Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sense & Sensibility Patterns is a Great Source for your 1812 Quilt Show Dress

Sense & Sensibility Patterns - which specializes in Regency Era (War of 1812) re-enactment fashion patterns is a great resource for 1812 era fashions, so if you've had your eye on something from there to stitch up and wear for the 1812 Quilt Show, you'd better get over there and check it out!

The cottons of the1812 period were called muslin, but are actually much more light weight and more sheer than todayscottons and totally different from the utility fabric we call muslin. For the beautiful dresses pictured smooth cotton lawn, light batiste or fine silk are acceptable choices. Period silks were lightweight but stiff. Good quality dupioni or shantung can be a reasonable substitute, though they are more "slubby" and stiffer than period silks. I have had some success in gently laundering my silk to soften the hand. But the major difficulty is finding a period-equivalent 1812 fashion fabric at a reasonable price! 

So many beautiful dresses to sew and quilts to make!

Thank you all for following my blog over the past few months, have a safe and healthy New Year!  Chat more soon.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Would you like some Quilt Show Announcement Cards to pass around?

We have a new supply of 1812 Quilt Challenge Announcement Cards in stock and if you would like a few or a handfull to distribute to your quilting or re-enactor friends please send an email to with a note about how many you need and we will mail them out to you.  There is still time for others to also make a quilt for the March 17th and 18th  show.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In Honour of the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencible Regiment

 The Glengarry Highlanders arrived in Upper Canada with their families in 1802-03. This was a military emigration, sending men who had served as soldiers to Upper Canada for the dual purpose of internal defense and settling the country.
Below is a snapshot of the quilt that Sheila from Kingston, Ontario is entering in the War of 1812 Quilt Challenge, she just finished it yesterday.   Her inspiration is the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencible Regiment.


MacDonnel of Glengarry is the clan tartan in the centre of the top half of her quilt.  This was the tartan of many of the men of the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencible Regiment (War of 1812.)

Shelia imagined a Scots woman starting her medallion quilt in the Highlands with a scrap of tartan cloth, bringing her work-in-progress to her new home, and hurriedly adding a lower section in 1811-12. She couldn't get tartan in Upper Canada, so she did her best (in the medallion style she knew) with what was available.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Markham Towne Quilters are entering TEN quilts!

We recently chatted with Mary from the Markham Towne Quilters Guild near Toronto and are delighted to hear that they are entering ten (yes, TEN) 1812 style quilts! 

Mary is just finishing up this quilt which contains 10 sampler blocks plus 11 Stepping Stone set-in blocks. So excited to see the others too! Thank you Mary for sharing!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Help us to get the word out on the War of 1812 Quilt Show!

We currently have over 250 quilters and history buffs who sent in their Expression of Interest form, now it's time to start officially registering all those quilts. 

I had a lovely chat this morning with Mary from the Markham (Ontario) Quilt Guild and she informed me that her group is entering ten (yes, TEN) 1812 style quilts!  She promises to send photos soon (and I am "giddy" with anticipation) so keep watching this blog.   

Please click on the ad below then you can print it to pass out to all your friends and family to let them know about the War of 1812 Quilt Challenge.  Encourage them to make a quilt or just come spend the weekend!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

War of 1812 Quilt Challenge Timeline

War of 1812 Quilt Challenge Competition Timing:
·         Now through February 19, 2012 – Fill out the Official Registration Form (click here for link to registration form)
·         February 20 to March 2, 2012 – Deliver or mail your quilt(s) to Seaway Trail Discovery Center
·          March 17-18, 2012 – Attend the 12th Annual Great Lakes Seaway Trail Bicentennial War of 1812 Quilt Show

One of the 30" by 70" cot to coffin size quilts was photographed on the door of the Discovery Center this autumn. 

Official Registration Form Available Online!

The Great Lakes Seaway Trail 2012 Quilt Show, scheduled for March 17 and 18, 2012, promises to be our best show yet – a real quilting event! Interpreters dressed in historically-correct 1800’s period fashions will welcome you to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

To enter the 1812 Quilt Challenge fill in the online Quilt Registration Form (click here for link to registration form.)

The historic 1817 Union Hotel building is the location of the Seaway Trail Discovery Center, Sackets Harbor, NY.  Quilts will be on display here for the 12th Annual Quilt Show.

Due to the number of quilt entries this year we’re expanding our show venue to include the Seaway Trail Discovery Center – built in 1817 - plus two additional historic buildings on West Main Street in Sackets Harbor, NY.

