Joseph Schneider Haus: Wash Day Blues Quilt

In May, 2008 I saw my sister, Greta, for the last time alive.

I saw her again 6 months later on her death bed.  That wasn’t living.  But I did see her in May, and we went together to the Schneider Haus, as we had three or four times in Mays before, to see their quilts and to talk to the people at this old Mennonite settlement, preserved as kind of a living museum of what the early days in Kitchener Waterloo must have been like.

On this day we talked with the museum folk about the furniture in the rooms, about the quilting, about the worm composting they were doing.  We wondered, in fact, at how their composting could be so dry, when ours is perpetually wet.  And I lingered at the front desk, where, as we were about to leave, I pointed out to my wife, Diana, the request for submissions for squares for their annual themed quilt. Well, maybe, she thought.  And Greta urged her to take the material, sign up to receive the required piece of cloth to include, and she could decide not to do it later if . . .  And Diana did sign up.

She got the piece in the mail, the theme was Wash Day Blues.  We’ve talked now for years about the convergence of labor and art in the quilting process;  and here, with the theme itself engaged the concept as well.

In November Greta died and Diana worked earnestly on the piece to submit to Joseph Schneider Haus.  Diana wrote about it when she submitted the piece, April 2009:

My block is bordered in blue fabric with small white hearts representing memories contained in love.  I remember the

Schneider Haus Block

women in my northern Wisconsin family who always hung the wash outside on a clothesline.  The open air and sunshine made everything smell fresh and feel soft.  I didn’t always enjoy pegging the clothes onto the clothesline, but I always enjoyed taking the laundry down!

In this block I am also remembering my sister-in-law, Greta Cramer.  Greta introduced me to the Joseph Schneider Haus and to the annual Mennonite Relief Quilt Auction when she learned of my renewed interest in quilts.  I used the challenge fabric to make the small quilt (which is being hung on the clothesline) as a reference to Greta’s consideration and concern for me.

Last May, when my husband and I made our annual visit to Waterloo to celebrate her birthday, Greta didn’t feel strong enough to attend the auction, but she suggested we visit the Joseph Schneider Haus together.  It was then that I learned about the Quilt Block Contest.  She encouraged me to make an entry.

Greta died in November, 2008.  Finishing this block has been a labor of love and remembrance.

Preparing the Quilts for the Buyers - Quilt Auction 2008

As Diana noted, Greta did not accompany us to the big Mennonite Relief Quilt Auction, a tremendous production that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Diana and I went, had their special breakfast, wandered the grounds, spent time in the great arena (a hockey arena of course) where the auction took place, and browsed the various booths and food stands.  Thousands of people mingled.  Inside the arena at the quilt auction,  some 200 quilts  sold for as little as $75 to as much as (in 2008) $20,000. Outside under the trees various odds and ends were auctioned off,   usually for less than $25  — tools, kitchenware, gardening implements, toys etc.  In between the two auctions, just outside the quilt arena, one vendor without a booth professed to sell nothing and was willing to bargain over how much his nothing cost.

We returned year after year to the auction; we did not intend  to bid. We just watched.  The fair was always convivial and joyful (except for the occasions when the bidding accelerated into a war, usually between two stores that coveted a particularly fine quilt each one wanted for its own collection) and we’ve picked up a bargain or two in the various booths.  We’d complete our day by making our way to the place where an army of volunteers was creating  fresh strawberry pie, made on the spot.  This last was a participatory experience, not simply an observational one.

You can see some of the photos here of the fair.  You can get a sense of the organization that it requires, the number of volunteers

Quilt Auction in Progress - Back of Auditorium 2008

involved, the immensity of the work involved in some of the quilts.  The crowd, as you can see, is enormous, at least early on.  As time wears on the audience dwindles, and if you can wait long enough, your chances of getting a deal are greater as the interest wanes.  The auctioneers are professionals who volunteer, about 5 of them who alternate the demands are so great.  Runners (also auctioneers) work the audience, reporting the bids and urging the bidders to greater heights.

In the back are the racks where the quilts are staged and the prospective buyers along with those who have come only to admire. Volunteers with their special gloves for handling the quilts bring them to the stage, where others lay them out on a table, get them ready for the display board, then place them where the audience can see them.  When the sale is complete, the quilt is removed, bundled, and gotten ready to give to the lucky buyer.

