Creative articles about quilting

Dear Jane – picking it up

Sometimes cleaning up equals finding things: in a box, tucked away, I found my Dear Jane blocks, pinned on a sheet. Many quilters are familiar with this quilt – it was extremely popular from the day the book was published in 1996. The story of Jane A. Stickle, but most of all her quilt from 1893 was remade and edited by Brenda Manges Papadakis, who wrote the book and gave lectures. 225 Quilt blocks – 169 squares and the rest triangles for the borders – are drawn on actual size, accompanied by the picture of the original block. 

A huge success worldwide, and still quilters from all over the world are starting their ‘Baby Jane’, even after so many years. When I had my shop (Sylka-Mode, quilt- and craft shop), I have made several Baby Jane’s, pinned the blocks on sheets, added blocks during bee’s and workshops and held many Dear Jane shows with quilts from different quilters: they were mostly done by hand at the time.

There were lots of quilt groups working on their Baby Jane. Tours were organized to travel to Jane’s house and grave, which was dilapidated at the time: funds were raised to give Jane (and her husband) a new grave. A real cult, every quilter around the world knows what a ‘Dear Jane’ was… . and they still do.

The book is out of print by now, sometimes you can find a shop which has it in stock, or very expensive copies are sold on the Internet. But I recon a vast amount of quilters still own the book, tucked away in their book shelf or somewhere in a box, perhaps in the attic. 

That’s how I found my book, and the blocks pinned on a sheet: started September 2001 (I took notes). I’ve placed the sheet with the blocks on our floor, to see what was ready and what was still missing. The pins I’ve used at the time are rusted, but fortunately most of them were pinned in the seam allowances, so that’s ok. And even if there are spots of rust: the quilt is old, so that makes it an antique, doesn’t it?

I will leave it as it is for now, just checking how many blocks still have to be made. From the 169 squares, 44 are missing (empty spots): I’ve done a good job at the time! 

Very bright, working just with a off-white background, and warm red, yellow, green and blue’s. All done by hand, but that’s not how I will finish the quilt. 

Even the famous small patchwork block in a star-block was made by hand: and look my block turned out! Each quilter was fighting with this block: some took prints from a fabric to mimic this patchwork Ohio Star in the center – but I had to make it, no matter how small. 

While searching the other boxes, I’ve found the original fabrics, or what’s left of them. So I can finish the squares, although I don’t have enough fabric to make the triangles for the borders. 

So I can try to complete the 169 = 13 x 13 blocks/rows, but for this I will use my BERNINA 770QE:

  • patchwork with the fabrics I’ve found, cutting them actual size, adding 1/4 seam allowances, and working with the 1/4 inch foot .
  • appliqué’s , using Heat’n Bond Lite on actual size, ironing this on the background fabrics.

This is how I want to combine the old with the new: I want to distinguish that – showing how these 19 years apart will give a totally different look, to remind myself and others, I’ve started quilting and appliqué by hand, and end it all by machine. 

So: ironing the fabrics, cutting them with rotary cutter and quilt ruler (inches) and on we go… To be continued!

Happy Stitching
Sylvia Kaptein
Sylvia’s Art Quilts Studio

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  • Donna Hamel

    I purchased the book at a quilt show in 2004 and then purchased all the fabric required by way of a block of the month program in 204 & 2005.  I made about 15 blocks before shelving this project due to life circumstances.  I had not quilted in the last 16 years but made a Christmas wall hanging in December which sparked my interest in quilting again.  Last week I organized my Dear Jane ptoject and have since made 18 blocks.  Wish me luck…I have forgotten almost everything I ever knew about quilting!

  • Jane Stevens

    I have this book but can no longer find instructions on Dear Jane or Simplicity web sites.   Are these published elsewhere that you know of.

  • Dana Harr

    I pulled my book out last week!  It was not hidden, just on my quilting bookshelf.  I have ordered background fabric and since I am basically home until August, I plan to start it soon.  Thanks for sharing!


    • Sylvia Kaptein

      Hi Dana,

      Glad to remind you of this great quilt book: we all have our Ufo’s, which we sometimes find in the back of our closet. Have fun working on your Dear Jane



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