Quilt Journalist Tells All!
A Newsletter from Meg Cox                                  January, 2014

The Patchwork Olympics:
Sochi, Russia

My husband says I can turn a conversation about anything into one about quilts. But I never could have anticipated having a patchwork-themed Olympics. Get ready for the games in Sochi, Russia, which begin on February 7, because all the logos, banners, outfits, even the medals, have a patchwork motif.  Pinch me!

Bosco di Ciliegi, a Russian retailer with an Italian name (it means "cherry forest") designed the banners and other items, including uniforms for 45,000 volunteers. The company said in a press release that it wanted to portray "the local traditions, songs and crafts" of Russia's 89 regions. "We had a wealth of choices to represent Russia's rich diversity, but in the end, we settled on something familiar, warm and welcoming: the patchwork quilt."

Bosco went on to cite various local crafts, including paintings, tapestries, shawls and more which inspired the logos. 

We quilters already knew from our own observations and networks that despite its long history, quilting has become even more vital in the 21st century -- and more globally ubiquitous than ever. How thrilling that these Olympics have become a triumphant celebration of that reality.

To see more of the cool and graphic pictograms for each Olympic sport, click on the logo at the top of this column to check out a Pinterest board on this topic. 

 Yep, even the Russian Aeroflot airliners are sporting patchwork for Sochi!!



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January Giveaway!!!
   Thanks to my new sponsor, Cloud 9 Fabrics, this month's winner will receive a double giveaway.
   In addition to a bundle of fat quarters (12 in all) from this sweet new fabric line, "Picture Pie" by Ed Emberley, you will get a signed copy of Janneken Smucker's book on Amish quilts. 

 The winner will be chosen at random from e-mails received by midnight February 1. Just send an email to [email protected]. (Only subscribers are eligible to win.)
The December winner of the Jamie Fingal fabric bundle was Sharon Metzger. 
Dear Friends--                  
      I am so excited to launch the new year with not just one but TWO new sponsors! These are both companies whose products I love and endorse, and together, we're going to bring you fresh ideas, energy and fun giveaways in 2014. 
       In this issue, I'll introduce you to the new lead sponsor, Cloud 9 Fabrics, while giving you the usual news and reviews, and a double giveaway. Next month, I'll run a profile of my second new sponsor.
       Thanks so much for the outpouring of responses to last month's rant on supporting local quilt shops. I heard from lots of quilters, even from some shop owners who had to leave the business thanking me for the warning. The essay was reprinted in a number of blogs and newsletters, including that of the awesome quilt shop in Sisters, Oregon, the Stitchin' Post. I guess I hit a nerve!
       In 2014, I am committed to bringing my readers more news, reviews and behind-the-scenes stories than ever before. I hope you'll keep opening this newsletter each month, and if you like what you see, forward it to a friend, or share it on social media.  

 An Exciting New Website You Need to See

     I assume that most quilters who care at all about history know about the amazing International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, on the University of Nebraska campus. Since it opened in 2008, it's been a quilter magnet, with its ever-changing exhibitions and unparalleled collection of 4,000-plus quilts. From the start, the IQSC has also had a terrific website, www.quiltstudy.org a great place to browse the collection and get a taste of new shows. 

     But the quilt experts in Nebraska felt there was a room for a new website that wasn't just about this institution, but would draw together and navigate through the growing online archives digging deep into quilt history. 

     "We wanted to create a one-stop shopping place for information about American quilt history," says Marin Hanson, curator of exhibitions at IQSC. "We have excellent online resources already, but there isn't a single place that brings all that information together, that draws from and line to, for instance, our online exhibitions, articles from Uncoverings (published by the American Quilt Study Group), Quilt Index records and Quilt Alliance oral histories. We wanted to leverage all of that."

     What's impressive about this new site is its layout and navigation, which allow you to poke into a whole range of topics related to quilt history, including Creativity and the Business side of the craft. On the homepage, if you click on "What are Quilts?" you will get a dictionary definition, but you will also find links to multiple resources, from a blog with excellent technique tips for beginners, to podcasts and scholarly articles. 

      Embedded within the site are about 300 of the quilts in the museum's collection, and you can zoom in and really study these in context. For example, the site tells the story about a quilt called "My Crazy Dream" that is legendary among crazy quilters. You can read about the quilt, then zoom in to see the amazing intensity of the embellishments. 

