Dear Jane

Seven years ago, when I was a brand new quilter, I discovered and fell deeply in love with the Dear Jane quilt.


It was created by a woman named Jane A. Blakely Stickle during the Civil War. Not much is known about her or this quilt.

As you can guess, I immediately became obsessed and started to make a Dear Jane quilt of my own. It wasn't long before I started to feel my inexperience. These blocks finish at 4.5" and I was often overwhelmed by the tiny pieces. Some blocks were a huge time investment and I started to hate the fabrics I'd chosen. I worried about putting together such a large quilt top and had no idea if I would be able to quilt it on my tiny machine.

I gave up after a couple dozen blocks and tried not to dwell on the terrible experience. I eventually threw all my blocks away in an effort to free myself from the constant reminder of my failure.

But even after all that, the original quilt still holds a special place in my heart. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. More specifically, I've been thinking about the amazing woman who made this complex and beautiful quilt.

The amount of work that went into making it is almost inconceivable. This quilt wasn't planed with computer software or sewn on a sewing machine. She didn't have plastic rulers or rotary cutters. She didn't send it out to be long-arm quilted. Instead, she sat in her farmhouse (perhaps on the front porch?) and planned 225 different blocks and cut fabric and pieced them all by hand. She sewed the 80"x80" top together by hand. She quilted it by hand. She bound the scalloped edges by hand.

The more I think about it, the more I'm awed by the whole thing. I struggle to piece quilts using all the developments of the modern sewing world yet this woman created this quilt with, what...pencil, paper, scissors, needle and thread? And this quilt is just one of thousands made in the same way throughout history. It is a truly humbling thought.

After much consideration, I've decided to give this quilt another try. I'll talk more about my plans soon but until then, I'd love to chat about this quilt with you. Like, have you seen it before? Do you like it? Have you started to sew your own? Have you actually finished one?! How does this quilt make you feel? (Sorry, that last one is a little ridiculous but I always ask Ian how my quilts make him feel because it makes him all squirmy and it's funny...but that being said, I do honestly want to know how this quilt makes you feel. Just so you know, this quilt makes Ian feel hungry.)


  1. I absolutely love this quilt. It's beautiful and folky, and the triangles at the edges make me think of a fairy tale forest.

    I'm also amazed at the pieces of art that were made by people before modern machines and tools existed. The patience and skill it took is really admirable. Since I have declared 2013 my year of Gettin' Shit Done, I have decided to try a small 12"x12" quilt that hangs on Audrey's wall. Something not too intimidating. But enough to get a feel for quilting, and make me more comfortable with the whole idea. I've found that every time I've been intimidated by a project, it's always so much worse in my head than it ever is in reality.

    1. I know! The triangles are my favorite part!! I don't really like "sampler" quilts but those triangles are just so awesome that it makes the whole quilt awesome!

      I'm excited to see your mini quilt...quilting is way, way fun and hopefully you'll like that particular kind of fun. You know I'm here if you have questions.

  2. I really like the Dear Jane quilts too, but find them simultaneously very overwhelming. There's just so much going on! I don't think I'd ever start one, mainly because I'm pretty sure I'd never finish it, but it is a really intriguing project.

    A friend of mine - you may know her, Jennifleur or GrainDamaged, I always have a hard time remembering which of my online groups of friends overlap - started one a few years back and then gave up on it after a while, so this is the top she finally pieced with her finished blocks. Hopefully the link will work - I think it's a pretty nice idea of using up the blocks she did make.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Oh yes...I definitely feel overwhelmed when looking at them. I guess I've just embraced the whole "this is the world's busiest quilt" aspect and try to focus on the "this will be so fun to look at for the next 50 years" reasoning. If I can manage to finish it, I'm pretty sure I'll never tire of looking at it.

      And yes...Jen and I and a few other gals were all using lj to track our DJ blocks back in the day. She and I burned out at about the same number of blocks. I'm definitely scared that the same thing will happen this time around. I LOVE how she used all her blocks...her's is probably my favorite DJ block quilt ever!

  3. I love this quilt, and I purchased the fabrics to make one in solids a couple of years ago. I decided on purples and oranges, and will be mimicking the Trip Around the World setting that Jane Stickle used.

    Jane Stickle's skill is clear from the teeny-tiny block size and the intricacy of the piecing. And she did it all without the modern tools I take for granted. This fact just boggles my mind. I've made quilts entirely by hands before, but they were nothing like this in scope and scale.

    It's beautiful, and I want to push my skills further by completing this one.

    The project fell by the wayside, but I look forward to picking this one up again soon. I'm currently waiting for the Electric Quilt software to arrive - it's slated to arrive later today!

    1. I went to check out your fabric...that's going to be so stunning!! I hope you get back into it and that you enjoy it. I'm tempted to buy the software but I'm going to hold off for now. I can't wait to hear how you like it and if it makes piecing the blocks easier.

      I've been looking through the book nonstop for days...I still can't believe she came up with and then pieced all these blocks without computers and sewing machines. I'm with boggles my mind!

  4. Hello :) I love Dear Jane, too. I finished mine a little over a year ago. It took 2 years to finish, but I am so glad I stuck with it. It brings a smile to my face every time I look at it. Some of the blocks are very "fiddly" with the very tiny pieces. And the backs of some of the blocks feel like "wall-to-wall" seam allowances. But it's a wonderful quilt and I learned so much from it. Here is a link to my finished quilt, in case you are interested:

  5. I have made two DJs and I am proUd of my accivement and very admiring ofte Jane!!! Love your choice of fabrics :-)


Post a Comment