One Stitch at a Time is the title of the first CD of all-quilting songs by Canadian singer, songwriter and quilter, Cathy Miller, released in September 2000. In 1991 Cathy was asked to write music for a play about quilters. In researching the topic (she was not a quilter at the time), she found an amazing wealth of stories about history, families and human achievement. She also took a quilting class as part of the research, and was hooked. In addition, she received help from quilt historians and avid quilt-makers in North America and Australia. The album covers a wide range of quilt-lore. Most of the songs were written in early 2000, while she and her husband John Bunge were living in Darwin, Australia. Since then, Cathy and John have spent their time travelling around the world, singing for quilters.
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any of these songs, click on the above "Buy the CD".
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The songs included on the CD are:
100 Ways to
Hide Your Stash
Quilters can be very creative in hiding their fabric collection! Some of the ideas in this song came from a talk that Julie Wallace gave to Darwin Patchworkers and Quilters meeting in 1999.
A song about quilting bees and immortality through quilting.
Stars to Freedom
A spiritual about the use of quilts by the Underground Railroad that served as maps to Canada. This song is based on the book "Hidden in Plain View" by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, which is an interesting exploration of how quilts may have been used by slaves in their quest for freedom. The veracity of this thesis is not accepted by quilt historians, and I recommend reading other Underground Railroad research for alternate perspectives
UFOs (UnFinished Objects) tend to accumulate in quilters' sewing rooms. There is some frustration involved in these lurking projects!
Just Look Up
A story about an Airing of the Quilts in Hobart, Tasmania. The occasion was the annual Scquilters' (Southern Cross Quilters) Retreat, organized by Cathy Craig. It stopped traffic!
A wonderful song by Cathy Fink about the world's largest quilt - the AIDS quilt.
at a Time
In 1999 the Kosovo quilt drive gave 4000 quilts to Kosovar refugees, and a new sense of community to Australian quilters. And Mary-anne Rooney won a bet with her husband that she would get more than 30!
Flying over the Canadian prairies, the land is always reminiscent of quilt blocks.
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. 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.
Fun with fabric! And there's an accordion, too!
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.
Toss the Cat
One of the more unusual bridal quilt traditions. A copy of a photograph provided by my friend Jennifer Richards, illustrated this event in a book of folk music. One of the girls doing the tossing was Jean Ritchie, a notable name in American Folk Music. The cat landed nearest her, and within the year she had married the photographer, George Pickow. They have been married for over 50 years!!
All but one of these songs were written by Cathy, and are of interest to both quilters and the quilt-challenged.
The cover of the CD features two of Cathy's own quilts. The one on the left: "Bali Stars"; is made in a central medallion style primarily from fabric bought in Bali, all machine pieced and quilted. This quilt won "Best of Show" at Fred's Pass Rural Show in Northern Territory, Australia, 1999. On the right is "Anna's Quilt", made for Cathy's niece and featuring traditional piecing, paper piecing, curved piecing, hand appliqué, all machine quilted. This quilt is featured in International Quilting Times magazine Spring 2001, along with a review of the CD and interview of Cathy.
Cathy is an accomplished professional singer/songwriter, and has five previously released (non-quilt-related) recordings. The Canadian CD launch tour in September/October 2000 was a great success, as was her appearance at Jinny Beyer's annual seminar at Hilton Head in February 2001. Live performances of the songs by Cathy and John for guilds or quilt events, are laced with entertaining stories about quilts that intersect with larger historical events, the actual making of quilts, and even quilty urban myths. Cathy continues to solicit stories about quilts and quilt-making, as research for more songs on this topic. Plans are in process for continuing tours to North American and other destinations. See the Tour Itinerary for further details.
To see reviews of the CD
To find out my sources for the history songs
Other quilting links of interest