      The site is "presented thematically rather than chronologically, to help people see the relevance of quilts to various aspects of American history, society and culture -- and to their own personal lives," says curator Marin Hanson. 
     Although only American quilts are currently presented on this site, it's just the first module of a much bigger project, and there will soon be opportunities to study international quilts as well.  I urge you to spend some time on this exciting new website.
A Word From Our Sponsor:
Meet Cloud 9 Fabrics, Makers of Organic Cottons Quilters Love

Cloud 9 Fabrics was started about six years ago by two women, Gina Pantastico and Michelle Engel Bencsko, who had both worked in the garment trade in New York. At a time when both were restless in their jobs and about to become new moms, they decided to form their own fabric company.
"At the time, no one was doing vibrant, fun, modern prints on organic cotton, and we got excited about bringing that to the market," says Gina, director of operations. ""We called it Cloud 9 because we are doing what we love, how we love, for the industry we love, and we are literally on cloud nine while building this business."
Gina (L) & Michelle in Martha Stewart.
At the beginning, Michelle was designing every line for the company but now she only does one or two a year, to fill in gaps. "I get submissions all the time, though we aren't seeking any right now," she says. "I have about 12 people I'm working with, including many I sought out who are illustrators with no background in fabrics." One of the designers who reached out to Cloud 9 is Sarah Watson, creator of the whimsical Dem Bones fabric line pictured above. "She wrote to us that her contract was up, and we were her dream client," says Michelle.
In the coming months, you'll have a chance to preview more Cloud 9 fabrics. Start by taking a look at the Grey Abbey line in the left column, and a new line from Michele below. Click on the Dem Bones fabric (above) for the company website, and check out the fabric line in this issue's giveaway.
 One further note: although quilters want to be environmentally responsible, I know many balk at the high prices of some organic fabrics. Cloud 9 works hard to keep its fabrics reasonable, and they typically cost between $12 and $12.50 a yard.

Welcome, Cloud 9 Fabrics!
Hot New Book About Amish Quilts

     Janneken Smucker, a young college professor and fifth-generation Mennonite quilter, has written a sophisticated and profound book about Amish quilts that is earning kudos everywhere. I had a chance to ask her some questions about the book, including about how the cover was created. Yes, it started as a quilt, which she made, and the needle is real, not PhotoShopped. You can read more about that on her blog. 
     Janneken interviewed many Amish quilt makers and sellers, as well as some of the top dealers and collectors from the time when Amish quilts got "hot." She learned that many of the things we think we know about Amish quilts, and our ways of determining factors like "authenticity," are completely wrong-headed. This is a scholarly book in one sense, but so much fun to read, like a quilt mystery story with 100 amazing photographs. 

     Here are some of the other questions she answered in our talk:
Q: This book really busts a lot of myths. When did you realize these ideas were myths?
A: I first realized that a lot of what I thought I knew about Amish quilts was not entirely correct while working on a project with Amish quilts now owned by the IQSC. I set out to try to track down the makers, after a dealer said they dated from the first several decades of the 20th century. Meanwhile, my colleage performed fiber microscopy on the fabrics and found synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester. I discovered that rather than dates in the 1920s, the Amish families who once owned these quilts remembered making them in the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s. I started to question what I knew about Amish quilts and when and how they were made. 
 Q: How hard was it getting Amish quilt makers and sellers to speak about these issues?
A: I have an advantage in that my last name is a common one in many Amish communities. Many of my ancestors were Amish when they migrated to North America in the 18th century. This often helped me gain entree. I prefer to record interviews, but I chose not to record the ones with Amish individuals to make them feel more at ease. And like the rest of us, many Amish are eager to share their own stories.
Q: I was so surprised to learn that quilt making doesn't go back all that far with the Amish. Do you think people will be disillusioned to find that many of the dark geometric quilts considered most "authentic" are not especially preferred by the Amish for their own use, and were often made for the tourist trade, sometimes not even by Amish makers?
A: I hope not. An "authentic" Amish quilt can be a lot of different hints, including an "old dark quilt" made 100 years ago, a quilt adapted from a commercially published pattern, or a cheery country appliqu� sold to tourists. 
Read Janneken's fine book and decide for yourself. A signed copy is one of the 2 items in this month's giveaway.
Thanks for spending time with Quilt Journalist Tells All!
Comments? Questions? Story ideas? Send a note to [email protected].
 I hope to see you back here again next month.
Quilt on!  
xx, Meg