Death on the Prairie
Author Kathleen Ernst is one of Wisconsin's own. Not only has she written several young adult books as part of the American Girl doll series, but she also has several books for adults under her belt. Being a historian at heart, she has written a mystery series with Wisconsin ties. The newest in the series, Death on the Prairie, picks up on the adventures of her main character Chloe Ellefson, a Collections Curator at Old World Wisconsin. While Chloe is fictional, Old World Wisconsin really exists. It is an open air museum in Eagle, Wisconsin. In the story, Chloe has been given a quilt that was supposedly made by Laura. In an effort to try to authenticate the claim, she and her sister take off on a road trip to several of the Laura Ingalls Wilder historic sites to see if they can match any fabrics from the quilt given to her to fabrics used in quilts known to have been made by Laura. And because it is a mystery, and because these things just keep happening to Chloe, dead bodies start turning up.
When Kathleen told me the premise of her book, we began talking about the quilts at the various historic sites, and I told her about my research on the Dove in the Window Block that Laura made for her wedding quilt. I am thrilled to report that my theories made it into the story line! What fun! Kathleen commissioned me to make a quilt for her to take with her on her publicity tour that consists of the blocks Laura talks about in her books. It was a fun challenge to arrange the blocks so they too could well a story. The front of the quilt consists of Nine Patch Blocks as well as a Bears Paw and a version of Dove in the Window that is similar to the Bears Paw block.
The Dove in the Window pattern is the one Laura made for her wedding quilt. Because they lost most of their possessions in a house fire very early on in their marriage, Laura and Almanzo's wedding quilt has remained a mystery. There are several patterns known as Dove in the Window and it is unknown which one Laura made. Here is where my research came in. There is a very unusual single block made by Laura that is at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Park and Museum in Burr Oak, Iowa. Imagine my surprise to find a sketch of a block very similar to the Burr Oak block in a quilt book from the 1920's, identified as Dove in the Window.
This version has an octagon shape in the center that can be very tricky to piece. If not done accurately, the block won't go together well. The Burr Oak block doesn't lay quite flat. In trying to recreate it, I discovered that the octagon is not equilateral, that is, the sides are not all the same length. When placed as it is in the Burr Oak piece, the block doesn't lay quite flat. But, if turned by one side, it fits perfectly! I really think Laura was trying to recreate this complex block from memory some 50 years after she made the original, and while she had it almost right, because the octagon was not positioned correctly, the end result didn't quite work.
The back of the quilt I made for Kathleen shows the original Dove in the Window pattern as seen in a quilt publication from the 1920's (lower right). It also shows an adaptation of that block, with the center octagon correctly placed, demonstrating what the Burr Oak block would have looked like if the center was correctly positioned.
I received my copy yesterday. Imagine my delight to see that my review of the book appears on page one! I have really enjoyed the entire Chloe series, and I think you will too. If you haven't read these books yet, I highly recommend them for a fun read. Watch for the release of my pattern for the quilt I made to go along with Death on the Prairie coming soon.
Wisconsin quilt shops (over 70) band together for three weeks in June for a Quilt Shop Hop, where shoppers are encouraged to make the rounds to as many quilt shops as their hearts desire. Special exhibits are put in place, each year featuring a new line of fabric that has been designed especially with Wisconsin in mind. Many of the shops design a pattern using the year's fabric, and the patterns are unveiled during the shop hop.
For the fifth year in a row, Gatherings, the shop here in my town of Boscobel, has commissioned me to design their Shop Hop quilt. The quilt fpr 2016 is Fun With Scallops.
The picture blocks are part of a panel of scenes from Wisconsin. The scallops and borders surrounding them are a fun way to make the pictures a real feature. This technique would be a great way to expand the size of any 9" block you may have, whether it be from a panel or an orphan block from an old project.
Gatherings will have kits available. You may also purchase just the pattern from Gatherings, or from me. Check out the Ordering section of this website for details. At $4, the pattern is a real bargain!
