Inspirations and Connections

Way back in the mid 1980's I decided to work through Roberta Horton's book "An Amish Adventure". I had used very few solid colour fabrics up to this point in my quilting career so this was a real challenge for me. I had also discovered and was fascinated by Amish quilts after hearing a lecture by David Pottinger, author of "Quilts of the Indianna Amish". I was hooked!

After working through many of the exercises in Roberta's book, I decided I needed to take an existing traditional quilt and "make it Amish". I had been using and had saved my copies of the Quilt Engagement Calendar and I came across a crazy quilt that I thought would make an interesting Amish quilt. Many thanks to my friend Polly  Greene who found the picture of the quilt and to Bettina Havig who was able to tell me that it was in the 1979 calendar. Sadly these wonderful calendars which were edited by Cyril Nelson and published by Dutton are no longer being produced. I am so glad I kept so many of them. I must see if I can find the few I am missing to make my collection complete!

The caption reads "Pieced quilt, silk and embroidery, c. 1890, New Hampshire. 56"x51". This is a very handsome and unusual example of Victorian needlework. Photograph courtesy of Thos. K. Woodward: American Antiques and Quilts (private collection).

Here is my "Amish" version.

"All Things Bright and Beautiful" machine pieced and hand quilted. The name and quilting design was inspired by a photo in David Pottinger's book "Quilts of the Indiana Amish" of two children looking up at the sky. The photo didn't show that they were looking at hot air balloons flying overhead. I imagined if they were Amish balloons they would look like this! I also wrote about this quilt here is this blog post.

Now, jump ahead to 2014, the internet has exploded and we are consumed by Twitter feeds, Instagram, blogs and Facebook to name a few. I "follow" Australian quilter Sarah Fielke, I have long been fascinated with her delightful patterns and her wonderful use of colour. Sarah collaborated recently with American quilter Amy Lobsiger to write a book called "Little Quilts" published by Cico Books.

I believe it was through Sarah's Instagram feed that I saw a picture of a quilt from their book of a quilt that Amy had made that she called "Cocktail Shakers".

"Cocktail Shakers" by Amy Lobsiger is machine paper pieced and machine quilted. It is slightly different from mine, it has five units in each section of the shaker and mine has seven. I have been in touch with Amy, she sent me the image of her quilt and gave me permission to write about it, thanks Amy!

I think it is wonderful that the quilters of today have such great resources they can use to be inspired to make such wonderful quilts. Be sure and check out Amy and Sarah's book and be inspired!


This and That

A few bits and pieces...2014 grape crop, more house renos, a quilter visits and the making of a scarecrow!

The racoons are loving us this year! It has been a good crop! We have 2 grape arbours, one over the back deck and one over the secret garden room, both have had a good but sour crop this year. We are still using last years harvest which was made into grape jelly.

They have been here a long time!

House renos continue and thanks to the good weather Peter is making progress re-shingling the worst of the shingles, the south facing back wall. He uncovered a bit of a surprise...birch bark flashing! 

And lots more wide boards and handmade square nails.

After a Google search, yes, Google does know everything, I found it is quite common in houses as old as ours. Creative builders?

I was so delighted to hear from Kay Phillips awhile ago, she and her husband were coming to NS and would have time for a visit. Peter and Gerry went golfing and I gathered together a couple of quilt friends and we had a lovely but too short afternoon talking quilts! Kay shared a couple of her latest quilts, can't wait for her to come back next year!

Now we are getting ready for the Mahone Bay Scarecrow Festival which starts on Friday. Well over 150 scarecrows will appear all over town. If there is one thing this town does well, it is having festivals thanks to a huge crew of great volunteers. More information and the schedule of events can be found here. Our Mahone Bay Quilters Guild bi-annual quilt show and sale happens this weekend too with set-up starting tomorrow.

Please come!!

After moving here last fall, we were determined to have our own scarecrow this year. We get quite a lot of traffic by our house both cars and foot traffic so we just had to have a scarecrow who would advertise our quilt show. Here is her transformation...

This is how she arrived,stuffed with plastic bags and dressed in crimpoline! She is ready for any weather! Thanks to PJ's in Oathill, I had told them she was going to be a quilter and this is what I got! Gray hair and all!

Auditioning outfits!

Thanks to Ben we are getting there! The quilt top was pieced by Peter, a good 35 years ago! Come back to see the final version tomorrow!


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.