My name is Maryanne. My sister Caroline and I live in Sydney, Australia. We run Sew Together, a sewing school where our main focus is to help our students discover the joy of creating beautiful but simple things and the fun that comes from being part of a crafting community. We also share a blog that records our sewing adventures and some of the adventures of our family. A month ago I decided to try something new – I have started to make a Dear Jane quilt.
1. The Quilt
Jane Stickle lived in Vermont and completed this truly magnificent quilt in 1863. She was 46 at the time. The quilt consists of 169 four and a half inch blocks, 52 triangle border blocks, and 4 kite-shaped corner blocks made from 5602 pieces in total. One corner block is embroidered with “In War Time. 1863. Pieces 5602. Jane A Stickle”. The quilt now lives at the Bennington Museum in Vermont and is displayed in September and October every year.
The quilt was made famous by Brenda Papadakis who saw it in the book Plain and Fancy: Vermont’s People and their Quilts as a Reflection of America by Richard L. Cleveland and Donner Blister. She was so inspired by what she saw, she drafted the patterns for all the blocks and border pieces and then published them in the book Dear Jane, The Two Hundred Twenty-Five Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt.
I have not been lucky enough to see the original but saw some beautiful Dear Jane Quilts at the recent Quilters’ Guild of New South Wales Sydney Quilt show. These quilts stopped me in my tracks. There is something different about a Dear Jane quilt. I have certainly never seen a triangular scalloped border like this one before. I also love the tiny size of the blocks and the subtle order to the colour arrangement of the blocks. It is a sampler quilt that works so well as a whole.
2. My Mum
Although I have not made any quilts before, I believe that I have the patchwork and quilting gene. Mum started quilting 30 years ago and has never stopped. It is part of who she is. I was visiting her today and popped my head into her sewing space. It is full of beautiful fabrics, amazing finished quilts and more projects on the go than seem possible. She has told me she has found half finished quilts that she had forgotten she had ever started! In 10 minutes I photographed a few projects she is currently working on (and this is just the tip of the iceberg).
Mum is my font of all quilting enthusiasm and knowledge. When I mentioned my fascination with Dear Jane she was ready to embrace it. She had agreed to sew along and delivered the background fabric to me before I could blink. I see us as the cook and the chef. I am the cook bumbling along, trying things out, and re-making what doesn’t work the first time. Mum is the chef, full of experience and a wealth of knowledge.
My usual sewing projects are clothes for my children and occasionally for myself. Being a patchworker’s daughter, I could never throw out all the beautiful fabric left over from these projects. But they are taking over. At last count I have 5 huge plastic bins overflowing with scraps. I hope to empty these bins by making a quilt of memories. This quilt will document the clothes I have made for my children and help me remember the adventures they have had when they were wearing them.
At this point in my life it is difficult for me to find time to sew. However, I like to do something every day. It may seem paradoxical to say I don’t have much time to sew so I am going to make a 5602 piece quilt. But for me, this quilt is so varied and so easy to break up into small parts, it will provide me with sewing inspiration and manageable sized projects for many years to come!
Trying to be a realist, I have committed to make a block a fortnight. Mum is sewing along and I will document our progress on the blog. I am hoping that this will keep me motivated. Doing the maths, this will take me 6 ½ years to complete the piecing alone. This project is very much about the process rather than the outcome.
I have decided to keep this a stash buster quilt and so I have also committed to buy nothing. Thankfully I know I can always raid Mum and Caroline’s stashes if need be without breaking the rules.
If anyone would like to join in, I would love to add your images to our blog. I will post a picture and name of the block we are doing each fortnight. If I can find a link to a tutorial describing how to make the block, I will post that too. At the end of the fortnight, I will post some photos of the blocks Mum and I made. If you would like to email me photos of your blocks I will post those as well or you are very welcome to link to the post.
There are many fantastic resources for anyone who is interested in Dear Jane quilts.
Dear Jane is the website set up by Brenda Papadakis to complement her book Dear Jane, The Two Hundred Twenty-Five Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt. It has a wealth of information and tips on how to piece each block. It also has links to the websites or photo collection of Janiacs (those who make Dear Jane quilts) so you can watch their quilt progress.
That Quilt has tutorials for the construction of every block. The person who writes this blog is currently making her 3rd Dear Jane Quilt so she must know what she is talking about!
And finally, if you need any more inspiration: