THEY CAME TO DIG AMONG THEIR ROOTS
By Carol Gebel, Acquistions

The National Genealogical Society held its 2004 National Conference at Sacramento’s Convention Center for four days in May. Professional genealogists and dedicated amateurs converged on the city-by-the-river to learn methods of researching that can provide more and better information on their families. Workshops, visits to Northern California attractions, a large vendor exhibit hall and presentations on a wide number of topics were available.

Workshops covered such topics as ethnic and religious genealogical research, how to approach those early federal census reports, with their “head of household is the only person who counts” attitude, and how to do foreign research. Tours to the State Railroad Museum and Napa Valley were available to those who could pry themselves away from genealogy. When the convention-goers had picked up enough brochures from the vendors, they could sit and relax while listening to presentations on topics such as tombstone rubbings, DNA, gold panning, DeadFred, and quilting.

As you might guess, quilting is where I entered the conference, giving a presentation on Techniques of Quilt Making. Although I had been asked to demonstrate quilting, I didn’t think people wanted to spend an hour watching me quilt, even though it can be entertaining when I stab my finger with a sharp needle! So I spent a few minutes talking of how to sandwich a quilt for quilting, how to use a frame or hoop, and explaining that the quilting stitch is basically a running stitch, all of which I demonstrated using a hoop on a stand. Then I used props and quilt tops to demonstrate the techniques of piecing and applique, the use of templates, and modern rotary cutting (think pizza cutters) methods.

I also spoke about the rise of published patterns for quilters and about artists who designed both patterns and complete quilt designs in the early twentieth century. I had brought examples of traditional designs and artist-designed appliques to demonstrate the differences. I displayed quilt tops made in the 19th and 20th centuries using special fabrics : flannel flags, cigarette silkies, cigar silks, and cotton sacking. By the 1990s fabric manufacturers were making fabric just for quilters, such as landscape elements that can be combined into a scenic view, and I provided an example of a finished quilt using these special fabrics.

Since it was a genealogical convention, I brought an example of a quilt top made with the English paper piecing method and explained how I had researched the quilt’s templates to reveal the maker, Lillie E. H. Leeds. One listener, a young woman with a European accent, was unfamiliar with quilts and had a difficult time understanding why anyone would cut up perfectly good fabric and then sew it back together. But that is a topic or another article.