An unlikely travelling companion

In Mel's Musings
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It’s a long story….

In 1863 in Vermont USA, a woman named Jane A. Stickle pieced a quilt. She was a childless, bankrupt farmer’s wife who stitched 169 different four and a half inch blocks and 52 border triangles from fabric she sourced from wherever she could to make a beautiful, original double bed quilt. The only thing that makes this quilt – and Jane A. Stickle – remarkable today is that she embroidered her name into one of the corner pieces of her quilt. It was passed down through her family and during the depression years was found and sent to a museum in Vermont. A geometry teacher saw a photo of the quilt and made patterns of a few of the blocks. She became a bit obsessed (it can happen!), and eventually published a book containing all of the patterns for all of the blocks and triangles, calling it a Baby Jane quilt, born from the original Dear Jane quilt in Vermont. Incredibly, she has sold over 170,000 copies of the book and there are Baby Jane quilting nuts all over the world (Google Dear Jane and you will be astonished!).

In 2009, without any of my 3 very young children, I took a mental health morning and went to a quilt show at Melbourne’s convention centre (I understand that my crafting may come as a surprise to some of you; certainly not to others!). It was at the end of the exhibition of show quilts that I saw a replica of the 1863 Jane Stickle quilt. I was overcome. I thought it was so beautiful! My sister had shown me the pattern book and thought she might make a blue one. I laughed and said you must be mad, that thing would take you the rest of your life to make! When I saw it at the exhibition I bought the book myself! I started sewing in September 2009 and have hand-pieced a quarter of the top.

In thinking about this trip, I took myself back to when I travelled in my 20’s. I remembered that after not very long I found moving from one tourist attraction to the next unfulfilling. I needed to feel like I was achieving something, so I started volunteering in places, staying on communities or immersing myself in work and life in a non-English speaking country. Of course this trip can in no way be compared to that extended period of travel 15 years ago, but I have come prepared!

For the 6 months before we left – in the evenings in front of episodes of West Wing – I was cutting the patterns for the blocks in the next quarter of my Jane quilt. I have with me 55 small snap lock bags, each containing small pieces of cut fabric and calico that I will hand sew along the way. Probably any opportunity I get! I thought I might occasionally share some of the blocks as I finish them. My little tangible achievements. Like H-1 that I finished on the beach of Byron Bay today.

I appreciate that quilting is probably really not interesting to some people (!) so I shall post these updates under a new category – Stitching Jane – so they can be deleted upon arrival in inboxes!

Yes, once again, just a little bit crazy! There is a Dear Jane nut in Byron Bay too!


  1. Thank The Lord for crazy people like you Mel. Look forward to following the creation.

  2. I am sooooo impressed. Pre-cutting pieces! Snap lock bags! 55 of them! Wow .. look forward to watching your creation evolve.. xx

  3. What a story your quilt will tell when complete. It will be handed down for years

  4. It’s the process I understand, Mel. So inspirational and down to earth. Thanks for the historical b/g. AND I can still remember Tully wearing that old crotcheted blanket with her arm through the hole… blankies and quilts are so multifaceted. Hugs all round, please, imagining Auntie Kath there.

  5. Mel, your first quarter looks amazing and I love you Byron square. Got your link today and I have been captivated. So glad you and your family are doing the trip. I should be studying as I finish my last 10 weeks of my masters but the joy reading your blog has given me has inspired me more. Take care, nxx

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