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New Story Series! The Off-Kilter Quilt

Of the four Bennett sisters, Melissa Bennett was the most sensible, the smartest and the least likely to marry. She was also the happiest. After all, what did she love most in the world? Books, children and quilts, and as the children’s librarian at the main branch of the Milton Falls Public Library by day and a volunteer quilting teacher at the community center by night, Melissa spent her life surrounded by the people and things that made her life worth living. A husband sounded nice in theory, but where would she put him? Read On…


 

From Frances O’Roark Dowell — bestselling author of Dovey Coe, The Secret Language of Girls, Trouble the Water and other “beloved books for tweens and teenagers” (New York Times Sunday Book Review) — comes Birds in the Air, Dowell’s first novel for adults.

“A truly enjoyable read! Quilters will relive their own first patchwork steps along with Emma as she searches for her place in a new community. Non-quilters will experience vicariously Emma’s discovery of the power of quilts to connect, heal, and restore the soul.” –Marianne Fons

In the tradition of Marie Bostwick and Jennifer Chiaverini, Frances O’Roark Dowell combines her deep connection to the quilting life and her love of storytelling to create a novel about the abiding friendships that bind together a community of women who share a passion for making quilts.

When Emma Byrd moves into the house of her dreams in the small mountain community of Sweet Anne’s Gap, she knows that making friends may prove to be her biggest challenge. Her husband loves his new job and her kids are finding their way at school. But Emma — no natural when it comes to talking to strangers — will have to try a little harder, especially after the sweet, white-haired neighbor she first visits slams the door in her face.


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In this modern day fairy tale, financial woes force two sisters to consider selling their beloved home. If Lucy could marry her longtime love, all would be well, but an aunt with a knack for predicting the future has warned that if Lucy marries before younger sister Amanda, heartbreak will follow. Quiltmaker Amanda concocts a plan to get her sister down the aisle before it’s too late, but her quilting magic has unexpected consequences.

The Keeping Quilt–For Reals!

My friend Chris emailed today to let me know she’d seen the real Keeping Quilt that inspired Patricia Palacco’s book of the same name (which I wrote about here). Even better, she sent me a picture!

The quilt is part of a permanent exhibit of Palacco’s work at the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books.

http://kinderbooks.net/wp-content/uploads/2001/05/The-Keeping-Quilt.jpg

Chris also asked if I’d read I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery. I haven’t, but as soon as I looked it up on Amazon I knew I wanted to read it based on the cover alone:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61-GYoRlIvL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

I also heard from Julie, who mentioned a book her sister wrote called Ravaging Rio and the Ghost in the Library, which is illustrated with photographs Julie took of her own quilts. I got a peek at Ravaging Rio using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, and I loved Julie’s quilts so much that I immediately ordered a copy.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71fAH3PZsLL.jpg

I just bought two Jennifer Chiaverini Kindle short stories, The Fabric Diary and The Runner’s Quilt. They came in November 2016, and the cost for both is only $1.99. Bargain! I’ll tell you more about them when I finish.

Speaking of short stories, I plan on posting one on this blog, serial-style, soon. I also hope to eventually make an audio version available as well, since I know so many quilters like to listen to audiobooks while they quilt.

P.S. I had a great time talking to Pat Sloan on Monday. She’s one of the quilting world’s treasures, and I so appreciate her having me on the show. If you want to listen, just head over here: http://blog.patsloan.com/2017/01/learn-about-designing-a-quilt-novels-creation-and-more-tips-a-free-pattern.html

Quilts in Children’s Books, Part Two: The Underground Railroad Quilt Code

 

Underground Railroad Quilt CodeThe Monkey Wrench turns the Wagon Wheel toward Canada on a Bear’s Paw trail to the Crossroads. Once they got to the Crossroads, they dug a Log Cabin on the ground. Shoofly told them to dress up in cotton and satin Bow Ties and go to the cathedral church, get married and exchange Double Wedding Rings. Flying Geese stay on the Drunkard’s Path and follow the Stars.

–The Underground Railroad Quilt Code, according to Ozella Williams, reported in Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D.


It’s no big surprise that the Quilt Code story caught on. Slaves escaping to freedom via the Underground Railroad in the dark of night, their way mapped for them by quilts hanging on clotheslines or low-hanging branches–all the elements of a great saga are here: heroes, villains, dangerous journeys, secret knowledge, the dream of freedom.

Underground Railroad Quilt CodeGiven what a marvelous story this is, it’s also no surprise that more than one children’s book writer has latched onto it. Books that feature quilts as guides for slaves making their way north to freedom include Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad Quilt in the Sky by Faith Ringgold, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson, The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom by Bettye Stroud, Under the Quilt of Dark by Deborah Hopkinson, The Secret to Freedom by Marcia Vaughan, Unspoken: A Story of the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole … and the list goes on.

One of the most beautiful (and beautifully written) of these books is Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson, which follows an African-American family through many generations, from slavery to freedom to the Civil Rights movement to the present day.

 

While Show Way is about more than the Underground Railroad Quilt Code, it relies on the idea of the code to frame the story. Given the beautiful illustrations by Hudson Talbott and the silver Newbery Honor Book sticker on the book’s cover, Show Way will perpetuate the myth of the Quilt Code for years to come.

Underground Railroad Quilt CodeIt’s hard to accept that the Quilt Code is a myth, and many people don’t. When doing research for this post, I found fairly recent YouTube videos of lectures that posited the Code as a historical truth. Amazon.com reviews of Hidden in Plain View written as recently as 2016 applaud it for what it reveals about our country’s history during slavery, even though quilt and Underground Railroad historians have been refuting the historicity of the Code since the book’s publication.

In a Time magazine article, folklorist Laurel Horton, who has done extensive research about the Quilt Code, told a reporter she had stopped trying to convince people that the code never existed. Instead she’s focused on why people continue to believe even though there is almost no historical evidence that quilts were used to guide slaves to freedom.

“This whole issue made me realize it’s not a matter of one group having the truth and another not,” Horton says in the article. “It’s matter of two different sets of beliefs. It’s made me realize that belief doesn’t have a lot to do with factual representation. People feel in their gut that it’s true so no one can convince them in their head that it’s otherwise.”

The picture books I’ve read about the Underground Railroad quilts offer compelling stories and are visually lovely. I suspect they’ll be used in elementary school classrooms for a long time to come. But as we seem to be moving ever closer to a time when facts are relative and need not be based on anything more than belief, I hope that this myth will be busted sooner rather than later.

 

For more about the Underground Railroad Quilt Code controversy, follow this link to read Leigh Fellner’s booklength investigation, Betsy Ross Redux, available as a downloadable PDF:

https://web.archive.org/web/20130120160626/http://ugrrquilt.hartcottagequilts.com/betsy%20ross%20redux.pdf

To watch Laurel Horton’s lecture at the International Quilt Study Center on the Quilt Code, just hit play:

To watch a video reading of Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLmiRkdIWI0

Underground Railroad historian Eric Giles on the UGRR Quilt Code Myth: http://www.historiccamdencounty.com/ccnews11_doc_01a.shtml

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