Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Hospital Sketches: Sets, Borders & Buying Fabric

Another war; a different role
The 2019 B.O.M. here at Civil War quilts starts in two weeks.
The historical topic: Civil War hospitals

54" quilt with no borders

We will have nine floral applique blocks, one a month from January
through September, posted on the last Wednesday of each month.
There will be border suggestions too.

We designed the applique to fit in an 18" finished block"
Tighter in a 17-1/2" or 17" finished block if you want to use fat quarters for backgrounds.
More space around the applique in a 20" finished block.

Barbara pieced her backgrounds, each with four squares of light prints cut 9-1/2". The pieced four patch backgrounds finish to 18".

Our blocks will be nine of the most popular appliques used in album quilts in the years 1840-1865.
(Last year the B.O.M. here Antebellum Album was popular pieced album blocks.) There are many ways to set applique album blocks but the official set will be based on this idea of nine blocks with a directional flow.

Center of a quilt by Hannah Johnson Haines, 
Jay County, Indiana & Moline, Illinois.
Collection of the Rock Island County Historical Society, Illinois.
Recorded in the Illinois project and pictured in their book.

Xenia Cord gave a paper on this sampler design (Sampler #1) at last fall's AQSG meeting.
"Ohio, the Border State: A Regional Study of Vessel, Vine, and Floral Quilt Borders."

Another quilt with a similar set

Hannah Haines used only 3 different blocks. We'll do nine different blocks
 but they will each have a direction to them.

See posts on quilts similar to Hannah Johnson Haines's here:

The Set & Border

Becky Brown and I may have the same initials but we have very different sewing styles (and skills.) I'm going for a simple border.

70" x 70"

I'm piecing my applique blocks side by side to give me a 54" finished patchwork field. I have a lot of leftover background scraps from cutting my background four-patches. (Next time I do this I am going to make the backgrounds finish 17" inches. It may seem like an odd number but you can get backgrounds from fat quarters and half yards with less waste.)

Anyway, I am taking that waste fabric and cutting it into rectangles 8-1/2" x 7-1/4" for a pieced border finishing to 8" wide.  See the plan. It says cut 32 rectangles. You need 4 squares 8-1/2" for the corners. We shall see how the plan works out and I will post pictures of my quilt as we sew along.

Becky, on the other hand, was quite taken with Hannah Johnson Haines's border, which Xenia
calls the Vessel, Vine & Floral Border. (She found 85 quilts with this border.)

We'll give you the pattern for that incredible border soon. 

Becky's colors and fabrics

Fabric Required for the Simple Border and 18" Finished Blocks:
Different backgrounds:
Buy 2/3 yard pieces. 5 of them. You get two 18-1/2" cut backgrounds from each. Use the leftovers for the pieced border.
Same background fabric:
Buy 2-3/4 yards of the background. 2 more yards if you want to do an 8" applique border. 

Becky did 20" finished blocks with more space around the applique.
For 20” Finished Blocks: 3-1/2 Yards.
Cut to 20-1/2”. This means you could get 2 blocks out of 2/3 yard fabric. (24” x 42”)

Barbara's fabrics

Fabric for the Applique:
I used scraps from my boxes of red, green, yellow and pink repro fabrics as I wanted an updated red and green applique look. I tried to use some of my smallest scraps in leaves and circles, etc. Very scrappy applique---particularly in the green calicoes.

Becky bought new hand-dyed fabric from Vicky Welsh's Colorways.

Read more about the fabrics here:

She alternated two background colors in her blocks; pink as above and an aqua green. Her border background is a red. (You will have to see her quilt---the colors are edgy but work great.)

If I were buying fabric for a traditional applique look in the blocks I'd want a minimum of:
  • 1 yard green
  • 1 yard red
  • 1/2 yard chrome orange (cheddar)
  • 1/2 yard double pink
Janet Perkins is using traditional prints but stretching the boundaries.

For a scrappier look divide those requirements up---maybe 4 fat quarters of green; 5 wouldn't hurt.

Denniele's aqua solid for background
and various pastels for florals

Now, Denniele Bohannon is doing a small, simple version with parts of each block (Sprouts). You may want to do this faster, contemporary take where the blocks finish to 8" or 9" but the applique pieces are the same size as in the larger blocks---just fewer of them. You'll have to wait and see.

