My Sources

How did I find out about the stories I've written about? Below is a listing of the books and resources I've used to write the history songs on my quilting recordings. If you'd like to find out more about any of the stories, this is where I suggest you look first.



The only known surviving convict ship quilt, made by female transportees to Australia in 1841. Thanks to Elizabeth Fry, each female prisoner leaving England was provided with a bundle of sewing supplies to help in her rehabilitation, and taught how to quilt! This quilt, made on board the ship Rajah on the way to Van Diemen's Land, was discovered in 1987 in a Scottish attic by Janet Rae, who was writing her book "Quilts of the British Isles". Of recent interest: in 1996 the Ottawa Valley Quilters Guild created a replica of the Rajah quilt in Canada and donated it to the Elizabeth Fry Society (EFS) in honour of their 45th anniversary. It can be viewed in the EFS offices in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Margaret Rolfe's book "Australian Quilt Heritage", 1998, provided the inspiration for this song.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, included the Rajah quilt in the first ever exhibition of British quilts from 20 March to 4 July. It was an extremely rare chance to see it, and the first time it had left Australia since it was returned there in 1989.  BUT you can still read the Curator's Blog at  I had heard of this exhibit and would have given my eye teeth to be able to go, but it just wasn't possible.  It is almost impossible to see this quilt in Australia (the National Gallery only displays it for a couple of hours a day for a week or so a year, due to its fragility and importance).  I guess you're going to have to go to Australia to see it now. 

Listen to a sample of this song.

Patchwork Quilts in Australia by Margaret Rolfe (Greenhouse Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1987) ISBN 0 86436 322 2
Australian Quilt Heritage by Margaret Rolfe (J.B. Fairfax Press Pty Limited, 1998) ISBN 1 86343 333 3
Needlework in Australia by Marion Fletcher, 1989

1. There is a wonderful site from the National Gallery of Australia where you can take a close-up look at the actual quilt, and read the entire story, including the full cross-stitched inscription:
2. For information about female transportees visit
3. The Elizabeth Fry Society in Canada continues her work with women in conflict with the law.
4. Christina Henri is an artist working on commemorating the lost babies of the women incarcerated at the Female Factory in Tasmania. She is doing this through an installation of 25,000 baby bonnets. For more information:

FOLLOW THE STARS TO FREEDOM Based on the theory proposed by the writers of the book "Hidden in Plain View"  that escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad may have used quilts as signposts, maps and notices in their journey to freedom. This story has been generally debunked by American quilt historians and there has been a great deal of discussion about it, despite its having seeped into the oral histories of many families.

1. Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard (Doubleday, 1999) ISBN 0 385 49137 9
2. For another side to this debate, visit
3. and a clarification by one of the authors:
4. For a comprehensive discussion of this story by Leigh Fellner


Three quilts were made during WWII at Changi Prison in Singapore by civilian internees to get messages to their husbands and sons. See the November 2000 issue of Quilters Newsletter Magazine for an article about these quilts, including photographs. Interesting background to this story can also be found in "Diary of a Girl in Changi" written by Sheila Allen (now Bruhn), with the descriptions of life in Changi Prison. The new edition of the book, ends with a chapter on the quilts, with photographs. This book can be ordered from the Australian War Memorial shop in Canberra, ACT, Australia. Another book, "Dear Philip" by Freddy Bloom, is a diary in the form of letters to her husband during her incarceration. Freddy does not mention the quilts in the book, but her story is amazing, and she contributed two blocks to the quilts. The song is written from her perspective.

1. Diary of a Girl In Changi 1941-1945 (2nd edition) by Sheila Allan (Kangaroo Press, 1999) The second edition has an extra chapter about the quilts with photos of all three.
2. Dear Philip: A diary of captivity, Changi 1942-45 by Freddy Bloom (The Bodley Head Ltd., 1980) ISBN 0-370-30345-8 (It is from Freddy's perspective that I wrote the song, although this book makes little reference to the quilt making)
3. Patchwork Quilts in Australia by Margaret Rolfe (Greenhouse Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1987) ISBN 0 86436 322 2
4. Australian Quilt Heritage by Margaret Rolfe (J.B. Fairfax Press Pty Limited, 1998) ISBN 1 86343 333 3
5. Article in Australian Patchwork and Quilting, vol.4, no.2 "The Changi Quilts" by Margaret Rolfe
6. Changi Chapel Museum, .
7. There's a great description of the quilts and events leading up to them at
8. To see details on the quilt that inspired the making of the 3 Changi quilts (a surprise birthday hexagon quilt made by the Girl Guides at Changi)

A portion of the British Changi Quilt

NAMES Although this song was not written by me, but by Cathy Fink, about the AIDS quilt, I can direct you to the Canadian AIDS site for more information.