Commissioned by Mill House Quilts, Waunakee, WI
This year has been really fun for me, as I was asked to design quilts for TWO of the shops! Millhouse Quilts, in Waunakee, WI, is fully embracing the Wisconsin theme of the shop hop by paying tribute to Wisconsin-born Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame. Millhouse asked me to design a quilt using blocks from my book Quilting With Laura, Patterns Inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie Series. While the book features hand piecing techniques in keeping with how Laura pieced her quilts, this quilt and the pattern that goes with it are done with machine piecing techniques. A charming 30" square, this quilt would make a lovely keepsake for any home.
Commissioned by Gatherings, Boscobel, WI
If you don't know by now, I love scrap quilts, and this pattern fits that bill perfectly! There is something very satisfying about using lots of different fabrics in a quilt that works up quickly, and that is just what this quilt did. I call this quilt Pick-Up Sticks. It is NOT done with paper piecing (paper piecing and I don't get along. I always cut off the wrong piece of fabric!) Instead, I devised what was really a quick and clever way to create this design using just strips and squares. Measuring 29" by 29", this too makes a darling wall hanging.
And if the color scheme of this year's Shop Hop Fabric isn't your thing, how about this very scrappy version of Pick-Up Sticks. It was such fun to do, and I love the colors. Hope you do to.
Commissioned by Gatherings, Boscobel, WIThe 2014 result was Postcards: A Remembrance Quilt. This quilt gives you perfect areas to frame and highlight those special fabrics or mementos you want to treasure, whether they be pictures, embroideries, or signatures.
Commissioned by Gatherings, Boscobel, WI
The circle prints in this year's fabrics just begged for something happy and bouncy! Curves, which can be tricky to piece, are done in a whole new way! There is not one single curved pieced seam in this quilt. Try my revolutionary way to create curves that can be done in half the time of traditional piecing and is much more accurate! Give it a try. I think you will love my new method for doing curves as much as I do!
Commissioned by Gatherings, Boscobel, WI
This year's pattern is called Gatherings, both in honor of the shop that commissioned it, and for the idea that it is the perfect canvas for you to gather your favorite fabrics and showcase them in this fun pattern. The Wisconsin Travels version of Gatherings features the Wisconsin Icon fabric of the Moda Wisconsin Shop Hop Fabric. Nine special images celebrate all that is Wisconsin, with accompanying theme fabric surrounding the images.
I call this version of Gatherings The Happy Quilt. It contains a collection of joyous fabrics that gave long arm quilter Marcia Wachuta of Marcia's Crafty Sewing and Quilting (http://www.craftysewing.com)the opportunity to play with a different quilting pattern in each block.Marcia has quilted several quilts for me. What I like about Marcia's quilting is that she does not do all-over patterns, but rather, works with the quiltmaker to come up with quilting that highlights the features of each quilt, making every quilt she does specific to the wishes of the quiltmaker. The pattern is perfect for featuring specialty fabrics, whether they are the Wisconsin fabrics, or other fabrics you want to showcase. And it goes together in a snap! I've made three of them already, all totally different, and I can't wait to start making another one.
The patterns for the Shop Hop quilts can be ordered on the Ordering section of this website.
I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in the making of the Wisconsin Writers Quilt. The Wisconsin Writers Quilt was designed, created and quilted by a group of volunteers from the Friends of the Reedsburg Wisconsin Public Library, Reedsburg, WI. Autographs from forty contemporary Wisconsin writers have been incorporated into the quilt. The goal of the quilt is to raise money for the library to improve public access to technology. Funds are being raised by the sale of notecards featuring the quilt.
I was one of the authors who received a piece of cloth to autograph. The quilt volunteers then cleverly incorporated those signatures into the spines of books for the bookshelves. Fabrics used for the books themselves tied in with the topics of the books. My book contained patchwork! Such fun, and beautifully crafted. The quilt itself has become part of the library's permanent collection.