Patches From the Past
Scraps of Fabric, Sewing & Quilting History

The Mary Benedict Baker Compass Quilt (1850)

Froncie Quinn invites you to create an American treasure. Quinn has a unique passion. She does the painstaking research and designing necessary to bring you accurate patterns of historic quilts found in museums. Her newly published pattern is a reproduction of an 1850 Compass quilt by Mary Benedict Baker. This quilt is the ninth in a series of patterns that reproduce quilts from the Shelburne Museum.

Quinn's goal with these patterns is not only to give you a chance to reproduce some of the most beautiful quilts made in America's past but also to give you the opportunity to experience how it might have felt to be the quiltmaker. As part of this Quinn includes a history of the woman who made each quilt.

In the case of Mary Benedict Baker we discover she was about 19 years old when she produced this highly technical quilt. She would have had to calculate the size and shape of each piece very carefully in order to make her templates for this project. She must have been a talented seamstress as well in order to accurately construct this entirely handmade quilt.

As you work on this quilt you will be able to imagine the life of this woman who was born in 1830. Her family was prominent, one of the first to settle in Arlington, Vermont. She married 22-year-old Fayette Baker in 1852 and had two children, a boy and a girl. The family operated a farm apparently away from Arlington as her father writes of Mary coming to visit and her enjoyment of getting together with friends and family while there. Quinn has included additional history of Mary and Fayette's families including that of one of her husband's ancestors who was a part of in the Green Mountain Boys along with Ethan Allen.

Froncie Quinn also gives a brief history of quiltmaking during the period each quilt was made. Enclosed with Mary Baker's pattern is information about the fabrics used in this time frame as well as methods, colors, and patterns preferred. Quinn also gives some fascinating history on the Mariner's Compass.

In case you want to really immerse yourself in the past each pattern includes instructions on how to make the quilt much as the original quiltmaker did. In Mary Baker's case the quilt was made by hand using templates. If you prefer using modern methods Quinn also includes instructions for making Baker's quilt by hand or machine using freezer paper templates or paper piecing. In addition the pattern includes detailed instructions on quilting along with a plastic stencil to be used in marking the design for quilting.

I decided to use some fabric I had at hand to try making a single block in order to see how difficult this quilt would be. I soon discovered that without Quinn's having drafted this difficult pattern I would have been lost. Her template patterns and careful step-by-step directions made it far easier than I had expected. I used the freezer paper method and was able to sew the block together quite nicely. Accurate sewing especially at the points was a challenge but the methods given made this much easier than it would have been otherwise.

The first time I saw this pattern I was certain that making this quilt was not for the faint of heart. After completing my first block I now realize that one does not have to be Braveheart to create this beauty; it simply takes careful following of the directions and accurate stitching. In the end you will have accomplished something special. You will have created a treasure from early America

2004 Judy Anne Johnson Breneman (Do not reproduce this article without permission from the author.)

For other patterns by Froncie Quinn go to Hoopla Patterns. You will find a great variety of difficulty and design in her patterns but each is a unique piece of history. Quinn's article, Reliving History Through Quilting, radiates her enthusiasm in sharing these patterns and the lives of the quilt makers.

For help in finding reproduction fabric go to Finding the Perfect Fabric for Your Reproduction Quilt for links to online fabric merchants. Of course it's much more fun to discover the fabric you want at a local quilt store so be sure to check there first. Don't be concerned about finding exactly the same fabric as is pictured with the pattern. You are simply going for the 'feel' of the times

Recommended Website: Mariner's Compass Quilts ~ Ancient Windrose Inspirations

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