Midwest America – Antique to Modern inspiration

Nauvoo barnLast week was spring break from school for our kids. We took a trip as a family to the American midwest – starting in Kansas City, Missouri and driving across Missouri and Illinois to Chicago. As our oldest is getting ready to graduate from High School next year, we are starting to realize how little time we have with everyone still at home! (It’s kind of scary!) So we’re trying to knock out as many bucket-list items with the kids as we can.

I won’t give you a full travelogue of the whole trip, but I did capture some pictures that you might enjoy. There was lots of inspiration to be found – both antique and modern – along the way. The one thing I didn’t get great pictures of were all of the beautiful barns as we drove across the rural landscape. So many great places to hang quilts for pictures!! It was killing me.

Harry Truman house

One of my first stops was the little town of Independence, Missouri. I’ve been listening to David McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman off and on for a while, so of course I had to see the house they lived in on Delaware Street. Such a picturesque house.

Mark Twain house

Another historic house along the way was the author Mark Twain’s boyhood home in Hannibal, Missouri. My kids were in the play Tom Sawyer last year at school (including the painting the fence scene) so that made it a little more relevant. Plus, Hannibal had lots of personality in that Mississippi river town – it was my first time seeing the Mississippi river in person – it’s massive!

Old Brick Store, Nauvoo-001

We stopped in another little town with some personal family history significance along the Mississippi river called Nauvoo in Illinois.


Nauvoo has a lot of historic homes and buildings that have been restored and opened to give you the feel of living in the 1840’s (think Sturbridge Village).


antique quilts

There was also a selection of beautiful antique quilts from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s.

Antique Quilts Nauvoo Illinois

Loved this Victorian-era striped diamonds quilt full of velvets and other fabrics with texture.

Antique six point stars quilt

I was feeling the solidarity with whoever made this 6-pointed star quilt after working on my own 6-point star quilt this year.

antique child's dress and quilt

Sweet, antique child’s dress.

vintage fan quiltLoved this early 20th century fan quilt – I think I need to make one of these with my retro fabrics. Love how the bright yellow ties them all together.Chicago

As I mentioned, our final stop was Chicago (where it snowed!) Fortunately there is lots to do inside in Chicago including all of the museums – perfect for our kids – and the view from the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower.) The cold didn’t stop us entirely – I still got my steps in visiting the Bean (aka Cloud Gateway) sculpture (can you spot me in my green coat?) and walking up Michigan Avenue.

Field Museum architecture Chicago

A little more inspiration from the Field Museum ceiling. (Chicago has some seriously great architectural gems.) Field Museum ChicagoOther beautiful design inspiration from ancient American pottery and this patchwork silk child’s coat from China. Love the colors!!


And then the absolutely not-to-be-missed, Art Institute of Chicago. One of my favorite places. I’ve only ever visited once before and that was 15 years ago. It was fantastic. (I studied Art History in college, so I’m a bit of a nerd in that realm. I was especially excited because there was a special Van Gogh exhibit – and he is my all-time favorite.)

Folk art

Loved this pretty folk-art detail wood inlay.

Chicago Art Institute

Also some great modern inspiration at the Art Institute – including (clockwise) the iconic American Gothic by Grant Wood, Grey Diamond by Ilya Bolotowsky, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, Sky Above Clouds IV by Georgia O’Keefe, and .


Finally, one last spot that we hit in Hamilton, Missouri, but it deserves it’s own post. So stay tuned! Any guesses? If you follow me on Instagram, you already know where this is. 😉

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  • Reply
    April 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    What a fun trip! I grew up in Lawrence Kansas. Kansas City and Chicago are both great cities. I studied theatre in college and the summer after I graduated we started a summer dinner theatre in Excelsior Springs. There’s a great old hotel there where Al Capone used to relax and I believe is where Truman found out he had won the presidency and that great photo of him was taken.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Isn’t the Mississippi terrific? The first time I saw it I had to go down to the edge, bend over, and run my finders through the water. I wanted to be a part of it somehow. I’ve been to the “Bean” and a cold windy day. It was worth the walk. Wish I had been able to go to the Art Institute – I missed out!

  • Reply
    Karen Seitz
    April 13, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    I love your travelogues. Your photos are always so amazing. Glad you had a fun time!

  • Reply
    Linda in PA
    April 13, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Sounds like a great trip! Did you visit The Hickory Stick quilt shop while you were in Hannibal? I try to get there when we visit our daughter’s family in Illinois.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I live in Southwest MO and love driving north to Hamilton. Next time you are in the area, you will want to stop in Weston, Missouri and visit Florelegium. ~Kelly

  • Reply
    April 13, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Such a great family vacation. I LOVE the Truman house. All the quilts were amazing, and to think we follow those same patterns today!

  • Reply
    Katie S.
    April 13, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful photos of your trip. I feel Ike I got to take a mini trip myself just looking at them! And I’m saving this post because there’s some wonderful color inspiration for me here–especially from the child’s Chinese patchwork silk coat.

  • Reply
    Katie S.
    April 13, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Oh yes–must be Missouri Star Quilt and the lovable Jenny Doan. I hope you got to meet her. I can’t help wishing she was my Mom too when I see her videos. What was she really like in person (if you did get to meet her)???

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      April 15, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      She is totally just as happy and enthusiastic in real life! She was a gem.

  • Reply
    Little Quiltsong
    April 14, 2016 at 4:36 am

    Love, love this Mural by the Missouri Star Quilt Co. Thank You for sharing your holiday adventures. Loved seeing all the beautiful pictures and hearing the history of the places. Family time is best :)!

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 7:00 am

    It looks like an amazing trip with the family. Chicago has always been one of my favorite cities to visit.

  • Reply
    Rosemary B
    April 14, 2016 at 7:02 am

    Wonderful photos Amy. I am so glad you got a very productive family vacation all in one week!
    Very nice. What beautiful antique quilts
    Yes, the high school days go very quickly. The events that fill up each year are a whirlwind
    Thank you for sharing all of your pictures. I do love that fan quilt!

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 7:29 am

    What a fun trip! I was at the art museum a few years ago and took so many pictures for the quilting inspiration. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually make a quilt using them! It’s great that you realize how little time you have left together. Our youngest is graduating college in May and I miss having all 3 of mine together for more than a holiday meal. She’ll be moving to Florida on the first of June, so I’ll really miss her, at least the other two are close!

  • Reply
    Linda in STL
    April 14, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I was at the MSQC with my daughter a couple of weeks ago on our slow road trip back to her college in Iowa after spring break. Her favorite place in Hamilton? A recliner in Man’s Land! We then headed north to Dunn Ranch Prairie (sat in a blind as the sun rose and watched male prairie chickens strut their stuff), Winterset IA (John Wayne museum, covered bridges, and–very soon–the Iowa Quilt Museum–will need to go back!), Des Moines (Raygun, Waveland Diner, and Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge) and then east a bit and back to school for her. I love the Midwest! Another stop on my bucket list: Kalona IA and its Quilt & Textile Museum.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      April 15, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      Hah! Thank goodness for Man’s Land! That’s where my family hung out too. 😉

      Sounds like a great trip!

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    What a fun trip!! Used to work for company that had offices @ the Hancock downtown, annual meetings near museums…so many of your photos gave me walk down memory lane! Thanks! Glad you got to the Art Institute and the Van Gogh, but esp liked your visit to the Bean!! Keep quilting and writing- I love it all!

  • Reply
    Sandra B
    April 15, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Great pictures, Amy!
    Thanks for sharing your trip with us…and…..I love that fan quilt! Like you, I think I also need to make one….one of these days!!

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