptych of Freud was drawn from photographs
taken by John Deakin in 1964.

It's obvious Bacon left something important out of the final works.

This one is probably one of Bacon's working photos.
(Paint on picture, not on quilt---at least yet.)

I wondered if the portraits were taken in Bacon's, Deakin's or Freud's studio
and looking at a set of 12 photos of Freud in the Metropolitan Museum of Art I 
am guessing the room was Freud's studio and the quilts were Freud's.

This set was photographed by American Walker Evans.

Apparently it is not too late to go back and improve the paintings of Lucien Freud based
on the original photographs.

Found this on line.