The End of the Line

For some months I’ve been preoccupied with my canal map project. I’m relieved to report that it’s done, hanging sleeve and all.

It was made for a map quilt challenge, and was supposed to be no larger than 20 by 20 inches. That didn’t happen as canals are long and skinny. My piece is more like 19 by 29 inches.

I tried to depict the story of the Ohio and Erie Canal over time through part of Summit County, Ohio, from the Cuyahoga-Summit County line to just north of downtown Akron. The canal was much longer, beginning at Lake Erie and continuing south to the Ohio River.

The blue embroidered line that runs the length of my quilt represents the Cuyahoga River, and the red line the canal. The short red lines mark the canal locks. The brown lines show the current roads in the area, one of the transportation systems that has superseded canals. They are also the quilting lines. The map at the top left outlines the area my map covers.

Map of the area covered by the quilt.

Continuing down the left side, a photo printed on silk organza shows a typical canal boat being hauled by horses. The period photo was taken near the Ira lock, for those of you familiar with the area.

The next photos on the left show a lock that remains today, and some of the devastation wrought by the 1913 flood that wiped out the canal for good. The picture was taken on North Howard Street in Akron, Ohio.

Continuing on the right side, the top photo shows a group posed outside the Mustill Store in Akron. It was a store and butcher shop that served the canal boats, and has been restored. The photo beneath the store shows boats lined up to enter a lock.

Many mills, such as the Moody and Thomas Mill in Pensinsula, Ohio, at lock 29, were developed to take advantage of the canal. The photograph I used was damaged, but shows a typical grist mill.

The final picture shows the front page of the Akron Beacon Journal for March 26, 1913. Akron was one of many Ohio cities flooded.

“When Akron’s east reservoir gave way, some thought it had been dynamited. Water roared over the gates of the canal locks to a depth of eight feet, making them impossible to open. Lock 1 in Akron held back 9 miles of water. Canal cities were warned by those on horseback to evacuate the area. John Henry Vance, a B.F. Goodrich engineer, used dynamite to blast open the lock gates. The water crushed gate after gate, ripping the clay lining off the banks of the canal, as it rushed north to Peninsula and Boston.” (

This quilt represents a lot of compromises as I tried to be historically accurate yet create an artistically pleasing work. The graphics gave me trouble as I searched for historic photos that were interesting, clear, and of high enough quality to survive being printed on fabric.

I tried to blend the photos with the background using embroidery, which also serves as part of the quilting. I would have preferred to arrange the photos close to the points where they were taken, but space constraints got in the way. I won’t bore you with my adventures printing on fabric.

Would I change things? Absolutely, but I have no plans to return to the canal except as a hiker. I suggest this site if you have a burning thirst for more information on individual canal locks.

I’ve linked to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Completed Projects

24 responses to “The End of the Line

  1. You Canal quilt is so amazing .Thanks for sharing it. All the comments above made me go back and look again as there is so much technique and history carefully combined .

  2. Thanks for sharing this work and the story that goes along with it, I really enjoyed it! Great piece of work, congratulations!

  3. I love this! One of the issues I think about all the time (but haven’t found a solution to, for me) is a way to show past and present together, a way to represent all we KNOW about a subject, along with the way it currently appears. I think you have done that so well here — the way you printed the images evokes the past but blends in with the present.

  4. I’m so impressed with the thought and research and care that went into this!

  5. Berit Hokanson

    Serendippity, small world department. I tok a daylong canaltrip in Sweden this summer, an item on My bucket list. IT is the 100 year anniversary of the Canal and aquaduct as part of it. You inspirera me to commemorate this by Making my own Canal quilt. Your quilt is beautiful! Thanks for sharing it. Berit

  6. You should be proud! This is a wonderful piece. You certainly achieved the historic and the artistic mix in an ascetically pleasing artwork. I was hoping to read about your “adventures printing on fabric” maybe someday you will write more about that. Also would love to see the other quilts in this challenge. Thanks.

    • Many thanks. The main issue with printing on fabric was the photo transfer sheets I bought from Dharma. They had a plastic-y finish and didn’t peel away smoothly. I went with them because I wanted colored, not white, fabric beneath the photos. Then, too, I had to reverse all the photos with printing on them. The silk organza sheets were fine, though the images were fainter than I wanted. I’ve heard of running them through the printer a second time to increase the ink, but with my printer I didn’t want to chance ruining the expensive sheets.

      • Thank you for that, I think you did mention the plastic-y finish to me in a previous post comment. I wonder if increasing the saturation in Photoshop would make a better print on the silk organza.

      • I did try to increase the saturation in Photoshop, but I found I was dealing with the fuzziness of the old photos I had to work with. Also, I was running out of organza sheets and was too cheap to order more.

  7. Jane

    Beautiful, Joanna! It’s been great to see the progress on this one! I’m looking forward to seeing this in person again, especially with the added pictures. No worries on size … several of us are stretching the tape measure a bit on this challenge.

  8. Edith

    Such a lovely quilt. I’m from Western NY and we did a trip about the Erie Canal when I was young but I hardly remember it. It was fun reading and seeing all of the history. Hope you don’t get DQ’d. That’s not fun. It happened to me in a different reading of the rules once. I love the way you used all of the different materials and techniques but it all plays so beautifully together.

  9. Rosemaryflower

    I love this!
    I love the history of our area here on the east. I live in the very west part of northern Virginia. I love this beauty of this part of the US. Hubbs and I and the kids used to drive up to Michigan every summer to see family all over Michigan. Those were the days…. with girls, a two day trip.
    This area was always our half way point with the girls, find a hotel and let them run and swim in a hotel pool etc. I adored the history and beauty.
    This quilt is superb. I sure hope you do not get disqualified for the extra 9 inches…. that would be mean
    Happy October

    • I think the quiet beauty of the east often gets forgotten. I fell in love with Western Maryland on one trip. I don’t think the extra inches will cause a problem, and thanks for the kind words.

  10. Katie Krieger

    Dry nice JoAnna

    Sent from my iPhone

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