O, Frabjous Day . . . .

IMG_7757Callooh! Callay!

The “Cot to Coffin” quilt is done!

IMG_7729I began this quilt in late January, in response to a quilt challenge my guild was doing. A number of guilds have done these challenges, as part of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. I’ve written several posts that give more details about the planning and process, if you’re especially interested you can click on links throughout this post.

My personal goals were to a) make something that was meaningful to me, b) try and use fabrics and techniques consistent with what a woman could’ve used in 1814, and c) make hand quilting a big part of the design. Very few quilters in my guild quilt by hand and I wanted to honor the process.

I based the quilt on the words of a song reportedly written by Catherine Macomb. Catherine’s husband, Alexander, was the field general of the land campaign of the Battle of Plattsburgh in September of 1814. The words of the song describe Catherine’s feelings as she watched the battle and worried for her husband’s safety.

I embroidered the words to the song, “The Banks of Champlain,” and the title, and finished that by the end of February. (You can click on these photos for a closer look.)

I used the design of the Great Seal of the Untied States as a focal point; I read that patriotic designs were popular among quilters in this era. I embroidered the outline, with the intention of adding detail with the quilting.

I finished the top on March 23, basted it, and started quilting. By mid-April, I decided that my basting stunk, pulled out hours’ worth of hand-quilting, and re-basted using Sharon Schamber’s method.

I finished the quilting on June 18. Most of the quilting is done with off-white thread on the off-white fabric. On the red borders, I used a variegated brown thread and outlined the flowers in the print.

My favorite parts of the process:

I love the design and all the connections it made for me.


I loved (loved!) doing the embroidery! That came as a big surprise—now I’m thinking about other projects that incorporate embroidered words in similar ways.

IMG_7745 I loved the hand quilting. There’s something about making those tiny stitches and seeing the fabric transformed that really makes me happy.

IMG_6942 IMG_7885My least favorite parts of the process:

As always, the basting. But this new method I’ve learned helped a lot.

I didn’t enjoy the parts I did on the sewing machine. I sewed the long seams by machine and, even though I am very happy with my new Singer Featherweight, machine sewing still gives me agita.

The part I was most ambivalent about:

The deadline. I’ve never made a quilt under deadline before and the deadline was a source of a lot of anxiety. It didn’t help that the whole time I was working I thought the deadline was June 30 but then, about two weeks ago, I read the small print and learned the deadline was August 31!

So the deadline made me super nervous, but it also meant I got the quilt done MUCH more quickly than I’ve ever finished a quilt before (the last one took 17 years to finish).

This quilt will hang with others—some traditional, some non-traditional, some made by experts, some made by school kids—in a public space in Plattsburgh during the Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration in September, 2014. I’ll probably share some photos of other “Cot to Coffin” quilts with you then.

Thanks so much for accompanying me through this project and letting me show off the final product!


51 thoughts on “O, Frabjous Day . . . .

  1. It’s stunning, Kerry. Have you done much embroidery before? Quilting the detail makes the eagle image really rich. Whatever the challenge, you’re a winner in my book!

    • Thanks, Melanie–those are wonderful compliments because you really know quilting! Most of the embroidery experience I had had came from embroidering my jeans (oh, those crazy 1970s!) The work I did on the quilt was really pretty easy–just backstitch and a few French knots.

  2. I was juuuust about to close my computer for the day, when I saw your post tumbling in;0) Could not help myself and had to have a look. Was I glad I did! This is absolutely a work of Art. I am not a quilter and my embroidery goes no further than cross stitch but I can appreciate the love, effort and skill that went into this quilt. I read your process story with interest, as a fellow hand crafter does. Thanks Kerry and congrats on this stunning quilt!!! Johanna.
    ps now I better run and do my garden work before the heat sets in and than homework for this sloppy student;0)

    • I didn’t get a name attached to this comment (it might be Phyllis?) but thank you so much! I’m looking forward to the whole 1812 exhibit, to see what different creative minds came up with!

  3. It is absolutely beautiful! I think it was a good thing that you thought the deadline was June 30, as this way it is finished and you have time to enjoy summer without any pressure about completing it. Congratulations on a job well done!

    • Thanks, Susan! And, yes, I’m kind of glad I was so confused (being a ding-a-ling paid off!) If I’d known the deadline was late August, I’m SURE I would’ve procrastinated.

  4. It has been a joy being an onlooker on this quilting adventure. The final quilt is beautiful/exquisite/a treasure. Many moons ago I loved to hand stitch baby clothes. It was very satisfying. I can understand your pleasure in hand stitching and embroidery.

    • Thanks, Gallivanta! I’ve been so happy to have you folks to share it with. Hand stitching is the closest I come to meditating, I think. I’m not good at sitting still so handwork allows some peace while still being productive.

      • I am not much good at sitting still either, believe it or not. I stand at my computer most of the time! And I haven’t done needlework for years, and I have fallen-off buttons and holes in clothes glaring at me for attention.

    • Thank you, Margaret! I found the planning and thinking about the quilt to be, in some ways, the most satisfying part–and then to see how the planning played out. I love words and had never incorporated them into a quilt before.

