A Quilt with a Soul

I believe quilts have a soul. It may be the quilter’s soul that becomes a part of the quilt or it may be the quilt developing its own soul. But I do believe quilts have a soul. Why? Because quilts capture our attention and they speak to us. As a quilter, I know I share a part of my personality and being with each of my quilts. I am sure other quilters also share themselves with their quilts. When a quilter engages themselves in their quilts, their quilts develop a personality. When this occurs, the quilt develops a soul.

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The personality in a quilt can be defined by color or by interest. What do I mean by interest? It is a quilt that demands your interest or captures your eye. It does this by causing you stop and take notice. For the purpose of this article, I have chosen “generate an interest in the eye of the viewer” to define the soul in a quilt. When I find an interesting quilt it speaks to me in several levels: block design, color options, or even its history. The Jane Stickle quilt “generates an interest in my eye”.

What made this quilt so interesting to me? The history of the quilt first captured my attention. I love history and I particularly love to read about people making an impact on their world. MS Stickle’s quilt made an impact on me and the quilt world. If you are not familiar with the Jane Stickle quilt, I recommend you purchase the “Dear Jane” book by Brenda Papadakis. I consider it a must read.

Reading the book “Dear Jane”, I realized the quilt was found in an attic in St Louis, MO. Louis, MO (my home town). I was hooked immediately. As I read further I realized that a woman of modest means designed and created a quilt that is known round the world over 100 years after its creation. It is probable, thanks to MS Papadakis, that every quilter in the world has heard of Jane Stickle or the “Dear Jane” quilt, or better yet, belongs to a “Dear Jane” club. Basically, we know very little about Jane Stickle. We know she was an ordinary woman of modest means. We know she was married and that we have found no records of her having children. And we know she was not a wealthy woman. I would call her… a plain Jane. Yet she created a quilt that is known all over the world. The quilt makes me question: was she active in a home town quilt guild or quilting bee? Did she exhibit quilts in local fairs? What inspired Jane Stickle to make this quilt? She signed the quilt “Jane Stickle 1863 War Time”. Why did she sign it? In a time, when it is rare for quilts to be signed, Jane Stickle signed and dated her quilt. What significance do the words “War Time” mean? Maybe she made it for a loved one who was at war. Maybe it was created to keep her mind off the stress of war.

As I view this quilt, my eye is caught examining each block design. There are 225 blocks in the quilt. Not one block is replicated. I do not believe any of these blocks are found in any other quilts of the period. Did she design each block or take ideas from other quilts? What was her inspiration? In 1863, quilt block patterns were not common. It is phenomenal for one person to design 225 blocks. The block size of the Jane Stickle quilt is only 4 ½ x 4 ½ inches. Why was she compelled to do so many blocks and so small in nature. How did she cut such small pieces? Ms Stickle signed the quilt: 5602 pieces. The number of pieces is another wonder. As before mentioned, quilts of that era do not record the number of pieces in the quilt. I can only imagine how long it took to cut, organize, and assemble 5602 piece. Maybe she had help cutting 5602 pieces. The scissors in the 1860’s can not have made the task easy. Even in 2010, cutting 5602 pieces is a fete.

As with humans quilts breathe. They demonstrate character, personality, and a soul. They embrace us every time we touch, feel, or see them. The Jane Stickle quilt is only one quilt embracing my soul. Have you experienced the soul of a quilt? I hope you have.

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Darlene Pratte is the owner of an internet quilt fabric business. She loves expressing her creative talents through quilting.

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