I've started a Facebook Page: Click here to join
Ask to join and I'll let you in.
Post pictures, questions and ideas there.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Rebecca Everingham Wadley's Civil War #1

A quilting party in old-fashioned dress recreated nostalgically for a 
Union fundraising fair in 1864. 

The week before Fort Sumter Rebecca Barnard Everingham Wadley attended a quilting event near Monroe, Louisiana, recorded by her eldest daughter, 17-year-old Sarah:

Wednesday April 10th /’61 —
"Since I wrote last, we have had a great deal of rain.... Friday the rain 'held up' a little right after breakfast, Mother went over to Mrs. Adams to help them quilt."

The diarist Sarah Lois Wadley (1844-1920)

"Mother, Miss Mary (13-year-old sister Mary Millen Wadley) and I went over to Mrs. Marks this morning and spent an hour or two, Mrs. Marks is quilting a silk quilt, she showed it to us, it is very pretty indeed. It reminded me of Miss Valeria [Ridgill], when we were down there she showed us a quilt which she had begun, hers was made in little circles, each circle being composed of pieces which some friend had given her, in the centre was a white piece, with the donor’s name written on it."
Sarah is probably referring to hexagons, the little circles of friends' fabrics that Valeria had collected.
"Mrs. Marks looked very well today she bears her husbands absence with fortitude, maintaining sober cheerfulness all the time."
Sober cheerfulness may characterize the Wadley's Civil War. Sarah was an indefatigable chronicler of their story.
The Georgia project documented a quilt that descended
in Rebecca Wadley's family. More about the quilt next week.

While Rebecca and her husband William Morrill Wadley went "into town" Sarah was surprised to come upon a quilting party in an impromptu call.
Nov. 20th —1861
"I spent the day at Mrs. Friend’s Wednesday and enjoyed it very well. I had sent word that I was going but the boy did not carry the message and they were not expecting me, they thought it was one of the children knocking and bade me come in very carelessly. I was very much surprised at this but entered accordingly. Misses Nancy Neal Joe, and Phoebe Friend were sitting around a quilting frame, their tongues keeping time to the motion of their needles, all except Miss Nancy destitute of the expansive appendiges hoops, they greeted me warmly, however, and we soon resumed the animated conversation which I had interrupted...."

Godey's Lady's Book made a distinction between
"home dress" and public fashion in 1860.
This description of a quilting party en dishabille (casual dress) illustrates the importance of proper attire in receiving guests. Apparently, expansive hoops were a necessity to greet non-family.
"I was asked if I know how to quilt. I was obliged to confess my total ignorance of that female accomplishment, at the same professing my desire to learn. I was invited to take a seat at the quilting frame and immediately found to my great satisfaction that my quilting was unequaled in smallness of stitches, and the accuracy of the lines by any of my companions, though I must in candor say that while I was quilting one shell they had finished three! I always like novelty, and was very much pleased with my new accomplishment."

Sister Mary Millen Wadley Raoul
We can hope that Rebecca and daughter Sarah continued to quilt but Sarah never mentioned it again. Their sewing time during the war was taken up with making clothing for Confederate soldiers. Rebecca was president of the Monroe Aid Society and Sarah was apparently the secretary (Rebecca thought she should be more thorough in taking the minutes.)
August 28 1861.
"Mother and I sewed for the soldiers yesterday, we made three flannel shirts, with Emmeline’s help in the evening. [Emmeline was one of the Wadley slaves.] ...Mother and I are knitting woolen socks for the soldiers, Mother has begun her second pair, but I have not finished my first one yet, it is the second sock I ever knit."
Sarah apparently had few handwork skills when the war began, relying on Emmeline and other enslaved servants to carry out the household's plain sewing.

William O. Wadley (1841-1903)

A year after Fort Sumter the family was preparing brother William Oconius Wadley to join. Willie was about 21 years old. "Mother is busy making up Willie’s clothes... I sewed on his shirts yesterday, it is melancholy work, my heart sinks when I think of it, but I try to keep brave."

Willie survived the war; in fact the family was better off after the war than before. Rebecca's husband William Morrill Wadley actually thrived. Born in New Hampshire, his family histories indicate he was a blacksmith by trade and went to Savannah to work building Fort Pulaski with the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1830s. There he met Rebecca Everingham and married her in 1840.

