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Aunt Jane of Kentucky: Episode 2

Welcome to the Quiltfiction Podcast! In this episode, I’ll be reading Chapter Two of Aunt Jane of Kentucky by Eliza Calvert Hall. In this chapter, “The New Organ,” Aunt Jane tells the story of the time the ladies of Goshen Church raise enough money to buy an organ and how the voice of one of their choir members, Uncle Jim Matthews, proves to be a trial and tribulation to the members of their congregation and beyond.

I’ve been tracking down information on Eliza Calvert Hall, whose real name was Eliza Carolina “Lida” Calvert Obenchain (as an adult she was called Lida Obenchain). She was born to a wealthy family in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in 1856, but when Eliza was a teenager, her father, a banker, was accused of embezzlement and subsequently disappeared for thirteen years, throwing his family into poverty. The family’s assets, including their Vinegar Hill mansion, were liquidated, and later the house was sold to Ogden College. In a neat twist, Lida Hall would later marry William Alexander Obenchain, who would named president or Ogden College in 1883. She had four children, two boys and two girls.

Hall, a strong supporter of women’s rights, joined the Kentucky Equal Rights Association in the 1890s and began publishing newspaper and magazine articles about women’s rights in 1897, eventually becoming the Kentucky ERA’s press secretary. Her suffragette sympathies certainly come out in the character of Aunt Jane, but Hall accomplished the feat of making Aunt Jane’s thoughts on women’s rights seem truly her own, tempered with the old woman’s humor and wisdom.

Over the years, Hall wrote many political articles and tracts, but she was best known for her Aunt Jane stories. The first one, “Sally Anne’s Experience,” was published in Cosmopolitan in 1898, and reprinted in both national and international magazines and newspapers. It later became the opening chapter of Aunt Jane of Kentucky, which was published in 1907. A second Aunt Jane book, The Land of Long Ago, was published in 1909. Hall also wrote Clover and Blue Grass, a short novel entitled To Love and to Cherish (1911) and a nonfiction book about the weavers of Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky, A Book of Handwoven Coverlets.






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Aunt Jane of Kentucky: Episode 1

Hello and welcome to Season Two of the Quilt Fiction podcast. In this season, I’ll be reading Aunt Jane of Kentucky by Eliza Calvert Hall. First published in 1907 and  set in rural western Kentucky in the late nineteenth century, the book recounts an elderly quilt-maker Aunt Jane’s memories of life in the rural south as told to an unnamed younger woman visitor. The book was hugely popular in its time, reaching over a million readers, and President Theodore Roosevelt was one of Aunt Jane’s biggest fans.

Because I wanted to get this season up and going, I recorded it under slightly more relaxed standards that Season One. If you hear anybody snoring during the recording, rest assured it’s my dog Travis, who is almost always at my side. Occasionally I stumble over a word, but I just kept going. I hope you don’t mind!

I hope you enjoy today’s episode, “Sally Ann’s Experience.” This is a story about the ladies of Goshen church, and in particular, it’s about Sally Ann, who decides it’s finally time to tell the men of the church a thing or two about their shortcomings. I hope you enjoy this funny story of one woman speaking her mind!

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Happy National Quilting Day! Quilts of the McKissick Museum

Happy National Quilting Day! I know most of us will be celebrating within the comfort of our own homes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a virtual tour of a wonderful quilt exhibit! Recently, my husband and son took a trip to the University of South Carolina in Columbia for a college visit. Much to my delight, they returned home with photos to the McKissick Museum, which is currently hosting the exhibit, “Piece by Piece: Quilts from the Permanent Collection.” I thought you might enjoy these quilt pix as much as I did!

From the McKissick’s description of the exhibit:

“Piece by Piece: Quilts from the Permanent Collection” illustrates the evolution of this textile tradition over the past one hundred and fifty years. From the early use of chintz fabrics to the widespread popularity of solid colors, these quilts reflect traditions with roots in Europe, Africa, and the American South. Visitors will have the opportunity to view 40+ quilts over the course of the show, chosen from McKissick Museum’s extensive quilt collection. Due to the fragile nature of historic textiles, individual quilts will be only be displayed for a limited time, with three rotations occurring throughout the year.

Established in 1976, the McKissick Museum is located at the heart of the historic Horseshoe on the University of South Carolina’s campus. Our collections date back to 1801 and provide insight into the history of the university and the community, culture, and environment of the American South.

Enjoy the quilts! P.S. To stay up-to-date on all of our news here at Quiltfiction, including new podcast episodes and special events, be sure to sign up for the Quiltfiction newsletter!

