Nancy Rink's Mill Works Block of the Month - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

Nancy Rink’s Mill Works Block of the Month

We LOVE reproduction fabrics and this is why Nancy Rink’s NEW Marcus Fabric collection takes its cue from the American Textile Museum. Today, Nancy Rink is joining us at the Jolly Jabber to talk about her new Mill Works Block of the Month! Don’t forget to sign up for our BOM today! 

Q: Tell us a little about the Mill Works Block of the Month.  What were you inspired by?

A: Quilts and coverlets from the time period 1760-1820 such as the Lucy Warner Coverlet which featured light backgrounds were the quilts that called to me, so I set about designing a quilt to capture the feel of these beauties.

Q: What is your design process when beginning the project? 

A: For this project I had the good fortune of using historic swatches from the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MASS to develop the collection.  The process began with me making a list of the kind of prints, patterns, and textures I was interested in and determining the time period from which the swatches should be selected. Because of the research my husband Oliver and I did for our book Away From Home: Quilts Inspired by the Lowell Factory Girls, we knew the names of some of the Mills that operated in Massachusetts during the Industrial Revolution, 1760-1820. A few weeks later I received a disk with many, many images of historic swatches on it.  To my delight, a large number of the swatches came from the Allen and the Merrimack Mills, two mills that operated in Massachusetts during the Industrial Revolution. The next task was to develop a color palette. In looking at drawings, paintings, and dresses from the era, I found that fashion in European countries and North America was characterized by greater abundance, elaboration and intricacy in clothing designs. The colors were more vibrant due to advances in dyeing and the patterns more intricate. 
Q: When you designed this fabric, did you have this quilt in mind as you chose your fabrics?

A: The Mill Works quilt was designed hand-in-hand with the fabric collection. Using Photoshop I was able to create different colorways of my favorite swatches and then using Electric Quilt Design Software I was able to import the swatches into the quilt design. This became a lengthy trial and error process as I colored and recolored blocks, and designed and redesigned blocks.  The final touch was to add a little touch of simple applique’ shapes to a few of the blocks. The gorgeous border stripe ties all of the colors together and provides a lovely frame for the quilt. Although the quilt is shown with a mitered border, sewing instructions for square borders are included in the pattern for those who prefer not to miter corners.

Q: How would you describe your style?

A: Eclectic. My work spans a wide variety of styles and techniques, but probably what characterizes my work whether contemporary or traditional is that I like to combine piecing and applique.

Q: This quilt incorporates some applique as well as straight piecing. How would you encourage someone who hasn’t tried these elements before?

A: For me, one of the joys of quilting is learning new techniques.  The applique in Mill Works is not at all tricky.  I have several tutorials on my blog for freezer paper applique, and local quilt shops usually offer beginning applique classes. Also, when I write pattern instructions, I try to use sewing techniques that result in accurate piecing. Mill Works is filled with step-by-step full-color diagrams and visual guides, and was  pattern tested by an expert sewer and proofed by Vivian Ritter who worked as a long-time technical editor for Quilter’s Newsletter.


  1. Rosemary B here:
    This is beautiful!
    I would LOVE making this. I love and adore traditional quilts.
    Nancy Rink, your quilt is beautiful.
    I want to make these blocks.
    One day I will
    I am taking care of my 91 year old parents now and they need a lot of attention. — oh my.
    I do have a little bit of sewing time now and then. I am putting this one on my list!