The 1808 Samuel Hooker house is now the galleries of the Sackets Harbor Arts Center and will display our quilts during the show. Watercolor by Anitol Mickle.

The Augustus Sacket Mansion was built by the founder of the village in 1802. Today it houses the Sackets Harbor Visitors' Center and during the show our quilts will be on display here.

The three sites will feature your quilts, vendors and demonstrators both days. Admission can be purchased at all sites and will include admission to all three buildings.  All buildings are accessible and parking is free.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our Guest Blogger Mary Knapp on the Eight-pointed Star Pattern

The iconic eight-pointed star quilt block is undoubtedly the most widespread pattern (other than simple nine-patches) seen in early American quilt making.  Eight-pointed star quilts started appearing around 1780 and after 1830 countless variations of star patterns were being made.  Indeed the graphic of an eight-pointed star is nearly synonymous with American folk-art.  

Our guest blogger today is a professional quilter and author who is known for her innovative drafting techniques and creative use of the eight-pointed star - Mary Knapp.

Many of the block patterns used to create quilts today, were first developed many decades ago using very simple tools but accurate techniques.  Consider this design process evolving in the early 1800’s, just prior to the War of 1812.

I have chosen the eight-pointed star pattern to explore and develop this concept into easily designed blocks.  The tools I used are ones that were available to designers in the 1800’s.  I used a straight-edge, a pencil and my imagination.  My designs are all based on one commonality: the 45° diamond patch that is repeated and grows into symmetrical designs.

One to several of these blocks would serve as a focal point on a background of whole cloth or simple pieced blocks.  The resulting patterns were pieced with combinations of plain color and print fabric.

The designers in earlier times named their blocks with the same serendipity that many of us use today.  What they observed in nature and everyday life played a role in the creative process.  It is possible that a piece of china or the design made by cracks in the mud evolved into a descriptive term for a quilt block.  Birds, trees, and flowers figure prominently in the names of many blocks.  Other sources could have come from a basket carried by a friend or viewing a formation of marching soldiers.

Then as now, let your imagination should be your guide to produce a piece of work that will be cherished for decades.

Check out more of Mary's quilts at:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Great Examples of Early 1800's Quilts

Although quilting in one form or another has existed throughout history (knights during the crusades wore quilted layers under their armor,) quilts as we think of them didn't appear on the American scene until the late 18th century and the oldest quilts in the Smithsonian only date back to around 1780.

Quilting was generally done in straight lines, although flowers, baskets, feathers and wreathes were not uncommon.

We continue to research documented quilts from the 1812 era and present the following early quilts from the incredible online quilt reference "The Quilt Index" 

Early 1800's quilts were often “whole-cloth” quilts (quilts made of whole panels of fabric, such as the fashionable toile prints.) 


Trapunto (stuffed work) and white-work quilts were made.  


Bar and stripy quilts were popular too.  

Medallion quilts and Broderie Perse (or Persian Embroidery) were very fashionable in the early 1800's (you could even purchase fabric specifically designed to be cut out and appliquéd onto your quilt.) 


Or how about this example - sort of a hybrid of a wholecloth and a medalion style!

Click on the links under each quilt photo to read all the details

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It’s hunting season! Antique hunting scene toile quilt circa 1815

This beautiful wholecloth toile quilt dates to circa 1815.  The quilt features a wonderful madder purple copper plate printed rare French hunting scene toile. The color of the printing is a wonderful eggplant purple.  The backing is a traditional blue stripe ticking fabric. The front is made from two panels of the toile and the back is made from various panels of the ticking. 

Most reproduction fabric collections have a toile or two in their line – what a relatively easy way to make your 1812 quilt! 

This quilt has survived in amazingly wonderful condition considering it's age and is currently for sale on E-bay.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Another circa 1812 reproduction quilt blog to visit!

Our favorite Quilt Historian Barbara Brackman reminds us to remember the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812 through patchwork quilts.  Check out her fabulous 1812 themed quilt blog for period techniques and quilt style ideas:

1812 War & Piecing.  I'm so jealous that I didn't think of the catchy title that she uses for her blog!  War and Peace is the famously long novel by the Russian author Leo Tolstoy.  The novel begins in 1805 during the reign of Tsar Alexander I and leads up to the 1812 French invasion of Russia by Napoleon.  Perfect timing!

Monday, October 24, 2011

An 1812 fashion accessory that's still in style!

