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Quilters Terry Whittaker and Christina Nicholson - Sisters of Perpetual Needling - in Ogdensburg on Sunday.
Quilters Terry Whittaker and Christina Nicholson - Sisters of Perpetual Needling - in Ogdensburg on Sunday.

Heard Up North: Sisters of Perpetual Needling

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Historical re-enactors are serious about battle strategies, muskets and cannons. And for many, it's all about period clothing. Todd Moe toured Lighthouse Point in Ogdensburg on Sunday during the Founders' Day event.

The annual commemoration of the French and Indian War featured battle re-enactments on land and water, a bateau race and a colonial trade fair. That's where Todd found two Ontario women hunched over a loom and serious about an 18th century technique known as "whole cloth quilting," where the quilting itself is the decoration. They are today's "Heard Up North."

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They're quilting an 18th century-style petticoat.

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Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

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Terri Whittaker and Chris Nicholson are sisters, and they call their group the Sisters of Perpetual Needling.

“A lot of people confuse quilting with patch-working,” said one of the sisters. She explained that quilting is the act of running thread through several layers of fabric to stitch it together. Patchwork quilting involves taking pieces of fabric, putting them together to make a pattern and then quilting them together.

“What we’re doing here is basically what they still call whole-cloth quilting,” she said. This means that they use the quilting stitches to produce a design and to produce warm clothing. They are stitching their quilts by hand, and one of the quilters said, “It’s somewhat of a lost art these days, quilting these days; it’s very popular to quilt, but it’s mostly machine quilting. People don’t have the time to do hand-stitching any more, and a lot of people aren’t even learning it.”

“It would be highly inappropriate to use a sewing machine in the 18th century, and it’s relaxing. You take your time, you enjoy what you’re doing, and you get an end product that you’re quite well committed to by then. It’s not a fleeting experience,” she said. In 1750, it would have taken a woman about a week, working full time, to complete a petticoat project like this one. The petticoat is 45 inches wide and 90 inches long and is quilted all over. In 1750, the finished product wouldn’t have been worth much more than $1 in today’s money.

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