Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs and artwork from people in all parts of New York State. Voices is the Societys membership magazine. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Join NYFS today to receive this new membership magazine!
Voices features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs, and artwork drawn from people in all parts of New York State, folklorists and non-folklorists alike. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Informative columns on subjects such as legal issues, photography, sound and video recording, archiving, ethics, and the nature of traditional art and life appear on a regular basis.
|Look inside ⇓
VOICES, Vol. 42, Fall–Winter 2016
What always strikes me about
Voices is its clarity and openness,
both in design and content. It’s
inviting, lively, and readable and has
plenty of variety. It presents artists
and communities with respect
and sensitivity, yet one learns too
about what folklorists do and who
they are. Voices gives a picture of
New York State and its people that
cannot be found elsewhere.
—Anna Lomax Wood, Director,
Association for Cultural Equity
LISTEN to New York Folklore Society’s executive director, Ellen McHale interviewed by Steve Black for his radio show, “Periodical Radio,” about Voices.
⇐LOOK INSIDE back issues of Voices
FROM THE EDITOR
From the Fall–Winter
2016 issue of Voices:
Thirty years ago I began
my first consultant job
as a folklorist in upstate
Crandall Library wanted
to expand their budding
Folk Arts Program
and agreed with the folks
at the New York State Council on the Arts
that a young folklorist working and studying
in Washington, DC, could breathe new life
into their program.
I was to conduct a Folk Arts Survey of
Warren County, New York. The emphasis
was on finding “folk arts” and those “folk
artists” that could be a part of a festival or
workshop series. My job was to inspire the
folks at Crandall with the wealth of folk art
in their own backyard and the possibilities
of future programming.
Warren County is where the Hudson
River rises into the Adirondack foothills.
A place of hardscrabble farms, logging
and wood lots, hunting and fishing, and
150 years worth of tourism. My journey
that summer became more ethnographic
in approach, searching for those activities,
splashes of creativity, and their practitioners
that helped define the region. It was about
letting the region and its people speak for
themselves, and taking the time to listen.
That summer, I first encountered the tied
quilts of the Johnsburg United Methodist
Women (UMW). Not overly structured in
design, these tied quilts were made of lots
of little scrap pieces of material, somehow
coming together into a colorful whole. This
fun-loving group of women raised money
with church suppers and craft sales at locally
affordable prices, proudly pointing out the
“Ladies Aid Society” stained glass window,
symbolizing generations of hard work in
support of their small country church.
For the next several years, Johnsburg
UMW worked closely with Crandall Library’s
Folk Arts Project. We co-hosted an annual
quilt and needlework show to document local
textiles, and they provided a sampler tied
quilt for our growing archive of folk culture.
They also helped us experiment with ways to
present local traditions to a general audience
by participating in festivals, children’s workshops,
and other activities.
I remembered being questioned by colleagues
about the use of the label “tied quilt”
rather than “comforter” and even about the
validity of calling these quilts “folk art,” given
the use of sewing machines rather than handwork.
I learned to rely on the wisdom of these
women, who patiently told me, “Of course
we all use sewing machines to make tied
quilts—it makes the work go quicker.” One
proudly showed me her Singer sewing machine,
the same machine her grandmother
used to make quilts at the end of the 19th
Looking back to that summer 30 years ago,
I was the one to be inspired. I learned not
to be limited by my own preconceived constructs,
but to listen and to learn from the folk
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library
|Program text from “An Adirondack Quilt Show: A Celebration of the Tied Tradition,”Wevertown Community Hall, Saturday, August 13, 1988, 10–4 p.m. Rain or Shine.|
Tied quilts have a long history in the Adirondack North Country. For generations, they have been
used as bedcovers at home and in the lumber camp, placed in hope chests by prospective brides,
given to neighbors in need, and sold to raise money for the local church.
Quilts are commonly three layers: the backing, batting, and top. The backing is often simple, not
given much attention, since it is the underside of the quilt. The batting is the interlining, once only
made of cotton or wool (though sometimes an old blanket was used). Bats are now also made of
synthetic fibers, and said by some to make quilt care easier. The top is the decorative side of the quilt.
Pieces of material are sown together into blocks, these blocks then used to form the overall design.
Tying and quilting are two different ways to fasten the three layers of a quilt. North Country families
often practiced both techniques, but relied on tying for the enormous task of making their own
bedcovers. In the tying process, spaced threads are passed through the layers of the quilt and tied
into knots. Tying is quicker than quilting and allows a thicker batting to be used for a warmer cover.
A tradition of “waste not, want not” has influenced the choice of materials used in tied quilts.
