Friday, February 1, 2013

The Chester Criswell Quilt

This year for me is the year of the quilt. I'm going great guns getting through my stash, planning some classes and setting myself new challenges.

I would like to finish more than I start, but apparently I wasn't born with the finishing gene so I'll just have to accept the gift (aka the starting gene) that God granted me.

Late last year someone on an Australian quilting list I'm on was talking about a block of the month program they were establishing, using an old quilt they had reproduced the blocks from. The quilt was called the Chester Criswell quilt. It was an old album quilt, made for a wedding in 1852 and made in the traditional greens and reds of the time.

Photo from

Those traditional colours aren't really my thing anymore - my country and civil war reproduction fabric period had long passed (which you will notice if you come to my trash and treasure stall on Sunday) but I wondered if it was the kind of quilt I could do with some unique fabrics - a bit brighter, a bit cheekier, a bit more clashy.

A bit, dare I say it,  modern. Gasp! She used the "m" word, mum!

So after Christmas I signed up. I had been following the blocks on Sharon's blog as she released them each month and it all became too tempting. And I'm so glad I did - each block has a history of the person who made it, and it's just such a great read and very entertaining.

Block 1 - Jane Wilson

This is Block 1, originally made by Jane Wilson 150 years ago. My preferred method of applique is the freezer paper technique. But I hadn't appliqued anything for years. Talk about nerve wracking.

Block 1 - Jane Wilson

Each day I would head over to the park across the road from work and spend an hour stitching.

Block one - Jane Wilson

And here's my first block done! It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it's mine and I love it. And that fabric by Kumiko Fujita? Dying over here.

Block 2 - Elizabeth Cowan

Block 2 was by Elizabeth Cowan. I'm using a different technique this time - washable fusible interfacing. It's certainly less crunchy but doesn't give as clean an edge as the freezer paper technique. I'll practice a bit more before deciding whether to go back to freezer paper. Or trying another technique altogether. I really don't know - I'm just enjoying my lunchtimes in the park too much.

I love how the different fabrics are making these blocks something a bit unusual, and I'll get a quilt at the end of the process which is more in keeping with my style. Plus I'm learning some new things as I sew (I'm already nervous about Nancy Smith's Block and how tiny those seam allowances are going to be) and that's a win in my book.

If you're interested in applique and want to give this a go, I can highly recommend it. After my last applique quilt I swore I would never do it again, and yet here I am, enjoying myself thoroughly. The first block is actually free, and all the other blocks after that are a measly $2.50 each. $2.50 for a good read and a bit of history AND a quilt block pattern? Bargain.


  1. Wow! That's one heck of a project! I love your first block.

  2. Lol, I love your description I wasn't born with the finishing gene. Neither was I!! I have finished things, but I do have to push myself to do it, it's not natural for me. As my Mum says "it's about the process not the product". Yep, Mum you're right. I love the red and black text fabric! Divine. And it's funny, my country and civil war fabric love has passed too, then it went shabby, the pretty, then bright, now just whatever I like.

  3. oooh, quiet moment of being impressed here. My only forays into hand applique have ended quite badly ... for me and the quilt ... I never really got to any point of competence. Great fabric choices.

  4. Love your version of the blocks, Michelle.

    Hehe...I think I missed out on the finishing gene too! I must have been given a double serve of the starting gene from all the new things I have started so far this year! lol

    Looking forward to seeing more of your Chester Criswell blocks.

  5. It's quite amazing seeing these blocks in modern fabrics. Looking forward to seeing more!

  6. I like your blocks! I'm looking forward to seeing more of them. I wasn't great at applique when I did it years ago but am getting back into it with a basket quilt that I'm stitching using freezer paper & starch. It's tedious but the results are better for me than what I was doing with needleturn.

  7. So pleased that I am not the only one that thinks using modern fabrics for old applique patterns is a great idea, your Chester Criswell will be amazing when finished.


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