Each quilt has a history. A story that wants to be told, but sadly lays dormant in between the stitches, folds of the fabrics and deep within the batting. I have often wondered about the stories that a quilt would tell if they could only speak. Who made them, what was going on in their life at the time they pieced, appliqués or quilted the blanket? What had they eaten for breakfast that day; what was for supper? What was the weather like? Were they in love or heartbroken? Why did they choose that particular pattern and fabric. Who gave them the pattern? Unfortunately we may never know the answer to these questions.
When contemplating what my next blog post topic should be, I decided that a small history of my current project may be of interest to someone else. The quilt story I am about to share with you started out with a desire to celebrate all the wonderful women who had shaped my life in some way, but quite quickly the story became tumultuous and frustrating, the ending though, which has yet to be written, will be beautiful, peaceful and well worth the journey. Here is my story of my Independence Park quilt.
The quilt that is currently on my frame is an adaptation from the quilt pattern “Independence Square” by the designer Mabel Obenchain. Mabel was a quilt designer who wrote for Famous Features Syndicate during the 1970’s. Allegedly she designed this block to honor Philadelphia during the American Bicentennial celebration. Somehow, and I have yet to discover why, this particular block also celebrates the old square in Independence, Missouri.
I first saw this quilt block in an eMail from famous quilt historian Barbara Brackman. It was part of her Westering Women sew along last year. I though, “Oh wouldn’t this be fun to participate?” so I did. Only I wanted to make one quilt top a month, using her block of the month. Yeah… that didn’t happen.
I took the basic design of the block, only I altered the center of 9 patch to be 1 rectangle instead of 3 squares. In the center of each rectangle I added a name of a woman from my family tree and women who have inspired and/or touch me in some way during my life. It is essentially a signature quilt, without their actual signatures. I was a great idea and I was super excited to get started.
In honor of my maternal grandmother, whom I adored (and still do) I made the quilt scrappy, because that was what she always did. I broke out all my precut squares and I set to work, recutting, color coordinating and piecing. Almost instantly though I became stuck and frustrated with her pattern. For some reason, perhaps she wanted to be historically accurate with her measurements, she had all the measurements cut in 1/8” incriminates:
Cut 4 squares 3-1/8″
Cut 16 rectangles 4-1/2″ x 1-7/8″
Cut 4 rectangles 3-1/8″ x 1-7/8″
Cut 9 squares 1-7/8″ x 17/8”
I didn’t question it, I just started cutting and sewing. This was not a good idea, because nothing matched up and my quilt blocks always match up. So, thinking that the problem was with me, I took Barbara’s quilt pattern and a few of my sewn blocks to a friend of mine who is a mathematician and a quilter. We sat for about an hour and she could not figure out why the pattern was written with such measurements either. But the inquisitive quilting bug had bitten her also and she went home and made the same quilt block only with different measurements and it came out perfect. The difference? She used whole # measurements with 1/2” seam allowance added to each piece. Lesson learned.
So anyway, because my quilt was a variation of the original “Independence Square, I renamed my quilt “Independence Park”. It was too late to change my measurements though. I had already cut all my pieces and had many of them already pieced. So I just had to readjust each block to line up with my sashing and I kept going. Make no mistake though, all the blocks are a bit off.
So there you have it, the story behind my quilt so far.