Happy Monday! I had a busy week and I finished three more Christmas presents (including this quilt, actually), so I’m making progress.
Today I’m going to show you the assembly for my magnum opus, “What so proudly we hail,” and talk about some of the quilting.
I bought fabric for the backing from Keepsake Quilting. I’m not sure what fabric collection it’s part of, but it’s called “Freedom Rings,” and it’s perfect. It has circles of gold stars on a cream background, giving it a nice patriotic feel. I used twin sized batting and it was just large enough.
I had to assemble the quilt on my floor. Normally I go to my parents’ house, but this was a surprise for Z and the only time I would have been at my parents’ house to do it, he was with me.
I knew I wanted to make the quilt all hand-quilted. Remember how quick the piecing came together? If I had machine quilted it – think wavy lines all along the stripes to give it movement – I’d have been done months ago. However, I wanted to quilt patriotic quotes on the flag- and, of course, fifty stars for the fifty states.
I told one of my guild friends that I was going to quilt patriotic sayings into every stripe and she told me I’d never have time for that. I took that into consideration and decided to only quilt sayings on the white stripes and to leave out the top and bottommost white stripes (in case I had to cut into them when it came time to square up the quilt.
Then I started planning what sayings I wanted. I made myself a list. I already had some ideas: patriotic song lyrics, John F. Kennedy’s famous “ask what you can do for your country,” and a New England hymn that dates back to revolutionary War times, but I researched quotes by our founding fathers and important presidents, paying particular attention to Z’s favorites. John Adams is his favorite founding father but I also read quotes by Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, etc. I had a specific idea for the tone of the quilt and I also wanted sayings that would be meaningful for Z.
I ended up with a long list that I then had to cut down for space reasons. Here’s the final list (and an explanation for each quote and why I chose it).
1. “For what avail the plough or sail, Or land or life, if freedom fail?” – Ralph Waldo Emerson (from his poem “Boston”)
I found this quote online and it just struck me. I thought z would like it too. J saw it and commented that the quilt would be very serious, and it is. It’s about the freedom and sacrifice and the values america is built on. It’s about how we don’t always live up to our values but we strive to improve because we believe in them. America isn’t a perfect country but we were founded on the principles of freedom and equality and justice, and that we hold those dear and work toward them even when we fall short is what makes america a special place. When my grandparents escaped from Hungary behind the iron curtain after the hungarian Revolution, there were a lot of countries they could have immigrated to. They chose America because they wanted their children to grow up free. That’s why people come here. Z grew up in New England, steeped in the history of the birthplace of the American Revolution, and it’s part of his being, that pride in America and all the good that it stands for, and the belief that we sacrifice for it, to make our country that great place. So that’s what I wanted to capture with every line of this quilt. (Forgive my rambling.)
2. “Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.” – John Adams
Again, Z’s favorite founding father. I knew I needed an Adams quote. It’s heavy, again, but it captures the essence of the quilt.
3. “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
The modern expression of the same ideals – and I couldn’t leave out Kennedy for a quilt for my New England man.
4. “Let justice be done though the heavens should fall.” – Lord Mansfield/John Adams
I was a little bit concerned about internet attributions being inaccurate – how much can we trust the internet? I had a slight hitch here. I found this quote listed as belonging to John Adams; when Z saw the quilt, he immediately recognized it as being a quote by Lord Mansfield. (If you saw the movie “Belle” – and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it – this is the same Lord Mansfield. He served as Lord Chief Justice and handed down many famous rulings in British jurisprudence. Z researched him after seeing “Belle” and that’s how he knew the quote.) I’ve now done more thorough research and this quote has been used multiple times in both the British and American courts and judicial writings, dating back to the 1600s. Lord Mansfield used it in one of his rulings and John Adams later used it in a letter written to Elbridge Gerry, a fellow Massachusetts representative to the Second Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and future Vice President. I had wanted all my quotes to be “American” and was disappointed that I’d made a mistake with a misattributed quote, although Z assured me that Adams would have respected Lord Mansfield and was pleased with the choice. Now I know that we were both right!
5. “Let tyrants shake their iron rod. We fear them not; we trust in God.” – selection of song lyrics from “Chester,” by William Billings
I first heard this song watching the Adams miniseries with Z. (P.S. Does anyone else always read the words of John Adams and hear them spoken in the voice of either Paul Giamatti or Mr. Feeney? Perhaps it’s just me.) The full verse is “Let tyrants shake their iron rod, And Slav’ry clank her galling chains, We fear them not, we trust in God, New England’s God forever reigns.” It was a popular Revolutionary War-era hymn in New England. Per Z, school kids still learn it and he was surprised I’d never heard it before. (Z also learned whaling shanties in school when he was growing up, which he refuses to sing for me, because he claims he “can’t remember.”) I left out the line about slavery and the line about New England’s God because the former didn’t fit the tone of the quilt and because the quilt is about America, not New England.
6. “O beautiful, for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved.” – lyrics from “America the Beautiful”
I wanted to include some patriotic song lyrics. I picked lines that I felt would most appeal to Z, not necessarily opening lines or the most famous lines. I didn’t finish the rhyming couplet because I knew I was running out of space. (Also, at this point in the quilting I kept getting the songs stuck in my head.)
7. “Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!” – lyrics from “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee”
I picked the line that referenced Pilgrims as a nod to Z’s New England roots again.
8. “Fidelis ad mortem.” – Faithful unto death, the motto of the NYPD
This has special meaning for Z, and again I felt that it was in line with the spirit of the quilt.
I had a longer list that I couldn’t fit, including “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable” – Daniel Webster; the opening lines of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (“Our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”); and the last line of “God Bless America” (“God bless America, land that I love, my home sweet home”) (and now I’m going to have Kate Smith’s version stuck in my head – it’s the one they always play at Yankees games). I had wanted to incorporate lyrics from “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and had settled on “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” because none of the other lyrics fit what I wanted, but in the end I replaced it with “Fidelis ad mortem” instead.
In order to do the quilting, I first practiced my cursive on paper (seriously, I had to write some of the phrases over and over because I’m not used to writing cursive anymore) and then traced the phrases onto the quilt. (Z specifically asked how I quilted in cursive and I showed him my practice cursive in my noteebook.) Then I quilted them with dark blue thread to show up on the white background.
Tomorrow is Travel Tuesday and Wednesday T-Rex will be guest posting! We’ll come back to my magnum opus on Friday and I’ll show you the rest of the quilting.