Fall Quilt Market 2010 – Michael Miller – Tammis Keefe Tribute

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

If you’ve read True Up or my old craft blog Dioramarama for any amount of time, you probably know that midcentury textile designer Tammis Keefe holds a very special place in my heart (here’s a link to all my posts tagged with her name).

Handkerchiefs were Keefe’s speciality but she was a surface designer in the larger sense, also designing scarves, tea towels, napkins, placemats, tablecloths, furnishing fabrics, wallpaper, playing cards, and more. She had a great creative imagination and eye for color, and no matter what she drew, it always had a touch of whimsy and sweetness. She was incredibly prolific and her textiles are highly collectible today, though her name is not as well known as contemporaries like Vera Neumann. She also worked under the pen name Peg Thomas.

Her life was somewhat of a mystery, but once you’re drawn into her world you want to know all you can. The author of this tribute website went so far as to pen a detailed genealogy.

I have to admit I was kind of nervous when I heard a market or two ago that Michael Miller was seeking to reproduce some of Keefe’s designs. As a fan of a somewhat obscure artist you want things to be done as true to the originals as possible. I needn’t have worried because the folks at Michael Miller fell in love with Tammis and clearly feel the same way and approached this project with a huge amount of respect for her legacy. The spirit of the drawings is 100% there, just translated into repeat designs. They preserved the original colorways, included her signature, and even printed their first cotton-linen blends since the tea towels were originally printed on linen. They turned up a photo of her, and lots of interesting information that was new to me, like the fact that she lived with advertising maven and author Jane Trahey, who wrote the book On Women & Power. Kathy Miller speculated that the character Peggy Olson in Mad Men was at least partially inspired by Trahey’s story. Keefe also worked for Dorothy Wright Liebes, known as “the mother of modern weaving.”

So Michael Miller unveiled the first (and hopefully not last) Tammis Keefe Tribute collections at this Market, and it is by far the most exciting collection this year for me personally.  The first image in this post is one of the quilting cotton prints. Below, MM’s “shrine” to Tammis, including the original hankies, napkins, and tea towels. Sorry, but my photos of it didn’t turn out that well!

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

And below are more quilting cotton prints. The dogs and cats each come in a red/gray/tan and pink/black/gray colorway.

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

(that shadow is probably me diving in to hug this fabric)

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

More quilting cottons:

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

This cats and birds (and chickens!) print is on a cotton-linen blend:

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

And below, a few Christmas prints. The reindeer are cotton and the Christmas trees and angels are printed on cotton-linen as panels, so you can have your very own Tammis Keefe tea towel without having to troll eBay!

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

Michael Miller - Tammis Keefe

The Tammis Keefe Tribute collection will be in stores very soon. Please, for me?!?, buy tons of it and make it a huge success so that they do more. I think the owls, alligators, and birds/cages prints would make great retro dresses, you know, the kind with the big full skirts that require like 8 yards of fabric. Ahem. And can you imagine what a hit you’d be at holiday parties in a dress made out of the “santa whipping cowering, besweatered reindeer” print?

Keefe died of cancer at the age of 46, so Michael Miller is donating all royalties for this line in her name to help fund cancer research. Even more reason to stock up!

25 Comments

  1. jenny says:

    Those are wonderful. I had stopped updating my fabric wish list but I reopened the file today to add that one and the V&A collection.

  2. Jenni says:

    Oh I’m so incredibly excited. I have a few tea towels in my collection.

    And I love that MM is donating the royalties. Awesome!

  3. kim says:

    well, it’s official. i’m in love.

  4. Deborah says:

    My rep dropped the ball and showed me neither the linen blends nor did he tell me that the royalties are being donated. I grabbed a handful of these, but am off to add more to our in-coming collection at the shop! All for a good cause, of course. Nothing self-serving at all…

  5. melissa wood says:

    wonderful!!! why have I not known about her before?
    I love it ALL.

    Your posts are so great, Kim!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Kim, I have loved your blog ever since I found it, and now, JUST FOR YOU, I will force myself to buy fabric that is utterly, totally, completely fabulous. Lots of it, if possible. Anything to say thank you.

  7. Eleanor says:

    Holy cow! I’d never heard of Tammis Keefe before but now I cannot wait — CANNOT WAIT!!! — to get my hands on this. These prints are just extraordinary! I’m having one of those awful, annoying days of work but I popped over here for my lunch break and now I’m just in a tizzy of excitement for all the quilts I can make with these fabulous, fabulous prints. Thank you a million times over, Kim, for writing True Up and helping those of us who can’t go to Market keep up on all the great stuff going on in the fabric design world!

  8. Kerry says:

    I recently discovered Tammis Keefe and I am waiting for a dog handkerchief from ebay in the grey/pink colourway as above designs so I couldn’t believe it when I saw your post today. The fabrics look amazing. Thank you for the preview.

  9. Kathleen says:

    First of all, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the best quilt market coverage ever! Then I want to let you know that of course I will do my part to buy as much Tammis Keefe fabric as possible as soon as I can find it for sale!

  10. mjb says:

    I love reading your passion and excitement about this fabric just exploding through this post!

  11. Nathalie says:

    I have a couple of her hankies – I would happily own them all, but they go for such high prices sometimes! Very grateful to the people from Michael Miller to have democratised her prints… and I want them all, they are so fabulous. The V&A prints and now these… it’s going to be an expensive year!

  12. Mary P says:

    Wow. These are fantastic. It really looks like they did a fabulous job of paying tribute to her. The colorways are spot on. I may have to buy a lot of fabric now…

  13. Angie says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on these wonderful fabrics – I can’t wait to buy them all! I have been a Tammis Keefe fan for several years, since starting a collection of vintage hankies. MM has done a fantastic job reproducing the spirit of Keefe’s textiles!

  14. Lizzie says:

    I cannot say how happy this makes me. The colorways are perfect, and her signature on the prints just seals the deal for me.

    Thank you Michael Miller.

  15. Jasonda says:

    Wow!!! I love every single one of these prints! I think this is my favorite collection of the entire year… her illustration style is just amazing and these great designs certainly deserve to be revived.

  16. Cathy A says:

    These were far and away my favorites from Michael Miller at Quilt Market.

  17. Diane says:

    I love these fabrics. I have a handkerchief with the bird design I bought in a bundle at a yard sale years ago and it has always been one of my favorites. It will be so great to see these designs re-born as fabric. They will definitely be on my list to watch for and purchase. I hope they will continue releases of vintage prints like this!

  18. elsa says:

    love the fabric! will be on the look out for it!

  19. Laura says:

    Love it! Thanks so much for the preview post!

  20. [...] of Kim’s reports from the International Quilt Market in Houston over on True Up . The new fabric preview that has me most excited is for the Tammis Keefe tribute collection from Michael Miller. Keefe was a prolific mid-century [...]

  21. [...] of Kim’s reports from the International Quilt Market in Houston over on True Up . The new fabric preview that has me most excited is for the Tammis Keefe tribute collection from Michael Miller. Keefe was a prolific mid-century [...]

  22. [...] Fall Quilt Market 2010 – Michael Miller – Tammis Keefe Tribute Sorry, but my photos of it didn't turn out that well! Michael Miller – Tammis Keefe. And below are more quilting cotton prints The dogs and cats each come in a red/gray/tan and pink/black/gray colorway. Michael Miller – Tammis Keefe . [...]

  23. [...] Miller is reproducing Tammis Keefe now….I had never heard her name before this year, but I definitely recognize her work from [...]