A Quilt Block Mystery

About 6 months ago I had an email from someone in Massachusetts that I didn't know (oh, the joys of the internet!). Catherine was writing to me about some quilt blocks that a friend of hers had bought at a yard sale while she was visiting Nova Scotia. Unfortunately her friend doesn't remember where in Nova Scotia she found them. Catherine was writing because she thought that these blocks should come back to Nova Scotia, perhaps to a museum and would I be interested in helping her, needless to say I jumped right in!

There are 30 blocks in all, they are all the same pattern but only a couple are the same fabric combination. The most interesting thing about these blocks is that they are signature blocks, each one is signed and most are dated and in most cases there is a place name.

I love this block, it has 5 different fabrics. The verse reads "Know then this truth, Enough for man to know, Virtue above is happiness below" Johannah Stone 18th January 1848

This is the back of the above block, see how the centre was just a bit too small so a very narrow strip of white was added to the bottom.

This is the oldest block signed by Eunis Holloway, Kempt, March 21, 1842

This is one of the "newest" ones signed in 1857 and it reads "Except this token of esteem, While under this you sweetly dream, May no false friendship harm thy..., While under this you sweetly rest. Sophia J Nichols" A lovely sentiment to write on a quilt.

The signatures date from 1842 to 1857! Most of the place names are in Queens County (Liverpool area) of Nova Scotia. One is from Halifax and a couple from Cornwallis. Three were from Brookfield, I was curious about those ones as Brookfield is quite a distance away especially in the 1840's. Then I searched further on Google maps and found there is a Brookfield in Queens County. I am a bit stumped about Cornwallis though, as the only one I can find is in Annapolis County, directly on the other side of the province from Liverpool. What a find! They are all hand stitched and you can tell they were made by different people as the stitches do vary. Some are quite exquisite and fine, others are not!Most just have about 1/8" seam allowance. Most are made with two fabrics, some three and one or two have several different fabrics.


I am so grateful to Catherine for finding me and mailing the blocks to me. I have shared them with quite a few quilters, everyone has their own idea as to why someone would have made these over a 17 year period. I am looking forward to visiting the Queens Quilters next month and showing the blocks to them. After that I will deliver them to Simeon Perkins House, the local museum (one of the branches of the Nova Scotia Museum) in Liverpool where hopefully someone will be able to trace some of the signatures. 

Some of the blocks have interesting short verses or poems, but nothing indicates if they were made for someone's "hope chest". All were signed by women with their given names, not "Mrs. John Brown" as so often seen on old signature quilts. All the signatures are different which indicates to me that perhaps the maker of the block signed it.

I have been in touch with noted American quilt historian Barbara Brackman. I have sent her all the images of the blocks and she is writing a blog post about them and the fabrics. The fabrics are quite varied, some very fine, others are glazed and some are pieced within the patchwork.

Some of the statistics - the years the blocks were made - 1842-1, 1843-1, 1845-1, 1848-11, 1851-6, 1855-3, 1856-1 and 1857-3. Several blocks did not have dates. Where the people were from who signed the blocks - Port Medway-7, Brookfiled-3, Cornwallis-2 and one from Bridgewater, Whitsburn, Kempt, Milton, Halifax, Caledonia and Liverpool. There were eleven blocks signed that did not have a place name. Some of the names are quite unusual in this day and age, Mehetabel, Ceritha, Penira and Jedidah.

The blocks have all been well cared for, there is no mustiness or other smell one often associates with fibres that have been stored a long time.

I am looking forward to reading what Barbara Brackman writes about the blocks and the fabrics. I have posted images of all 30 blocks and some of the backs on my Flickr page here.


Everything Old Is New Again

Since I first heard about the Modern Quilt movement in the quilt world I was intrigued. I have written in the past about my concerns for the next generation of quilters - where are they and why aren't they joining our guilds, coming to workshops? I know there are many Modern Quilt Guilds now, over 150 worldwide and we have one based in Dartmouth NS The Maritime Modern Quilt Guild (they are also on Facebook here) and I think that is terrific. 

