Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Baltimore Album Journey

Jaw-dropping awe. That was what I felt when I (Kara) saw my first Baltimore Album quilt in 2000. My quilting experience at the time consisted of a few Quilt in a Day projects (fyi: mine usually took longer than a day). Although I had done some embroidery in the past, I had never hand-appliquéd before, and the thought of doing just one block seemed daunting.

I had mentioned my interest in Baltimore Album quilts to some friends, and for my birthday they gave me Elly Sienkiewicz's book Baltimore Beauties and Beyond. This book was the perfect starting point for me to try my hand at a Baltimore Album block.

I decided to jump right in and do Lesson One, "Fleur de Lis, Pattern #1." Unfortunately, my knowledge of picking out a good background fabric was limited, so I used muslin for my first block. The fabric I chose for the appliqué was less than stellar as well, but I used what was available.

This block wasn't too intimidating, and I really learned to enjoy the process of appliquéing.  Being an orderly person, I decided to go ahead and do Lesson 2 in the book, which happened to be the "Wreath of Strawberry Leaves." It is a lovely block, but oh those leaves! The good thing is you get a chance to improve on your first leaf because you have so many more to do. The bad thing is you can tell where you were learning and where you finally got the hang of it. This block was not stored well, so it somehow collected a few stains.

Fast forward quite a few years, about thirteen to be exact, and my good friend Teri (Yep! the same Teri) had been working for none other than Elly Sienkiewicz for about three years.  She had related her experiences working at the Appliqué Academy in Williamsburg, and I mentioned to her that if they ever needed more help to let me know. Well, that year they did, and off we went. Being in an environment with so many women who loved Baltimore Album quilts was inspiring and cemented my love for this particular genre of quilts.   

I've learned so much more about appliqué and Baltimore Album quilts since making my first two blocks, and now Teri and I have had the opportunity to prepare and teach two blocks from Elly's latest book, Spoken Without a Word. The first block is "Divine Guidance." I chose to do this sample in batiks and loved the look, even though batiks are a little more challenging for the needle. 

Beautiful batiks
So many berries!
The most recent block that I've completed was "The Rose of Sharon" block. This block was made with silk ribbon and ultra-suede with embroidery accents. I loved doing this block because I used different techniques and materials, and I enjoyed seeing how they gave such dimension to the block.

French ombré ribbon, where have you been all my life?
Ultra-suede can be an appliquér's best friend
So now I have four Baltimore Album blocks completed, two of which will only ever be used as reference. The other two may make it into a quilt someday, or they may just live out the rest of their lives as beautiful blocks. Regardless of their ultimate end, my journey from its start until now has been one of increased love for this genre of quilts. I have become a card carrying member of a great organization, The Baltimore Appliqué Society, and I love spending time with all the wonderful Baltimore Album quilt lovers each month. Hopefully, in the next few months we will be sharing a project that we have been working on that was inspired by our love of the Baltimore Album quilt.
Stay tuned...


  1. Love looking at Baltimore quilts but at the moment I haven't been game to try making any. Who know maybe one day I will. Never say never.

    1. The beauty of Baltimore Album quilts really can speak to one's soul. We hope you will try a block someday...and perhaps share your results with us. We'd love to see!

  2. Thanks for sharing photos of your "progress" into the world of Baltimore Album block making. Your latest blocks are exquisite! What an inspiration! And thanks for letting us know about Elly's book. I have the original. Would love to see the updated version. Enjoy the journey you are on.

    1. Thank you so much, Patricia. To have an original Spoken Without a Word is quite a treasure! Hope you enjoy the updated version as much as we do.
      Thank you for joining us on our journey!