Sunday, September 28, 2014

All Roads Lead to Bennington


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. 


28 comments:

Gisela Suski said...

I had tears in my eyes for the excitement you had in seeing the quilt. I just love the fabrics.

Michal Erika said...

Such a wonderful post, in wonderful detail. I'm glad you got to enjoy seeing it in person.

Ann in PA said...

Kathy, Your photos of Jane's quilt are wonderful....you have captured the beautiful of her masterpiece. I am surprised at how beautiful the colors and fabrics look after all these years. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Donna K. from N. Texas said...

A dream come true. I like those kinds of stories.

Sue Bennett said...

Kathy, what an amazing birthday gift and anniversary gift. The quilt photos are amazing. I know you will be looking at them for years to come. The fabrics almost look perfect.

quiltgrannie said...

Kathy, I also had tears as I read your blog and looked at the amazing pictures you were able to take.
I was just thinking what would compare to the love we hold for the DJ quilt in a man's world.

pinewood said...

Thank you for the lovely photos, it is truly a beautiful quilt. I also would like to finish my work in progress of this quilt one day as a tribute to Jane.

Susan D said...

Oh, thank you, Kathleen, for sharing this trip with us. What a great present for you and for us.

And these pictures show the quilt in the direction I have assumed to be Jane's intention. With the basket right side up. I love all the details and information in Brenda's book, but on many pages the template and the picture are 90 degrees off from each other, as though something changed while Brenda was creating the book.

I have to share this posting with my quilty friends.

Anonymous said...

Oh how I envy you your trip. Thanks for the fantastic photos up close. Truly makes me want to get my Dear Jane out of the box once again.
Penny (australia)

moosecraft said...

Absolutely breathtaking! Yes... best gift ever! :-)

Mami caillou said...

A very beautiful dear Jane............

Susan Smith said...

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful experience with us! I've never thought that I could make a Dear Jane quilt so never really studied it before. It is spectacular. It looks like each block is a single color--is that right? I've never noticed that before. That was a wonderful opportunity and you have such a thoughtful husband to take you there!

Nancy E said...

Thanks so much for sharing the pics of the quilts! They really made the quilt come alive. It is amazing how great it still looks!

Jennifer M said...

Beautiful post and beautiful quilt, truly amazing. Thank you for sharing your awesome experience and photos. Truly a masterpiece:)

Diane said...

I had the opportunity to see the quilt several years ago, and it is beautiful. I had already started mine & it isn't trip around the world but I love it. I didn't get to spend as much time looking at it as you did. Hubby & I were on a trip with his brother & sil, having a grand time. Brother passed away unexpectedly 2 yrs ago and so the memory is even more special.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for one of the best descriptions of a personal viewing experience that I've ever read! What a wonderful birthday and anniversary gift from a thoughtful husband. He deserves a BIG hug. And thank you for the push I needed to finally start mine! BJ in the Rockies

Jan D. said...

Oh Kathy!! For the many of us who may not be able to experience the joy of seeing Jane's amazing quilt for ourselves, thank you so much for sharing as you do. You're a Quilt Angel!

Yvonne said...

Thanks for sharing your story and the beautiful pictures. We started this year in March on International Quilting Day with 8 ladies of our Bee. Each one is making a Dear Jane quilt, since we blogged about it timis becomingman hype here in the Netherlands. I hope to go to Vermont one day and see the real quilt!

pandchintz said...

Thank you for such a vivid description of this glorious quilt. I hope one day to see it, but in the meantime I'm sharing some precious days with Brenda Papadakis while she is here in Australia teaching classes on "Dear Jane". So wonderful to meet the woman whose book touched me so much and be inspired to get back to my "Jane".

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

thank you so much for sharing that - I have made two of them and they are far from perfect! it looks much more colorful than I thought it would because of the age of the quilt - someone took care of it well before it went to the museum

Maureen said...

I have also been fortunate enough to see the quilt on a quiet day at the museum. I know what you mean about just sitting there taking it all in. Thanks for sharing your visit and photos - hopefully it will help keep me motivated on my own Dear Jane.

Aunt Bea said...

This is such a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. This was a chance to see this wonderful quilt. I don't think I will ever get there in person, but the beauty of this quilt made me cry. Just simply beautiful.
I will be revisiting this post again and again.

Best wishes.
Aunt Bea

tellad said...

What a beautiful tribute! It makes me so excited about my upcoming retirement and the hopes that I, too, may just get my "Dear Jane" quilt started and completed. And maybe, just maybe, in our travels, I will be fortunate enough to visit this lovely town and museum and see this for myself. thank you for sharing.

Ruth said...

I have started making the quilt and your post really spurs me on. I am so jealous! Two years ago we were at the museum at the beginning of September because the web site said that it is on display during September and October. However, I didn't realize that it wasn't on display until later in September and we had to move on, so we missed out. I did buy the poster of the quilt, but the picture doesn't do it justice. Thanks for your great pictures!

Liz said...

Thank you so much for sharing these photos. I can only dream of starting a Dear Jane quilt. Maybe one day.

marian said...

Kathy, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I read your post, I can only imagine how moved you must have been when you came face to face with Jane's quilt for the first time. The photos are wonderful, so lovely to see the close-ups and the quilting... the fabrics are delicious and so vibrant.
Since reading your post and meeting Brenda, I'm really itching to make a trip to Bennington museum, to spend some time in the presence of Jane Stickle's masterpiece... it would be a dream come true!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Thank you.

Maureen said...

Nice tribute! I just bought the book and joined a group beginning the journey with The Quilt. Mine will most definitely include the imperfections. Look forward to seeing yours.

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