The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
The Gift of a Closer Look
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago —
my alma mater, if I can pass my classes and
pay my tuition bill, of course.As faithful Quilt Scout readers know, I am currently attending graduate school at a university that encourages me to study — and further combine — two of the things that I love most in the world: writing and quilting. (For the record, the other two things I love most in the world are performance and fudge from that one place in Door County; everything else is just details.)
This semester, I have the good fortune to be studying with Rock Star Fiber Artist and beloved School of the Art Institute (SAIC) professor Anne Wilson. The full name of the course in which I nabbed a coveted seat is “Fiber and Material Studies: Micro/Macro Textiles” — “Micro/Macro” for short. The class is held inside SAIC’s Textile Resource Center (TRC), a comfy room with cases and drawers full of real-life examples of textiles from all Anne Wilson. Photo: SAIC.over the world that students are encouraged to examine, read about, and further research. Some people imagine heaven as a place with fluffy clouds; I tend to see it as a classroom.*
Though I’m brimming with excitement to
tell you everything we’re going to be doing in this class, it would be unwise for me
to share syllabus, I’m afraid; such documents are proprietary in their way,
and it’s awfully early in the semester for
me to risk being expelled. But I do think it would be okay for me to quote a few lines from Wilson’s description of the objective
“Emphasis will be placed on research as hands-on knowing…Understanding textiles through possibilities of drawing, notation...and remaking will be considered [as well as] close observation of textile structure, fiber spin, color, fiber content, and formal resolution. Students will be expected to develop studio work, written research, and class presentations.”
You had me at “hands-on,” “remaking,” and “close observation,” Professor, because guess what the Textile Resource Center has in Drawer No. 14?
Loose patchwork from the late 19th and early 20th century.
For the first time in my life, I am going to get the chance to study — really study, like it’s my job — a piece of patchwork made over 100 years ago. The item I selected is a scrappy, eight-point star from Ohio dated c. 1880-1910.
There’s not much more information about this pieced item in the TRC’s online entry, and that’s one of the many exciting things about this project: I get to investigate and contribute what I find out. I already looked up the Brackman number: 3773a. I already Googled “quick piecing technique, eight-point 45-degree star” so that I can actually accomplish the “remake” part of the project when I get to it. A part of me suspects I picked this particular item from the TRC so that I would force myself to try set-in diamonds. (Check with me in late April and send help, just in case.)
Star of Bethlehem, c. 1850 — my first project is much more modest, but I see larger research projects like this in the future. Photo: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts; via Wikipedia.
I’ve got a lot of schooling left before I can claim this master’s degree, but I’m already thinking ahead. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln offers degrees in quilt history and quilt preservation in association with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, and both my mother and I have talked about how much we’d love to attend that program.
The way this course is shaping up, I might even have a transfer credit. Keep reading Quilt Scout for updates on my research project — and if you have any shortcuts, templates, or quick-piece methods for eight-point stars, please, please get in touch, especially around finals week.
*A classroom with a drawer full of fudge from that place in Door County.