Bennington Museum’s Jane Stickle Quilt an International Draw
Telephone calls and emails to the Bennington Museum from as far away as Australia, England, California and Texas began last summer, asking “When will the quilt be on display next year?” so enthusiasts could plan their trips to the region to see the 1863 Sampler Quilt created by Jane A. Stickle. Brought to the museum 60 years ago, the Quilt is only shown for a short time each year due to its fragility. The Museum has just announced that the Quilt will be on its yearly display from September 2 through October 9.
Jane Stickle’s hugely ambitious quilt is unique among mid-19th-century American quilts. The small size and sheer quantity of its uniquely patterned blocks are especially notable. The average size of a quilt block during this period was eight to 12 inches square, while the 169 blocks in the Stickle Quilt measure four to five inches square, one quarter the typical scale. The quilt contains a remarkable 5,602 pieces surrounded by a unique scalloped border. Many of the blocks are intricately pieced, with individual pieces ranging in size from less than a quarter of an inch to two inches on a side; some of the blocks have as many as 35 to 40 pieces. Amazingly, none of the printed fabrics are used in more than one block.
Stickle’s access to so many textiles may be due to the fact that her brother, Erastus Blakely, was listed as a tailor in the 1850 census. She recycled a linen sheet from her mother Sarah Blakely for the majority of the quilt’s backing; the initials ‘S.B.’ are embroidered in tiny cross-stitches on one of the scallops at the back edge, originally intended to identify the linen’s owner. The craftsmanship of the quilt has been mentioned in numerous quilting books, and is the topic of ‘Dear Jane, The 225 Patterns from the 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt,’ by Brenda Papadakis.
Jane Stickle was born Jane Blakely on April 8, 1817, in Shaftsbury. Married to Walter Stickle sometime before 1850, they did not have a family of their own, but did take responsibility for at least three children in the area. In an 1860s census, Jane was listed as a 43-year-old farmer living alone. She eventually reunited with her husband, but during that time alone, she lovingly created what is now known as the Jane Stickle Quilt. As a reminder of the turbulent times the country was going through, she carefully embroidered ‘In War Time 1863’ into the quilt. The Jane Stickle Quilt can be viewed with regular museum admission.
The Bennington Museum, 75 Main Street/Route 9, Bennington, also has the largest public collection of Grandma Moses paintings in the world, as well as the largest collection of 19th-century Bennington pottery. On view at through November 5 is Grandma Moses: American Modern. This exhibition has a subversive goal, for it will upset your expectations and get you to look at this beloved American artist with fresh eyes. On a nice day, you can further explore the museum grounds with a walk through the Hadwen Woods on the George Aiken Wildflower Trail.
The Museum is open daily through October 30. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and students over 18. Visit benningtonmuseum.org or call 802-447-1571 for information.