Duck Neck Quilt, Skagway, Alaska

I’ve just returned from my Quilt ‘N Cruise teaching excursion to Alaska and it was a fantastic trip. One of the many amazing sights was the Duck Neck Quilt displayed in the Skagway Historical Museum. This quilt, protected in a glass case (hence the reflections in the photos, which don’t do it justice), really is made from the duck neck skins of Mallard, Goldeneye, Teal, Canvasback and Pintail!

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Julie Curry, one of the other teachers on the trip, told me about it and described it to me over lunch. I just couldn’t imagine it, so of course I made a point to going to see it. My size estimate is in the 60-65″ square range. It was gifted to the museum by Jennie Olson Rasmuson, who lived in Skagway for many years and helped establish the Skagway Museum in 1961. Jennie came to Yakutat, Alaska in 1901 as a missionary for the Swedish Covenant Church where she met her husband Edward who was also a missionary and the postmaster. They lived there until 1914 and had two children.

The Rasmuson family learned the skills required for a subsistence lifestyle from their Tlingit neighbours. Elmer remembers his mother’s appreciation for the beautiful iridescent feathered skins of the ducks they hunted for dinner. She wanted to make a keepsake out of the duck neck skins to help recall the family’s times in Yakutat.

Alaska 480Jennie learnt how to preserve the feathered skins with salt, a technique the Tlingit used in making ceremonial robes and ornaments. She then painstakingly pieced the skins together and lined the quilt with peppercorns to keep the moths away. The saw-tooth trim is made of felted cloth which was sent from supporters of the mission. This piece has remained in remarkably good condition and the feathers have retained their glorious lustrous sheen. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before – check it out if you are in Skagway!

Fantastic Fibers 2015 – Paducah, KY

During AQS QuiltWeek in Paducah, there are all kinds of exhibits to see in addition to the AQS quilt show. The whole town embraces the expansion of its population by 30,000 as the quilters descend, and many of the downtown shops are decorated with quilts. I’ve already written about the Rotary exhibit of antique quilts, and then there is the National Quilt Museum. The latter is exceptional and worth a visit if you anywhere near Paducah at any time of the year.

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In the heart of this small town there is an old market building which houses a historical museum and the Yeiser Art Center. Here, there was a wonderful international juried exhibit, Fantastic Fibers 2015, sponsored by Fiber Art Now Magazine and two former mayors of Paducah. This display included some quilts and a variety of other fiber media such as 3-d fiber sculptures, felted wool, woven materials and more. As quilters, we take our inspiration from many sources and it can be illuminating to look at other art forms. Here’s a sampling of the works that particularly appealed to me.

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This extraordinary piece occupying a large section of wall, Come Fly With Me, by Paula Bowers of Grand Rapids, MI, was made from hand felted fiber. It made a stunning impact from the other side of the room. Close up, it was a beautiful blend of lush colors.

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Snow Bound, by Betty Busby, Albuquerque, NM was a magnificent fiber vase, hand painted and stitched. It stood about five feet tall.

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This art quilt, Fancy Shawl Dancer, by Linda Anderson, Le Mesa CA, was a beautiful piece really capturing the motion of the dancer and the shadow. The piecing, painting and quilting were so intricate and added great depth.

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Three Caged Birds, by Robin Haller, Greenville, NC, is a handwoven triptych. The quilt-like quality of the pattern appealed to me as well as the color combinations.

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On the left is Fiesta, made by Cuauhtemoc Kish, San Diego, CA. I love the composition of this quilt and the use of silks made it very rich. The pair of quilts, From Here to There, by Shea Wilkinson, Omaha, NE depicts the human and robotic brains. The picture does not do justice to the amazingly intricate quilting.

This exhibit ran for two months, so it is now over. It’s possible that it may travel to other areas of the country. If so, I hope you can take a look at the real thing.

Hancock’s of Paducah

No trip to Paducah would be complete without stopping by at Hancock’s of Paducah. Many of you may have ordered on-line from this massive quilting store, so here is a little pictorial tour of the bricks and mortar. The store is located at 3841 Hinkleville Road. It is close to Interstate 24 and only a couple of blocks from the Drury Inn where I stayed. From the outside, it looks like an industrial warehouse with a rough and dusty parking lot, but inside this cavernous space there is a treasure trove of bolts and bolts of fabric.

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It can be a little overwhelming – where do you start? You should probably allow at least an hour to look and it’s practically impossible to come away empty handed. The prices are very reasonable and of course, the choices are many. During Quilt Week, they extend their hours and increase their staff to cope with the thousands of quilters who come through, but unless you go in there as soon as they open in the morning, you’re likely to have quite a wait to have your fabric cut and another wait to pay for it.

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During QuiltWeek, they open up part of their warehouse in the back. Here they have huge bins with flat cuts of fabric and quilting kits at reduced prices. It’s always busy back there with bargain-seeking fabricoholics. Of course, I succumbed when I found a piece I just had to have!

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This is sensory overload, to add to the already extreme visual stimulation from the National Quilt Museum, the AQS show and more to be found in Paducah during QuiltWeek!

AQS QuiltWeek in Paducah VII – Stitch Like an Egyptian special exhibit

The Stitch Like an Egyptian exhibit showcased several wonderful appliqué pieces made by tentmakers in Cairo. For thousands of years, complex canvas appliqué art decorated the interiors of tents and homes in the Middle East. There are only a small group of Egyptian artists (about 55, all men) continuing this tradition, working in their small shops along a covered street. Inspiration for the elaborate designs comes from architecture, Islamic carvings, calligraphy and nature.  Some have circular mandala patterns, some have square and rectangular designs and others are pictorial. Here are examples of all of these. The color choices and sophisticated patterns are stunning.

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This circular pattern above, entitled 573 Ekramy, is from the Al Farouk Shop and has Romy and lotus patterns. The one below, 353 Hosam, is from the Mohamed Hashem Shop. It is a complex Romy design with a star center. Romy applique incorporates a distinctive little curlicue that comes from the era of the Fatimids when the calligraphy permitted in mosques was embellished with small curls and tips that looked like growing plants of leaflets. It often winds under and over like Celtic applique, but is allowed two “overs” or two “unders”.

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The next two utilize square and rectangular designs. 469 Hosam, 49″ x 58″, was made at the Al Farouk Shop. It has stylized lotus borders with Romy designs.

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Here is another, the only one I saw done in a monochromatic pallet. I love the blue and white in 477 Mahmoud. 61″ x 68″, made at the Fattoh Shop. It has a vase with lotus and Romy, two side columns and an intricate lotus border.

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The designs are made by folding paper and punching holes in one-eighth through all the layers. The paper is unfolded and laid over the background. Talcum powder, charcoal or cinnamon is rubbed over the surface making tiny dots on the fabric. Then the dots on the fabric are joined with a lead or white pencil to complete the transfer of the pattern. This technique has been used for the last 4,000 years.

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Last, but not least, is the pictorial. This wonderful tree full of colorful birds, 703 Aly, 57″ x 57″, was made at the Mohamed Ibrahim Shop.