  5. Absolutely gorgeous! This is the most amazing piece of “craftswomanship” . It is truly breathtaking! I do hope when it is displayed, it will be in a well lit setting and at eye level, so all of the gorgeous details can be appreciated (without touching) by viewers. Can’t wait to see it hanging in its final resting place.

    • Thank you, Pat–you know how I’ve been obsessing! We should go to this quilt show together! Are you feeling inspired to take up needle and thread yourself?

      • Absolutely! I have been reading my quilting book. I am totally enthralled with the possibilities but feel a great deal of trepidation! So many possibilities, decisions to be made and skills to master! However, I think I am well connected with an expert who will hold my hand and patiently teach me everything I need to know!

  6. I am almost rendered speechless just looking at this incredibly intricate piece of work! It is totally stunning. I love the quilting of the feathers and I love your embroidered words. They are perfection! It is such an achievement and I would not like to count how many hours you have spent quietly sewing away.
    I have just watched my friend rushing to meet a deadline for a quilt which is to exhibited in Truro cathedral. The thought of a deadline just makes me panic! But without it I guess your quilt, like many of my own might have sat unfinished for another 17 years!
    Well done Kerry, I know it is a much abused superlative, especially by the young, but I really think what you have done is AWESOME, in the true sense of the word!

    • Thank you so much, Karen–your comments always make me feel great!! The deadline seems to have worked for me but it did also induce some panic. The other thing that added anxiety is that this is the first quilt I’ve made that will be displayed and seen by others outside my family and friends. I worried about things I normally would just shrug off. Then I told myself that no one else, EVER, would be looking at it as closely as I was . . . and I got over myself!

  7. Your embroidery detail is amazing!!!! And the hand quilting perfects the spirit of the piece!!Your (supposed) time frame must have really kept you motivated!!! Sharon’s method is the one I use for “sandwiching” except that I pin baste. I use it on my larger quilts (up to 96″ sq.!!!) and they are always “spot on” straight grain!!!! The result is a dream to machine quilt (on my HQ Sweet 16). You have created an heirloom for sure!!!!!!

    • I feel like a complete dope because I had been hearing about Sharon’s method and just hadn’t tried it. Well! I’m a complete convert now and am actually looking forward to basting an antique quilt top I have and getting started on it. Thanks for your comments–they are extra special because you’re a quilter, too!

  8. Oh my goodness! Kerry most certainly CAN!! 🙂 In the first place I admire anyone who can adhere to a plan, a schedule, a time frame, an expectation! And to finish two months earlier than required is just plain exceptional – even if it was by mistake 🙂 I have too much cat in me – the minute something is time-lined I don’t want to do it any more, all my creativity goes awol. It’s a version of ‘don’t tell me what to do’ [sigh!]

    Your work is beautiful. The research you put into it and your adherence to the custom of the time to honour those earlier needle-women adds to the specialness of your finished creation.

    I admit to gasping when I realised those were not embroidered lines, but embroidered words under the eagle! I have no idea of the amount of time and patience it took to embroider all those words – but my goodness, sterling creativity! So very beautifully done 🙂

    I’m full of admiration Kerry – it will be a star attraction in the exhibition I am sure!

    • Thanks for your wonderful words, Pauline! I normally react very poorly to deadlines but this challenge really inspired me–I really, REALLY wanted to make this quilt and let the woman’s perspective on war be heard. I’ve known the song forever and the idea of sharing it made the deadline more palatable. And, hey, it’s done! As far as the time it took to embroider the words–I made myself do a line a day and that probably took about two hours per line. Not awful at all.

    • Thanks, Kate! And, get this–at the quilt show I saw last month in Boston, the hand quilting stitches were HALF the size of mine. I was feeling pretty high on myself until I saw those–truly beyond comprehension!

  9. Ummm, so much love for what you have created, with the addition of anxiety, yikes! I love that you hand embroidered, makes my heart sing! It’s an incredibly amazing quilt, congratulations on the vision and ability to carry it to completion!

    • Thanks! I’m so happy to have it done and to see the idea actually work out. I’ve never done this sort of project before so it was all kind of an adventure. But now I’m thinking of other ways to use the embroidered words–I do so love words . . .

    • Thanks! The attention to detail was what made the planning fun. I intended to do just the big hand-quilted eagle but then the song popped into my mind and I got deranged, trying to decide how to make that work.

  10. How thrilled you must be to bring your vision to fruition, and have created a beautiful work of art! I’m especially impressed by the intricate hand quilting. I’ve tried hand quilting, and wasn’t very good at keeping the stitches small and even.

    • Yes–thrilled pretty much says it all! Maybe you should try hand quilting again some day–I’ve found my stitches have improved a lot over time. I focused on evenness first and didn’t worry about small for awhile. On the other hand, there’s no law that everyone has to quilt by hand–if the process doesn’t make you happy, stick with something that will!

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  15. WOW!!! I have never hand quilted. I’d need to find a patient teacher. I love the look of it better than machine quilting. That’s how my friend, Dolly does her quilts. Mine would never get done. I spend too much time here. 🙂 You do excellent work.

    • I agree that the look of hand quilting is so different (and, to me, better!) than machine quilting. It doesn’t happen fast, though–you have to really enjoy the process or it would be torture to do!

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