Historical background of the Dear Jane sampler quilt
In the book about the Dear Jane, written by Brenda Papadakis, there are letters written to Jane Stickle. Jane is the woman who made the original quilt, and Brenda replicated it and made patterns out of the pieces so everyone can make their own Dear Jane. In these letters, she reflects on her progress to make patterns out of all the pieces in the quilt. Also, she muses about the life of Jane Stickle. Brenda formulates these musings in the form of questions towards Jane. Those questions show a bit of the historical context of the Dear Jane.
This context is the American civil war, during which Jane worked on the quilt. One of the questions Brenda asks Jane is how her life was during the war, and what motivated her to create such a big project. Maybe a loved one of Jane was deployed? Unfortunately, there are no answers to those questions in the book. But I do suspect some of the blocks are named as a commiseration to the American civil war. Unfortunately very little is known about Jane Stickle and her quilting.
Jane did not name the blocks herself, the first group Brenda taught to make the quilt named them. It is not hard to image some wanted to honour the historical background of the quilt with the names of the blocks. In this post, I’ll talk about two blocks I think are named with the American Civil War in mind.
Dear Jane block C-11: soldiers and sailors monument
A monument is usually set- up after a war to remember the ones who have fallen. The shape of this block reminds me a bit of the tombstones you sometimes see at memorial burial grounds. This could have been the thoughts of the namer of this block as well because the American Civil War has known both land and sea battles. In that way, this block has become a memorial for the sailors and sailors who have fallen, but that is all speculation. The sailor part could also come from the fact that it looks like a compass rose. That’s the lovely thing about the names of the blocks, they could mean so many different things, because so many different people named them, all with different thoughts in their minds.
How I sewed this quilt block
The technical challenge of this block is the round shapes. Luckily, I’ve made some stuffed toys before, so I already had some ideas how to do that. But, this was my first time piecing of a round shape. The trick is to put in the pins not along the line to be sewn, but at an angle of about 90 degrees, so the fabric has room to move around and fall into place. With small pieces as this block it is sufficient to pin the end- and starting point and the middle point of the arch. The rest of the fabric I hold in place between my fingers while I sew. This works well for me because I am hand-sewing all the blocks, which gives me enough control over my stitches and fabric to adjust things while I sew.
Dear Jane block C-1: trooper Green’s badge
This block is probably also named after the quilt’s civil war heritage. The shape looks like a simplified badge a soldier could wear. Admittedly, in hindsight, my colour choice for this block is a bit unconventional considering the name. When I prepare the blocks I usually grab whatever colour attracts my eye, without thinking about the name of the block. The colours do work well together though.
And how I sewed this Dear Jane block
For this piece, I used the foundation piecing technique. With foundation piecing you sew the pieces of fabric on a background, rather than sewing the pieces together. Foundation piecing is a great way to make a block look super neat. Also, it helps to make the finished block look better because the background holds all the fabric in place. I use a background that can remain on the finished block, but there are many possible different ways to do foundation piecing. I’ll write a blogpost about all the possibilities later.
These are the two civil war-inspired blocks I’ve finished so far, besides block A-8, ‘Florence Nightingale’. In the introduction post of this sampler, you can read more about this project and the pieces that are finished so far. It is interesting that through the Dear Jane, I not only learn more about quilting but also about a little bit about history!
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