Ella Maria Deacon – It’s Time to Get Ready!


I have several quilts in my collection that I treasure and each one speaks to me in different ways. My Beyond The Cherry Trees quilt was a bit of a mystery when it came to it's provenance but I was so enamoured with the quilt I nearly hand quilted it a second time so I could see the quilting designs well enough to share them with everyone. Most people thought I was a little crazy but I thought it honored the maker to show her amazing talent in making the quilt. The 1857 Album Quilt took us on an amazing journey into the life of Laura Ackerman with the friendship quilt made for her by family and friends. The Dear Daughter quilt gave us a glimpse into another period in time with the friendship quilt made for Maxon and Sarah Dunham. What wonderful stories these quilts have to tell!

Are you familiar with this quilt?  Like me, you may have seen it on Barbara Brackman's blog.  Barbara's blogs are a treasure trove of information on antique quilts and quilting. I can't thank her enough for her support of some of my recent projects. It was at her suggestion I pondered the possibility of making this amazing quilt. As I looked closely at the blocks it grabbed hold of my heart! Imagine how much fun it will be making these blocks and all that can be learned recreating this masterpiece.

The quilt is attributed to Ella Maria Deacon. It's in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago which is only a few short hours from my home in Grand Rapids, MI. I hope to find time to make a trip to Chicago to spend some time with the quilt but it may be a few months before I can fit that into my schedule. 

I'm still in the midst of sharing the Cheddarback quilt but I've missed working on a quilt with everyone. I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up with making the blocks but............. 


Beginning on September 15th

I'd like to make the Ella Maria Deacon quilt with all of you!

It's a big project but oh so wonderful. The blocks in this quilt are amazing - the fabrics are amazing - the sashing and setting triangles are pretty amazing too. The finished size of the quilt is about 106" square.

There's a Facebook group  you can join to share fabric choices, your blocks and help each other as we work together.  As I said, this is a BIG project with 85 blocks (some are repeats) so I've decided to present 4 blocks per month for 21 months. Some of you may want to make 1 block a week and some of you may just collect the patterns.

Important note: Because of the size of this project and all that's involved, I'm going to charge a small fee for each set of four blocks. Each set will be $2.50 for the entire month it's presented (ie. Sept 15 - Oct. 15) and after that time you can purchase the set for $5 which is the same as my retired sets for the free sew along quilt projects.  This was a very difficult decision for me and don't worry, I will still continue to offer my free sew alongs but for this quilt I decided to do things differently.  Your cost is less than $ .62 per block.  I hope you understand. 

I'll present the blocks "bingo style" with a mix of patchwork and applique, simple and more complex. There are 51 blocks I classified as applique and 34 pieced blocks. If you'd like to take a closer look at the quilt I encourage you to visit the blog of  Valerie Langue who owns  The Quilt MerchantShe blogged about her visit to the Art Institute of Chicago when the quilt was on exhibit in 2018.  She took some nice photographs of the quilt with close up pictures of some of the blocks.

I found one book where the quilt is pictured. It's Textiles from the Art Institute of Chicago which was published in 1992. It's still available in all different price ranges and I had to have a copy. The close up photograph and all it reveals about the fabrics in the quilt was worth the purchase.

I'm always asked "what are you using for your background fabric". I'm struggling a little with this one. I tried to photograph the Kona color card but trust me, the colors are not accurate. I thought I was going to use Bone but now I'm debating Oyster or Natural. Val is sending me samples of Putty and a Marcus Fabrics Centennial Solid so I'll post in the Facebook group as soon as I decide.

I'm posting the fabric requirements today. Your background fabric is probably the main decision at this point. There are lots of fabrics in the quilt and you probably have things in your stash. There are several red, green, yellow, double pinks and blues used in the quilt. I'm going to keep my eyes open for the perfect sashing stripe and a green for my setting triangles. I hope everyone will share with the group if they find the "perfect" fabric for sashing and setting. 


Ella Maria Deacon Quilt - Fabric Requirements



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Cheddarback Block of the Month – Month 7


It's the Labor Day holiday weekend here in the United States. It signals the end of summer which is something I can hardly believe. I feel like summer started late, was cold for a couple of months, then we had about 6 warm weeks and boom..................it's almost over.  I'm going to try not to think about the summertime blues I feel creeping in and focus on this month's blocks. If you're spending the weekend at home I hope you'll be able to work on them. We're jumping to the top of the middle row this month ..................

Block 31

This is a pretty star block featuring a pretty black print. The pink flannel plaid looks well worn and there are seams showing in some of the tan background fabric so I think this was truly a scrap basket block from worn clothing.

Block 32

I think this is the sweetest little block. I'd love to have yards and yards of the pink print! I think the blue floral that was fussy cut for the flowers in the basket was likely much brighter when the block was made. There's a seam going through the fussy cut piece so maybe this was a summer blouse of dress. I can't wait to see what fabrics everyone finds for the fussy cutting in their basket!


Block 33

You're going to have plenty of practice making half square triangles! This is one bodacious tree with it's pretty black print and textured background fabric. I love it and would be glad I only had to make one of these.

It might look like you're going to be short two blocks this month but that's because it's an alphabet month. This month's set of small blocks included the letters H and D.

