Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Red Room Quilts

In 2007 a network of about 25 women readers from the US, UK, Canada and Australia got together on a book cataloging and social site called LibraryThing. Although we were all active on the public forums (we do love to talk about books), we squirreled ourselves away at times in a private group where we could talk a bit freer and share on more personal topics. We called this private room "The Red Room" for the room which Jane Eyre was sent to when she was punished (we were making a more positive use of the name). Since that beginning in June 2007, many of us have met in person, and we have Skyped each other, exchanged gifts and cards, and generally been supportive of each other.

In October 2007 we got word that one of our members had had a sudden incident that involved spinal damage, the result of which was the loss of use of her legs. Computers reach all over the world, but they can't extend a human hand in a time of need. We all wanted to DO something, and felt frustrated and powerless to help. I thought we might make a friendship quilt and volunteered the labor and extra materials if others would donate a piece of fabric of their choice, or make some other creative contribution for the project. We used as a central place for members to find a fabric and have it sent here. Wendy in Northern California sent a small cross stitch piece, Maggie in New York sent an embroidered piece, Caroline in London wrote a poem and we printed that out on fabric. On special fabric, we printed out photographs some of the members had taken, or photographs of a few of the members.

The fabrics arrived (and here I should note that we got extra fabric because other members wanted pieces so that they too could make their own Red Room quilt). But how to put all of these very, very different patterns together?

Kim's quilt. Started around January 2008 and based on the easy "Yellow Brick Road" pattern, this lap-sized quilt combines fabrics representing all of our members, plus other creative bits like those noted above. The blocks were bordered with a small strip of black and then a larger strip of scraps. This was machine quilted by me, free motion, in a random loopy pattern but also accommodated specific elements in the quilt. The quilt was sent to Kim in Australia in 2008. It was our hope that, although we could not be there physically to help her through her rehab, she would know that there were people all over the world thinking of her and cheering her on her uphill road.

The Second Quilt. Almost simultaneously, I worked on a second quilt for another of our members who had recently had back surgery. This quilt used the "Flying Geese" pattern and is bordered by rows of squares. The quilt was also machine quilted by me but—for the first time—I quilted a specific pattern instead of a random one. This was done by drawing a pattern onto Golden Threads Quilting paper, pinning the paper on to the quilt, and then stitching it free motion. I think it came out okay. The quilt was sent to the UK but the member virtually disappeared from the online group and apparently moved house. The quilt was eventually returned to me and we decided as a group to donate it to victims of the Australian bush fires in Victoria in early 2009.

The Third...Quilt. I still had some leftovers after finishing the first two quilts, so I began to mindlessly sew together black and printed squares to make half square triangles. I played with them until they made a nice pattern and the resulting unfinished quilt top is pictured below or as Quilt 2 on a previous blog post about unfinished projects.

**Maggie, a member from New York made a stunning tied crazy quilt with the same fabrics. She embellished it by embroidering enhancements around specific design elements in the fabrics or inventing her own. For example, she embroidered a rocket ship on a starry navy blue print, and clothing on the monkeys in the sock monkey print...etc. That woman needs a blog to showcase her work!



  1. What a lovely retrospective, Lois! Nice to be reminded of those projects. And I second the recommendation for a Maggie-blog.

  2. Love this post, Lois!!! Such a wonderful look back - and you've inspired me to try and finish MY RR quilt which has been lingering in my unfinished projects drawer!! :)