In 2011 the AIDS quilt is 24 years old, and has been designated an American Treasure. Currently, 40,000+ panels commemorate more than 91,000 people who have lost their lives to this horrible disease in 36 countries. Over $4 million has been raised for direct services to people with AIDS. It resides in Atlanta GA.

In 1996 Caryl Bryer Fallert made a panel for the AIDS quilt on behalf of the over 1,000 United Airlines employees who had succumbed to the disease.  She has a very moving writeup of her experience at


PRINCE CHARMING A fun song about charm quilts which have a long history, originating from button collections of the 1800s. The song was suggested by Jinny Beyer.

Listen to a sample of this song.

1. "Charm Quilts Revisited" (parts 1 & 2) by Cuesta Benberry Quilter's Newsletter Magazine January 1988 and February 1988
2. The Scrap Look by Jinny Beyer Chapter 5, "Charm Quilts"
3. "Charm Quilts: Characteristics and Variations, 1870s-1990s by Pat L. Nickols in Uncoverings 1996 (American Quilt Study Group, Vol. 17)
4. "Charm Quilts" by Barbara Tricarico in Traditional Quiltworks, issue 60, March 1999.

OLD GLORY The original Old Glory American flag was made for Capt. William Driver by his mother and her friends, and flown around the world during his travels. He named it, and promoted its fame. When he retired to Nashville, he flew it proudly. When the Civil War came, Nashville seceded from the Union, and it was no longer safe to fly the flag. For the safety of all concerned, the flag was folded and sewn inside a quilt. Three years later, when Nashville was taken by the Union forces, the quilt was unpicked and the flag was flown once again over the Capitol. It now resides in the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Listen to a sample of this song.

1. "Around the Mall and Beyond" Smithsonian magazine, July 1993, Vol. 24, Issue 4, p.12
2. Read about this story at

The gravestone of William Driver in Nashville, TN

A QUILT AND A KETTLE The story of Allan and Rachel Bond who walked the Oregon Trail in 1853 from Indiana to the Willamette Valley. Rachel Bond picked up a large copper cooking kettle and kept her sewing supplies in it. As she walked, she pieced a quilt. We have seen the kettle, which is still in the family, but the quilt is long gone.

Listen to a sample of this song.

1. Treasures in the Trunk - Quilts of the Oregon Trail by Mary Bywater Cross (Rutledge Hill Press, 1993) ISBN 1-55853-237-4 (recently re-issued under the title "Quilts of the Oregon Trail" 2006).

Cathy with Scott Shephard (descendent of Allan and Rachel Bond) with Mary Bywater Cross.
They are all holding the actual kettle that Rachel Bond carried.


I NEED ANOTHER WAGGA The story to this song was mostly written by Jenny Bowker, but I can recommend a couple of sources to find out about waggas. Waggas are Australian utilitarian quilts, often made of hessian (burlap) bags, covered with cretonne or anything else that was available, including soldiers' uniforms or wool suiting samples. They're not generally pretty, but they did the job.

Listen to a sample of this song.

1. Historic Australian Quilts by Annette Gero (The Beagle Press for the National Trust of Australia NSW, 2000)
2. Patchwork Quilts in Australia by Margaret Rolfe (Greenhouse Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1987) ISBN 0 86436 322 2
3. You can see some examples of waggas at the National Quilt Registry in Australia:

SWEATERS FOR PENGUINS There was an oil spill off Phillip Island, Australia, where the 12 inch-tall Little or Fairy penguins nest. To keep them from dying of exposure, Marg Healy had a knitted sweater/jumper designed for them, to be used until the birds could be cleaned. Knitters from all over the world (especially Australia, North America, Germany, England and Scandinavia) contributed and they received over 15,000! They received 400 from Finland alone. They are not currently soliciting any more sweaters (the shop at the Fairy Penguin centre on Philip Island has lots of them), but you can purchase your own toy penguin dressed in a sweater via their website, and support their very important work. The song was written by James Gordon.

Listen to a sample of this song.

My fairy penguin (on left in the sweater) found some friends in Buckden, Cambs, England

WHEN THE BOYS WERE THIRSTY A tragic story of a quilt killing its maker. During the Civil War, Barbara Broyles' white work quilt was borrowed by Confederate soldiers camped in the area. When they left, they returned the quilt. Unfortunately the quilt had been used by a soldier who died of Typhus, and the bacteria remained in the quilt. When the quilt came home, it infected Barbara and her husband. They died within four days of each other.

