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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Quilting and Family History: Report from Road, Honoring Eleanor Burns

    The Family Curator meets with Eleanor Burns at
    Road to California Quilt Show in Ontario, California

    The Road to California Quilt Show is wonderful again this year. My first order of business was to visit one of my favorite booths, Beyond the Reef Patterns, and find the fabric to finish a baby quilt for nephew Ryan and his wife, Jordana. Baby Rojo (as they call her) is due soon, so I have to get busy. Natalie loved the quilt top made with their island-style fabrics and has already posted a picture of me with the quilt top on the shop blog.

    Then it was on to the floor of the convention center to view the quilt exhibits, talk to friends, and shop with the hundreds of vendors.

    Among my favorites are the historical and reproduction fabric and pattern lines. I am continually amazed at the beautiful reproduction fabrics designed by Judie Rothermel at Schoolhouse Quilts and by Froncie Quinn at Hoopla. Both design fabric lines from textiles at New England museums so that today's quilters can use authentic period colors and designs in new interpretations of antique quilts.

    One of my last stops at the end of a very long day was at Eleanor Burns' Quilt in a Day booth. Most quilters have heard of Eleanor, even if they didn't learn to quilt by her methods. I learned how to quilt from her! With a book on the table, I was able to design, cut, sew, and actually finish my first quilt. In fact, the pattern I am using for Baby Rojo is the same one I used for that first quilt and is still one of my favorites.

    Eleanor revolutionized the world of quilting with her first book in 1978, Make a Quilt in a Day Log Cabin. Her theme seems to be "you can do it." She helped people find success in quilting by rewriting patterns in plain language and streamlining construction techniques for modern equipment. And, everything was always done with a smile and a laugh.

    She has written quilt patterns and books featuring designs from the Civil War through the mid-20th century. Each book includes notes about the culture of the times and serve as a helpful memory-jogger for working with the period.

    Her latest book, Victory Quilts, is a treasure-trove for history-buffs and filled with stories about World War II and the 1940's. Anyone interested in making a special family memory quilt would enjoy the sampler patterns and Eleanor's conversational writing.

    Eleanor has been honored by many quilt guilds and associations for her contributions to the craft, and I think quilting family historians would also acknowledge her efforts to make history personal and more meaningful. I don't know if she compiles pedigrees or researches her family history, but for her contributions to family history and culture, I name Eleanor Burns to be an Honorary Family Historian.

    Is there someone in your sphere of interest whose work enriches that of genealogists and family history researchers? Perhaps they deserve to be an Honorary Family Historian too. If you write about them on your blog, post a comment here and I will round up the list for easy viewing.

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    Reader Comments (3)

    Such memories! My first quilt was made in a class taught by Eleanor Burns way-y-y-y back in the early 80's, and I still have that faded old, worn quilt! I second your nomination for a wonderful lady.

    January 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLinda in Lancaster

    Thanks for the "second" Linda. Isn't El a fabulous teacher? Always a smile and a word of encouragement. It was great fun to meet her again at Road.

    January 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDenise Levenick

    I am also going to make one quilt for me.

    January 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterquilting forum

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