Monday, February 18, 2013

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Jennifer Chiaverini has written another book close to the heart of many quilters. This story illuminates history during the Civil War era and brings to life what individuals at that time experienced.
Elizabeth Keckley is the dressmaker that centers in the stories told here as her sewing skills and artistry are woven into the lives of prominent and political households in Washington City. Her story is interesting and moving.
Along with a copy of the book for me to read came a written copy of an interview that Jennifer shared with questions and answers about the new book. I enjoyed one question in particular of how she came to research and write Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.

Question: Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker chronicles the friendship between First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley, who was born a slave and earned her freedom through her skill with a needle. What brought this story to your attention, and how did it inspire your first stand-alone historical novel?
Jennifer's answer: "More than a decade ago, I was researching antebellum and Civil War era quilts for my fourth novel when I discovered a photograph of an antique masterpiece. Arranged in the medallion style, with appliqued eagles, embroidered flowers, meticulously-pieced hexagons, and deep red fringe, the quilt was the work of a gifted needleworker, its striking beauty unmarred by the shattered silk and broken threads that gave evidence to its age. The caption noted that the quilt had been sewn from the scraps of Mary Todd Lincoln's gowns by her dressmaker and confidante, a former slave named Elizabeth Keckley. I marveled at the compelling story those brief lines suggested-a courageous woman's rise from slavery to freedom, an improbable friendship that ignored the era's sharp distinctions of class and race, the confidences sharted between a loyal dressmaker and a controversial, divisive First Lady. What I would give, I thought, to have been present as Elizabeth Keckley measured Mary Lincoln for a new gown, to overhear their conversations on topics significant and ordinary, to observe the Lincoln White House from such an intimate perspective. From that moment, my interest in their remarkable friendship was captivated, and it never really waned."

These words from Jennifer really got my attention as I see in the book evidence of so much research as well as creativity bringing this time and its people to life in such a full and interesting style. I am really enjoying reading and learning and highly recommend reading it!

Monday, February 11, 2013

quilts by other quilters

I'm enjoying a couple of quilts made by other quilters in my home.  This first one was gifted to me at Christmas by Mary at Quilt Hollow. I love the fabrics and sweet quilting on this little quilt that I'm using as a table topper. Thank you again, Mary!  I hope your move is progressing without too much chaos :-)
This next quilt came as a purchase from Cheryl Wall of Country Quilts who was doing some spring cleaning.
The smile on the crow cracked me up and I couldn't help but want to hang it up where I could see it all the time. This wall hanging is a big 54" affair and so displaying it will take a little thought and effort but I have the perfect place for it in mind. The homespuns and flannel suit me and this just all puts a smile on my face.
Hope you are finding some happy things to enjoy too! 
For quilting progress...I have sewn three rows of country windows together and cut out another pack of charms. Today, I'm marking them and machine piecing them into more rows.  I think I may need about 20 rows...we shall see.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

country windows start

I love the look of scrappy one piece blocks like large hexagons or small tumbler blocks and this country windows block.
I purchased a template from Country Threads and charm packs of beautiful Kansas Trouble fabric from my favorite LQS, Quilter's Cupboard in Atascadero, CA.  And I'm off like a hurd of turtles  :-)
It's a slow process. Cutting the template pieces and marking the seam lines...important because the charm pieces are not equal and some of the seams are scant. I've also had to purchase white chalk refills for my Bohin mechanical pencil because using them in the small lines of the template seem to be pretty hard on them.  I can use a regular lead mechanical pencil for the light fabrics but the dark need the white.
Then I'm machine piecing them together into rows...then will hand piece the rows together.  All for a table cloth quilt.
This will take awhile but I sure love the look of these all together and it's a perfect project to do in some stolen moments.