*           *           *

Some time last year we learned that Diana’s piece was accepted, and more, she won an honorable mention in the beginners category.  Schneider Haus notified us that the quilt was being bound and photos would be available soon.  We’ve just gotten notification that the quilt has been hanging in the Schneider Haus, and we have the photos to show. You may have difficulty locating the square, but if you look closely at the lower left corner, you will find it.  The quilt

Sold for $20,000!!! Featured Quilt 2008

itself is rather a beautiful combination of work, one which does bring together, visually as well as in the material that makes up the work, labor and art.

Wash Day Blues

Wash Day Blues Hanging in Joseph Schneider Haus

Wash Day Blues Hanging in Joseph Schneider Haus

Posted in Art, Labor. 1 Comment »

June 6 Automation and Robotics News from Tony Zaragoza

Automation and Robotics News–June 6, 2010

Highlights: HP increasing automation and cutting 9000 jobs, automation eases worker scarcity[?], debates around the coming structural employment crisis, Old: Soviet moon robot, New: Japanese moon robot base, driverless buses, automating China further, and more

Click here for Archives including all stories in this post.  Clicking on each title will take you to the article.


Robots infiltrate fish schools, garner followers

Tim Hornyak ·  Sat May 29 2010

Researcher Maurizio Porfiri is developing robotic fish that can lead schools of real fish. One possible application is to use the machines to keep fish away from dangerous areas.

Cute Qbot aims to be Model T of robots

Tim Hornyak ·  Tue May 25 2010

Qbot is a prototype home robot that can interact with its user and avoid obstacles. Developer Francisco Paz says it will be an open-source machine that will be cheap enough to garner many users.

Monkey brain controls robot arm, hand

Tim Hornyak ·  Fri Jun 4 2010

University of Pittsburgh researchers have hooked a monkey’s brain up with an industrial robot arm, giving the animal’s mere thoughts direct control of it.

Wobble-proof Navy crane can offload cargo at sea

Tim Hornyak ·  Thu Jun 3 2010

The U.S. Navy’s experimental automated crane allows vessels to offload cargo in rough seas, eliminating the need for a deep-water port.

HP to cut 9,000 jobs, take $1 billion charge

Lance Whitney  ·  Tue Jun 1 2010

Hewlett-Packard is spending $1 billion and cutting 9,000 jobs in a restructuring designed to consolidate and invigorate its enterprise services. The company announced Tuesday that it plans to spend the money to invest in a series of commercial data centers . . .


Military Roomba Cleans Land Mines With Explosions
Jesus Diaz  06/01/10

Like its domestic ancestor, iRobot’s new military robot is also a cleaning machine. But instead of dust devils, this one cleans land mines and barbwire obstacles. It works using the Mk7 Anti-personell Obstacle Breaching System. Not subtle, but extremely effective.


Elections automation, a lemon?

BusinessWorld Online – Carol Pagaduan-Araullo – May 27, 2010

Comelec allowed all these violations and circumvention of the automation law as well as its contract with Smartmatic. It tried to minimize or cover up the … In brief, two things are imperative: . . .

Smarter robots set to replace clumsier ones

Sify – May 27, 2010

Scientists are developing faster and smarter robots that would not only replace their clumsier counterparts, but also use much less energy, says a new study.  The goal eventually is to design the first robot that can move 10 km within 10,000 seconds, through and over obstacles, using less energy than it would take a human to do the same task. ‘Researchers have been working toward robot locomotion for a long time based mostly on experience and intuition,’ said Jonathan Hurst, assistant professor of robotics and mechanical design at the Oregon State University (OSU).

Automation in spinning reaps rich rewards – May 29, 2010

In yarn producing technology in textile industries, ring frame is one of the most important components.  During the last two decades components of ring spinning machines have been greatly improved, changes in drafting system, drive systems and robotics have enabled large gains in productivity, flexibility and quality.  Most of the technical advances in ring spinning were aimed at improving the performances on the existing technology. These are all achieved by the automation. . . .

Women’s vests Automation eases worker scarcity

Global Sources – May 27, 2010

As China’s labor shortage drives up compensation expenses and impedes productivity, suppliers of knitted vests and cardigans are taking steps to diminish reliance on manual processes. The primary reason for the manpower deficit is that migrant workers are choosing to stay in their hometowns, where comparable pay can be obtained in a setting with a lower cost of living. . . .

Martin Ford: The Coming Structural Unemployment Crisis

USA Trends (blog) – Neal Tolani – May 25, 2010

Previously, I’ve argued here that job automation technology might someday advance to the point where most routine or repetitive jobs will be performed by machines or software, and that, as a result, we may end up with severe structural unemployment. . . .

How Much Unemployment Will Automation Cause?

Automation World – Gary Mintchell – Jun 2, 2010

This thought, and more, were spurred by a book that suddenly appeared on my desk this spring for review. We don’t have a book review column at Automation World, though a good book may spur an interview or article. In this case, . . .
HP Job Cuts: Automation Is The New Offshoring

IT Business Edge (blog) – Jun 2, 2010

By date: Is process automation the new offshoring? I made that case several months back, noting that companies may increasingly opt for automation over …

Future Workforce

Automation World – Jim Pinto – Jun 2, 2010

With quality and productivity that cannot be matched by people, automation continues to eliminate jobs. Automation technology, together with the emergence of offshore workers equipped with increasingly sophisticated technology tools, will continue to move up the food chain, steadily encroaching on higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs. . . .

Soon, That Nearby Worker Might Be a Robot – Rachael King – Jun 2, 2010

One of Linda Muniz’s newest colleagues is a robot that makes deliveries. On a recent morning, Muniz greeted the robot as it rolled up to the nursing station at El Camino Hospital in the Silicon Valley community of Mountain View, Calif., and announced its presence in a polite female voice.

Robots Can Create Jobs, Too

Industrial robots can help companies compete by boosting quality and productivity. That’s ultimately a benefit for American labor

By Jeff Burnstein Special Report June 1, 2010

If you work in an American manufacturing company today, you should be worried about your job. I live in Michigan and have witnessed the destruction caused by shuttered factories and jobs shipped overseas. When plants close, whole communities suffer. With unemployment at about 14 percent or higher in Michigan, it’s not surprising some workers are afraid of robots capable of working seven days a week, 24 hours a day with great accuracy and reliability, capable of performing many tasks better than people.

Japanese Robots Building Moon Base

Escapist Magazine – May 29, 2010

In fact, it might be boiling over, with the Japanese government allocating $2.2 billion to send robots to the Moon to build a base.

Japan to colonize the moon, with robots

New York Daily News – Joe Tacopino – Jun 1, 2010

The Japanese space agency is embarking on a mammoth $2.2 billion project to put humanoid robots on the moon and create an unmanned robot …

Octavia the Android, a Real-Life Rosie the Robot

FOXNews – John R. Quain – May 26, 2010

Designed to support and work closely with humans, the Navy’s Octavia the Android may remind you of the Jetson’s Rosie the Robot.

BP turns to robot subs after mud fails

New Zealand Herald – May 30, 2010

BP has been forced to focus on a new option after the most ambitious bid yet to stop the worst oil spill in United States history ended in failure yesterday.. . .BP immediately began readying its next attempted fix, using robot submarines to cut the pipe and cap it . . .

Stroke-diagnosing robot links Frankfort hospital, U of L

By Cheryl Truman –  , Friday, May. 28, 2010

FRANKFORT — The Franklin Regional Medical Center on Thursday rolled out — literally — its newest tool in stroke diagnosis: a “remote presence physician robot” that will allow University of Louisville doctors to recognize strokes and other neurological ailments within minutes.

Industrial robot manufacturer ABB capture 30 percent of UK market

Materials Handling World Magazine – May 25, 2010

ABB has captured over 30% share of the UK market for industrial robots in the first three months of 2010, according to results available from the British

Robot Lawn Mower – Robby Garden XP

Gadget Venue (blog) – 19 hours ago

by Matthew on May 29, 2010 The Robby Garden XP is a robot lawn mower that has a number of advanced features.

