Awhile back, when I was immersed in quilt lore and life, someone gave me an old quilt book. I say "old" but it was from 1984 so not that old. It was published by The House of White Birches, Inc in New Hampshire. The woman had been cleaning out her closet and found it and decided maybe it was a book I could use. My life at the time dealt with the quilts of the Aurora Colony and the four books I'd written related to that communal society that survived west of the Mississippi until the late 1880s.
As part of the promotion for those books I also wrote a short piece for an historical quilt journal about the quilting women of Aurora. While reading that journal I came across a story of a signature quilt made in the mid 1800s and the story that went with it was that each signed block had been quilted by a woman being courted by a certain man. He kept all the blocks and when he finally married, it wasn't to any of the signature-makers. He married a woman who had not made a block for him and she finished the quilt!
That story gave me the idea for "A Courting Quilt" included in A Log Cabin Christmas, which can now be claimed as a New York Times Bestselling book as of September 25, 2011!
That story was just the seed. From there the juices of creativity mixed their way in the stew of an idea.
Enter my friend's quilt book called Bible Quilt Blocks. If each of those women made a Bible quilt block rather than a signature one, and I gave them a thread salesman as the mastermind behind it, and I found a woman who owned a log cabin store who was desperate to find a way to keep in business despite growing competition, and the thread salesmen oversteps his bounds and the widow discovers she's falling in love with the scamp, I might just have a story!
I opened up that little book to the wonderful world of Bible-related quilt blocks. Each had a story to go with it and a great essay by Mary Louise Kitsen called "Biblical Quilts...an Old Tradition." In my story, I didn't mention all of the designs...there were 24 to choose from. But the one's I did chose I love. "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul." That phrase has no reference in the Bible at all! But what is of interest is that Peter and Paul were opposite personalities as portrayed in the New Testament so that quilt block would be best made with bold but opposite designs.
|Storm at sea quilt block|
Another favorite was "Storm at Sea". When I saw that block I thought "How did they make it appear to be a watery upheaval?" There are no round surfaces, only triangles placed in certain ways to make our eyes think they're uneven and shaped like the bottom of a boat. Jonah comes to mind? The ark? Maybe a boat where fisherman cast their nets.
While researching historical fiction I often come across the role that quilts played in women's lives. Quilts thread their way through many of my stories including The Kinship and Courage series especially AllTogether in One Place and book two, NoEye Can See. But quilts take center stage in "The Courting Quilt" set in old Brownsville, a woolen mill town of the 1800s in the central Willamette Valley of Oregon. Women still quilt there and despite its small size, there's a quilt shop right in town. To me, that's a sign of creative women bringing comfort to the community.
Yankee Dutch Quilting & Dry Goods
106 E. Bishop Way (Highway 228 at Main Street)
Brownsville, Oregon 97327
If I were to make a Biblical quilt block think I'd adapt "Road to California" a popular block during the gold rush years and call it instead "Road to Eden." This would have a double meaning for me since an old nickname of Oregon is "Eden's Gate" and Brent Walth wrote a book Fire at Eden's Gate: Tom McCall and the Oregon Story to celebrate that connection. Here I am, back to writing about writing and...quilting.
Question: If you were to "name" a quilt block based on a favorite scripture, what title might you come up with? Put on those creative hats. I know you can do it. Some of you might even be able to draw the design and bless us all with the comfort of scripture and quilts.
Post your answer or comment here and then be sure to visit Erica Vetsch @ Erica Vetsch: On the Write Path (part 2) blog tomorrow for the chance to win two copies signed by all the authors! You don't have to be a quilter to love quilts!