Monday, 2 September 2013

Bennington, Vermont

Today was a very exciting day. We left our hotel in Albany by taxi and located the car hire centre not far from the airport. The car we have hired is very similar to our Hyundai so is easy to drive except they drive on the wrong side of the road and you sit on the wrong side too! 
Fortunately, our experience has been better than last time, we've stayed on our side of the road and not given ourselves or anyone else for that matter a heart attack! We learnt our lesson and didn't pick up the car in New York which proved to be fairly traumatic last time, just ask Kate and Pete.
The drive to Vermont was only an hour and was very pleasant. It's been lovely to really leave the cities behind for a couple of days and step out into the country. It's a long weekend here so traffic conditions are fairly busy as there is a huge garlic and herb festival happening and the crowds stretched right through town by the time we left the museum at noon.
The reason we have come to Bennington is to go to the Bennington Museum to see the "Dear Jane" quilt which is 150 years old this year. The quilt lives in the museum and is displayed for about one month or so each year. The quilt went on display yesterday and when we arrived at opening time at ten today another lady from Australia had been yesterday. I think the staff are a little mystified that folks would come all that way to see the quilt. 
The quilt now needs to be preserved and so it is mounted on a board, displayed at the back of the museum protected from direct light by a partition. When you walk around the partition a light comes on to the quilt and there it is!  It was truly amazing for me to see the quilt for real. I have been working on my own Jane for a number of years and finally I'm up to quilting it and can see the finish line in sight so I poured over the quilt for an hour and a half, mostly by myself but joined by a lovely local lady who makes miniature quilts who was also in awe of the beauty of Jane's quilt. 
The quilt is all hand stitched and quilted and the quilting is so fine and even, it is quite breathtaking. When you stand back you can see how Jane had arranged the blocks with a green block in the middle and colours radiating out from there. I couldn't believe how clear the colours were. The reds especially looked very vibrant as did the browns and cheddar yellows. There are no repeats in fabric and a great diversity of prints. There are also many joins of fabrics and additions of tiny slivers of fabric to make the blocks come together. I just loved how Jane had made use of what fabrics she had at hand. Some of the fabrics in my quilt have been pieced together too as I really loved some fabrics and had to join them to enable me to have them in my quilt. Some of the blocks have sashings whilst others have sashings of irregular sizes too in order to make the rows come together.
The quilt is perfect and yet has imperfections which some modern quilters would frown at but I just love it more for that. I know now that the Jane I am making will be just like that, it will have my imperfections and I will love it too. It is such a relief to realise that such a thing of beauty has its own idiosyncrasies that make it a work of art.
The quilt is in amazing condition with very little marking and no obvious damage at all. There are no seams coming away and no holes in the fabrics. The quilting is delicate and is done to enhance the blocks not to dominate. You look at the blocks and admire the quilting. No doubt the smallness of the blocks and the density of quilting around some of the pieces has contributed to its longevity, but at the same time some of the pieces are no bigger than my little fingernail so they have tiny seam allowances which have stood the testament of 150 years. 
It is so frustrating not to know more about the history of the quilt but I guess the mystery is part of the charm.
We left the museum at midday having contributed to the financial viability of their gift shop, and found a nearby brewery (yup, back on the breweries again) for lunch. After a walk around the street, again finding some "must haves" we went in search of the covered bridged which are really amazing. They were originally constructed to protect the wooden bridges from the elements and are now a great tourist attraction. We are amazed at the beautiful timber work in these constructions. The beams inside the bridge are enormous and must have been enormously heavy to manoeuvre in place.
Off to our hotel to plan for the next day's adventure here, hopefully finding Jane's grave which we couldn't locate today.

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