Saturday, January 5, 2013

19. Old Maid's Ramble: Desperate Walkers

Old Maid's Ramble
By Becky Brown

The country in Hampshire, England

One of Jane Austen's delights was walking across the countryside from village to village. A few days after her 23rd birthday in 1798 she wrote her sister Cassandra:
"I enjoyed the hard black frosts of last week very much, and one day while they lasted walked [from Steventon] to Deane by myself. I do not know that I ever did such a thing in my life before."

 Less than two years later the hike of a few miles was commonplace for Jane.
"On Thursday we walked to Deane, yesterday to Oakley Hall and Oakley, and to-day to Deane again. At Oakley Hall we did a great deal—eat some sandwiches all over mustard... ."

A month later at her friend Martha Lloyd's house, the weather kept them inside.
 "It is too dirty even for such desperate walkers as Martha and I to get out of doors, and we are therefore confined to each other's society from morning till night..."
Desperate walkers Jane and Martha were perhaps considered eccentric. Ladies did not hike. About one hundred years later walking was still ill-advised. In 1896 health expert John Madison Taylor warned against it. Girls should "take mild open-air exercise (of which walking solemnly along the street is emphatically not the best and not even a good form)."

Advice such as Taylor's was still in vogue when I was a teenager in the 1960s. Exercise of any kind seemed unwise (female troubles, you know) and unladylike (boys hated competition).


According to Taylor: 
"The so-called calisthenic exercises, which mean 'beautiful forcefulness,' probably because they are usually so hideous, are devoid of interest and not particularly useful. Only that exercise is best which involves some pleased acquiescence.... Fancy dancing, as previously remarked, admirably develops loins and back....The bicycle is monotonous, and the character of movements is restricted by the rotary mechanism, hence it develops unsymmetrically and may exhaust before tiring the muscles. Cycling is a peril because of the competition of companions who lure the weak ones too far. Girls should not push up steep hills and never attempt to keep pace with powerful young men."

1911---A Kansas sports team from the Library of Congress
I'm sure Taylor recommended housework too. I'm jealous of American girls who went to high school after Title IX was enacted in 1972. Within a few years girls' participation in team sports went up from 4% to 25%. At last summer's Olympics, women won 56% of Team USA's medals.

"[Brother Henry] talks of the Rambles we took last summer with pleasing affection." Jane Austen, April 11, 1805

Old Maid's Ramble
By Becky Brown
She threw in more fabrics in this version:
"I always think more fabrics are better!"

Celebrate a good hike with Jane, Martha and Old Maid's Ramble. The pattern was given the unfortunate name about 1890 by the Ladies Art Company.
It makes a great two-color block

It's BlockBase #2328a.
Oops! Ginny says #2338a and she's right, but I
can't get it to find the number. Search as a wild card
for Ramble and you'll see it.
Cutting an 8" Finished Block
The red measurements come from the EQ rotary cutting default set to 1/16th inch rather than 1/8".
A - Cut 12 squares 3-1/4". Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.
You need 48 triangles.
B- Cut 1 square 5-1/4". Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.
You need 4 triangles.

Here's a how-to for a two-color version. Throw in more fabrics and refigure the shading.

Cutting a 12" Block
A - Cut 12 squares 4-3/16". Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.

You need 48 triangles.

B- Cut 1 square 7-3/16". Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.

You need 4 triangles.

Read about the benefits of Title IX mandating girls' sports here:
Remember early concepts of exercise in John Madison Taylor & William Hughes Wells , Manual of the diseases of children. Search for the words feebleness or puberty.
And read Jane Austen's letters in a Project Gutenberg e-book here:


  1. This is a fabulous block I never focused on before. Maybe a two color quilt with just the one block pattern? I'm in your generation and I remember the advice not to take ballet lessons because it gave your legs those ugly calf muscles. I did no exercise whatsoever until I went to college with no car and had to walk. Soon Jane Fonda came along and everything changed, thank goodness.

  2. Hi all: I believe there's a typo on the BlockBase number; I found it under 2338a. Getting set to go cut triangles! Ginny in PA

    1. Ginny, you are right about the number. But I can't get the program to find anything under that number. Look for it in Block Base doing the wild card search for the word Ramble.

    2. That is odd - I typed in 2338a, and got the block.

  3. Thanks for the Project Gutenberg link to the letters. That was so interesting to me. I graduated in 1965, and we were encouraged to play tennis like crazy. Everyone played tennis, even my somewhat elderly aunt. I also took tap and ballet. Girl Scouts accounted for a lot of my hikes and camping, too. We were southwesterners, though, so maybe somewhat rebellious women. =) Now, there were girls softball teams, but no girls played on any boys' teams of any kind, and I don't recall girls' soccer teams at all. This was a great bit of history, and a perfect block.

  4. I am thinking only the outer 8 triangles on the corners should be cut as quarter-square triangles. The inner ones look to be half-square triangles. Anyone have any thoughts on this? 1/2-square triangle measurements?

  5. I think BlockBase & EQ calculate the grain of the finished block and all the small triangles go the same way. The formula is x + 7/8" inch for half square triangles, and x + 1-1/4" for
    quarter square triangles. X is the finished length of the short triangle leg.

  6. I am finding the history for this BOTW so very interesting.
    And, This will be a great quilt when (if) I get all the blocks made!
    I am having such a time of it getting the blocks to come to 8.5" unfinished. This last one - even with such a large number of seams came out to 9" (so discouraging) I am accurate with my seams - have tried a true 1/4" and a slight 1/4" and the problems presist. If only the patterns gave the measurement for each segment, i.e. after putting 4 HST together it should measure? and adjustments could be made before the entire block was completed.

  7. The only girl's sports at my high school was field hockey and 1/2 court basket ball...gym class began with a few calisthenics, then maybe Volley Ball, indoors!But there was big competition to be Cheer Leaders!!!