Baskets and Babies

Baskets and Babies

When making a study quilt, imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery. But being inspired to take off in a new direction can be great fun. I chose this basket crib quilt (circa 1880) because of the graphic design and because it was made in Connecticut, home of many of my ancestors.

I planned to reproduce the design exactly, but realized this would require many small blocks. Instead, I enlarged the basket blocks to better show the fabrics. While inspired by the design, I wanted to create something completely different. I started using 1800s reproduction fabrics, but widened my selection to include batiks, fabrics with gold, and fabrics from Italy and England. My personal challenge was to get all the fabrics to play well together. I’m sure my quiltmaking process was the opposite of the original quilter, who used a limited selection of red, brown and blue to create a quilt to warm her baby.

I sewed the blocks during a camping trip with my husband in our small motorhome. Ironically, at the time I was reading a book about quilts made on the Oregon Trail. While I had a few “hardships” in my quiltmaking such as limited access to electricity for my sewing machine, my experience was pure luxury compared to my ancestors who made the Oregon Trail journey in 1853.

The baskets looked empty, so I added photos of babies from my family history. The baby in the upper left block is my grandfather, Sherwood Lampson Rowland, who, appropriately for this quilt, was born in 1888 in Waterbury, Connecticut. For the filler blocks, I used black instead of red in the study quilt, and enhanced them by slashing and inserting narrow strips. The machine quilting designs are an eclectic mix of swirls, leaves, and pebbles.