Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Read All About It - the First Block is Here!

Here it is!  The first block of the Chester Criswell Quilt is Jane Wilson's block.  Jane's block is 160 years old, the photo shows my block which is just a newborn.  The pattern is on the Two Bits Patches website now, and the download is free.  You can have your own copy when you click here.  The download includes the pattern, photos of the original block and a story about Jane Wilson.

Each month a new block will be available at the Two Bits Patches website.  The cost for each pattern is $A2.50.  You don't have to sign up for the whole quilt, you can choose to buy one or two or many of the patterns.  A new pattern will be available on the 1st of each month, the next pattern will be available 1st September.

It's quite exciting to launch a pattern, but it's a bit scary too.  For me, the scariest part is the photo you are looking at.  I am very much a beginner at needleturn applique - which I'm sure you can tell on close inspection - but it's so enjoyable!  Twelve months from now I may look at this first block and wonder that I had the nerve to publish a photo of my work.  But that's okay, everyone was a beginner once.

I hope you decide to join in the journey.  You don't have to make any blocks at all, you may want to enjoy the blog about signature quilts and life in the 1850s.  If you do make this block, will you send me a photo?  I'd love to see your choice of fabric and technique.

Free Download at www.twobitspatches.com

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why Is It So?

Researching the Chester Criswell quilt is a WIP (work in progress).  When I find an answer to a question about the quilt, the answer only seems to raise more questions.  Here are three WIP questions:

Q1   Who are the people that signed the quilt?

This is the most interesting question, and finding the answer is a lot of fun.  I use Ancestry.com for most of my research about the names and locations on the quilt.  There are 75 names on the quilt (some blocks have two names, usually a married couple). I have some information on at least 50 names in the quilt.  I have found that more people are related to the bride and groom than I initially thought, and there are also many neighbours who make a contribution.

Q2   Is it a Quaker quilt?

The quilt is certainly typical of Quaker wedding quilts made in the 1850s in Pennsylvania.  However, the bride's family were Presbyterian, many of the family members were also Presbyterian although some neighbours were Quakers.  If anyone can offer suggestions I would appreciate your comments.

Q3    Why aren't the Happy Couple's name in the quilt centre?

This is a big question.  The centre of the quilt has the names of the bride's parents, not the bride and groom.

Mary the bride has a block next to the centre.  Jesse the groom's block is three rows away.  This doesn't make sense to me, and it is certainly a question that I would really like the answer to.

Two more questions -

Are you still keen to discover more?  Are you ready to make a block yourself?  I hope so!  The first block pattern is going to be available on 1st August at http://www.twobitspatches.com/

But wait, there's more!  The first block is FREE, so you are welcome to download the pdf file, learn more about the quilt and try the first block yourself.  The steps to download will be in this blog after 1st August.  This is my first venture into pattern making, but the testers say it's good to go.  I'm excited, I hope you will be too.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Journey So Far

The Chester Criswell quilt was made for Mary McClellan Criswell for her marriage to Jesse Jackson Smith on 17th November 1852. It took pride of place on the new Mr. and Mrs. Criswell's bed until it became too shabby to use.  The quilt was then folded up and put away in a cupboard.
Mary's youngest daughter Marion inherted the quilt.  A change in the family fortune meant that Marion had to seek employment.  She gained work as a seamstress, moving from household to household making wedding trousseaus.  She used a silver thimble and a small pair of scissors which she left to her daughter, also named Marion, when she died in 1962.
This second Marion had a lovely thimble and scissors of her own so she kept her mother's thimble and scissors safe until she gave them to her granddaughter.
Which is me.

Using Marion's thimble and scissors in my first repro block.
I was a little girl when I was first shown the 'family quilt'.  It was in a cupboard in the garage, next to the ice chest  my grandparents had in their first home.  I wasn't very interested in quilts so I didn't pay much attention.
Fortunately I did become interested in quilts and all sorts of crafts.  My parents moved our family from Ohio to Australia in the early 1970s.  My grandmother brought the quilt with her on one of her visits to Australia because she though I was more interested in it than my cousins.
I decided about eight years ago it was time to make a reproduction quilt before the original totally fell to pieces.  Every year or so I would unwrap it and think, I should really do this. 
What was holding me back?  All that needleturn applique.  I began making quilts for my dolls and now make quilts for my grandchildren.  I have managed to avoid applique almost entirely and now I had to try it. 
I felt that that famous fictional anonymous hero...

And what did I find?  It wasn't so bad after all!  Hand applique was actually quite enjoyable.  There's room for improvement but the result isn't too bad.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Introduction to The Quilt

I'd like to introduce you to a special quilt.  This quilt celebrated it's 160th birthday earlier this year and the time has come to get out of the chest and make some friends.

This quilt was made in 1852 in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  It was made as a quilt for Mary McClellan Criswell on her engagement to Jesse Jackson Smith.  Mary's family, friends and neighbours all contributed to make blocks for the quilt. And on each block the maker signed their name, where they lived and a few added some best wishes.

The Criswell quilt is typical of signature quilts made in the 1850s.  Red and green was a popular colour combination for the period, and by 1840 red and green fabrics were reliable and affordable.  Friendship quilts such as this one were first made in the early 1840s in the Delaware Valley region of Pennsylvania and the trend quickly spread through the eastern United States. (Source Roderick Kiracofe, The American Quilt: A History of Cloth and Comfort 1750 - 1950)

So, please accept an invitation to come on a journey of discovery about Mary Criswell's quilt and the friendship it represents.  You may even make a quilt of your own!