The Mystery of the Charmed Quilt
The Mystery of the Charmed Quilt
by William Land
From: March 2013
Last Tuesday, I received a Facebook message from my friend, the prolific quilter Julie Domenico, that I should stay home on Wednesday to await for a courier delivery. I responded by saying that it sounded like a mystery worthy of Nancy Drew. Her response: “Like Nancy, all will be revealed.”
Julie and I are work friends that haven’t actually met. She works as a library technician in a health sciences library in Timmins ON. My recent position, from which I medically retired in 2012, was in a health sciences library in Sudbury ON.
I had assumed that Julie was sending me some books since she knows of my love of series books and of my collection. When the delivery man presented me with a large box, I was surprised by the weight. It was too light to contain books!
Eagerly, I opened this box in anticipation. As I was unwrapping the package, I wondered if Julie was sending me one of her beautiful quilts. I was very shocked to learn that it was her original creation using Nancy Drew Moda fabric. The quilt is done with various 5″x5″ charm squares on a white background with accent colours of blue, navy, and yellow. It’s gorgeous! I am so blessed with this wonderful gift – every time I look at it (which is often since I received it Wednesday morning), I love it even more.
Blue was Nancy’s signature colour. In the original text mystery stories, Nancy dressed often in blue suits and hats which matched her bright blue eyes. Either by chance or design, her blue roadster also appropriately co-ordinated in this colour commonly associated with boys. The first editions of this series were bound in blue boards with blank (white) endpapers. For a brief time (late 1946) the silhouette on the cover was navy, the cover boards remained blue. From 1930 to 1961, all the books were published with dustjackets either white-spine dustjackets or wraparound-spine ones. The front cover artwork “wrapped around” the spine of the dustjacket in this latter format.
Of course, Nancy is best known (as Julie noted in her letter to me explaining her gift) for wearing matte yellow-spine pictorial hardcovers. The publisher (Grosset and Dunlap) started with this format in 1961 and continued to 1986, before switching to the glossy flashlight pictorial hardcovers that are currently being produced.
Like Nancy, either by chance or design, Julie used Nancy’s signature colours: various shades of blue including navy, white, and yellow in her gorgeous creation. In Julie’s own words: “Hope you enjoy the quilt. You will notice one square is upside down. There had to be some sort of mystery, don’t you think?”
In 2012, when I first learned that Moda was producing some Nancy Drew fabric, I wasn’t too excited since I am inept at all crafts, but admire those who are skilled and talented to take raw materials to create an object of beauty. However, I did purchase some of the fabric when I learned it would be in limited supply. I bought some fabric, planning to seek a seamstress to create a quilt, some ties, and other desired items using the Nancy Drew fabric. Little did I know that a friend would lovingly, willingly and unknown to me create a gorgeous Nancy Drew quilt with this fabric and present me with this beautiful surprise!
My cousin, Jane Ellis, commented on Facebook in response to my posting about Julie’s quilt: ” … So appropriate with your book collection! I can almost hear Friendly [from the children’s television program, “The Friendly Giant”], “and here’s a chair for someone to curl up in”… And I’m adding … “And a good book, and a snugly quilt. Very cozy!” I so agree with Jane!
The Mystery of the Charmed Quilt is a great title for this quilt and would also be for a Nancy Drew book!
Julie’s comments (from her Blog):
Quilt No. 90
When I found out that there was Nancy Drew fabric, I simply could NOT believe it. Sure, I expected to find Harry Potter fabric and Star Wars stuff, but … Nancy?! Incredible!
To me, Nancy is the most potent source of nostalgia in the universe – my introduction to actual “books” and the world of mystery! Who knew there were mysteries going on that people – girls the same age as my sister – were out there solving! Of course I pictured all this “mystery” as going on somewhere in the “United States of America”, known only to me through the mimeographed map from school – the one on which I’d laboriously printed all the states and all two rivers (Mississippi and Missouri). Nancy lived in that wondrous, far flung place where each state was a different colour! And there was more. There could be hidden staircases! Surely there was one somewhere in our tiny house – I just had to be diligent, and smart, and I would find it.
This quilt was made for my friend Bill, a truly loyal Nancy Drew fan, collector, and expert on all things Nancy. Bill never fails to take the adversities that life unfairly tosses his way and find his own silver linings. I felt that this deserved some sort of reward.
And so … The Mystery of the Charmed Quilt came into being. Why “Charmed”? The Nancy Drew squares were purchased as pre-cut 5×5” squares, called “charm squares” according to official quilting terminology. I went with a white background, and of course, yellow was a given. It’s the colour I most associate with the covers of the classic Nancy Drew books.
As for the hidden staircase, I never did find it, but I haven’t given up looking where ever I live. I might just find it yet.
This quilt was quilted once, unquilted, and then quilted again. My first attempts at machine quilting along the edges of the blocks, or “in the ditch” as quilters refer to it, were disastrous. The skills I’d mastered for free motion quilting were of no help whatsoever. Apparently ditching it is a whole different skill set. My first lines meandered like a tired river, but as a testimony to my blind stubbornness, I just…kept…going. My plan was to rip out what I didn’t like later because it would only be a few lines of stitches…I would master the skill any second. Well, any minute. Well, any hour. Or maybe not. The lines wandered around like drunken ants trying to escape the Raid factory. And still I kept going, thinking – like so many fools in a bar – that my prize would look better in the morning.
I decided to check out YouTube to see what I might be doing wrong. Turns out – pretty much everything. So I turned back the quilt clock by ripping out all the machine quilting. I won’t say how long this took, but I did get more than one movie under my belt as I sat there picking out the stitches. My next attempt went better as I carefully folded the quilt prior to stitching so that it wouldn’t pull all over the place. I shortened my stitch length, went slowly, oh so slowly, and used a super sharp Microtex needle.
The results were far better, still not perfect, but as any quilter (believer or not) will tell you, only a Higher Power can make a perfect quilt. The rest of us can only give it our best shot.
I so admire Julie’s talent and generosity — this is a wonderful present. I look forward to the day when Julie and I actually meet in person. When she visits my apartment, she’ll be able to see my book collection and her creation in its new home.
Written: March 2013
Revised: March 2015