I was really surprised when my friend Ann gave me an old copy of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, issue 89 from March of 1977. There on page 8 is an article written by Mary Leman (daughter of the founder of QNM Bonnie Leman) under the banner Modern Quilting is "Rock Star A QN Original Design". That was written 37 years ago!  

I have been in touch with Mary and she has graciously given me permission to share her article here.

We are seeing 'modern quilts" show up at our Guild's show and tell.

Vicki's fun modern quilt Converging Corners, came from a tutorial here

 Sandra's quilt Popsicles has a wonderful "modern" feel and look, the fabrics are her own hand dyed and snow dyed fabrics. It's not a pattern but it's not an original idea. It was done following the technique of improvisational piecing by Melody Johnson. Sandra quilted it on her Bernina....quilting a series of narrowly spaced ....."somewhat "straight lines.

I made this Fireside Log Cabin (started in a Heather Stewart workshop) which I called Log Cabin Renovations, it kind of has a "modern" look though it wasn't my intention when I started. Funny thing, I selected the fabrics based on the orange print to pick up the greys and white, I took the workshop just a few days before I had cataract surgery. After the surgery I was amazed how much colour was in this quilt and that it wasn't just greys and whites! The quilt was beautifully machine quilted by Lynn Jones.

While looking up a reference for a quilt I made back in the '80's which was inspired by a crazy quilt I saw in a Quilt Engagement Calendar. I was looking through calendars from1980 - 1985 and I was surprised by some of the quilts that had a distinctly "modern look" using today's terminology of "modern".

Wall quilt made by Carol Anne Wien, 1981.

Straight Furrow Log Cabin, unknown maker, 1890-1910. Sure looks modern!


Summer is Slipping By...

Here we are enjoying our first summer in our "new" house, enjoying all that Mahone Bay has to offer and continuing with smallish renovation projects. Nothing too ambitious that it won't get in the way of Peter's golf games or sailing plans! 

The flowering crabapple just after a rain, it is now full of very tiny "apples'.

The garden continues to surprise us every day. The rhododendrons and roses have been wonderful though they suffered from the high winds and rain of post tropical storm Arthur. Thankfully all the huge trees on and around our property stayed up! Lots of leaves came down and small branches. The town came through pretty well compared to other parts of Nova Scotia and we only lost power for 3 hours, lucky us.

Looking from the PEI side, it sure is an engineering marvel. You can read about it here.

We took a day trip to Prince Edward Island, on the hunt for some upholstery fabric at the Bargain Fabric Outlet in North Bedque, just across the Confederation Bridge. I had never been to PEI via the bridge so that was pretty cool and it was a beautiful day. And I found just the fabric for the two chairs that are desperate to be reupholstered. Now to fins a new smaller sofa and then tackle redecorating the den. But that is too bi a project for right now, maybe in the fall. Right now Peter is painting the downstairs bathroom, which used to be a pantry and enclosed staircase to the back (maid's?) bedroom.

I haven't been doing much quilting, I desperately needed some inspiration. Something or someone to give me a good swift kick and say "just do it". Well, that person just happened to be Kaffe Fassett! I heard last winter from a friend that Kaffe was coming to Nova Scotia for workshops in Amherst at Deanne Fitzpatrick's rug hooking studio. 

Yes, that's Kaffe Fassett getting his microphone adjusted.

We just knew that if Kaffe was willing we could get a bunch of quilters together and bring him to Halifax for a lecture. Long story short the three local Guilds did just that, we asked and he came! We booked a wonderful lecture theatre at Saint Mary's University and sold all 171 tickets. Suttles and Seawinds set up shop with a lot of Kaffe's fabrics and the university bookstore sold Kaffe's latest three quilt books. terrific co-operation from all involved and all without a meeting...just over 150 emails!

So I am back to "work", I have almost finished piecing my challenge for the Mahone Bay Quilt Guild's bi-annual quilt show in October, I have been quilting my redwork quilt as well as hand appliqueing a border for my Antique Flower Vase quilt and I have one last challenge to finsh ( a year later!) for my bee challenges that will hang in our quilt show. 

And then there is the garden, it is a beautiful day here today so I think I will head outside!