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?

Guest Blogger Jo-Ann Roberts – Quilts and Christmas

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Earlier this year, the lovely Zina Abbott asked if I would be interested in being part of a historical MAPs that would feature quilts and Christmas. Gosh! As an avid quilter what could be better? Maybe a rugged cowboy? I answered with a very enthusiastic “Yes!”

While history books, almanacs, and memoirs chronicled the West as a man’s world full of adventure and clashes with nature and man, it should be noted women also played a vital role in the migration and taming of the frontier.

Prior to leaving for the journey, female friends in the East came together to stitch a quilt for the departing woman. These “quiltings” became farewell gatherings, united in purpose as well as in friendship. Thus the “friendship quilts”, squares inscribed with names, dates, and heartfelt sentiments became popular.

As preparations continued, the women gathered all the quilts, blankets and tied comforters they could make or acquire. While special quilts were packed in a trunk, or used to wrap fragile keepsakes, everyday quilts were left out for bedding or padding on the wagon seat. When the winds rose up and blew across the dusty plains, quilts were used to cover the cracks that let the dust inside the wagon.

Since most of the women walked alongside the wagon, little quilting was done on the trail. More often the women knitted or mended clothing during the short breaks or occasional layovers. Besides, the poor light of a campfire would not have been conducive to stitching blocks together.

Quilts often reflected the adventures the of the family. “Road to California”, “Crossing the Plains” and “Log Cabin” (my personal favorite!) often indicated memories of home and hearth, the trail looming up before them, or the movement of the wind across the plains.

As the journey continued, quilts were needed for far more serious purposes than simple comfort and dust control. They were hung on the exposed side of the wagons for protection against Indian attacks. Loss of life from sickness and injury was inevitable, and wood for building a coffin was scarce along the trail as well as time-consuming. Wrapping a beloved mother, child or husband in a quilt for burial gave the family comfort knowing that something symbolizing family love enfolded their dear one in that lonely grave along the trail.

Once a pioneer family reached their destination, quilts and blankets were needed to keep the elements out of their windows and doors of log cabins or dugouts. Quilts also gave emotional sustenance as well. Putting a favorite quilt on the bed gave a woman a sense of connection with her former way of life, and something of beauty in her desolate home.

A Swedish woman settled in Kansas in the early 1850s, and recalled an invitation to a sewing circle. Being new to the country and the territory, she took this as an offer of friendship. Pioneer quilting had become an opportunity to express creativity and cultivate friendships in the new land.

Here’s the buy link for Noelle:    Noelle – Christmas Quilt Brides



On to the fun stuff….

Today is release day for Noelle – Christmas Quilt Brides, Book 8. If you’d like to read an excerpt, PLEASE CLICK HERE

 ***** Giveaway *****

Jo-Ann will be giving away two ebook copies of Noelle. For a chance to win one, leave a comment about the type of crafting you enjoy most ( quilting, knitting, sewing, cake decorating, wreathing-making, etc.). If you’re not a crafter, what crafty skill to admire most in others?

Many thanks to the P&P authors for extending an invitation to their blog. I love sharing my love of the West and sweet historical romance!



With homesteads on the American prairie often far from the nearest town, people needed a unique way to get together, aside from an occasional quilting bee or barn raising. Some ingenious folks came up with the idea of holding a “box social” as a way to catch up with friends, smile at new babies, and—and many cases—raise funds for school supplies or church pews. Since corrugated cardboard boxes weren’t in existence until 1871, and wooden crates were expensive, willow baskets proved a good substitution.

The premise for the auction was simple; women would decorate a basket and fill it with a supper for two. The men bid on the women’s boxes anticipating a meal with the women whose box it is. Generally, the boxes are anonymous so the men don’t know whose box they are bidding on. Of course, if the men knew their wife’s box they were expected to bid on it and get it for their supper. The real competition was among the bachelors and the unmarried ladies with the mystery, teasing, joking, and sometimes humorous results adding to the fun.

The women were very clever at decorating their baskets. Many times the unmarried women would surreptitiously drop hints indicating which box was hers. Pieces of fabric, wildflowers, string or yarn, or burlap doubled as clues as a way of rigging the results.

The auctioneer would start the bidding by announcing the contents of the basket. Cold fried chicken, ham biscuits, hard-cooked eggs, pickles, and cornbread were perennial favorites. Coconut Jumbles, Joe Froggers (molasses cookies), slices of pound cake were most welcomed. And if a bidder was real lucky, a dried apple pie might be tucked in between the folds of a length of toweling.

Often the bidding would start slowly at “two bits” (twenty-five cents).  To sharpen the bidding, a glib-tongued auctioneer encouraged the men, embellishing the contents of the basket making the food sound more appetizing than it might have been. By the end of the bidding, towns usually netted between ten to fifteen dollars depending on the number of baskets.

