Threads of Connection
An Irish-American Cross-Cultural Project
In Celtic myth, Brigit was goddess of poetry, healing and smithwork: in Christian history she was an abbess and saint. Her traditions are preserved today in ritual, story, artefacts and her Christian Lives stories. However, one aspect of Brigit seldom receives attention: Brigit the Weaver. Her cross was made of newly plucked rushes; her crios (girdle or belt), of new straw; and her cloak was of woven material. Before mass media and travel, and great political rallies, societies were held together by fragile threads, and weaving tools signified a key responsibility: that of weaving the precious webs of life and tending the bonds of community.
So writes Irish scholar Dr. Mary Condren about Brigid and the place she holds in history in regard to weaving and community. In modern times, Brigid is weaver of a much larger web of community that stretches around the world, thanks to Her traveling children who brought their customs and stories with them. We honor Brigid’s great weaving, and the bonds of community between Ireland and the US, with a two-part cross-cultural project we call Threads of Connection.
Threads of Connection
In Ireland and America, quilting culture has a shared history that hearkens back to the earliest Irish immigrants who brought their customs with them when they traveled. Quilts were used to wrap belongings and provided warmth and comfort on the journey across a vast ocean. They were sent as wedding presents to young immigrants who’d made their way to the New World looking for opportunity and a better life. Irish immigrants to the US also sent fabrics, new patterns, and quilts back to their family at home in Ireland.
In the 1870s, Irish patterns were quite popular in the US, and new quilting styles that showed an American influence, like Log Cabin and Irish Chain, began to emerge in Ireland. This transatlantic crossing of quilting knowledge has lasted for generations and speaks strongly to the interrelatedness of Irish and Irish-American culture and the importance of quilts to each. Our own Laura Louella, co-foundress of Sanctuary of Brigid, is a hereditary quilter who continues her own maternal line tradition of quilting that goes back to her 3x grandmother Jane Victoria Bridwell, and beyond.
The Annie Moore Quilt Series
On December 20, 1891, Annie Moore departed Queenstown, Ireland aboard the steamship Nevada to start a new life in the US. After more than a week spent crossing the Atlantic Ocean, on New Year’s Day in 1892, Annie was the first immigrant to pass through the newly built federal immigration station on Ellis Island. She spent the rest of her days in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and there is a lovely statue dedicated to her memory in Cobh, Ireland.
In 2010, as a nod to her heritage and quilting lineage, Laura designed a quilt pattern she calls Follow the Star. It combines the best of Irish and American quilting culture with its unique Evening (Sawtooth) Star and Log Cabin quilt block assembly, and is the first pattern of three in her Annie Moore quilt series.
As a way to support the native people and places of Ireland, Laura will soon have the Follow the Star pattern for sale, on behalf of Sanctuary of Brigid, with 100% of proceeds donated to Brigit’s Garden, a not-for-profit organization and a registered charity in Ireland (CHY 15512). Brigit’s Garden was set up by Jenny Beale out of her passion for nature and education, with the intent to offer a beautiful and unique resource for the community, to inspire young people through environmental education, and to conserve the flora and fauna of the west of Ireland.
A link for the Follow the Star quilt pattern will be listed here when it’s ready. Check back soon!
Irish-American Annual Quilt Block Exchange
Our Irish-American Quilt Block Exchange is currently in development with the intent to encourage and support an exchange of traditional Irish and American quilt block patterns, and friendship, between the quilting communities of Ireland and the US.
The project’s anticipated start is Autumn 2022, and will be managed by Laura.
Details will be posted here when they’re ready. Stay tuned!