There are more letters coming up later in the quilt.  They're all used within the small blocks. Each letter is a little different in style and three of them have a border around the block. I decided to go with just one style but you can do anything you want in your quilt. You might not want alphabet letters at all and can substitute other 5" blocks in their place. For those of you wanting to include the letters..........

I'm serving up some alphabet soup with the Cheddarback Alphabet. This is an optional pattern you can purchase. 



Each letter is a 3" foundation paper pieced block surrounded by a border. If you look at the quilt you can see where the five letter blocks are located compare the different in styles. I selected the style of the letter "P" for all of the Cheddarback Alphabet blocks. It looks like the letters from The Ladies Art Company who started offering quilt patterns in 1899. The time period seemed perfect for this quilt. The pattern is $5.00 for foundation paper piecing patterns for the entire alphabet in the 3" size needed for the quilt. You can purchase it on the regular Cheddarback page in the store - HERE 

I think that's it for today - have fun and post your pictures in the Facebook Group !



Cheddarback - Month 7 Patterns - CLICK HERE



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The Journey of Ten Quilting Stencils


My family will tell you the last thing I need in my house is more Needleart Guild quilting stencils. When you consider there were over 700 designs when manufacturing stopped and I have at least one of each design you can understand why I had no business buying 10 of them on ebay to add to the collection. This group of ten tugged at my heartstrings and I knew they had to come back to home.

They're not pretty. They are in fact, well used, stained and in kind of rough shape. They have the old blue, gummed labels we used in the late 1970's and early 80's. 

In the back room at the Needleart Guild, there was a big glass dish filled with water on the work table with a funky old sponge in it. As you pulled a customer's order those blue, gummed labels were moistened and put on each tuffboard stencil.  The designs in this group are some of the earliest of the stencils we manufactured with numbers  59, 86, 75, 92, 94, 106, 152,  175, 176,  188. From the 1930's until the late 70's there were only 120 designs with 119 of them available. Stencil #62 wasn't sold but included as a sample when you requested a mail order catalog. Over the next 20 years we'd add 600 designs! That was accomplished by asking permission to sell custom designs made for customers and with designs I drew by hand or traced from antique quilts. 

Some of these stencils also had a sticker from Culpepper's Quilts in East Lansing. It was a quilt shop owned by Pepper Cory.  Many times she would come to our house on Oakwood Ave NE in Grand Rapids, MI to pick up quilting stencils for the shop. My Dad thought the world of her, an enterprising young lady running her own business.

Based on the age of the stencils, I was most likely the one who made them. I learned to run the stencil cutting machine when I was 12 or 13.  Every day after school my Dad drove me to the home of Esther Mish who had worked for my Dad at Fabric Specialties sewing and cutting quilt stencils. She continued to cut stencils for Needleart Guild on one of the stencil cutting machine in the basement of her home after my Dad shuttered Fabric Specialties. She taught me how to operate the machine and I gradually took over that responsibility. I might see if one of those machines is still around. It would be nice to have one in my own basement! 

I started working full time at the Needleart Guild in 1976 so chances are I made those stencils. My Dad and I were the only ones making stencils until we went with the computerized system in the 1980's and then........... it was mostly us again. I digitized them into the computer system and we both ran the cutting machine. The computer guided cutting machine cut the new see thru plastic stencils and the old, hand guided machine was still used for cutting the original tuffboard stencils.

There was one more sticker on one of the stencils. It was for Edith A Koch. In the 1970's and 80's lots of hand quilting was taking place and stencils were shared among friends. I'm guessing Edith put an address label on this one so it wouldn't get mixed up with someone else's. This particular stencil is the corner for a cable border design. I wonder what happened to the border stencil? 

I couldn't resist heading to the internet to see if I could find Edith. Bless her heart, Edith Ann Koch passed away at the age of 93 on Christmas Eve of last year.  Because her name was on a stencil I assumed Edith was a quilter. Assuming things can sometimes get you into trouble but her obituary proved she was not only a quilter but a "master quilter".  My guess is Edith would have been in her late 50's when she acquired those stencils.  I had to know more...............

Edith lived in Oakland Township, MI. Her home was sold in April of this year.  I asked the ebay seller I purchased the stencils from how they came to be in her possession and was told she purchased them at an estate sale of Edith's things.

Can you imagine the view Edith had? There are windows across the entire back of the house. It would be so wonderful so sit for hours hand quilting as you enjoyed the view.  The property overlooked the waters of Paint Creek River.

Her sewing area appears to be stolen space in the laundry room. Her machine, maybe an old Singer 301 - perfect for sewing fine, straight seams.

A few of the rooms still have quilts in them. This one shows her quilting frame near one of those big windows.

I wish I had known Edith and am honored to be the caretaker of her stencils. I'll keep them together, print this blog post to go with them and set them aside with my things designated for the museum. I'm going to ask Pepper if she recalls anyone with that name as a customer. When you own a quilt shop it's amazing the names you can remember even years later.
I hope Edith's children treasure and enjoy the quilts she made. Hopefully, there were lots of quilts to warm them in both body and soul now that she's gone.

And I can't help but wonder if she was still quilting in her 90's .................... I hope so!


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