There's nothing like a road trip in the fall. I've done my share but in the past 10 years they've mostly been for work. I have not been to the east coast for a vacation since 2005 and that trip included a pre-teen and a cranky teenager in the back seat. So, not really a vacation if you know what I mean. New England is a place that has always grabbed my heart and I wish I could spend more time there more often.
We were a little early for the truly explosive fall colors but still managed to see some along the way.
Since I began working on my (Dear) Jane Stickle quilt in 2010 I've tried a few times to make the quilter's pilgrimage to the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont, to see the original but things never seemed to work out. The quilt is only on display there for a short time each year, during a month that happens to coincide with kids going back to school and which is typically a busy time at work for my husband.
But, a few months ago, that dear man of mine asked me what I'd like for our 30th anniversary (!) which was coming up in September. (September also happens to be my birthday month.) Well, all I can say is he should be careful what he asks people. I smiled and told him what I really wanted was to go to Vermont. I don't need diamonds or rubies and was pleasantly surprised that he was so agreeable to the trip. Apparently. he'll go anywhere. We jumped through various hoops to make it happen and I got to see The Quilt up close and personal. Finally. Best birthday/anniversary gift ever.
I almost missed it, however. The museum has the quilt hidden in a small, dark room on the second floor and I actually walked right past it and then turned and said "Oh!" with a small gasp. There it was. Quietly unassuming and as dignified as a queen sitting on her throne.
We were lucky enough to get there on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The museum was relatively empty and so I had her all to myself and sat on the floor in that tiny room for about half an hour just staring, taking it all in and trying to get some photos. I have a very simple camera and since the room was dimly lit (to preserve the textiles) this is the best I could do with such little light. No flash photography allowed.
What you notice first is the excellent condition it's in and how vibrant the colors of the fabrics appear. Jane's brother was listed as a tailor in the census records and there is some speculation that that is how she acquired the variety of prints she used to make the quilt.
If the quilt looks odd with the blocks in the wrong order, it's because it is displayed differently at the museum than in the book. Here, the basket is right side up with Jane's signature on the bottom left instead of the right side. Apparently, they also rotate the quilt every year.
One thing that always struck me was that the blocks look a bit quirky in the book - not perfect and sometimes crooked - and you can never really see the entire quilt well in a photograph. When we work on the quilt we are focusing on one block at a time and I know I tend to get caught up in trying to make each one as perfectly as I can. But, when you actually see Jane's blocks up close, they are glorious. Like a dear old friend, you stand back and look past the wrinkles and flaws and see the true beauty of the whole person. The quirkiness does not stand out at all and what you see is the amazing way they were all pieced and put together into this wonderful design and how the colors flow throughout the quilt. This Jane, she knew about color. It gave me hope that mine will look amazing when I finish it even though I feel some of my blocks may leave something to be desired.
I swear I got shivers when I saw Jane's signature and her embroidered inscription: In War Time. 1863. I've already decided what my inscription will be.
I can't say I've ever been this moved by a quilt, and I've seen a few pretty nice ones. After viewing it, I was so touched I became even more driven to make mine as close to Jane's as possible, as a tribute perhaps. I understand completely now how it just pulls you in and has become such a phenomenon among quilters all over the world. Something in me wants to honor Jane's work and the work of quilters throughout the ages - does that make sense? We owe many thanks to Brenda Papadakis for bringing Jane's quilt to us so that so many of us can recreate it. And I hope to one day have my own little piece of recreated history as a legacy to leave to my family. It may give a clue to someone in years to come why I quilted.
I read an account that said Jane was an invalid and that her quilt was awarded a prize for best pieced quilt at the Bennington County Fair, a prize that earned her $2.00.
You're really able to clearly see Jane's Trip Around the World motif with colors radiating outward from the center.
The little town of Bennington. View from museum across the street.
You can read more about the quilt and Jane's history here and will also find some interesting facts here on Jenni's blog.