Monday, February 10, 2014

Dear Jane

This fall I had an amazing opportunity to go on a bus trip with my local quilt guild.  It was so much fun!  We stopped at several fabric shops and a quilt show but by far the highlight of the trip was visiting the Bennington Museum to see the original Dear Jane quilt.  They were celebrating the quilts 150th anniversary.  (Sorry in advance for the fuzzy/dark photographs.  The quilt was in pretty low light).

If you aren't familiar with the Dear Jane quilt, all you have to do is Google it to find thousands of samples of quilters who have recreated it and a whole webpage dedicated to the quilt itself.

The Dear Jane quilt was made in 1863 by Jane A. Blakely Stickle who was born in Shaftsbury, VT on April 18, 1817.

The description plate next to the quilt read:
During the past few decades this miraculous medley of fabric, known lovingly as the "Stickle quilt," has garnered international fame.  Though acquired by the museum about 1938-1939, the quilt only slowly began to garner attention in the 1980s and was first published in Plain and Fancy: Vermont's People and Their Quilts As a Reflection of America by Richard L. Cleveland and Donna Bister in 1991.  In 1996 Brenda Papadakis immortalized the quilt in her book Dear Jane: The Two Hundred Twenty-five Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt.  Of course, the quilt's story runs deeper than its recent fame, back to 1863 when Jane A. Stickle lovingly pieced together the 169 small blocks that make up the quilt's body and 112 "ice cream cone" blocks that comprise its unique scalloped border.  Stickle knew she had created something to be proud of, carefully inscribing in the lower right corner: "In War Time, 1863.  Pieces, 5602. Jane A. Stickle." ....

What I found most fascinating about the Dear Jane quilt is not actually the quilt itself.  It's the woman who made it.  Did Jane know that 150 years after she finished her quilt I'd be sitting there looking at it?  Did she wonder about who I would be the same what that I wonder who she was?  I want to know what she was thinking and what she was feeling while she stitched her masterpiece?  What would she think today about all of the version of her quilt that have been made?  Would she approve?

There was also this interesting follow up to her quilt in which we discover that Jane actually won $2.00 for her quilt at a quilt show.

A few of my favorite blocks:

All in all, I really enjoyed this visit to the museum and having the opportunity to just sit in the quite darkness of the museum and simply observe Jane's masterpiece and wonder about who she was as a woman.  I do have plans to make a Dear Jane quilt though I guarantee you that mine will not be hand pieced.  Who knows, maybe 150 years from now some other girl will be sitting in a museum quietly observing one of my quilts and wondering about who I was....

I also had a total fan-girl moment with the quilt and took a selfie with the quilt (you know, proof that I was there).

Happy Quilting.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a new quilter I wandered into the Bennington museum one day when it happened to be on display and I had no idea how famous this quilt was at the time. I was completely awe struck. I bought the book although I did not think I would ever attempt it. Years later I still have the book ... still have not been brave enough to sew a block ... maybe someday. At the time they did not allow flash photography so no selfie for me ... just great memories ... :) Pat


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