Monday, September 22, 2014

Behind the Scenes at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village!

Some museums are just one building.

The Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village is just that – a  whole VILLAGE! 

There is a main museum, and then several buildings around the main museum on the grounds, old churches, homes and other historic dwellings and out buildings have been moved onto the property to preserve the history of this area that tied its livelihood and survival to the success of the Erie canal.

There are several guilds that call the museum home – they have a lace making guild as well as a thriving guild for quilters, and many groups use the facility to help promote and preserve the craft, keeping it available to us today.

On Thursday after our workshop was over, I was given a guided tour behind the scenes in the archives of the museum – the inner sanctum!

Here you see stacks of acid free boxes full of textiles ---I wished I could have stayed and examined the contents of every precious box!

But we only had a limited amount of time, and we focused on a special project that the guild has been involved with, recreating several of the quilts in the museum collection as closely to the originals as possible so that quilts may be displayed in their historic settings with in the homes and other buildings on the museum grounds.

Having replicas preserves the originals, and yet people get the feeling of which quilts were from what era ---


I had a hard time telling just which one was the real one, and which one was the clone!

The guild members searched far and wide for fabrics that were nearly identical to those in the original quilts.  If the original quilt was tied, they tied the replica, if the fabric in the original was badly faded, they used sunlight and even bleaching products to achieve a similar look.


16 patch – the one on top is the original, circa 1870!

The replica’s sashings are just a bit darker, but the two quilts are nearly identical and when placed on the beds in the houses in the village – you would never know that wasn’t the “real old deal!”



The one on the bottom is the replica, the one on top, the original.  They look identical to me!


Close up of original 1890s fabrics


Closer still!  I love the blue ones with the zig zag and wavy lines!


Rose Wreath quilts!

Loads of hand applique went into the rose wreath quilts, the replica is on the bottom, and the original is on the top, circa 1850.


Close up of original wreath.


Pink Snowball circa 1830

The replica is on the bottom, and the original is on the top.  The original had faded in such a way that no “new” fabric was available to create a quilt that had that authentic aged look.  Old pinks turned yellowish with age – and the only way to recreate that was with a bleaching technique which left the reproduction pink looking sun faded in spots and not in others – which is the way that old quilts age.  Nothing fades evenly.  Nothing stains evenly.  When on the bed, this one looks spot on for the era in which the original was created.  Great job, Amherst Quilters!


Close up of original quilt, circa 1830


Poor Shredded Album Block in paisleys, circa 1870

And would you believe I was so enamored with this abundance of paisley that I forgot to take the photo of the replica quilt?  Believe me, it is identical in every way only there is no shredding, tearing or deterioration – which is why duplicates are being made. 


1890s crazy quilt


Close up of stitches!

This one was just out I think for the embroiderer’s guild..no replication is being made of this lovely quilt, but it was so fun to look at all the pieces that went into it and all the stitches used to frame each patch.

The museum also had some great quilts hanging for display behind protective glass:


Red & Green Applique circa 1850!


Beautiful Sunburst circa 1870 with geese and squares border…

Take a look at that border….the ONLY time it turns to squares is at the far right side.  So was THAT the head of the quilt?  Or the foot?  We may never know!  I just thought it was interesting that the geese all point toward the center on that border, and those squares on point are centered within the border.  Also notice the fabric changes within a couple of the blocks…row 2, 3rd block over particularly.

This just reemphasizes to me that if all the blocks and parts of the quilt are perfect, it is just NOT as interesting to look at.  I love the little bits of quirkiness shown in this great quilt!


Close up!

Mother load of treadles!

I had a great time spending 4 days at this wonderful museum!  I loved meeting those that run the show from behind the scenes ----they even let me ogle the MACHINES in the archives!  Too bad none of them were up and functional.  I would have loved to give a treadle demo to the other quilters in attendance so we could show them how it’s done!

Thanks again, Amherst Quilters and museum staff for making my visit so fun and memorable.

Today ---no time for sewing today.  But I might be able to get a binding on this evening and sit and do some hand sewing tonight.

Today is for getting the suitcase unpacked and contents washed and repacked.  The trunk show needs to be unpacked, quilts switched out and new quilts for the next round of classes switched in to the line up.  Book orders are going out, I’ve been gone for 12 days!

There is a lot to be done, but I’m going at it at a slower pace and trying to think of today and tomorrow as my “weekend” before flying off to Michigan on Wednesday --

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  1. Bonnie - thank you so very much for this extremely interesting tour! The replicas are so close! Wondering how they could find fabrics for the whole quilts that were such perfect matches.

    You and this museum apparently have the entire USA supply of treadle machines. Still looking down in East Tennessee. I think folks just might still be using our grouping of them.

    THANKS again,
    many smiles

  2. Thank YOU for the fascinating virtual tour! I had no idea this museum was even there....on my go to list next time I get near the falls!

  3. Bonnie -- thanks so much for this fantastic post. I'm only a couple of hours away from this historic village. I need to get there! What lovely and meaningful work the guild completed.

  4. What an amazing group of replicas - they are doing a fantastic job! Maybe before you head that way again, they could get a treadle or two up & running so you can get a few more quilters hooked on treadling. Then, in turn, the new converts could save a few more treadle machines from an untimely death.

  5. I'm glad they are making replicas. I would be drooling over those treadles. One day I will find the one that needs to follow me home. Have a great day to rest and refresh yourself. It's a Canning day for me. I can't let gifted tomatoes waste. I can quilt between stirrings of the big pot of sauce to be made today.

  6. Old quilter9:46 AM EDT

    Thanks for posting the museum info. This area is actually close enough to be able to visit one of these days.

    As to your travel/classes schedule;
    Wish you could add some bottles, or pills with your energy, to the stuff we can order from you. Willing to pay any price !

  7. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it when you share pictures of the antique quilts you get to see!! I always enjoy your remarks too :0)

  8. Such a fun project for the guild to take on. And the replicas are amazing! Thanks for taking the time in your hectic schedule to share with us all.

  9. Bonnie, Thanks for the great class Saturday! I love having my hands immortalized with my 301. We were lucky, Sunday after sewing with it,as I went to unplug, there was a short in the cord. After a quick flash boom moment, the cord and plug were in separate pieces. Or4dering a new cord now.


  10. This was a very interesting post. Thanks for taking the time to point out the differences, etc. I am sorry you have to stay the task so on your "week-end". Have to admit, I look forward to Michigan!

  11. I love my treadle machine! It sews the best straight seams. And amazingly the buttonholer from my - now dead - 60's era Singer works just fine on it. Once I moved from the east coast to the west I noticed there weren't as many treadles around.

    Can't wait for Bonnie's next visit here in Alaska! Only 8+ months. LOL

  12. All the work to reproduce those quilts is just amazing and wonderful..,good job ladies! Thanks for sharing that Bonnie!

  13. I just want to soak those old quilts in Retro Clean and get them looking like new again, or at least nice and clean! lol I would probably be a terrible conservator!

    Thanks for the wonderful back-stage tour.

    Take care,
    Susan in Texas

  14. What a wonderful treat for you to get the behind scenes tour and then for us when you shared it! Thanks!

  15. I'm surprised to see how modern some of the fabrics are from the 1890's, especially the lovely blue zig zag :) Great photo's and descriptions.


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