Saturday, January 29, 2011

Town and Country Program

Thursday I did a Program on Quilting Collecting to the Aiken Town and Country Club. What a great group of women and what wonderful quilts they brought with them!
The night before the program I started to get a bit nervous...which hardly ever happens with me. I rewrote my outline, I pulled more quilts into the bins (just in case no-one brought a quilt to talk about) and I added more "ancillary" props like feedsacks, old Mountain mist patterns, some old quilt blocks, and some old marking tools. I'm not sure if I was nervous about not being able to fill 90 minutes or that I wouldn't be able to finish in 90 minutes...
English Paperpiece circa 1840, Georgia
In the end it worked out fine. Better than fine. We had about 40 members attend and almost all of them had at least one quilt in hand. A bit of sensory overload but I think I prefer it that way! Unfortunately with that many quilts there was no time for me to take photos. One of the members who did take some promised to email me copies...

Usually I organize my presentation around the history of quilting. My audience has always been quilters or genealogy groups. Since this group was focused on antique collecting I changed the emphasize from history of quilting to evaluating a quilt for condition, workmanship and date made. I started with 4 quilts in poor condition and then worked up to excellent. I tried to have a quilt from varying time periods in each group.

I think it worked well. In 90 minutes folks can learn to spot condition issues and get an idea of what good workmanship looks like. As far as the date part I pointed them to the resources. (though I am fairly sure they all can tell a 1930's from a civil war era now!)

There was a great variety of quilts in the audience....tiny 1930 baby wedding ring quilts (two almost alike by two different quilters - both is excellent condition), a Drunkards Path with sawtooth border in off-white and double purple that made me stop breathing for a minute, two gorgeous indigo's (and since we are only 100 miles from the larges indigo plantation in the US during the 1800's it is always exciting to see indigo!) The quilts ranged from the 1840's to 1950...I may be spoiled. I wonder if I'll see such a great collection again.

It also helped that the meeting was in the Aiken Museum which is in an old antebellum style building. The room was beautiful and the people working at the museum very helpful.

After the talk which ended up going until noon (but no-one left and they asked me to keep talking!) we had lunch at Melia's...nothing like homemade raspberry pie after a morning of quilts....

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lecture Preperations...

String Star, Cape Cod Mass, circa 1920

Thursday I am giving a talk to the Aiken County Town and Country Club. About 50 people have signed up which according to the coordinator is a good turnout.

(Small Lemoyne star block from Abbevill, SC Quilt top circa 1900)

I had to rewrite my regular talk to include some basics on quilting. (Only a few of the attendees will be quilters.) The focus now is how to evaluate condition of a quilt and what resources are there to help you identify the date and type of quilt.

I am bringing about 20 quilts with me to use as examples. Attendees are invited to bring a quilt with them but as I have no idea what may show up I want to have the "bases" covered. (all conditions, at least one from each timeperiod including an applique, a rework, a wholecoth, a medallion, a chintz, and a sampler...that should do it....)

My biggest challenge will be keeping it it all under the 90 minutes scheduled for the presentation...I do have a friend coming with me who is going to act as timekeeper for me!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


This morning I wrote the check and sealed the envelope - I'm committed to taking the appraiser exam in April in Paducah. I had already done the important things - study, get my application excepted, and get a hotel reservation! But sending in the check for the test fee was sort of a line in the sand moment....

Also this month I am doing a presentation to the Aiken Town and Country Club's antique group. Should be fun. I am wavering between doing the talk on the history of quilts or on collecting quilts. I need to call the coordinator and check with her....My Dh surprised me this month with the "promise" of two quilts. I had seen them posted on an auction house website but I had an earlier commitment for that day so wasn't able to go to the auction. I am hesitant about buying from non-quilt dealers sight unseen...however he did a phone bid and was able to get them really reasonably. The photo above is one of the quilts...I love orphan blocks and when they are made into a quilt it just gives you so much to look at!

