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Birds in the Air Patch from Underground Railroad Quilt

Jim has been working on making quilt patches for an Underground Railroad Quilt based on Eleanor Burns' and Sue Bouchard's book on the subject. Above is one of his completed 6-inch blocks. This block is referred to as Birds in the Air.

Don't look too closely at the points. Jim believes that perfect points are overrated and fussing around to make them perfect takes the fun out of quilting.

The story goes that quilters could use the direction of the birds flight to indicate to fleeing slaves the direction they should travel (generally north) to find freedom.

The banner at the top of this page was also made for this quilt and referred to as a North Star block. This was to remind escaped slaves that following the North Star would lead them to freedom in Canada. There is controversy over the quilts-guiding-slaves story, but it nevertheless makes for an excellent sampler quilt.

All but one of the quilt patches for the Underground Railroad Quilt were completed during evenings spent while at the Day's Inn in Byron, Georgia while we were working on the house restoration.

You can see Eleanor Burns autographing Jim's book here.

picking fat quarter in daylight

Picking fabrics in natural light. Jim quickly discovered the value of natural light when selecting fabrics. Spending a warm summer day outside on the deck is nice too.

arranging quilt blocks
Jim Arranging Quilt Patches
The quilt pattern was seen in a quilting magazine and Jim used the pattern therein to make this quilt. It is a pinwheel quilt pattern.

Newly purchased red fat quarters dried quickly on a NY clothesline in the image below. Elizabeth's mom took Jim to a quilt shop in NY that was an old dairy barn. The shop had a fine collection of red fat quarters.

drying red fat quarters
Newly purchased red fat quarters dried quickly on a NY clothesline.
cowgirl quilt
Quilt for First Great Grandchild

For Jim's and Elizabeth's first great-grandchild who was born during 2006 we made this Cowgirl Quilt. Elizabeth modified a layout she found to make best use of the stack of cowgirl fabrics we picked up at the quilt show in Nashville. Jim fussy-cut and sewed the quilt top on one of his vintage sewing machines. Since it was a special quilt, Elizabeth quilted it by hand rather than by machine.

Fabrics used in this quilt contain images of cowgirls, horses, boots, bandana, jeans, saddle leather, brands, horseshoes, lassos, and cow spots.

sewing cowgirl quilt on atlas
Piecing Aura Lee's quilt on the Atlas sewing machine.
cuddlebug quilt
Aura Lee and her Cuddlebug Quilt

Jim found this ladybug fabric in the Nashville AQS Show. The other velour fabrics came from our local JoAnns shop. He started a few conversations with the other shoppers when they observed his growing stack of pink fabrics. Based on the smile, it appears that Great Grandbaby likes the finished product.


Morgan's Quilt

When great-grand-daughter number 2 (Morgan) came along, we had to make her a quilt as well. Her mother said that she wanted a heavenly scene--sky, sun, moon and stars, etc. We shopped around several states where we picked up every fabric containing stars that we could find. We made 3-, 6-, and 9-inch blocks using star patterns and we tried to make every pattern differently. Elizabeth drew the patterns on her computer and printed out the geometric shapes on paper. Jim sewed the quilt patches together using a technique called foundation piecing--sewing the quilt pieces to the paper using the lines on the paper as a guide for stitching. The paper was subsequently removed and the quilt was finished in a normal way.

Some quilt fabric shops we know and like: The reds on the clothes line above came from The Quilt Farm in Boston, New York. Amish Country in Ohio has a number of nice stores including Miller's Dry Goods in Millersburg, Ohio. Our favorite Georgia quilt shops are Sew Bee It in Ringgold, Georgia; Red Hen Fabrics, Tiny Stitches and Little Quilts all three in Marietta, Georgia. We like these quilt fabric shops as they happily will cut a fat quarter from a bolt. In a pinch, Hancock Fabric in Warner Robins, Georgia has a good quilt fabric selection. Hobby Lobby in Knoxville, Tennessee has an excellent fabric department. The best deals around are precut lengths at a cash-and-carry outlet store in Jackson, Ohio. The latter claims to not have raised fabric prices for a decade.

Jim acknowledges the help of his only quilt teacher -- his wife Elizabeth.

Page updated September 29, 2009