While watching the second act of Oklahoma! (the box social scene), I was inspired to add this feature in my newest release Grace-Brides of New Hope-Book Three. If you’d like to read an excerpt  CLICK HERE

Though the practice had fallen out of favor with young people since the 1950s, there has been some resurgence in recent years. The rules have become less rigid with men providing boxes as well, but the goal remains the same…raising funds for a school, church, or civic project.


I’ll be giving away a signed copy of Lessie-Brides of New Hope Book One and Posey-Brides of New Hope Book Two to one random winner! For a chance to win, answer the question below:

As a bachelor/unmarried woman, would you have participated in a box supper social in New Hope, Kansas in 1872. Why or Why not?

Jo-Ann Roberts was born and raised in western Massachusetts.  Fascinated by America’s Old West, she always felt she was destined to travel on a wagon train following the Oregon Trail. She enjoys writing sweet historical romances which take readers back to a simpler time when families and friends help one another find love and happiness.

To purchase Grace-Brides of New Hope Book Three CLICK HERE

All three books in the Brides of New Hope series are available for free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

Website:  Jo-Ann Roberts (

BATTER UP! by Jo-Ann Roberts

Baseball has come a long way from the humble beginnings in the fields of 19th century America. For many of us, the introduction of  team camaraderie and fair play first occurred on dusty sandlots, red clay diamonds, and neighborhood backyards. Contrary to popular belief, American baseball was not invented by an individual but evolved from various European “bat and ball” games.

Yet, if you were to mention “sports” in the Old West you’d probably get some strange looks. But sports, baseball, were as much a part of a town’s beginnings and, in many cases, its growth as cowboys and horses. Often, cultivating a pasture or vacant lot into a playing field was as important as establishing homes, a mercantile, a school, a church,  and a clean water supply. While summer evenings and Saturday afternoons were prime times to gather up the fellas for a game, playing on Sunday was soundly discouraged.


Teams in each town were comprised of friends, neighbors, and co-workers.  Everyone was welcomed to play regardless of race, color, or country of origin. It was common to see teams comprised of African Americans, those of Mexican origin, and those indigenous to the lands who were passing through the area. Not to be left out, some women’s teams were formed in the early colleges in Kansas.  Women also formed teams in their respective towns. Research showed that a women’s league with five towns around Topeka was established, some even included a male player or two in their lineup. Though some townspeople were startled at this occurrence, others merely accepted the fact.  (Hmm…wouldn’t this make a great series!

Setting these books in the purely fictitious town of New Hope, Kansas, I did considerable research into baseball in Kansas following the war. 

  • The history of baseball by organized clubs grew from the experiences of former Union and Confederate soldiers and spread across the prairie. The game became a great unifier in the years that followed the war.
  • 19th century bats were heavier and thicker in the handle with more of a gradual taper from the handle to barrel.
  • A catcher’s glove began as a leather work glove, similar to the glove a brakeman on the railroad would use.

  • The more prominent clubs in the larger Kansas cities donned uniforms consisting of long woolen trousers, leather belts, flannel shirts emblazoned with the town’s initial, and woolen caps.
  • Early baseballs were made from a rubber core from old, melted shoes, wrapped in yarn, covered in some form of brown leather, and stitched in a style known as a “lemon peel”. Pitchers usually made their own balls, which were used throughout the game.   


Posey Campbell couldn’t understand why her love life, or lack thereof, was of such interest to her family and friends. Having endured one ill-fated relationship, she resigned herself to living out her days as New Hope’s spinster schoolteacher…until an unkempt U.S. marshal with inviting grey eyes and a kiss-me-smile came to town turning her well-ordered life off-kilter.

Glad for a temporary assignment keeping him in one place, Grayson Barrett never expected to find love, let alone a wife, a set of orphans, and a life he’d feared had passed him by.

When a secret from Posey’s past comes to light will Gray’s steadfast love be enough to convince her he is the right man? Or will an old nemesis put an end to their love before it begins?





My giveaway includes a $10 Amazon gift card, along with a digital copy of my newest release, Posey-Brides of New Hope Book Two.  All you have to do to enter the drawing is to comment on this blog and Petticoats and Pistols will randomly select a winner.


I look forward to chatting with you…Play Ball!

A firm believer in HEA with a healthy dose of realism, Jo-Ann Roberts strives to give her readers a sweet historical romance while imparting carefully researched historical facts, personalities, and experiences relative to the time period. Her romances take her readers back to a simpler time to escape the stress of modern life by living in a small town where families and friends help one another find love and happiness.