Perfect to thwart the cool breezes of Autumn - shawls were at the height of popularity throughout the War of 1812/Regency period, and have actually never gone out of fashion!  Today’s fashion shawls are perfect to drape over your arms, add a light layer of warmth and complement any outfit, Regency or modern!

A fashion publication of the Regency era states:   "Shawls are much worn; they are admirably adapted to the promenade, as they afford, in the throw and arrangement, such fine opportunities for the display of the wearer's taste."   From Ackermann's Repository for June 1809.

A lithograph plate showing a variety of ways of wearing shawls in early 19th-century France (ca. 1802-1814); redrawn from various early 19th-century sources by Durin for Albert Charles Auguste Racinet's Le Costume Historique.
Click on the image to view it full size.
  My favorite is the green triangular version - third from the right in the top row - perhaps made in  hunter green camel hair?   Toasty!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why is the War of 1812 a big deal?

  • Why is the War of 1812 a big deal in the United States and Canada yet regarded as a minor period of annoyance by Great Britain?
  • Was the Anglo-American "War of 1812" simply one rather unimportant period in the much greater world-wide Napoleonic Wars from 1800-1815? 
  • Was America just a “burr under the saddle” to Great Britain during the War of 1812?
  • And why was everyone so mad?
Decide for yourself when you click the link below and watch "The War of 1812" a 2-hour, online PBS presentation on the politics and battles that defined the war.

This program was produced by WNED-TV of Buffalo/Toronto.  Learn more at the PBS War of 1812 website at:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

1812 Wardrobe Project

As you may have heard we are encouraging our attendees at the March 17 and 18 quilt show to dress in 1812 period fashions. 

As a prelude to the quilt show a few of us dressed up for New York State's Official War of 1812 Commemoration Day on September 24th at the Seaway Trail Headquarters in Sackets Harbor. 

The 1812 dressed re-enactors also helped to inaugurate our first-ever Great Lakes Seaway Trail Volkssport 5k and 10k walk events. 

President James Monroe was also on hand to lobby for his Monroe Doctrine! 
The gold and green ladies dresses were made from Simplicity pattern 4055 which was designed by Jennie Chancey.  The dresses were made of basic quilting cotton and were extremely comfortable.   

The pattern went together perfectly and each dress took about eight hours total sewing time. That time is including the stitching of all visable areas by hand and the creation of the chemisette undersleeves and cuffs.  All-in-all it was a fun diversion and a rather quick project by quilt-making standards.
The little girl's white dress was constructed using techniques from the classic heirloom sewing book "French Handsewing by Machine" by Martha Pullen (I adore that lady.)  It consists of cotton batiste with rows of twin needle pintucks and cotton lace insertion and was originally worn by the little girl's Aunt at her first communion.  I'd love to share more details on that dress if you're interested.

Everyone needs to dress up like this occassionally!  Hope to see many of you in costume too!  In the interim feel free to contact us with any questions or comments - we love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Lately Arrived from London" has arrived!

In early summer one of the quilters at the Great Lakes Seaway Trail pre-ordered the fat quarter sampler of Moda's "Lately Arrived from London" by Barbara Brackman.  It was not expected to ship until mid-September but what a pleasant surprise she had when it arrived on Saturday!  It is lovely and we are not aware of any other major fabric lines that accurately reflect the early 1800 era. You may want to ask for it at your favorite quilt shop. Here is the line's description from the Moda website: 

"Lately Arrived from Londonwill delight fans of early calicoes and chintzes. The collection recreates fabrics from the turn of the 19th century when Americans imported their cottons. Traders brought the worlds luxury goods to wharves in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. Each piece is named for a trading ship that sailed into American harbors - the Charming Betsy, the Brigantine Sally, the Ship Surprise.

The reproductions are copied from Dutch, Indian, French and British document prints, the type advertised in 1771 by John Hunt of New York. Fine sprigd muslins for gowns, fine border'd India and other chintzes; furniture calicoes.

Colorways echo natural dyes with
colors named for the styles of
the times: China blue, India red,
Pompadour purple, Nankeen tan and Muslin white. The prints range from a neat geometric and leafy sprigs suitable for a ladys dress to furniture calicoes, the chintz-scale fl orals. The furniture calicoes include a pillar print perfect for an 18th-century bed hanging or a 21st-century quilt border.

