This whole adventure started by accident. I was collecting signature quilts, and looking for quilts inscribed with my female ancestor’s names. A quilt came up for auction, I sent my aunt as my proxy, and she bought the Sarah A. Leavitt quilt, embroidered with her name and the date, December 17, 1847. It’s silk, and comprised of individually bound blocks stitched with a tight overcast stitch from the back.
We had no idea that quilts were made in this quilt-as-you-go fashion. I brought it to several experts who were nearly as perplexed as I, and was advised to go do some research and become the “expert,” which I have endeavored to do. It’s been a wonderful journey, and in the next few weeks as I finish my book on the topic, I’ll blog in a general kind of way to entice you to want more!
Many agree that “potholder quilt” is an awful name for these odd objects, and there have been many arguments and discussions about a proper name, but I’ve decided to stick with it, as it is easily understood by all--make some small blocks like potholders and sew them together. The current working definition of a potholder quilt is one comprised of individually finished blocks. If you were to take one apart, you’d have a stack of finished blocks on the table in front of you, all ready to sew back together again.
The blocks can be finished in one of several ways:
In future blogs, I'll illustrate the different kinds of finishes. Here's the most common:
While I was living at Shankhassik Farm in Durham, NH, last summer, we formed a loose group of six flocksters, agreeing to share the expense, the work and the eggs from a small flock of hens. Each of us chose a breed, the order was placed, and the chickens arrived in early April. I took them for the first lap, keeping the tiny chicks in my kitchen in plastic tubs under lights to keep them warm. Each week we reduced the temperature in the tubs, and eventually moved them out to a bay in the garage that Mark Houle spent weeks rebuilding into a marvelous coop.
The 37 hens started laying eggs at the end of the summer, and we were soon swimming in the lovely pale brown, white or green eggs. I had heard that the flavor is different, and it's certainly true. The yolks are a keep golden color, and taste marvelous. The Pearl White Leghorns lay large perfectly white eggs, and at first many had double yolks. The Buff Orpingtons (that's what Jammie is, a Buff) lay pale pale brown eggs; the Silver Lace Wyandotts lay white eggs as well, and the Auracanas lay the pale blues and greens. It's magic.
The biggest surprise is how much character they have. I can tell them apart, even though there are six of each of the six breeds. They differ in feather colors and personalities amongst the breeds, and amongst the individuals. They are great company, and this summer I spent hours watching them careen around the yard and garden, into the bushes, and free-ranging down the drive.
Winter has curtailed their hunting--yes, they are omnivores and wil eat bugs, worms, and even small mammals. I chased one down this summer that hat found a small dead mouse. I took it away only because it might have died from poison left in one of the houses, but that hen was ready to gulp it down!
Quilting is pretty much my life--there are few boundaries between my work at the New England Quilt Museum and the rest of my life. BUT, I garden, ski, attend Civil War history events in full dress, have a wonderful son, and a great pal named Scott with whom I roam the countryside.