The year 1853 was the relative calm before the storm. It was prewar south – fabrics, designs, and time were available for some to make a spectacular quilt. In Williamson County, Tennessee, Sue S. Jones stitched her name and date into the floral appliqué quilt I have selected as my inspiration piece. Or did she? If only quilts could talk. The quilt reflects some financial resources, but there are only fragments of chintz strategically placed. Did a skilled slave stitch it at Sue’s direction, or an older relative for her upcoming wedding to James H. Mallory? I don’t know, but it doesn’t diminish my interest.
I first saw this quilt at the Sam Davis home quilt show in 2011. The Battle of Franklin Trust was sharing some of its collection including a recent acquisition, the Sue Jones quilt. The family had taken the quilt to a traveling television road show and were told it was of no great value, so they offered it to their local museum, Carnton (of the book The Widow of the South fame). When the family saw the quilt show, they were pleased. And so was everyone who now had a chance to see this amazing quilt.
I had already traced the quilt using vinyl overlays over a solid vinyl sheet for protection when the AQSG challenge was issued. My original intent was to make one reproduction for the museum and one for myself. The Battle of Franklin Trust kindly gave permission for mine to be the challenge quilt. And a challenge it has been!
First I selected blocks and a setting to represent its diversity, complexity, and charm. I invite you to visit Franklin, arrange to see the original – a photo does not begin to do it justice – and decide for yourself if I was successful. I reduced the tracings to fit the size guidelines. Then I selected the colors, matching original colors when possible and guessing the original colors of the fugitive dyes from placement in blocks and likely possibilities from known examples and writings, using Barbara Brackman’s books and series on Colors. I tried to figure out how the rose petals were stitched. Next, I needed to learn trapunto. Sue’s was not stuffed through the back, so mine is not either. I learned I cannot keep up with Miss Jones! But I did learn to stitch outside my comfort zone.