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Not only is this the title of the book, but it also describes how I felt after my three year journey to recreate the quilt, and "Nearly Insane" is what I called my quilt, too, when it was finally finished.
I first saw the quilt pictured in an out-of-print book. It said the quilt, created by Salinda Rupp in the 1870's, was in an antique shop in New York. When I saw that picture, I knew I had to recreate it. I tried to go to New York to see the original quilt in person, but I discovered that it had been sold to a private party. And, after further searching, I couldn't find any written patterns for the quilt, either.
So, all I had to work from was the picture from the book. That, and my years of experience in buying, selling, creating and enjoying quilts, both antique and contemporary. It took a lot of patience, and a lot of encouragement from my friends and family. After three years, I had reconstructed all the blocks, and pieced them into a faithful reproduction of the original quilt.
The attraction of making this quilt was that it is both different and difficult. I worked on the quilt in every spare moment I could find. I tried to choose fabrics that had the flavor of the original, without necessarily trying to match anything directly. I guess one of the reasons that this quilt called to me so strongly is that it features lots of those interesting antique greens and reds, "red-head colors" as my best friends call them, which is one of my favorite pallettes to work in. The final product is much more than a quilt: it is a labor of love, and a work of art.
I have made many quilts before, and designed a number of patterns, too, but this one was really special. From a historical perspective, it is amazing that someone could make a quilt like this over 100 years ago, and do it without all the equipment and supplies that we have today. From a technical perspective, it is a challenging project, with many small pieces and complex blocks, but that is its charm, too. I knew I had to share this quilt with others.
I am a co-owner, with my sister, of the Quilt Emporium quilt shop in East Troy, Wisconsin. We sell just about everything needed for quilting, and we also offer a wide variety of classes in quilting, beadwork, knitting, and other fiber arts. Part of my life at the shop is organizing classes, especially around new ideas, or new techniques. So I found some other quilters who shared my enthusiasm for this project. We got together as a small group, modeled after a block-of-the-month group, and together we reconstructed the blocks from the quilt over a period of about two years. I chose to assemble mine in a setting that is true to the original Salinda Rupp quilt. Others in the group played with different settings, and they all turned out to be really striking.
After living with this quilt in one form or another for more than three years, I decided to write this book to share the details of a gorgeous quilt project, as well as the history and experience of re-creating an "Old Master" work of art. Pictures of the quilts made by the Nearly Insane block-of-the-month group are also featured in the book, to give you some ideas of what you could do with all these blocks.