Needles, Pins, and Clappers, Oh My!

Happy Thursday, Friends!

My name is Jo-Ann Roberts, and I’m thrilled to say I’m the newest Filly in the pasture here at Petticoats and Pistols! Gosh, even as I write the words, I still can’t believe it!

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a New England girl transplanted to North Carolina. I write sweet western and historical romance. I married my college sweetheart and this year we celebrated a milestone anniversary. We are blessed with a daughter, son, daughter-in-law, and a grandson. I enjoy baking, gardening, swimming, and eating way too much chocolate (hence, the need for exercising!).

In addition to writing sweet historical romance, my second love is quilting. For more than twenty years, a group of 8-10 friends get together for Quilt Week. It’s a 10-day retreat in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We rent a house, sharing the cost. From 9 am to 9 pm, we quilt, eat, get ice cream, shop for fabric, go out to eat, quilt…you get the picture.


When we started, we came up with the idea of a Quilting Challenge. At the end of Quilt Week, we pick a new pattern or a line of fabric and come up with a quilt. The following year, we show off our creations. We’ve donated these quilts to shelters, veterans’ groups, and hospitals. Each year my first project at Quilt Week is to make two baby quilts for the NICU at Forsyth Medical Center in Greensboro, NC where my grandson was born. He was a preemie, but I’m blessed to say he’s now well over six feet tall, in his 4th year in college, and is engaged to be married!

If you’ve read my Brides of New Hope series, you’ll know that I incorporate quilts into all my books as well as my home. There are quilts in our bedrooms, on the back of my writing chair, on quilt racks, on the sofa, and hanging on the walls.

So, last year when author Zina Abbott asked me if I’d be interested in taking part in the Christmas Quilt Bride series, I gave a very enthusiastic “YES!” I already had the quilting background, so the story came together quickly.

While the quilt was central to the plot, I added some historical quilting elements to the story. Enter the tomato pincushion. I know we’ve all seen them. But did you know it was born during the Victorian era when people believed the tomato was a sign of prosperity and good fortune in their life and had the ability to ward the house from evil spirits?

So strong was this belief that they improvised when tomatoes weren’t in season. They took red fabric pieces, filled them with sand or sawdust, and tied them with green string. But how did this turn into a pincushion, you ask? In the 1860s pins and needles were costly and hard to get for the average housewife. People stored them in special boxes to avoid getting lost or rusted. Soon women realized that the good luck symbol next to them at the table could be used to hold and store their pins, and the sand would sharpen the pins and needles!

A wooden clapper is another tool pioneer quilters used. According to my research, the first one popped up about 150 years ago in England. Clappers are made out of hardwood only. In order to do the job, the wood has to be heavy and close-grained. Maple and tulipwood are the most popular woods. The clapper is used to get flat, crisp seams and creases while sewing. While today’s quilter has an iron at the ready to press the seams open or to the side, I’m not convinced a pioneer woman was as fortunate. Enter the clapper. Most likely, she finger-pressed the seam then applied the clapper to wick away any moisture from her hand.

While most of us are familiar with an image of women sitting around a quilt frame (a.k.a Floor Frame or Stand Frame), space in a pioneer home was at a premium, and keeping a permanent frame set up wasn’t practical. Instead, they created a ceiling frame made with broomcorn slats held together with clamps. Pulleys were screwed to the ceiling. The ropes were tied around the slats. They ran over the pulleys and were held in place by drape hooks screwed into the wall or ceiling.

Another item important to the pioneer quilter was a huswife (this is the correct spelling). Though quilting bees were a great opportunity to socialize with other women, it didn’t include sharing needles, pins, or scissors. Thus, the huswife was a handy case, usually stitched from scraps of fabric and wool to store their supplies. Also, it was a must-have item in a soldier’s knapsack during their absences away from home.

I have been crazy busy this autumn season with three…three! books releasing in the next three months. Throw in an anniversary vacation, my husband’s eye surgery, and the upcoming holidays, it’s no wonder I’m frenzied! Here’s the first one…releasing

He made a promise to a dying friend.
She vowed never to love again.

“You can’t continue living like this, Linnea. You’ve become a hermit.”
Linnea Nyland heard the concern in her sister-in-law’s voice. Still filled with grief and missing her husband a year after his unexpected passing, she didn’t have the inclination to disagree with the statement. Though she dearly missed working her magic in the family bakery, she liked her life on the farm just the way it was…solitary.

Especially after Deputy Finn McBride came calling with his ridiculous proposal of marriage!

In a moment of panic, Finn made a heart pledge to Erik Nyland to take care of Linnea, to marry her. He’d bungled his first attempt, and he’s not sure his heart can endure the vow he made knowing he’d been in love with her from the day he came to Holly Springs.

Giving it one last try, he challenges her to a holiday baking competition. If he wins, she must agree to let him court…if she wins, he’ll leave her alone…forever.

Throw in a matchmaking landlady, a Norwegian Buhund dog, and a missing special ingredient, the lonely deputy prays for a Christmas miracle.


Comment below for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

Do you have a favorite family recipe you make for the holidays?

Saying Goodbye to Summer

At least here on this side of the planet, we just said goodbye to summer (perhaps not officially for a few more weeks, but most consider the end of summer to be Labor Day).

I’ve sent one daughter off to college. I’m ordering the books for my other daughter whom I homeschool. My boys will be on the bus headed to their first day this morning. That’s it, the end.

And part of me is super jealous that a bunch of my friends are going to St. Louis to meet for the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. I haven’t been to one since 2017 and would love to go. Perhaps next year is my year. But, alas, I can’t this year.

However, I was able to do a lot of wonderful things with the time I had.

I saw my first child graduate high school and along with that, had the first big party in our new house (and finally planted grass).

We put a garden in for the first time in four years. My gracious that was a lot of work all summer and now as we head into the fall. I have more zucchini in my freezer than I know what to do with and it’s a very good thing we go through about a jar of pickles a day.

Summer was full of shopping trips to outfit my daughter with everything she would need for her first year away from home, and making sure we did memorable things as a family. We even visited the World’s Largest Ball of Twine (I live within an hour of it).

It was also my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. So, after dropping my daughter off, the Hero and I bopped on over to Duluth where we spent a few precious hours on Canal Street and wading in the Great Gitche Gumee. I also got to eat at Grandma’s for the very first time (the namesake of the marathon). I also spoke last month about the writing retreat in July that was so refreshing. I plan to do that next year as well, and may be an ongoing thing.

As I list what I’ve done, I know that I’m forgetting things, because I’m trying to look forward. What have I got coming up? Deadlines? Jobs? Conferences? Interestingly, I’m one of those people who forever think, ‘in this next season of my life, I’ll have more time,’ and I’m always wrong. Something always crops up and I have just as much time (or less) to do what I’ve always done.


But each and every day is a blessing.

For a chance to win an ebook copy of Battle For Her Heart, my most recent release, tell me one fun thing you did this summer.