Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Potts" of Flowers

As I (Kara) sit here at my computer typing this post, I am basking in the spring sunshine, enjoying the sounds of the birds, when the sound of an Accuweather bulletin breaks my peaceful mood with a frost warning! At least it isn't snow this time, but spring has taken her sweet time in arriving—not just here in Maryland, but across the country.

Photo Credit: Only in Your State

Though spring has been delayed, there are signs that she is on her way. My tulips, daffodils, and carefully cultivated dandelions are showing themselves, and the flowering trees around here have been beautiful.

While we have been waiting for warmer temperatures, the Baltimore Appliqué Society has been helping us with thoughts of spring flowers through the Margaret Potts Quilt. This quilt was made by Margaret Potts and her family, friends, and neighbors from 1851-1858. It was given to her son, Ellis P. Miller, who recorded all the quiltmakers' names and their relationship to the family. The 85 appliquéd blocks are made of cotton fabrics with cotton and wool embroidery and are charming in their simplicity. The quilt was donated by Priscilla Hart Miller and currently resides in the Winterthur museum where it will be treasured as an important part of women's history. The BAS was given permission by Priscilla to create the patterns and share them with quilters everywhere. Mary Lou McDonald, Margo Cramer, and Eleanor Layman did an exceptional job of creating these patterns.

The Margaret Potts Quilt Pattern

As a way to help BAS members who don't live in the Baltimore area feel connected, the BAS is doing a Block of the Month for its members, featuring the Potts quilt. Each month, a new block is showcased with the pattern, a picture from the original quilt, and a color chart. You can join the BAS here if you would like to stitch along with everyone, or you can purchase the pattern here.

Teri and I were asked to teach an embroidery workshop for the BAS members, and as we were throwing around some ideas about how to structure it, Teri came up with the idea of embellishing a Potts block with embroidery. The simplicity of the blocks lends itself to embroidery, so we picked the December block and started to work on our sample. I did the first sample, so we would have some advertisement for the workshop in March.

Teri did the same stitches for her sample with just a few variations in placement and thread color. We chose to use a fused appliqué method since we would be making kits for the workshop, and all the pieces would be anchored with the buttonhole stitch.

Since I had already finished my sample, I thought I would do another block since the first one went together so quickly. I chose to do the February block and used a bit of silk ribbon embroidery for the flower centers and a piece of French ombré ribbon for the bud. This second block allowed us to show how versatile these blocks can be with regard to embellishment.

We had 24 ladies for the workshop, and it went so well that we forgot to take pictures! We learned various embroidery stitches and even played with the ribbon stitch as part of the acorn cap.

When I first saw the Potts pattern for sale a couple of years ago, I thought it was pretty, but I chose then not to purchase it. Now that I've done two of the blocks, I've not only purchased the pattern (currently on sale for 50% off), but am hoping to work my way through all the blocks. In fact, I've just started the February block in batiks.

Fused appliqué or needle-turn, I think you will find that these blocks are mildly addicting. Other stitchers around the country have caught on to the Potts block attraction. Fellow BAS member, Nanette Chopin Cook, has started a few blocks and tells about them on her blog, Chopin—A Passionate Quilter.

If you would like to see the quilt in person, you can visit the Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Delaware. If you can't visit in person, check out these blogs for more pictures and details of their visits to the museum: Jacquelynne Steves, The Art of Home and What a Load of Scrap.

When we were stitching on these blocks, they provided us with thoughts of the spring flowers to come. Now as I stitch on my latest Potts block, I can look out my window and actually see those spring flowers. Hopefully, we have inspired you to take a closer look at this lovely quilt and to maybe begin stitching one for yourself!

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