Jazzy Yellow Checkerboard

By: Cynthia Nanto
Hollis, New Hampshire

I thoroughly enjoyed studying this circa 1930s Log Cabin variation at the New England Quilt Museum (Lowell, Massachusetts). What a palette! The addition of lemon yellow to the dominant peachy yellow creates an irresistible, jazzy dissonance. The use of cotton sateen lends a dynamic sheen – are those blues, or purples? It truly depends on the lighting in the room and position of the viewer. The warm yellows and pinks are tempered by muddy khakis and taupes.

Our frugal quilter pieced many of her logs, and used narrow coping strips liberally to get her blocks close enough to measuring fifteen inches square. Blocks are pieced in horizontal rows; the vertical rows are offset by up to an inch in some places. This quilt was not created on a foundation. A casual approach to pressing and a generous approach to “easing in” resulted in some folds and puckers within the top. Quilting is in (or near) the ditch, with three or four stitches per inch, and the border is quilted in subtly curved lines, an inch apart.

I chose to make nine eight-inch blocks. I matched colors as best I could, and used some shot cottons as a nod to that beautiful sateen luster. At first, I tried to exactly replicate the piecing of particular blocks, but that plan fell apart as I quickly realized I wanted to experience the attitude of the original quilter – casual, “make do,” and confident. I quickly got into the fun rhythm of improvising. To me, the original quilt is a soulful combination of humble and strong, frugal and free; and I imagine the maker herself embodied those qualities, transitioning from the Jazz Age to the Great Depression.