We recently took a small road trip up to see the Bristlecone Pines in the White Mountains. Pine trees = Christmas, right? And while we were up there at 10,000 feet at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center at Schulman Grove, we took some pictures with those old pines of my latest Christmas quilt, Jingle Bells.
The song “Jingle Bells” is actually a Thanksgiving song, what with the sleigh and all that, and since these circles make me think of those jingley bells — not during November — but in December, that became its name.
However, that’s not the name of the block. Jack’s Chain is the name it’s most commonly known by. The earliest mention of this block is around 1939 and it’s called Rosalia Flower Garden, but the name Jack’s Chain comes into play in 1978. For not knowing about this, all of a sudden the name Jack’s Chain was everywhere. I ordered another early quilt book and it’s in there, too. It’s in Brackman. In fact, for being such a well-recognized pattern, the origins seem to be shrouded in mystery. To see how the current version relates to the old one, take a look at this video:
After the Jack’s Chain is exploded, with the rings set beside each other, it morphs into another well-known, more contemporary version of this block (center construction shown below).
My good friend Dot sent me this photo of her Jack’s chain from 1999. She writes: “The quilt was made for a 1999 South Bay Quilters Guild challenge: to make a quilt using the guild’s logo, which is the traditional Mayflower Block. It’s not that exciting a block, so I found a fun way to set it. I drafted my own pattern from a little sketch in a quilt-block book.” [corrected 10/23/22]
The backing, and fussy-cut centers of the circles were cut from this Jane Sassaman fabric.
Yes, I really liked those old Bristlecone Pines, and liked the fact that we were walking around among these giants, both in age, wisdom, adaptability and scarcity. If you watched the Highlight reel (above), some of the wood looks fluid, as if it were poured into place. A good lesson for me, for this quilt has been a struggle.
After I put up this earlier post on Instagram, and then wrote about it on this blog, I was blasted by those who police the Other Well-known Name of this design. The origins, of course, were Jack’s Chain, but morphed. That morphing was lovely and allows the viewer to see giant circles, a secondary pattern. After I was castigated for calling it Jack’s Chain (seven pages worth!), I started doing research and found multiple places where this pattern resides. One of the places even offers acrylic templates for sale (do your own search, if you are interested). There are two basic sizes, 3″ nine-patch blocks, and 6″ nine-patch blocks. Sometimes there are diamonds in the center, and sometimes not. Sometimes the center is done with English Paper Piecing, then the nine-patches added on via machine. Sometimes the version is a table-runner (and there is a YouTube video for that one). There are as many variations of this block as there are blocks in this quilt; something for everyone — plenty to share. There is however, only one “official” pattern of that contemporary version smaller nine-patch, so if you want the complete how-to, it’s best to make sure your nickels and dimes get to her.
I originally obtained my pattern from a very fine and brilliant quilter, who no longer sells her pattern online. So when it came time to figure out how to put the sides on the center, I was stuck. So I drafted my own. The quilting on this quilt was done by Jen of Sew-Mazing Quilting.
In the Quilt Index, this is Quilt #270 and my second Christmas quilt finish for 2022 (the first). As the label notes, it’s 66″ wide and 78″ tall.
At the midpoint of this quilt, after being harangued and scolded, I wanted to wad it all up and throw it away. Our quilts often carry our hopes, dreams and emotions and I felt like this quilt had been dumped on. Maybe it was just me. Could be. I always consider my own foibles first, but in the end? I kept going. And now that I’ve taken it to 10,000 feet and let those Bristlecone Pines shed their magic on it, it’s a keeper.
Be as kind as you can, in all the ways that you can–
We also headed up Bishop Creek to get these shots, as we don’t really have many pines around here:
If you go to Bishop, I can recommend Great Basin Bakery for lunch. And breakfast! If you are down in Lone Pine, the Alabama Hills Cafe & Bakery is also really good (named for the hills at the base of Mt. Whitney).