Barn Raising Log Cabin
Maker Unknown
Eastern Pennsylvania, ca. 1880-1910
Gift of Stephen H. Ackerman
This variation of the traditional log cabin block uses light and dark “logs” to frame a red square, which represent’s the home’s hearth. (McKissick Museum Collection 1998.09.112.02)

Crazy Quilt
Eva Lovelace Counts (1878-1942)
Prosperity, SC. 1926
McKissick Museum Collection

Figurative Applique, Original Pattern
Maker Unknown
Southeast. Ca. 1950
The block-style quilt features 20 0ff-white, black and brown female figures with outstretched arms. It appears the maker of this quilt may have adapted a paper doll pattern for her original design. The figures on some blocks are entirely machine pieced; other have machine-pieced bodies with hand appliquéd heads, suggesting perhaps more than one person worked on the quilt. It is hand-quilted in a clam shell pattern. (McKissick Museum Collection 2001.11.XX.01)

String Quilt
Anna Byrd (1910-unk.)
Spartanburg, SC. ca. 1930
Anna was born in Fairfield County, SC. She married James Byrd in 1925 and they had six children. The donor of this quilt was their oldest son, John W. Byrd. The African American maker of this quilt was especially skilled at juxtaposing light and dark fabric “strings” to great visual effect, which she quilted in long running stitches, with no definite design. (McKissick Museum Collection 2012.05.01)

Pinwheel Variation
Caroline Mahaffey Babb (1874-1947)
Fountain Inn, SC. ca. 1900
Gift of Gloria Burnside
Red, white and blue 3-patch design with distinctive sawtooth border. Neatly hand-stitched Pinwheel pattern, also called Clay’s Choice. When Nancy Cabot introduced this quilt pattern to Chicago Tribune readers in April 1933, she noted Henry Clay’s efforts in 1850 to introduce a compromise bill that would forestall the Civil War. (McKissick Museum Collection 2012.05.01)

Rectangle Quilt
Thomas Mack, Beaufort County, SC. 1999
Machine-sewn of rectangular, alternating pieces of burlap and handmade indigo prints made by Arianne King Comer. Burlap is from Idaho potato bags. (McKissick Museum Collection 1999.23.11.01)

Double Irish Chain
Maker Unknown, Chattooga County, Georgia, ca. 1880
Gift of Sarah M. Norton
McKissick Museum Collection 6.1804

Coxcomb Variation
Sarah Edith Coleman Colvin (1856-1930)
Fairfield County, SC. ca. 1880
Gift of Edith E. Adams in memory of Mary Colvin Adams and Eva Colvin
In what at first appears to be a traditional block-style, appliquéd, two-colored quilt, Colvin instead appliquéd the hand-pieced “coxcombs” onto muslin and then machine-quilted the background in a crisscross, diamond pattern. (McKissick Museum Collection 2001-03-138-02)

Outline Embroidered Quilt
Maker Unknown
South Carolina, ca. 1910
Single-colored, outline-embroidered quilts created from square that had been pre-stamped with a design were popular with needleworkers from 1910-1930. (McKissick Museum Collection 2013.11.100)

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Dresden Plate (Florence 1930): A Friendship Album Story

In this special episode of the Quiltfiction Podcast, Florence Grangerfield searches for the Christmas spirit in a church soup kitchen.

For long-time listeners of the podcast, you best know Florence as a 27-year-old who decides to start her own business. In “Dresden Plate,” she’s twenty-four, so two years out of college and only six years out of high school (Milton Falls High, of course). She’s gone through two major traumas in recent years–the end of her relationship with Arthur Purefoy and the loss of her mother, who had been ill for some time. The Christmas spirit has been at best elusive!

I hope you enjoy today’s story. If you’re a fan of the Quiltfiction podcast, join our private Facebook Group, the Quiltfiction Club. And if you haven’t already, please sign up for the Quiltfiction newsletter! I’ll be sure to let you know what’s happening with Friendship Album, 1933, and my other quilt fiction endeavors.

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Turkey in the Straw (Bess, 1925) – A Friendship Album Story

Every era has its version of the Modern Woman, and the 1920s were no different. Women had the vote–and they had washing machines! Cars and canned goods were widely available and affordable, and with more labor-saving appliances, including the vacuum cleaners, a household could be run more efficiently than ever before.

But housekeeping was still work, even if magazine ads made it look easy. In “Turkey in the Straw (Bess, 1925),” we find a younger version of our old friend Bess Wilcox laboring under the illusion that she can do everything without help–including prepare Thanksgiving dinner for her family and her nephews. But when Bess’s mother sends a note saying she and Bess’s father will be coming to dinner this year, Bess begins to worry she won’t be able to produce a dinner party that’s up to her mother’s exacting standards. As the guest list grows, so does Bess’s anxiety, which she tries to keep under wraps. After all, she’s a modern woman with modern machines–shouldn’t she be able to do it all? Her recently-hired housekeeper, Dorothy Johnson, has her doubts!