Listen to a sample of this song.

1. Southern Quilts and Surviving Relics of the Civil War by Bets Ramsey and Merikay Waldvogel (Rutledge Hill Press, 1998)

QUILT OF NAMES A WWII Red Cross signature quilt from Hilton Beach, Ontario (near Sault Ste. Marie) that was given to the Bloomfield family in Lewisham England during the war. The son, Harold Cecil Bloomfield carried the quilt and his father's bible with him everywhere and when he died in Johannesburg in 2000, his last wish was to have both of them sent "home" to where the quilt was made. I have an article about this story in The Canadian Quilter magazine, Winter 2004.

Listen to a sample of this song.

Cathy with Angie Woodcock with the quilt at Red Cross offices in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

Harold Bloomfield

A quilt that saved many people's lives during the worst fire in American history in Wisconsin, 1871. The engineer of the Harbor Railway wet down the quilt, wrapped it around his head, and ran the train back and forth to the lake, carrying many people to safety. There is a picture of the quilt in the CD package of "A Quilter's World".

In March 2015 we sang in Oshkosh Wisconsin at the Fox Valley Technical College quilt show. Just before I was to teach a class, I met the owner of this quilt, Elinor.  The next day we visited her at her home and she showed me the quilt.  It's very heavy, having been made of woollen fabrics, and in excellent shape, although one fabric is reduced to strings.  The rest of the fabrics appear almost new. It does appear that the stripes on the left side (near me) were added later to expand the quilt to fit a larger bed.  I was delighted to see this quilt in person, all these years since I wrote the song in 2004. Elinor bought it from a family member of the engineer.

Elinor and I holding the quilt

Listen to a sample of this song.

1. Wisconsin Quilts - Stories in the Stitches by Ellen Kort (photographs by Stewart Wolfe) (Howell Press, 2001) ISBN 1-57427-118-0


The Duck Neck Quilt A beautiful quilt we saw in Skagway Alaska, made of approximately 150 preserved duck neck skins (with feathers still attached). It was made by Jenny Rasmusen sometime between 1905 and 1912 when she was a Swedish missionary in Yakutat Alaska. The quilt is hanging in the Skagway Museum, and I'm told that it is still supple and light and very warm (and, presumably, waterproof!). I learned a few things about the Tlingit methods of preserving bird skins (which they often used for children's clothing and for boots).

Listen to a sample of this song.

1. Quilts of Alaska: A Textile Album of the Last Frontier General Editor June E. Hall (Gastineau Channel Historical Society) ISBN 0-9704815-0-0
2. The Tlingit Indians George Thornton Emmons (ed. Frederica de Laguna)
3. Sinews of Survival (Inuit Clothing) Betty Kobayoski Issenman
4. Our Boots Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe
5. Spirit of Siberia Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe

The Duck Neck Quilt at the Skagway Museum

PADUCAH A story told to me first by Genie Barnes involves a quilt made by Barbara Moll after a dear friend of hers committed suicide. She showed the quilt at a Show and Tell at the American Quilters' Society show in Paducah KY. Afterwards, many people spoke with her about their own experiences with friends and family who had committed suicide. A few months later, she received a letter from a woman who had intended to take her own life that weekend, but as a result of seeing the response to Barbara's quilt, she reconsidered, and wanted to thank Barbara for being instrumental in saving her life.

Listen to a sample of this song.

BOOTS AND BAYONETS The Burlington (Ontario, Canada) Teen Tour Band was founded in 1947 to welcome soldiers home from the Second World War. Since then, youth between the ages of 13 to 19 have performed for many special events, including at Juno Beach, as part of the 60th D-Day celebrations in Normandy, France. To help the band members prepare for their visit to Normandy, and to commemorate the event, quilt appraiser Judy Lyons spearheaded the making of a quilt. Each band member was asked to take a square and fill it with their connections to that war. Many family members' experiences were remembered on the quilt, and many inter-generational conversations were opened up. The quilt is called "Canada's Youth Shall Remember 1944-2004". 

Listen to a sample of this song.