Now the auction house that we bought them from only occasionally has quilts on the block. Generally I find I get better prices at those types of auctions but that type of auction isn't useful to me in developing valuations for quilts. To do that I have to stick with auctions that publicize that quilts are for sale and/or carry them on a frequent basis.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quilt Show Study

Texas Quilt Museum Display...Drunkards path with stars

Number one thing learned at Houston this past week...large shows are the best for seeing a wide range of antique/vintage quilts. It was amazing. Next year I am going with a much larger allowance and a larger suitcase....but I digress.
"Baby Bunting" with exceptional quilting circa 1930
I do "rounds" of the local antique malls and shops so that I "hit" each about once a month. With all that effort I only see about 5-6 quilts that would warrant an appraisal (so help me with my education.) In three days at the show I saw at least 100. (How is that or time management!) Also, the information on the quilt tags was much more accurate at the show (these dealers know quilts!)

When I was looking at the quilt vendor booths I did tell them I was studying to take the test...didn't think it was fair for them to think I was buying right now and that way they knew to break away for "real" customers (though I may be emailing one of them to see if a quilt is still available because DH says he would buy it for me for Christmas....does he forget the tickets to Houston were my Christmas present?! Oh well....) All of the vendors were really nice and supportive. One even said if I saw something on a tag (description or price) that didn't seem right to me to let her know.

This all brought a question to mind about appraisals. When I took the class they emphasized using local markets as the basis for a value. But what is local anymore? For instance I live in Georgia but have many Pennsylvania quilts (pinks, yellows, know the type) that I would be hard pressed to find in any "local" shop. To replace it I would have to go either to the Mid-Atlantic, a large show like Houston, or the internet.

(On the collector note: The prices at Houston I found to be really reasonable...I guess I was expecting them to be higher since it was a quilt show. (I've gotten my best "bargain" quilts when I've bought them at odd shows like a gun-show - don't ask me what I was doing there!) Perhaps the marketing strategy at the show is volume so they are priced fair...)

Monday, October 25, 2010

The things ya learn...

I know that in our appraisal class last April in Paducah they said to be prepared for some unusual experiences...I think I may have a good teaching point for them next year.

A few days ago I got a call from a woman who does estate clear-outs. In the past I have looked at a few things for her customers but so far nothing has really warranted an appraisal (value less than $200.) She had a customer who had a "lot" of textiles and quilts and wanted a specialist to evaluate them. She told me two things that I later appreciated - consider charging by the hour and remember that the executor is the decision maker.

I will not go into specifics but picture this: a large two story house full of stuff, a sister and two brothers who barely speak to one another, and quilts and textiles in every corner of every-room. When I arrived I asked the sister/executor what she wanted appraised and why she wanted an appraisal. She wanted all of the textiles "looked at" to see if they were "worth anything" because her brother was convinced they were valuable and didn't trust the folks handling the estate sale. "So let me get this straight," I asked, "you want me to go through the entire house, find textiles and provide a valuation on each of them?" "Yes," she said, "and if you could fold them and put them into one of the bedrooms that would help us when we make out decisions this afternoon on what each of us is going to keep."

This was not an appraisal situation this was more like a textile version of the TV show "Picker." Just then the two brothers arrived. I knew I was in trouble when the first one through the door asked, "don't women pay lots of money just to look at quilts? So why would we have to pay you?"

My proposal to them was that I would charge a flat hourly fee to locate the quilts and quilt related items. I would tag the items and put a suggested sell price on the items. If I found an item worth more than $200. then I would put them in a separate area and we could discuss them before I left. The sister/executor agreed...the brothers grumbled and rolled their eyes a bit.

It only took the brothers a minute to realize that if I had to do the digging then it would take longer and be more expensive...that lit a fire under them! I ended up standing in one room while these guys ran around the house dragging anything made of fabric or related to sewing back to me. Total insanity!
All I can say is they got their money's worth...In three hours I must have valued almost two-hundred items....If I saw one wedding ring quilt I saw 10 (I began to wonder if maybe they were bringing the same quilts back to me as a test?! And with every quilt Brother #1 would say "I think this is from the Civil War.") At the end of the day there was one small singer child's sewing machine still in the box, two Featherweight's in good condition, a pineapple applique quilt circa 1850, and a large box of early printed feedsack in perfect condition in the "valuable" stack.

