Usquepaugh Baking Co.
Home of Merry & Maddy's Munchys
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Quilting Around The Block
First things first - long story short, I am a "wool/felt person" but I wanted to give people a "fabric pieced" option as well, so there are TWO different versions of the FREE Block. Nothing to sign up for and no need to "check out" - just click the links below for your free patterns. Kits for both versions, as well as "Taste of RI" are available - click "Shop Now" to purchase those. Kits include pre-cut, pre-fused (where applicable) pieces, floss, and needle, as well as full pattern and directions.
Welcome to Rhode Island, the biggest little state in the Union! No, it is not actually an island, despite the name, although there are several islands in the Ocean State. Rhode Island has about 400 miles of coastline, which is impressive for a state that is only 37 miles wide and 48 miles long. Yup, you can drive almost anywhere in Rhode Island in under an hour – the irony there that most native Rhode Islander’s find driving more than 20 minutes to go anywhere to be a long trip (I am not kidding). The state is typically considered to have been founded by Roger Williams in 1636, who believed in absolute freedom of religion and separation of church and state – all were welcome to worship as they saw fit, which basically got him thrown out of the Puritan Massachusetts colony. Rhode Island was first to declare independence from England and the last to ratify the constitution - so despite it size, it has been a notable player in the history of the US.
During the “gilded age” of the late 19th century, wealthy families built “summer cottages” in Newport, to enjoy the ocean breezes and high society in the area. Today a number of these “cottages”, which are opulent mansions not cottages, have been preserved and are a top tourist attraction. Newport was also the site of the wedding of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953, adding to its fame. Today Newport retains many of its colonial homes and is a top tourist destination, typically avoided by locals during the summer months.
Beyond Newport and the capital city of Providence, Rhode Island retains many rural communities that originally sprung up around mills of various types. Today, many of these communities retain their “village” names – and this is where it gets really weird. I live in Richmond, Rhode Island – a fairly rural town of about 7000 – my local government and taxes are paid to Richmond. But, my mailing address in West Kingston, a village that spans parts of both Richmond and neighboring South Kingstown, and my post office is physically located in South Kingstown. No one in Richmond actually has a Richmond mailing address and a zip code for Richmond does not exist. Instead, zip codes and addresses are based on villages – in fact, the Richmond Town Hall is in Wyoming, RI (that’s right, there is a Wyoming in RI) – other villages, which in many cases flow across town lines, include Carolina, Hope Valley, Wood River Junction, Kenyon, and Shannock. To say the least, it is confusing – to make matters worse, not all of Rhode Island is set up this way - many towns and cities do not use this “village” format. Beyond the “zip code villages” there are historical villages that exist in name and the hearts of Rhode Islanders, such as my home village of Usquepaugh. The most notable landmark in Usquepaugh is Kenyon’s Grist Mill – the oldest manufacturer in the state which has been operating since 1696. Located on the Queen River, which once provided the water power to turn the mill stones, Kenyon’s has been grinding cornmeal and flour for literally centuries. So, when I thought about a block that would best represent my state, town, village, and business, I decided Kenyon's Grist Mill would be the perfect choice!
One of the key products of Kenyon’s Grist Mill is Johnny Cake Meal – which is finely ground white corn meal. What the heck is a Johnny Cake? It is a mix meal with a touch of salt and sugar along with hot water – which is then dropped on a heavily buttered griddle and cooked, much like a pancake only it cooks longer, until golden on both sides . The thickness of the batter is key to the thickness and texture of the Johnny Cake – I like mine “middle of the road” – not too thick and pasty, but not thin and flimsy either. Serve these with more butter and pure maple syrup. Two other “weird tastes of Rhode Island” are Coffee Milk and Del’s. Coffee milk is made the same way as chocolate milk – a syrup stirred in to milk – the two key commercial brands are Autocrat and Eclipse, each with a fierce following, although today they are owned by the same company (I am an Autocrat fan). Del’s Lemonade is basically a fine, sweet lemon slush with (somewhat odd) bits of lemon in it. You will find a Del’s truck at most summer events and beaches in Rhode Island (or the competitor: New England Lemonade). If you’d like to “Taste Rhode Island” along with your block kit, that package contains 1 lb of Kenyon’s Johnny Cake Meal, 16 oz Eclipse Coffee Syrup, and my own taste of RI - an 8 oz bag of my Cranberry Scone Mix, along with your choice of block kit.
If you are still reading and interested in the back story – keep reading -
To understand my choice of subject for the block I designed for Rhode Island, I first have to explain a bit about my company. You may (or may not) have noticed that the legal name of my business is “Usquepaugh Baking Company” – why the heck is a quilting company named “baking company”? The simple answer is my business started as, and still is (in part), a baking company. Back in 2012, when I got laid off from my job as a quality assurance manager for a manufacturing company, I decided to pursue my passion for baking. I started with two different divisions – treats for dogs and treats for people. I primarily sell both at local farmers markets and craft festivals, including the (now defunct) “Johnnycake Festival” at Kenyon’s Grist mill. The key difference between 2012 and today is I have transitioned to selling only scone mix in my “treats for people” line – these products are available on my website as well, if you or your dog are in need of a snack while quilting.
Ok, so what does any of this have to do with quilting or this block? My mother is an avid quilter and I learned to do needlework at a very young age, and later dabbled in a bit of traditional quilting. My mom bought me a penny rug kit about 15 years ago, and from there, I was hooked. I started making a variety of traditional penny rugs, and about 8 years ago, an idea somewhat randomly came into my head to try to make my own design of a dog face on a pillow. From there, as these things seem to do, I started to design more and more dog faces, then cat faces, then horses. I found that the pillows were bulky to take to events and so time consuming to make hence giving them a higher price point – so I shrunk the design down to 30% and started to make ornaments and ornament kits. Ornaments were a big hit – I can’t sew fast enough to keep up – so I started making kits. As an added bonus, I could easily sew an ornament while manning my booth at farmers markets and shows – which lead to me selling the ornaments at the markets because people were curious about what I was doing. Today my business sales are about evenly split between food products and Penny Rug Pet Portraits products.
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