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Friendship Album, 1933
By Frances O'Roark Dowell

The idea for Friendship Album, 1933, came to me after reading Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 World Fair: The Sears National Quilt Contest and Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition by quilt historians Merikay Waldvogel and Barbara Brackman. With its $1,000 grand prize (nearly $20,000 in today’s dollars), the Sears National Quilt Contest inspired a lot of women to enter the competition. Five such women make up Friendship Album’s circle of quilters. They all make plans to enter, although for different reasons — and not all of them to do with the prize-money.

  • Eula, whose family has been forced by hard times to leave the farm and move into town, where she doesn’t know a soul and is pretty sure she’ll never fit in…
  • Bess, a widow of one year, who shows up at the first meeting as a way of avoiding duty on her church’s altar guild and her neighbors’ constant condolences…
  • Dorothy, a woman trying hard to keep peace in her home and her sewing scissors away from the lively young grandchildren who’ve just moved in…
  • Then there’s the bee’s youngest member, Florence, living the life of a bored socialite after being jilted by her fiancé. Can starting her own quilt business turn her life around?
  • And, finally, Florence’s sister-in-law, Emmeline, who’s fresh out of material for her weekly quilting column and hopes to find inspiration in this odd collection of quilters.

When I got a few hundred pages into the Friendship Album, 1933, I decided to try something new. You are witnessing the results right here — a podcast reading of the first draft of a novel as it developed, combined with blog posts highlighting the research materials supporting the writing. 

I hope you enjoy this first draft of the Milton Falls, Ohio, of my imagination.


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    Wanted to let you know I really enjoy your podcast and listening to the Friendship Album 1933. I travel a ways to work and back and listening to the story helps shorten my travel time. Now I plan on making a 1933 quilt. Haven’t decided which one yet, have a few UFO’s to finish up first. I have some vintage sheet Fabric that I plan on using for a quilt. A vintage quilt pattern will be perfect for the sheet fabric.

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    Your writing and reading are totally enjoyable! I’m so pleased to have come across your QuiltFiction podcast – it is wonderful! Thank you! I’ve been mending while listening – a totally delightful time!

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    I have listened to the first 3 episodes and am hooked. I am enjoying the story and the reading of it. Thank you.

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    Thank you for your story . The podcast is wonderful . Your voice is amazing and I can’t get enough . I quilt along with your reading . Again thank you .

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    Just discovered this site. I’m on the 5th episode. Love your story so much! I listen as I quilt along. Thanks so much!

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    Just discovered your site. I’m on the 5th episode and loving it so much. I am quilting along as I listen. Love the characters! Thanks so much.

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    I really love this! You are a wonderful story teller .. I hope this story never ends … Thank you Francis !


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    Love this story. Listen from iTunes. Each time an episode drops, I relisten to at least 2-3 just before it…keeps me remembering, and gives me more to listen to.

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    I was at a bee meeting and one of my friends told me about this wonderful site. It is so much fun to listen to you read this story and do my quilting at the same time. I listened to episode one and am hooked, but I can’t seem to get past episode one, It’s kind of on a loop and keeps replaying. Is there something I’m supposed to do? I’m listening to this on my PC.

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    I am loving this audio! The story is so heartwarming and this is one of my favorite time periods. You bring the characters to life with delightful details. Thank you!

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    I have been planning to listen to your audio book since I saw it on Hand Pieced Quilt Along, but kept forgetting to turn it on. Today I remembered, and was so delighted with this story! I was working on my block and was so lost in the story that I didn’t realize 2 hours had passed and I was almost done with my block! Thank you! Hooked! 🙂

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    Frances, I heard about your Friendship Album on Quiltingboard.com. I have loved listening to EVERY episode. You are a WONDERFUL author, AND your voice is just PERFECT being the reader! I wanted to let you know that because you praised the book Soft Covers for Hard Times so much, I immediately looked on Amazon and ordered it (used obviously). It IS a very nice book, even just for the pictures, as you had said. Thank you for your wonderful stories , and the way you read them. They make my day!
    Shelley in Colorado!

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    My sister just introduced me to the Friendship Album a few days ago and I am hooked. I love the characters and all the fine details that you weave into the tale. I have been binge listening and hope you keep the story going for a long time yet.

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    Heard about your podcast on While She Naps. I am loving the story and you writing is great. I feel like I am right there in the Bee.
    Ii will be looking for your other books, but would love to hear them from you.

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    I loved this old cast. I hope there will be more soon. I felt like part of a quilt group with my friends.

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    I’m on Episode 30 and I can’t stop! I LOVE this. And you are reading it TO ME! Thank you so much for this!

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    It has been a(long) while since I’ve listened to “Off Kilter Quilt” so was thrilled to hear that you had started this site. I have already listened to “Picnic Basket, 19202” and am now diving into “Friendship Album”. Having gotten into audiobooks big since last year, I am so looking forward to your future published works being offered that way in the near future — with you narrating of course!

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    My wife began listening and we really like audio books and she tried your podcast. She too quilts and I have one started as well.
    My mother, grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts all quilted and your podcast takes me back to your childhood and remember all the quilts seen hangin’ from the ceilin’. The dialect mimics that of my mother’s family.

    Now, I’m hooked! Well done.

    One question: are your podcasts available to download to a device I can use for my mom? She has trouble seeing and pushing buttons (except my buttons she’s mastered).

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    I thoroughly enjoyed your novel. I came across the podcast by chance and it has been with me now through the making of two and a half quilts. The last of the quilts I have constructed through the covid isolation and distancing. Throughout, your voice has soothed and calmed me while taking me through 1933. Thank you.

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    I loved this story! I found out about it from your post on Facebook in response to someone’s request for reading suggestions. I’ve enjoyed other quilt-related novels, but hadn’t discovered yours. Thank you for sharing.

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    Thank you for this entertaining story, beautifully read. I am a child of the 50’s and grew up listening to the radio. I do a lot of quilting and embroidery and enjoy listening to audio books while I’m stitching and your story fitted perfectly.
    I will look out for more of your work. Hazelmay Duncan South Africa

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