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During September and October, the finished Handmade Meaning quilt will be on view at Stitcher’s Crossing on 6122 Mineral Point Road in Madison. Their store hours are M-F: 9:30 – 6:00, Thu until 8:30, Sat: 9:30 – 5:00, and Sun: 12:00 – 4:00. Please stop down and admire our collective handiwork. Over 150 people participated in this project!

Creating this quilt would not have been possible without lots of help from volunteers. Stitcher’s Crossing helped to publicize the project, advised us on materials, and provided space to assemble the quilt. Andrea Miller spearheaded the project and developed the kit materials. Susan Bostian Young organized the quilt assembly, working with Karen Silvers, Cathi Manchester, and Beth Schmitz. Thanks to all of you and to our many embroiderers!

We are approaching the Wisconsin Historical Museum about the possibility of accepting the quilt into their collection. The museum’s process for considering acquisitions takes awhile, so we’ll have to wait and see. We will keep you posted!

If you see your work but your name is not listed, please let us know who you are! See more squares here, here, here, here and here. Read more about the project here.

We’re thrilled to see the variety and creativity of our volunteer embroiderers! See more squares here, here, here and here. Read more about the project here.

If you haven’t yet turned in your square for our Community Embroidery Project, there’s still time! See more of the great examples we’ve received so far here, here, and here. If you see your work but your name is not listed, please let us know who you are!

As the Handmade Meaning exhibition comes to a close this weekend, I would like to highlight my experience working with Sharon Leurning, the owner of Stitcher’s Crossing.  Special thanks to her for all of her advice and promotion of the Community Embroidery Project.  Sharon was instrumental in the planning of the exhibition – her extensive experience with the needs of stitchers and quilters was crucial for determining the materials, supplies, and timeline of the project.

Sharon has fostered the opportunity for crafters of all skill levels and material needs to have a well-informed and easily accessible community.  I have spoken with several people who frequent the store and every person begins with something like this:

“Do you know Sharon?!  Isn’t she great?” then, “their selection of fabrics are my favorite,” or “I really love shopping at that store.”

Stitcher’s Crossing is located on Mineral Point Road just east of the West Towne Mall.  Click here to view the location on a map.

A second business I would like to thank for their participation in this project is Sublime Stitching.  The illustrations of the stitches included on the instruction sheet of the HM kit are by Jenny Hart.  Jenny is the founder of Sublime Stitching located in Austin, Texas.  Launched in 2001, the aim of the business has been to rejuvenate the craft of embroidery.  It is a privilege to be given permission to use the illustrations from this company, as the company provides invaluable resources and inspires younger generations to stitch.

Lastly, working on this project has been very exciting.  My sincerest thanks to all who have picked up a kit and stitched a square (or two!)  If you have not submitted your completed square to the Watrous Gallery or Stitcher’s Crossing, please do so as soon as possible.  We have extended the deadline by a week for participants.  Assembly of the quilt is scheduled and our volunteers are in place, we just need as many completed squares as possible.

Thanks, again, Andrea

Great contributions continue to come in for the Community Embroidery Project. See previous squares here and here.

More squares completed for the Community Embroidery Project. View the first group of contributions here.

The first few squares for the Community Embroidery Project are completed. We’ll scan the embroidered squares and post them here as more are returned to the gallery.

Interested in embroidering a square? More info about how to participate is here.

History Musuem at the Castle, Appleton, object #2005.005.001

Community building. A twenty-first century catch-phrase, for sure. Networking. Social climbing. Marketing. What do these have to do with crafting? If we could ask Theresa Scheffler, maker of this ca. 1900 redwork quilt, we might hear some surprising answers.

Understanding the motivation behind why crafters craft is what the Handmade Meaning exhibition is all about. Considering the meaning makers stitched, painted, or sculpted into their works is the conversation.

Theresa’s quilt, today owned by the History Museum at the Castle in Appleton but too fragile to loan out for this upcoming exhibit, expands the crafting conversation. Each square is essentially an ad or promotion for an Appleton business. 72 of them. Red floss is stitched onto white cotton squares. Each square includes an image and often a humorous line. One lists the telephone number of the business: “Phone 66.” A square for the local paper, the Evening Crescent, reads “10 cents a week”  and goes further to note the paper offers “Six Day Want Ads 25 cents.”

Why would one young woman in 1900 be so interested in local businesses to spend countless hours selecting patterns, making up funny quips and stitching them into life? Many redwork quilts were intended as fundraisers, auctioned off for a good cause. But there is no record to indicate that Theresa’s quilt was meant to be sold, or was sold.

Clues to Theresa’s meaning may be evident in her life. Her young adult years were messy and unstable. Her mother dies or moves away. Her father changes his name (to something less Prussian sounding) and marries again. Theresa works as a teacher around the time she makes the quilt. In 1909 she marries James Wagg, who followed his father as the superintendent of the Fox River Paper Company Mill, a prestigious position in the community. They live in a big house on the main drag just a few blocks from the business district. Local newspaper society columns are filled with reports of their social activities. And Theresa becomes an important figure in the Masonic temple. Maybe Theresa’s early interest in local businesses was a way of making community connections. Of networking. Of exposing her skills to prospective husbands. Of  elevating her status in the community. Of using her marketing skills in a socially acceptable way for a woman of her time. What seems clear by her example is that no crafter spends the many hours required to make a work of this extent without meaning something by it. It requires energy, fortitude. And a great deal of creative expression.

Anyone can try out this form of creative expression in our Community Embroidery Project developed by Andrea Miller. Choose a pattern from the templates offered, or free-form stitch one from your own mind or a business on your street. Do it to share your crafting skills with others.  Do it to make a mark on Wisconsin. Do it to connect to a prospective employer. Do it for all your own reasons. To mean what you intend. Your square will be stitched together with others to form a network of meanings. Together they will represent our crafting community in the twenty-first century.

– Susan Bostian Young

As the opening of the exhibition approaches, I am finalizing the Community Embroidery Project kits.  You can view the custom designs for the project below.

Click on the image to access a larger version to use as a template for the project

Tonight I visited with the Madison Area Chapter of the Embroidery Guild of America (EGA)
(you can visit their website here ) to help promote the project.  The guild has graciously offered their help to anyone needing assistance on their HM square.  Stitchers are invited to their January meetings if in need of assistance.  More information about when & where will be provided in the project kits.

The members at the meeting were excited to hear about the exhibition and the project, because of their combination of historical and contemporary crafts. It is really exciting to see people of all ages, skill levels, & taste in crafting styles willing to get involved with this project.  Hopefully the excitement will result in many embroidered squares!

Another guest of Madison’s EGA was Kim Caisse.  Kim was representing a group of people who are currently working on a community fibers project that will be on display during the Handmade Meaning Exhibit.  The project is called Our Tiny Friends & Foes and will be showcased on the lower level of the Overture Center for the Arts’ Playhouse Gallery.  For more information about this community project, visit their Facebook page here and Overture Gallery’s info page here.

As we count down the the opening of the exhibition & kick of the this community project I will continue to post information about the process of coordinating this project, the people, organizations, and businesses who are getting involved, as well as example squares that are completed by some of the organizers of the exhibition.

Handmade Meaning

An exhibition investigating the connections between Victorian women's fancywork and contemporary Wisconsin craft. At the James Watrous Gallery, Madison, Wisconsin, December 17, 2010-February 6, 2011.