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Quilts of the North Carolina State Fair

It’s been nearly twenty years since I last went to the State Fair, but yesterday Mr. Dowell and I braved the crowds to see some sights. Of course, I was really there for the quilts, and they did not disappoint! I loved the broad spectrum of quilting styles represented—everything from Yo-Yo quilts and Cathedral Windows to quilts with modern curves, appliqued tulips, and pixalated Dachshunds.
Did I eat any fried candy bars while at the fair? No, I did not, as tempting as they might have been. I did spend an inordinate amount of time gazing at the canned foods (they were in beautifully-lit display cases; it was like standing in front of a jewelry store window) and searching for the pies, which I never found (where were the pies?!). There was a special exhibit of very fancy cakes, and the line to see them was longer than the line for the fried dough and the fried Snickers combined.

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“Picnic Basket (Eula, 1902)” — A Friendship Album Story!

I’m so happy to have a new Friendship Album story to share with you! While determining what might happen next with my novel, Friendship Album, 1933–right now I’m in the process of reaching out to agents–I thought I’d work on some stories about our favorite quilters from Milton Falls.

In today’s story, we meet 18-year-old Eula Rhodes, a young woman widely regarded as one of the best quilters and cooks in her small farming community of Homerville, Ohio. While some wonder when Eula will marry, Eula wonders who would be interested—and she’s not sure if she cares. Life at home with her rambunctious brothers, fun-loving sisters and her understanding mother is comfortable and comforting. But when she meets Dan Baker, a farmer with an eye for quilts, she begins to wonder if she might be ready to make a home of her own.

If you want to keep up with the latest from the Quiltfiction podcast, please sign up for our newsletter! I’ll be sure to let you know what’s happening with Friendship Album, 1933, and my other quilt fiction endeavors.

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Friendship Album, 1933: Episode 39

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In Episode 39, Emmeline is in for a big surprise at the quilt show.

St. Louis, Missouri. Cote Brilliants School, 1918. Library of Congress:

And here we are, at the end of the novel! Can you believe it? The first episode of Friendship Album, 1933, aired on June 6th of 2018. Now, eleven months later, we close the book. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

Plans are in the works to continue with the podcast after a short hiatus and to eventually have a sequel to Friendship Album, 1933. We haven’t set firm dates yet, but I’ll let you know when I have it all figured out! To stay updated, sign up for my newsletter using the form on the right, or at this link: Join the Quilt Fiction Community!

In the meantime, thanks for listening! If you’ve enjoyed the podcast, I hope you’ll consider telling your friends as well as leaving a 5-star rating and a nice review on iTunes. I’ve had so much fun writing and reading this novel, and I’m happy that you’ve joined me as we’ve followed the adventures of our girls in Milton Falls! See you soon, I hope!

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Friendship Album, 1933: Episode 38

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In Episode 38, Dorothy recalls a revealing conversation with Emmeline as she gets ready for guests.

My dears, this is the second to last episode of Friendship Album, 1933! It’s hard to believe we’ve almost reached the end.

This week, we spend time with Dorothy as she gets ready for the Wednesday Bee. Dorothy’s had a remarkable year in many ways. Her daughter left home unexpectedly (and left her children behind), her husband had a heart attack, and all year long she’s had to deal with the infuriating Emmeline Grangerfield.

In this episode, Dorothy opens herself up to others in an act of true hospitality. At first, I wasn’t so sure that Dorothy would ever change her mind about Milton Falls’ most renowned quilter. Dorothy can be self-protective, which I don’t blame her for one bit, but sometimes self protective people stay stuck where they are. Somehow Dorothy has managed to be truly gracious to Emmeline, and I think that’s helped Emmeline to grow as a person. I think Dorothy has grown, too–we see that in her generosity toward Emmeline, and her willingness to forgive.

I do plan to go on with this story, and I’m enjoying imagining my characters’ futures without actually having to do the hard work of writing everything down! Given Dorothy’s drama-filled year, it’s interesting to think about what will happen next in her life. I hope things will calm down a little bit for her, don’t you?


Dorothy’s Crown of Thorns quilt.


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Friendship Album, 1933: Episode 37

Spoiler Alert: If you’re not caught up with the podcast, this post contains recent plot developments. Beware!

Welcome to the missing Florence chapter!

Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

I’ve gotten a lot of amazing feedback since Friendship Album, 1933‘s beginning–lots of nice compliments and encouragement. However, when listeners learned in Episode 34 that Florence was engaged, I got a lot of complaints, most of which fell into one of two categories (and sometimes both): 1) How could you not show us Florence’s engagement? and 2) Did I miss something? I think I missed something!


I’m not sure this would be such a big problem if the podcast listeners were readers instead. Readers could flip to the next Florence chapter (the one you’ll be listening to Episode 37) and see that I do in fact show the engagement scene. In fact, you get two engagement scenes–the first one and the second one!

I’ll be honest — when I revise this novel (you know that it’s a first draft, right?), I’ll probably bring in Arthur’s proposal earlier, just so no one is confused. But for now, I hope you’re glad that the big day has finally arrived, and you get to witness every second!