Frans Vintage Friends

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3/10/06 Maybe the name of the group should be Fran's Vintage Fun. I had so much fun in Bird-in-Hand, PA over the weekend that I needed all day yesterday to recover. On Friday it was necessary to turn a 3 hour drive into seven hours of antiquing and fabric shopping.

The FVF banquet made sure that we were all well-fed and happy by the time of Polly Mello's presentation "Humor and the Macabre Needle Arts." Polly is Texas' answer to Teddy Pruett when it comes to setting a scene. She had decorated the meeting room with spider webs, Halloween lights, a smoke (mist) machine, spooky music. When she began showing quilts she directed her holders to "Move the tarantula off the plastic bins." This is the talk you want to hear if you're looking for a different slant on American needlework. For example there's the lovely appliqué album quilt with a block featuring a tombstone and weeping willow and the inscription "In memory of the dead" and scrappy Stars quilt with embroidered names and the explanation "All in heaven."

 Polly is fond of unusual animals. Her creepy silk rat pillow was a big hit, as were the obi embroidered with owls and pumpkins, the flower basket adorned with appliquéd owls and the Prince's Feather quilt with appliquéd whales in the border. She showed us many Snake quilts and lots of conventional designs in unexpected colors, especially orange.

A truly jarring orange and black Irish chain may well have belonged to a loyal Princeton alum (even I who love orange can think of no other explanation). This feast for the eyes was accompanied by dramatic reading culminating with Edward Gorey's Ghastly Crumb Tinies and the awarding of the coveted chocolate coffin. Saturday morning Peggy Armstrong was bracketed by the Cawley twins-separated-at-birth. I talked about "Quilts 1900-1950: Commerce, Contest and Celebrities" Suzanne's talk "A Century of Calico: Children's Clothing 1850-1950" combined a power point presentation of images from her collection of vintage photographs showing the evolution of children's dress with the real stuff.

I love it when my friends go off on a collecting tangent and I can go along for the ride. Suzanne has taught me a lot lately about coverlets, photography and vintage clothing. Peggy shared her collection of "Early Children's Sewing Machines.' I should have counted. There must have 40 or 50 including some owned by Dawn Heefner. This is a subject about which until Saturday I knew absolutely nothing and it was fascinating.

We had a four hour lunch and shopping break which we put to good use blitzing the Farmer's Market for chili dogs and candy and then appointing Barb Garrett as our leader set out to make a major contribution to the economy of Lancaster Co. The proprietor of first whop we stopped at in the aptly named village of Paradise appeared dazed by our onslaught. He kept muttering something like "I didn't expect this until the quilt show" (Quilter's Heritage Celebration, no doubt).

I found a Centennial bandana (I've been looking for one for ages), a Delectable Mountains quilt (1880) and a pieced crib coverlet (1870). At 4 p.m Phyllis Twigg did a great presentation on advertising trade cards, "Buy Me:I'm Best." Phyllis did the best power point presentation I've ever seen. I'm not just talking about the bells and whistles like the cascading letters of her name or the sound effects (although that was pretty impressive). Too often presenters insist on reading their bullets. I know how to read,thank you. Phyllis used the images on the screen and the bullets as taking off points to provide more information. This was the perfect way to allow a large group close up views of the small cards.

After dinner with an Amish family we had the second round of show and tell. Everybody had new stuff from the afternoon's shopping. Debby Cooney started off Sunday morning with "Mason v. Dixon?: Cradle Quilt of PA, MD, 1830-1900." What a treat to see so many lovely baby quilts at once and of so many different styles. Debby admitted that her favorite is a Frederick Co., MD chintz appliqué with graceful reverse appliqué laurel leaf borders. It is exquisite.

My favorite might have been the Star of Bethlehem in low contrast chintzes reminiscent of the Savery quilts of Philadelphia, but then I always like Pennsylvania quilts best. Seeing a single one of these treasure would be enough to gladden a quilters heart, 30 of them in an hour causes palpitations. Dawn Heefner took us all along on the "Textile Tour of France" which Deb Roberts is offering again in September.

After tantalizing us with her beautiful slides she showed us the fruits of her shopping excursions. Wow! Seeing large chunks of chintz is pretty exciting (I think chunks is a technical term in France-G). Dawn really likes the purples. It was the next best thing to being there. The final installment was the Plenary Session organized by Mary Perini. One question asked for suggestions for responding to the dreaded UGRR Code presented as fact in the public library.

I think we did a good job in coming up with some interesting suggestions (most have which have surfaced before on QHL). We also discussed the lack of interest in quilt history and resistance to history programs in our quilt guilds. We could have gone on for a long time, but Mary runs a tight ship and we ended right on time allowing a leisurely drive home (via a different route with shops I had not visited on Friday).

Thank you Fran for inspiring this wonderful group. We are lucky! Cinda on the Eastern Shore




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