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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Cheddarback Block of the Month – Month 6


Lily and I made our way back to the cottage yesterday. I really need to thank my lucky stars we made it. I've had some serious computer issues pop up. The kind where you realize your "wonder of technology" is drawing it's last breaths and you pray it hangs on until a new laptop arrives and you figure out how to get it up and running. It took me almost 2 hours to print one pattern yesterday!

That meant we left late, got caught in construction traffic, watched in horror as a driver decided to pass a truck over a double yellow line. Yup, that one was nearly a head on crash at the crest of a hill. What is wrong with people?!? I won't even tell you about my disastrous stop at McDonald's for a coffee or the smashed hamburger buns from the grocery store or........................

This is what's happening to my little house today. Lots of very noisy work for the next few days as they scrape off the old roofs and put in a new one. Believe it or not, this has a quilting connection. When the water was leaking into the living room a few weeks on a Friday afternoon, I was in a panic over who to call for help.  I reached out to a quilting friend for advice. I don't have the words to thank Sharon Kaiser, one of the former owners of the Quilt'n Bee  for her help. She knew just who to call and the service we've received from IRT Commercial Services  has been fantastic on every level. The Quilt'n Bee closed a few months ago but another great quilt shop is now in their old location. Be sure to visit Tawni and her staff, including many of the Quilt'n Bee girls at Interquilten.  No matter where you live, if you're a quilter, you've got friends! Thanks again, Sharon!

Let's talk about the fun blocks we have this month. I think you're going to like them.


Block 26

This block isn't in the antique quilt. It's one I've selected to include in the layout I designed. It'll be at the bottom of the first vertical row.  As I look at this I'm so very tempted to start making blocks and catch up with you. I really do love this quilt!

This is what your first vertical row will look like. Please feel free to select another 12" block for your bottom row if you're not a fan of the one I'm using. It's your quilt - make it your way!

Block 27

Here's a great combination of red and indigo. The indigo print is as cute as can be and the red is flannel. I wonder if it is from a shirt or maybe a pair of long johns, haha. Maybe that's only funny if you're from Michigan. The town of Cedar Springs was dubbed the Red Flannel Town because of the Red Flannel Factory that operated there form 1949 to 1994. They made the best red flannel long johns!

I've given you the traditional method for piecing this block using templates. When I look at the block and think about how to make it I realize one any given day I might be too lazy to make it the traditional way. I would make a pinwheel block and applique the square over the center. Viola - it's done! I put some notes on the pattern for doing that too.

Block 28

I love, love, love this little block. It's a star! It's scrappy and just perfect. 

Look at all the great fabrics in just one 5" block. There are two shirting prints, a red check, blue check and a great maroon center. Have fun picking out fabrics for this one. It's all rotary cut and machine pieced.

Block 29

You'll have this one sewn together in no time at all. The pattern is a combination of template and rotary cutting. There are lots of great linen look fabrics available right now so check them out for the perfect light red to use in this block. The cross pieces are another sweet indigo print.

Block 30

Here's our final block this month. There's a lot going on in this small block. It's a bit unusual and has an interesting use of fabrics. 

The deep gray and brown prints are really great. I consider them texture prints or tone on tone fabrics. The red used for the hearts is the cornerstone fabric and the connector corners on the brown squares is a sweet black print we've see before. This block is a combination of techniques with connector corners, applique and traditional piecing. 


Ella Maria Deacon Quilt

That's it for this month except for some news I want to share with all of you applique lovers. Has anyone missed having an applique project to work on? I admit, I have and was trying to hold off for the next quilt in my collection until Barbara Brackman  suggested I work on a quilt she posted to the Quilts-Vintage and Antique  group on Facebook. I've admired Barbara for a long time and was so flattered by her suggestion. I've loved this quilt for a long, long time but there are extra hoops you need to jump through when working on a quilt you don't own so those usually get put toward the bottom of my bucket list.

This quilt is just stunning and has so many interesting blocks. It's in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago which is only a few hours from where I live when in Grand Rapids. The museum has been very nice to work with, quick to respond, and I have the necessary arrangements in place to let you know I've set September 15 as the starting date for this project. I'm working on a full post for the blog which should be up before the end of the week unless my current laptop dies and I have trouble getting the new one going. It'll let you see some of the fabrics up close so you can begin your searches. I am tempted to approach one of the fabric manufacturers about working together on this quilt. There's a nice variety of fabrics in the quilt and I know we'd all love to find the perfect setting and sashing fabric.  I've created an Ella Maria Deacon Quilt Facebook group for those who want to follow along on this quilt. I'll make a trip to the museum in a few months for an audience with the Ella Maria Deacon Quilt and should be able to bring a photographer with me for some great detail photos.      More information to come........................



Cheddarback - Month 6 Patterns - CLICK HERE




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Cheddarback Block of the Month – Month 5


I've got an interesting mix of blocks for you this month. I think you'll find some of them easy and others might give you a pretty good challenge. They gave me more than a challenge or two just drafting them. I shook my head in wonder more than once wishing the quilt maker was here to ask about her construction choices. Let's get right to them -

Block 21

We're starting right out with a block that left me with so many questions. One thing that fascinated me about this block (and Block 25) is the red and blue stripe appears to have been cut from a piece of clothing. You can see the seams running through different pieces in the block. The fabric has a great texture and I wonder if it was a dress or skirt.  The blue stripe in the corners is a finer fabric making me thing it was a blouse or shirt. I also scratched my head over the construction. At first glance at the block doesn't look as complicated as it is. There's actually a ring of diamonds surrounding the center square but you'd never know it by the fabric choices that were made. You can machine or hand piece this block. I've given you as many rotary cutting measurements as I could and templates for the diamonds.

Block 22

What a great mix of fabrics in this block. There's a really interesting pink woven fabric along with a mourning purple and a black print. It's a sweet little block and you'll have it sewn together in no time at all.

Block 23


  It doesn't take a math wizard to realize things don't divide well for a 5" Nine Patch block. Don't worry, we'll still be rotary cutting and machine piecing this little gem. I want you to use a scant 1/4" seam allowance and if your unfinished block doesn't measure 5 1/2" I'm suggesting you use my trick of steaming that baby into submission to get the correct size. Trust me, it'll be fine.

Block 24

Be still my heart! This little schoolhouse block is as sweet as it can be. There are some Y seams but I don't think you'll have too much trouble machine or hand piecing this one. The windows and doors are appliqued on the block after it's constructed. There are templates and also a full size block drawing for placement. The original block was a little "kitty wompus" with it's angles making the shirting strips of the house a little more narrow. I opted to keep things a bit more lined up and think it'll be just as cute.

Block 25

Does this block look familiar? It's almost like one of the blocks from last month. The pretty one with the applique star points. I adapted last months patterns for this block and then realized the star points weren't sewn around a center square. One of them is a long strip with star points on the ends. I didn't go back and redo the pattern. It's an easy fix if you really feel the need to be historically accurate. You can tape your star point templates to opposite sides of the square template to cut one long piece (remember to overlap the templates to allow for the seam allowances).  Just like last time, I'm giving you instructions for an easier version of the block too.

This is the second block this month where seam lines run through the fabric pieces. This time it's in the purple mourning print.  Oh how I'd love to see those clothes!

That's it for this month. Have fun with the blocks!

Click on the link below to take you to the online store. The free block set is the last one in the list on the little drop down menu under the price. It's $0.00 until August 1st.



Cheddarback - Month 5 Patterns - CLICK HERE



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