My brain feels like mush, my legs are exhausted, and I am covered in dust. So what did I learn (this blog is supposed to be both adventures and learning after all....)

1. Be confident about putting a value on what you know. I'm fine with helping out a friend or fellow quilter if they have a question on buying a quilt at a show or if they want help dating a quilt they inherited. However when people call with the express purpose of hiring me to do an appraisal and then try to get my knowledge for free...that isn't cool.

I briefly considered walking away from the whole thing. What kept me? There is that curiosity factor. Maybe there would be something interesting. Also, it was 0630 in the morning (did I leave that out of the story...they wanted to start at sunrise! I gave up sunrises when I got out of the army.) I already lost a good morning sleep to be at this house so darn it I wanted to get something out of it!

2. Taking the time to be very specific with the client up front on what they expect and what I can provide is crucial. Do not assume that everyone understands what an appraiser does. These folks saw the clear-out crew and an appraiser in the same light! In the end they walked away happy - there were some items "worth" money and the brother got a "civil war era" quilt (even if it wasn't the red, white and blue polyester one that he really loved....)

ps...they did give me permission to use this story as a teaching point however they did not allow me to take photos. The photo at the top of this post is a quilt in my own collection and the sewing machine is a similar one to the one in the story.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Six month countdown....

After a couple of suggestions from other bloggers I am going to try and keep this blog going again. It also came to my attention that the AQS test is just 6 months away (yikes!) and that I could use this blog to help keep me organized.(Wool and cotton log cabin on point, Penn. circa 1880)

Back in July I got the letter telling me I was "accepted for testing in 2011." I have to admit that written application had kept me at bay for several years. I love quilts and love to write so the first draft of my application was around 15 pages...I don't think that is what they were looking for! After taking the class at Paducha last year I was able to focus my answers a bit still ended up around 10 pages but better...
(Blue and white strippy quilt circa 1920)

Overall I think I do pretty well on antique and vintage quilts. I've spent a lot of time in antique malls the past few years and my valuation is generally within 10-20%. (I have been collecting quilts since 1990 so I better have a handle on this!)

So for the next month or so I want to focus on reproduction and art quilts. Reproduction would be how much it would cost to have a similar quilt made to replace the one being valued. This method is only used on quilts made in the past 10 or even 20 years. A good example of this would be a quilt I am appraising now for a quilter because she is mailing the quilt to a show on the West Coast. It is her own design and uses multiple techniques so it would be impossible to purchase a replacement.Art Quilts are a real challenge for me. I have been reading several books on modern quilts and attended several lectures to develop the vocabulary. Also I have been on many websites to get a feel for valuations. This is the area I think I still need the most work. But I have six months...lots of time, right?!

Now, just for fun, a photo of a redwork quilttop I picked up years ago in Pennsylvania. The workmanship on the embroidery is wonderful - even more so when you realize she was stitching on this very loose sugar-sack fabric.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quiltin' on the rivah

Yesterday I went over to my friend Maggie's house to stitch. She lives right on the "rivah" as they say around here (try saying river without moving your lips and you'll be close...)
Anyway, I sat around the kitchen table and talked quilts but didn't stitch much. Good food and good conversation counts for a lot though! And isn't her cat Tom just too cute...he so wanted to on everyones lap or fabricbags...Time was split between the traveling Kaffe case (a group of quilters pooled their fabric to work on an applique quilt), the cat, strawberry pie and chocolate cheesecake....

Later I stopped at our county library to find out when the exhibit of quilts need to come down...of course they need to be down by Saturday so there goes Thursday night...feels like we just hung the exhibit! The librarian said they had a really good response to the exhibit and wants us to have one again next year. One of the library volunteers asked about joining the guild! If we even get one or two new quilters out of it then it was worth the effort!

I also picked up a couple of books at the library. Two on starting a small business and one on Georgia quilts. Of course I read the quilt book first!
Don't you just love the funky tulip on the cover quilt! Like I need another project!