Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Double Irish Chain, c. 1840, Lambertville, NJ
"For it is in giving that we receive." -Saint Francis of Assisi

Yesterday I received the catalogue from the "Common Threads" exhibition, celebrating the tricentennial of Hunterdon County, N.J. The exhibition was a very special project, curated by longtime friend and mentor Judy Grow, the curator of the Hunterdon County Historical Society.

Judy and I met more than 20 years ago, when she was the owner of Frames & Framers, a do-it-yourself and custom picture framing workshop across the highway from Quakerbridge Mall in New Jersey. Whenever she was in the shop, we chatted about a variety of topics from her husband's magnificent artwork to my involvement with swimming.

One day, Judy had one of her quilts hanging in the shop, and we got to talking about quilts. I told her about my quilt, the red, white and green "New York Beauty" from Kentucky. She was very interested, and asked if I would be willing to lend it for a quilt show at the Prallsville Mills in Stockton, New Jersey.

At first, I was uneasy about the idea of lending the quilt. It was by far my most valuable possession, and irreplaceable. At the same time, I had absolute confidence in Judy, and wanted other people to enjoy the quilt. So I decided to lend the quilt for the show. It was the first time I ever shared a quilt publicly, and it was the same quilt I had hidden from my mother for years, fearing she would give me a hard time for foolishly spending my money. None of my fears had any merit whatsoever, as I would learn.

Needless to say I was delighted to receive the "Common Threads" catalogue yesterday, and so happy for Judy, but I also learned something. Lambertville is in Hunterdon County. I felt a little silly not knowing that, because I spent lots of time in Lambertville when I lived in the Princeton area. I'd always thought it was part of Mercer county.

Then I remembered a quilt- a red, white and green Double Irish Chain made in Lambertville in the 1840s. Mom gave me the quilt years ago, and I wasn't sure where it was. When I located it, I posted pictures for Judy on Facebook. It was never my intent to dangle the quilt in front of Judy after missing out on lending it for the exhibition. Truth of the matter was, I wanted to see if I could find a permanent home for it. Secretly, I hoped there would be an opportunity to donate the quilt, even though it missed the big dance.

Mom and I talked, and we are happy to say the quilt is on its way home, a gift from both of us to the Hunterdon County Historical Society. Even though it missed being in the exhibition by a week, Judy's efforts caused the quilt to surface, and inspired the gift. When an exhibition reveals objects such as this quilt, it is a job well done. For me, it was a chance to pay tribute to the gifts I have received. One of those gifts was the important lesson I learned from Judy all those years ago: share the quilts!

Hexagon Flowers, c. 1970s
"For it is in giving that we receive." Yesterday evening, I went to the Northwest Quilters meeting, and one of my guildmates, a lovely lady named Anne, came over during the break to thank me for looking at some quilts she was trying to sell a few weeks ago. She brought me one of the quilts as a thank you, a gorgeous hexagon flower quilt that I had admired when looking through her collection.

I was overwhelmed by her generosity, very thankful, and stunned to receive such a beautiful gift just hours after deciding to donate the other quilt. There was something magical about the whole experience of yesterday. If you ever have the opportunity to give a gift, don't ask questions. Just do it. There really is no way to describe the feeling of joy, and that may be the greatest gift of all.


  1. How can I comment? I am overwhelmed. thank you for the kind words, and thank you for sending the Irish Chain quilt home. And thanks for also donating funds for the archival storage box and an appraisal. Next time you come East you must see our state of the art Archives Building. Superb for a small country Hist. Soc -- and it is mortgage free!

    1. Whenever I get back East, I will make a point of visiting. :)

  2. Beautiful story, there are lessons for us all in your words.

  3. Bill, the quilt came this morning, 4/16 looking just as it left your house. Many thanks to you for sending the Irish Chain quilt home along with the funds for archival storage and an appraisal.It is a welcome addition to our collection and is sending us on a history hunt for the 2 Lambertville school marms of the 1840's who could have made it.

    1. Oh wow, that was fast! Glad it got there safely. When searching for leads on the maker, try to find out who the headmistress was of each girl's school in Lambertville. When I talked to Mom, she mentioned the one woman rather than two makers. Enjoy!