William M. Wadley

He remained in the South, moving the family from Louisiana to Mississippi to Georgia as his engineering projects called. He was a natural engineer, designing and supervising bridges and later railways. He saw the future of railroads and helped shape it, spending his Civil War supervising Confederate rails---the infrastructure Union troops destroyed.

The Wadley transportation empire in 1883

After the war he led railroad reconstruction and became the "Railroad King of Georgia."

You can read Sarah L Wadley's diaries, which are in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina,  on line or in book form. Here's a link to a transcript of the journals for the years 1859 -1865.

Rebecca's descendant Suzanne Wadley Rhodenbaugh published Sarah's Civil War, the 1859-1865 diary of Sarah Lois Wadley (Bluebird, 2012).

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Antebellum Album: 12 Blocks Finished

Erica C is finished with all 12 blocks
and is going to set them side by side.

Meliss S is using the official alternate block set and is
thinking about a border.

Lisa's is quilted (did it on New Year's Day) and ready for binding.

Marsha B added a chintz border

Judy C used the applique set described in this post:

Susan V. alternated with unpieced blocks cut from the pheasant
and palm tree chintz. She added a few blocks because she
wanted to include inked inscriptions remembering her ancestors.

Terry S devised her own set----
She pieced a border of triangles around each block
and added a skinny sash.

She also devised her own Block 10.

France Aubert alternated applique blocks of her own design.
Quite impressive.

Cathy at Big Lake Quilter also devised her own set---sashing
with corner squares the same size as the cornerstones.

Denniele Bohannon's pink blocks with alternating 9 patches.
She says she is trying to behave for next year's BOM
but I don't think that's a viable option. And who wants her to?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

How Old is This Quilt?

Here is one of Julie Silber's favorite jokes: When showing a quilt with a prominent date: "How old is This Quilt?" She always makes me laugh.

The quilt belongs to Jeananne Wright and she made a
 beautiful copy for my book Civil War Women twenty years ago

Union Star, hand appliqued and hand quilted by Jeananne Wright, 1999

The quilt is 74" wide and her star blocks look to be about 6".

The vintage quilt must have some link to the Civil War with its patriotic color scheme and date during the war's second year, but we've never pursued the history.

I doubt if the quilt was made in 1862. We have few fabrics to give us clues and they have faded. The blue is a small dotted print, probably indigo, very hard to date as white dots in a half drop repeat on an indigo blue ground are classics found in 1862 and 1902. The red, a solid, looks to have faded rather uniformly to a salmon pink. This may be our best clue, as reds fading to pinkish-orange are common after 1880 when the first cottons dyed with synthetic dyes came on the market. It is just not the red one would see in 1862.

Quilt signed Permelia Ann Watkins, Covington Miami Co Ohio, 1862
Collection of the International Quilt Study Center and Museum

Quilt with veteran's names dated 1891,

James Brownell chapter (#26)of the Women's Relief Corps,

Cedar Falls, Iowa

Similar fading problem in a Civil War commemorative quilt dated 1891. 

I did a post on some circa 1900 veteran's quilts with fading reds and blues:

The star quilt looks very much like a G.A.R. or W.R.C. (Union Veteran's organizations)  commemorative from about 1880-1920. The date 1862 may recall the year a unit formed or a battle fought. I wonder if the image might be a corps badge, similar to those on this redwork embroidered quilt.

Embroidered quilt with Corps Badges
Morton Collection, Pasadena Historical Museum

Corps badges were popular imagery on quilts from Union veterans' groups.
So how old is Jeananne's antique quilt?
I'd guess 1880-1920.

BlockBase has a similar pieced pattern (#3683),  published many decades after this quilt was made. 
Print this out for a 6" block. You could piece or applique it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

We're Writing a Book

Antebellum Album: It's a Block of the Month, a bunch of blog posts, a FaceBook group and now it's going to be a book.

I've been talking with C&T Publishing about publishing a print book of our 2018 project. Books take a while to create so we are thinking of a publishing date in 2020. Now I have to write it.

