Today's guest blogger is longtime museum volunteer Judy Buswick. You can read Judy's blog here.
In an attempt to make today productive, I want to write a short piece on what volunteers do at the New England Quilt Museum.
I’ve had a wonderful experience learning about the niche library collection. If you think about it, books here can’t be shelved by the Dewey Decimal system, since all the books have something to do with quilts.
This library has the largest collection of quilt books anywhere. Cataloging and evaluating them takes special training; though we all greet visitors. We meet local friends and quilters from all over the world, as well as answering phone calls on topics from how to document a quilt to “Are there quilt books that show butterfly patterns?” Sometimes we do “scutt work” like putting labels on envelopes — someone’s gotta do it!
Some other volunteers enjoy sewing, either by hand or machine. Sometimes they put sleeves on the back of quilts to be hung in exhibits and sometimes they make new items for the Museum gift shop. Lots of tracing, cutting and appliqueing goes on, as well.
I haven’t even mentioned the creation of “Home of the Brave” and other charity quilts that volunteers work on. There’s always something going on that needs willing hands.
Debbie Janes seems to have a new project every time you see her.
Marie Leone showed up one day dressed to match the quilt she was working on!
~ Judy Buswick, Museum Volunteer
Lynn C applying stickers to a postcard mailing.
UNION FOREVER fabric line (partial)
Although I have been sewing for most of my life and crafting for years, I have never attempted a “real” full-sized-pieced-from-a-pattern quilt. There are a couple of small ill-fated art quilts in my past, but nothing that I would consider a substantial quilt. I certainly would never call myself a quilter of any kind.
So, of course, the first traditional pieced quilt I attempted was a twin sized Civil War Potholder reproduction. No beginner nine patch blocks for me! For those of you who are not familiar with potholder quilts, they are quilts made from blocks that are quilted individually, bound, and then whip-stitched together to create the final piece. Each individually bound block resembles a quilted potholder. The project seemed like it would be an interesting one, but I was completely dreading the added time and effort required to create a quilt using this technique.
The Union Forever quilt pattern by Jean Ann Wright is based on the Sibley Album Quilt, a potholder quilt believed to have been organized by Rebecca A. Sibley and made in 1865 by four Bostonian women. The quilt was given to Sergeant James George, 76th Regiment, New York Infantry, while he recuperated in a military hospital after his incarceration in Andersonville Prison. The quilt descended in the George family until its donation to NEQM in 2004. In May 2012, Judie Rothermel of Marcus Fabrics and NEQM launched a fabric line inspired by the prints on the Sibley Album Quilt. The Union Forever fabric collection consists of twenty-five calico, chintz, stripe, and toile prints in period reds, blues, browns, and purples.
As part of our contract with Marcus Fabrics, we were given three yard cuts of each of the twenty-five fabrics. A quarter yard of each fabric was slated to enter the Museum Collection, with the rest earmarked to create The Union Forever Quilt, which would hang in our Museum Store and later enter the Permanent Collection.
My first task was to cut the quarter-yard pieces. Since the edges of the three yard cuts were far from straight, I squared off the fabric and then cut my quarter yard from each. It was a total of about fifty cuts (plus a few to account for mistakes) that ended up taking me around four hours. By the end, I was alternately cursing my “slippery” Omnigrid and “dull” rotary cutter. As it turns out, the problem wasn’t my perfectly functioning, good quality tools, but my inexperience with the rotary cutter.
I do own a rotary cutter that I use for cutting fabrics—not for quilting, but for other projects. I grew up in a DIY household – my father and grandfather never paid someone to do something that they could attempt
themselves and my mother is an avid quilter and longarmer – so I’m very good with tools, but the mastery of the rotary cutter has always eluded me.
I never thought I’d attempt a quilt, what with all the rotary cutting involved, and I’m not patient enough to cut that many straight lines with scissors, so I thought I was destined to remain a non-quilter living in a quilter’s world. But boy, was I wrong!
- Leanne Tremblay, Visitor Services and Museum Store Manager