Double click the images to see a larger view.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Early 1800 Quilts from the Winterthur Collections

Get inspired with these great quilts from the first couple decades of the 1800's from the Winterthur Museum:

Silk, Wool and Cotton Quilt from the Winterthur collections
Provenance Pennsylvania made between 1817 and 1830

Wool Stripe Quilt from the Winterthur collections
Provenance Maine or Mass. between 1800 and 1830

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Broderie Perse applique quilts from the 1812 era

French for Persian embroidery "broderie perse" came to refer to the applique of motifs cut from printed chintz onto a solid fabric. Popular in the late 1700s and into the 1800's broderie perse was generally for show with only the rich having the leisure time and access to the expensive English chintz prints needed to make them.

Quilt historian, Barbra Brackman, tells us: "Many were appliquéd with a tiny blanket stitch over raw edges. Rather than carefully cutting around each flower, most seamstresses cut a general shape. The secret is matching the background of the chintz to the appliqué background. From a distance the two blend and give the illusion of more detailed cutting." 

Photo by Susan Laird

This beautiful “Broderie Perse” quilt created in 1820 from  English chintz that was carefully cut out and appliquéd to the quilt surface.  This quilt is unusual because of its excellent condition and was obviously well cared for the past two centuries.  It is on display in Northern California at the Folsom History Museum's annual Antique Quilt and Vintage Fashion Exhibit through Sept. 5. 

The 30" by 70" question!

Determining the quilt size for the Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 Quilt Challenge was a long thought out decision for us to make.  This exhibit will be our 12th annual quilt show and we had the input and opinions of many quilters (including published quilters, quilt historians and historic re-enactors) as we planned this challenge.  So with that being said, here are the reasons we decided the Cot to Coffin size (30” by 70”) would be the best choice for our quilt challenge:

  • Documentation verifies the making of Cot to Coffin size quilts for soldiers during the Civil War (1861 to 1865) and we are assuming that making quilts for soldiers during the War of 1812 may have happened also.  However, in that earlier time period there is no documentation or standard size for us to replicate and 70 inches is about the size of a man (from cot to coffin.)  This size would have been small enough to roll into a backpack while on the march (armies moved on foot) and may well have served as a burial shroud also. 

  • This smaller size quilt is much less of a commitment for makers (and particularly new quilters) than a large piece.  There are few opportunities for folks to participate in activities commemorating the War of 1812 and we thought this small size would encourage more people to participate.  We hope to get at least 200 entries for the 200th bicentennial of the War of 1812.

  • More quilts will be able to be hung in our available space.  Our headquarters are in an historic 1817 limestone building listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has usage limitations.  Therefore, with this smaller quilt size, we will be able to accommodate all entries in our building and two additional historic buildings from the 1812 period here in the village of Sackets Harbor (which was a headquarters of the Northern Army of the United States during the War of 1812.)  

  • In our travels we have noticed many decorative pieces about 30” x 70” draped across the foot of beds in hotels so our 1812 reproduction quilts might be a good size for over the foot of our beds.

In summary we think this size quilt will make a very dramatic display. We picture the exhibit as soldiers’ standing at attention to commemorate those who fought in the War of 1812 and also honoring 200 years of peace between the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

This quilt-in-progress, which will be entered in our 1812 quilt challenge upon completion, has been designed to honor an ancestor who fought in the War of 1812. 

The quilt measures 30" by 70" and was created using reproduction prints in indigos and browns.  

The quilt artist selected 23 different fabrics and each fabric has no more than three colors in any print. 

In discussing her design and choice of fabrics she said her regret is that she did not include more large-scale floral prints that would have been popular in 1812.  She is also considering tea dying the quilt as she feels it has much higher contrast than would have been seen in quilts of the era.  What say you?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Women's Fashion in the Era of the New Republic

Every era has its own individual sense of fashion style even when that style is clearly influenced by the past.  One of the most unique eras in women's fashion occurred during the early years of the American republic and continued through the War of 1812 (and Regency) period.  Elegant Grecian inspired gowns of gossamer silk, ethereal sheer cotton and linen, in white, creme and pastels were the height of sophisticated fashion. 

Please enjoy these fashion plates from "Incroyables et merveilleuses de 1814."   Truly the "Paris Vogue" of the day! 

Will you be so bold as to join with the staff of the Great Lake Seaway Trail Discovery Center and dress in period correct fashion for our 1812 Quilt Challenge? 

(Click on each fashion plate and then click again to see a super-high resolution image.)

What would your ideal 1812 / Regency era outfit look like