1. For more information about the band check out
2. To see the Canadian Quilter article Judy Lyons wrote about the quilt check out

My Grandfather's Brother

Unlike most of my other songs, this one is about me!  For Christmas 2005, my brother sent me a big box (despite us having agreed not to exchange gifts anymore), containing a quilt.  It is turkey red and white, with many embroidered signatures - 833 that I can see!  My grandfather and his brother were both Presbyterian (and then United) Church ministers.  At the time I wrote the song, there were still many more questions than answers about this quilt. It had been in the possession of my father's first cousin (daughter to said "grandfather's brother", Uncle Jim) until she was moved into a retirement care facility.  The quilt was sold at auction to someone who then approached Mary to find out its provenance. She thought it had been given to her father by grateful parishioners from the first church that he founded (he founded over 15 churches during his life).  She was right, but not entirely.  With great research between my brother and myself, we found out that his first church was in a tiny town (now a ghost town) called Depot Harbour.  Uncle Jim was their first permanent minister, and there was not actual church when he went there.  The quilt was a major part of the fundraising for the building of the church.  There are many notable names on the quilt, including many family members and the then Premier of Ontario!  Unfortunately, the piece is too fragile for me to take it with me on tours.  Here's a picture of it:

There is a new project up and running at the Quilt Index, which includes this quilt.  The entire site focuses on signature quilts, both old and new.
Mine is under Church/Charity quilts as well as "Redwork".  You can find out the whole story, as I know it now (including a list of the names!!), at this link:


Little Crazy Quilt

QUILT OF BELONGING This quilt is an amazing Canadian work of art, spearheaded by Esther Bryan.  I have seen it twice: once at Quilt Canada in Kitchener/Waterloo, and once at the Houston International Quilt Festival in Texas. In both cases, it stopped everyone in their tracks.  The quilt is 120 feet long and 10 feet tall.  Each block represents a different nation in Canada - all of the countries in the world plus 70 First Nations.  Hundreds of people have contributed to this piece, and it involved 6 years of work - between finding people to represent their country, deciding on a design that represented the people (not just their flag or government), and making the square.  Assembled, it looks like a rainbow.  If you ever get the chance to see it, go!
1. Learn about it on their website:

MARTHA Martha Ann Ricks was freed black slave who, as a child with her family from Tennessee, relocated to Liberia.  The fledgling country was protected by the British navy, which tried to prevent further slaving.  Martha appreciated that protection so much, she vowed to make a thank you present for Queen Victoria and deliver it in person.  50 years later, she accomplished her goal. Kyra Hicks told me about this story, just before she published her book "Martha Ann's Quilt for Queen Victoria".
1. Kyra's book is described on her website:
2. An article Kyra wrote about her research on the quilt:

Mrs. Martha Ann Ricks. Digital ID: 1228826. New York Public Library


PANGUITCH In the 1860s a small town in the mountains south of Salt Lake City Utah was founded.  The families had been sent out by the Mormon church to colonize the area.  The first winter came early and they lost their crops to frost. They started to run out of food during the winter, and seven men were sent 40 miles to the next town, Parowan, to obtain the supplies they needed to keep the community going until spring.  At the end of the first 10 miles, they realized the snow was too deep, and they were not going to make it.  They held a prayer meeting on the snow, by spreading their quilts on top and sitting on it.  They realized that, with the quilts under them, they didn't sink in the snow as much, and so they decided to try to make the rest of the journey by spreading their quilts on the path and walking on them.  It worked, and they were able to bring the needed food back with them in the same manner.  Today, the town of Panguitch celebrates this event with an annual "Quilt Walk" festival. I found out about this story when we stopped for dinner, by chance, in Panguitch in the middle of a long drive. There was a brochure for the Quilt Walk Festival on the table as I left the restaurant.
1. Quilt Walk Festival website:
2. A highway marker describing the quilt walk:

MIDNIGHT KNITTERS Yarn bombing and stealth knitting are two terms for an international phenomenon that might have started in Austin Texas. Instead of drawing graffiti on walls and fences, these people knit covers for stop signs, fence poles, buses, fountain cherubs, trees, etc. It is, technically, illegal, but people don't usually mind. When I found out about this, I couldn't resist writing a song about it!
1. A Globe and Mail article about Yarn bombing:
2. Here's an interesting more scholarly article about it from Australia:
3. I didn't use either of these, though, to write the song!  This one gave me my title:

OAK LEAF In reading a very old quilting book called "Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them" by Ruth E. Finlay, I found a story about a young Long Island girl who fell in love with a whaling captain.  Her father disapproved of the match, and locked her in her room for days, sewing appliquéd oak leaf blocks, until she relented and agreed to marry a local boy instead.  But she didn't lose her desire for the sailor, and one day a dory full of sailors approached her party as they were clamming on the shore, and she ran away with her whaler.  It was said that they were married in Rhode Island, and on their honeymoon voyage, the ship went down in the South China Sea, with all hands aboard. There is a picture in the book of one remaining Oak Leaf block, unfinished, with a needle rusting in one corner.  The story occurred 100 years before Ruth Finlay wrote her book in 1929! Doesn't this sound like a folk song to you?  It did to me!
1. Ruth Finlay, Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them