Ellen Wallace Sharples
Young Lady Writing a Letter

I've been expanding the stories about the women who had such divided loyalties during the Civil War, reading more biographies and trying to pull the idea of crossing that Mason Dixon line into a coherent theme.

Denniele's quilt; Quilting by Becky Collis

We'll put Becky's, Pat's, Mark's & Denniele's blocks and quilts in there, and I've asked a few of you to participate.

There may be room for more so I am asking:
If you'd like your Antebellum Album sampler to be considered for the book do let me know. Here's some information on what I'm looking for:

  • It can be a finished top or a finished quilt made from the block patterns. (Any setting.)
  • It would have to be completed and shipped to California for photography by April 1st, 2019.
  • (They'll keep it probably till May 15th)
If you'd like your quilt to be considered send me a snapshot by January 31, 2019. Send to this email:

The editors and I will get together in February and let you know if we can use yours. (I hope we can fit a ton of pictures.)

I'll keep you posted on the progress. The manuscript is due in May.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Another Underground Railroad Tale

A well-worn quilt seen online. In setting and quilting style, fabrics and color it seems a typical late-19th-century Southern quilt, quite charming in its naive interpretation of a popular pattern, stitched in the inexpensive, gauzy, likely-to-fade-cottons from post-Civil-War Southern mills. Is that a linsey stripe along the bottom or just an all-cotton red and white ticking kind of fabric?

Typical colors often seen in Southern quilts from the era include the plain chrome orange and a brown. That brown might have been red once, but plain brown is also typical of late-century Southern quilts. 

Here's the block, a variation of a popular pattern often called Peony or Cleveland Tulip after President Grover Cleveland who was president twice from 1885–1889 and 1893–1897, which is probably when this quilt was made: 1885-1900.

Several pattern companies sold the design. Is obvious that the quilt above 
was not a "book pattern" although it may have been inspired by a commercial design.

Variations on the design go back to the 1840s

Similar pattern documented in the Tennessee project,
from the Weaver family of Knox County. 
Collection of the East Tennessee Museum.

Solid colors, same block, but placed on point.

The quilt at the top of the page was on display at a museum in Gaffney, South Carolina (a town about 20 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina). The photos were taken about 6 years ago.

Here is the label, indicating it was made in the mid-19th century by a Blackfoot woman named Bluesparrow (1797-1905) who lived in North Carolina and later in Kansas. The label indicates the blues were hand dyed with indigo (possible) and some of the reds "possibly with beet juice." Not plausible. Beet juice will not color cotton red in any washable fashion. The quilt is probably not hand-dyed but stitched from local fabrics dyed in local mills.

Bright red cottons that remain so bright were probably
commercially dyed with a synthetic Turkey red as in this similar
quilt from the late 19th century. The yellow orange was the
mineral dye chrome orange. The green???

What is even more implausible---and unfortunate---is the story that the quilt is an "escape code" quilt:
"Legend has it that Bluesparrow would take slave children, put them in her laundry basket, and cover them with this quilt. She would then walk out to the perimeter of the woods, where their parents would retrieve them and escape. It has also been said that Bluesparrow would hang these quilts on the drying line with the patchwork posies growing in one direction, while one patch would point out the direction of their trail or escape route."
The pattern name they say is  "Freedom Flowers."

"Legend" may have it---but there is absolutely no truth to such a story. The quilt was made about 25 years after slavery was abolished. And even if this quilt were as old as 1850 the underground railroad link is untrue. No one has ever come up with any plausible evidence that any quilt "pointed in the direction" of an escape route. It makes no sense.

Collection of Kathy Sullivan
The heavy sashing bars (a late-19th-century Southern style characteristic)
have faded to a pale tan here.

It's a poetic tale, but untrue. Now, why do I care about quaint legends on museum quilt labels perpetuating myths? Because we know nothing of the true story of Bluesparrow, of this quilt and far too little about quilts made in the Cherokee nation either during the Civil War or after. Re-telling and re-hashing stories like the underground railroad quilt code legend absolves museum personnel of researching any kind of actual, accurate local history.

Tell them Betsy Ross sewed a flag and we've done our bit for women's history; tell them escaped slaves used quilts as maps and we've covered Black History month (why does it only get a month?)
Don't get me started.

Here's a Southern beauty from Pepper Cory's collection.
Freedom Flowers, my foot.