And not just any book! I love to feel connected to my projects and feel that my best work comes out when I dig deep into the story of the quilt and make it personal (see “Come In, Sit Down, Relax, Converse” and “Shelter”). I reached for New Jersey Quilts 1777 to 1950: Contributions to an American Tradition.
A whole lot of quilts in the book spoke to me, but the deepest feeling of connection came from “Double X Variation,” a quilt made in 1895 by Clarence B. Lashley. He was 11 years old at the time.
My family’s roots run deep in New Jersey, and Clarence grew up in the area where my mother was raised for most of her life–in fact, she went to school with some Lashleys. I was born and raised not far from Scullville myself.
Clarence, one of twelve children, learned needlework from his mother because due to poor health, he stayed home while the other children of the house helped out on the farm. His mother dyed sugar and feed bags for quilts, which are likely some of the materials used to make the Double X Variation. You can find more information about the quilt at the Quilt Index, a fantastic reference for quiltmakers.
I got to thinking about what 11-year-old Clarence would have done differently had he made this quilt today. He seemed to love playing with colors, so of course the fabrics would be vivid and cheerful. When I was 11, I lived in Sea Isle City, a short drive from Scullville, and what I remember with fondness from those days was time spent at the beach and on the boardwalk. So when I took a look at the Island Batik Ditty squares that I had on hand, I decided that salt water taffy would be my inspiration.
Salt water taffy became a local treat shortly before Clarence made his first quilts, so he could easily have been familiar with the candy. In fact, the shop that I’m most familiar with, Shriver’s, has been in business since 1898–maybe Clarence went there himself!
I used EQ8 to draw the block and then to lay out the quilt. Since I was working with 10″ squares of fabric for the foreground of the blocks (I had two of each fabric), I had to do some calculations to ensure that I could manage with what I had on hand. With careful planning and the help of an AccuQuilt Go! cutter and the 8″ Go! Qube, it was possible, although I would have been more comfortable with a fat quarter. I had yardage of the background fabric (Swirl in Parchment), and went shopping for the blue sashing fabrics. I chose a basic and a blender that reminded me of the ocean and summertime. I played with a couple of ideas on the design wall (looking at yellow stars was one idea that went out the window), but it didn’t take long to make a decision, especially after running the photos through a black and white filter.
When the time for quilting came along, I chose Hobbs Tuscany Collection silk batting for a lightweight and summery quilt. I’ve used Hobbs silk batts before and loved it–it quilts beautifully, it’s easy to get the needle through when stitching the binding, and it provides warmth in cooler weather but is breathable enough to use year-round. (I did receive some as part of the Island Batik Ambassador package, but this happened to come from my own stash.)
I used a subtly variegated Aurifil 50wt thread in coral with the walking foot on my Bernina 550QE to quilt a continuous spiral to suggest the ripples of a splash and continue that summery ocean look. This quilting has gotten a lot of attention and questions, and my answer to you is: “Buy Jacquie Gering’s book.”
I used the same blue blender from the sashing stars for the binding, and then took “Saltwater Taffy” on tour. We went to the boardwalk and bought some salt water taffy, of course.
We went to the lake next to the cotton mill where Clarence worked in later years–and where he acquired scraps for many of his later quilts. Yes, Clarence continued to make quilt tops for his entire life. He hand-pieced, machine-pieced, appliqued, embroidered–but I don’t think he ever quilted any of his own work. His wife, Anna, collaborated with him on some of his quilts.
And, of course, we visited Clarence and Anna.
I think Clarence would be proud to know that he’s remembered.
Linked to: Friday Foto Fun at Powered By Quilting, Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter, TGIFF at What a Hoot Quilts, My Quilt Infatuation, Inspiration Thursday at Clever Chameleon Quilting, Let’s Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts