• The Beautiful Chaos of Improvisational Quilts What would jazz look like if it had a physical presence? According to Sherry Ann Byrd, a celebrated quilt maker who posts on Show & Tell, it might look something like the hand-made "M-provisational" quilts produced by six generations of her family, who descended from a former slave named Edward "Ned" Titus in Freestone County, Texas. Her family's creations—like the improvisational quilts of…
  • The History of American Quiltmaking: An Interview with Merikay Waldvogel, Part One I always wondered why I was so fascinated with the quilts. In the early 1980s, when I was the executive director of the Knoxville Women’s Center, I was getting into women’s issues and women’s employment, and, at the same time, I was drawn to something handmade, traditional. Quilts really changed the direction of my life, and here I am at retirement, grateful for what quilts have added to my life. …
  • Collecting American Quilts: An Interview With Merikay Waldvogel, Part Two The beauty of quilts is you can live with them. You can sleep under them. I have a quilt library, too. I not only collect quilts, but also fabric, patterns, old magazines, and paper ephemera. That stuff is still out there. People have overlooked it. Museums and libraries have overlooked it, maybe rightly so. It is hard to take care of and to catalog. But it’s like archaeology. It’s the archaeology…
  • The Quilts of Winterthur I started at Winterthur in the summer of 1991 as the head of the textile conservation lab. I morphed over to the curatorial side of things at the very end of 1999, just over 10 years ago. It’s gone by in a flash. We have just about any type of textile that you can think of, including one of the world’s great collections of English and American printed textiles from the 18th and 19th centuries. …
  • American Patchwork Quilts The antique quilts which collectors admire today for their colorfulness and variety of design represent two of the oldest forms of needlecraft. They are quilting and patchwork and were known to the ancient world at least a thousand years previous to the Christian Era. In Europe, long before the Renaissance, queen and peasant woman alike understood and practiced both. Quilts were known in En…
  • An Introduction to Identifying and Collecting Antique Quilts Many antique quilt collectors think of themselves as caretakers of historical documents, made at the hands of the needlework sisterhood before them. Their quilts speak to them and tell their story through clues in the style, fabric, pattern, quilt stitches and sometimes stitched or inked words, names, cities or dates. The first time I went to an all antique quilt auction was in Southern Califor…
  • Antique Sewing Machine Collector Harry Berzack on Singers and Manhattans I work for a sewing machine distribution company that was started by my late father. We mainly distribute industrial sewing machines. At a very early age, I became interested in sewing machines in a general sense, and I started collecting old machines mainly to see the technology and how it had developed. Then I immigrated to the States—I’m originally from South Africa—and my new life caused about…
  • Homespun Beauty: Jim Linderman on Folk Art’s Authentic Appeal My interest in 20th-century American self-taught art came about after I had gone through a million other things—from stamps to bootleg records to books about who killed JFK. I had been at CBS News in New York City for about 8 or 10 years, and I was kind of burned out from working too hard and drinking too much. So I just stopped doing both for a while. It was 1981, and the art scene was explodi…
  • Angry Chicken's Amy Karol on Sewing, Vintage Slips, and Her Apron Obsession I think I started collecting vintage aprons seriously probably in 1991, my first year of college. I was an absolute junkie for vintage clothing, which was pretty much all I’d worn for a long, long, long time. I was finding aprons everywhere and just started collecting them. I can specifically remember buying a full vintage apron in L.A. at some sort of vintage craft shop. At the time it was $5, an…