Scraps are commonly salvaged from family sewing projects. Other materials have included leftover
scraps from making shirttails at a local factory, cloth grain bags that came in an assortment of prints
and patterns, and even unworn portions of wool jackets and pants. New material, when used, is often
bought on sale or donated.
Such scraps are preferred by many of the area’s longtime tied quilters. They like the effect of combining
materials of many different colors and patterns, and say that the more little pieces you have,
the better the variety, and the faster the top comes together.
Many area women learned to make tied quilts from older relatives. Pauline Waddell, who has tied
quilts all her life, recalls learning the skill at home:
“I started in while I was a teenager or maybe a little bit younger, working on these quilts at night
with my mother. We pieced them by hand. I guess that would be seen as kind of tame to teenagers
now, spending your evening, piecing quilts. But I did. Long winter evenings. That’s the way we spent
Others have learned within quilting groups. Some of the most common in this area are the United
Methodist Women organizations. Located in Johnsburg, North Creek, North River, Wevertown, and
Porter Corners, these groups help to support their churches while keeping alive the tradition of tied
These quilts have been used and enjoyed, not tucked away. Tops made a generation or more ago
are given backing and batting, and are tied by the new generation. In some, colors are faded and
materials are worn from constant use. Sometimes patches are added where the material has worn
clear through. These are quilts used and loved by the present owners, to be passed on with pride to
The taxpayers are hollering,
and the state’s contribution
to this wonderful little
magazine has been
drastically cut. Those of
us who read it all the way
through have to all chip in.
—Pete Seeger, musician and activist,
Beacon, New York
VISIT our online gallery bookstore to purchase back issues.
|Meet Todd DeGarmo, Voices Acquisitions Editor|
Todd DeGarmo is the acquisitions editor for Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore, leading an editorial team which includes Ellen McHale as executive editor, Patricia Mason as copy editor, and Laurie Longfield as Voices’ manager. Todd took over this editorship from Dr. Eileen Condon who served as acquisitions editor from 2007–2012.
Todd is the founding director of the Center for Folklife, History and Cultural Programs at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY. Todd is a former board member and past president of the New York Folklore Society. He brings a wealth of knowledge and prior experience to the position of acquisitions editor, including a knowledge of Japanese culture, Adirondack studies, tourism, and architectural studies.
Send Your Story
Did you know that Voices publishes
creative writing, including creative
fiction (such as short stories), creative
nonfiction (such as memoirs
and life/work stories), and poetry?
We also publish artistic and ethnographic
photography and artwork, in
addition to research-based articles on
New York State folk arts and artists.
If you are one of New York’s many
traditional artists or working in a traditional
boat building, traditional healing,
instrument making, firefighting,
and nursing, to name a few—please
consider sharing your life or work
story with the readers of Voices: The
Journal of New York Folklore. Check
out our new column heading First
Person, which spotlights folk artists
and folk arts workers, giving creative
people space in each issue to share
their life stories in their own words.
First Person allows people to share
the reasons they have spent a lifetime
supporting or recreating New York’s
diverse traditions, passing them
down through generations—whether
it’s gardening, carving, roots music,
village dancing, egg decorating,
weaving, quilting, fiddling, traditional
singing, basketry, ethnic foodways,
traditional calligraphy, or home altar
building. Email the
acquisitions editor of Voices, at
Check our submission guidelines for authors.
Send your letter to the editor here
writers. We write
every day: monographs
articles, field notes,
festival and event brochures,
grant applications, final
reports, press releases, proposals. In fact,
I would say that time spent writing is more
than fifty percent of any folklorist’s annual
cycle of work. The essentials of folklorethe ethnographic materialare fundamental
to a great story. As any fieldworker can
attest, entering into the personal experience
of another individual is expansive and illuminating.
The everyday becomes novel when
viewed from the viewpoint of the uninitiated.
The job of the folklorist is to translate
that experience to those who may not get
the opportunity to go through it themselves
and to help the reader to find meaning in the
—Ellen McHale, PhD, Executive Director, NYFS
|What is Folklife?|
The everyday and intimate creativity that all of
us share and pass on to the next generation:
The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to
Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories
Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking
Our childhood games and rhymes
The way we celebrate life
– from birthing our babies to honoring our dead
The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs
– religious, medical, magical, and social
Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions
The way we decorate our world
– from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies
The crafts we create by hand
– crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs
Patterns and traditions of work
– from factory to office cubicle
The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group
Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade.
In the end ... we are all folk.
—American Folklife Center
Library of Congress, Washington, DC