HP to cut 9000 jobs, invest in automation

Northern Colorado Business Report – Jun 1, 2010

The company also said that, “as a result of productivity gains and automation, HP expects to eliminate roughly 9000 positions over a multi-year period to …

Automation Is New Key In Green IT

Greentech Media – Jun 2, 2010

The most effective way to turn information technology green might be as simple as automating it. That way IT administrators are more likely to use it and …

Automation of Azerbaijani State Treasury Agency to be completed

Trend News Agency (subscription) – Jun 1, 2010

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Finance plans to complete automation of the control system of the State Treasury Agency until August, Finance Minister Samir …

To manage its storage needs, UMKC library goes vertical with retrieval robots

Kansas City Star – <>Edward M. Eveld – Jun 4, 2010

Four stories of bins towered above workers on Wednesday as they made adjustments to the robot that retrieves items requested by library patrons. …

Robots with ‘human’ vision to be used to work in nuclear reactors

Daily Mail – Jun 2, 2010

By Daily Mail Reporter Scientists are developing robots that have eyesight that works in the same way as human vision. The robots will be able to determine …

Researcher’s Robots Learn From Environment, Not Programming

UA News (press release) – <>Monica Everett-Haynes – Jun 2, 2010

Ian Fasel said that in building self-teaching robots, researchers can learn much more about the naturally occurring behaviors in humans, such as why young …

Soviet lunar robot returns first laser pulse to Earth in 40 years

SlashGear (blog) -Shane McGlaun – Jun 4, 2010

No the picture below isn’t a steam punk hot tub, and it’s not a prop left over from the Flash Gordon series either. The thing you see below if the Soviet lunar rover called Lunokhod 1. . . .

French Rugby develops scrum simulator

Sydney Morning Herald – 17 hours ago

AP France’s rugby and engineering prowess have come together in an unusual combination – a six-legged rugby robot intended to help improve player …

Robot travel agents ‘would free up staff to see the world’

Travel Weekly UK – Jun 3, 2010

Robots should replace travel agents to deliver information to clients and take bookings, according to a leading travel design director.


Motoman Inc. and Yaskawa Electric America, Inc. Combine

Posted: 06/02/2010 Motoman Inc. and Yaskawa Electric America, Inc. announced today that they will combine to form Yaskawa America, Inc.


Robot Bus Moves People, No Driver Needed

Erico Guizzo // Thu, June 03, 2010

French company Robosoft has unveiled what it calls a “cybernetic transport system.” The robuRIDE carries 30 passengers and reaches 24 kilometers per hour, driving autonomously using differential GPS and onboard sensors. . .

iRobot Demonstrates New Weaponized Robot

Palmisano // Sun, May 30, 2010

iRobot released today new video of its Warrior robot, a beefed up version of the more well-known PackBot, demonstrating use of the APOBS, or Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System, an explosive line charge towed by a rocket, with a small parachute holding back the end of the line. The APOBS, iRobot says, is designed for “deliberate breaching of anti-personnel minefields and multi-strand wire obstacles.”


The Story of How Industrial Robots Began

June 04, 2010

Today, industrial robots are a common sight. You can find them everywhere – from small job shops to large automotive lines. But it wasn’t always like this. In reality, the 6-axis, articulated, industrial robot is a fairly recent invention, albeit one that involved many designs, inventors, and companies. An American inventor, George Devol, . . .


Microsoft announces Robotics Developer Studio now for free

Markus Waibel on 04 Jun 2010,

In a surprising move, Microsoft has announced that its Robotics Developer Studio, or RDS is now available to anyone for free! The big package of programming and simulation tools for robotics has previously been available in 3 different versions with various limitations and costs. By offering its new release with all capabilities bundled at no cost, . . .


Boeing X-51A WaveRider Breaks Record in 1st Flight

WaveRider launched fro B-52H Stratofortress and goes hypersonic.

By Robotics Trends Staff

05.30.2010 — Ramjet based, WaveRider flies autonomously for more than 200 seconds reaching an altitude of about 70,000 feet and an approximate speed of Mach 5. In its first flight attempt, the Boeing [NYSE: BA] X-51A WaveRider successfully completed the longest supersonic combustion ramjet-powered flight in history—nearly three and a half minutes at a top speed of Mach 5.  . . .


Botched Operation Using da Vinci Robot Spurs Lawsuit

Wall Street Journal – John Carreyrou – May 25, 2010

A woman whose ureters were accidentally cut during a surgery with the da Vinci robot last year filed a lawsuit against Wentworth-Douglass …

Automating the Dragon – Opinion

Rising labor costs present opportunities for the foreign companies that will help China mechanize its factories.


The words “Made in China” usually conjure images of row upon row of low-wage workers manufacturing cheap toys or stitching inexpensive garments. But Chinese manufacturers are starting to climb up the value chain. Not only are the goods produced changing, but so are factory floors as manufacturers embrace more sophisticated technology to replace increasingly expensive labor.