Christmas Star by Becky Brown
This modified nine-patch block with a wreath in the center can remind us of the first Christmas of the War. You'll find out why Becky put parrots in it below.
Christmas Eve by Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly
The Davises with daughter and grandchildren in 1885
In 1896 Varina Davis, first lady of the Confederacy, wrote a memoir about Christmas in the Confederate White House. She told of her children repairing broken toys for the neighborhood orphans in Richmond during the War's last winter.
Girl with a doll, about 1900
"While looking over the advertisements of the toys and everything else intended to make the children joyful in the columns of the city papers, I have been impressed with the contrast between the present time and the... Southern country thirty-one years ago....
"For as Christmas season was ushered in under the darkest clouds, everyone felt the cataclysm which impended, but the rosy, expectant faces of our little children were a constant reminder that self-sacrifice must be the personal offering of each member of the family. How to satisfy the children when nothing better could be done than the little makeshift attainable in the Confederacy was the problem of the older members of each household.
The Davis children early in the War.
"The ladies dispersed in anxious squads of toy-hunters, and each one turned over the store of her children's treasures for a contribution to the orphans' tree, my little ones rushed over the great house looking up their treasure: eyeless dolls, three-legged horses, tops with the upper peg broken off, rubber tops, monkeys with all the squeak gone silent and all the ruck of children's toys that gather in a nursery closet.
"Some small feathered chickens and parrots which nodded their heads in obedience to a weight beneath them were furnished with new tail feathers, lambs minus much of their wool were supplied with a cotton wool substitute, rag dolls were plumped out and recovered with clean cloth, and the young ladies painted their fat faces in bright colors and furnished them with beads for eyes."
Boy with a toy dog, about 1865
Read more of Varina Davis's story about their make-shift Christmas by clicking here:
Boy with a toy boat, about 1880
The name Christmas Star was given to this block by the Oklahoma Farmer Stockman periodical, which had a quilt column in the late 1920s and '30s. The pattern (BlockBase #1806c) has other names and different shadings, among the names: Wedding Ring, Crown of Thorns and Memory Wreath. I modified it a bit so the grid based on 5 fit an 8" square better.
Same block, different shading from a 1940s quilt
Cutting an 8" Finished Block
A - Cut 4 light green, 2 red, 4 dark green and 6 background squares 2-3/8". Cut each in half with a single diagonal cut.
You need 8 light green, 4 red, 8 dark green and 12 background triangles.
B - Cut 4 dark green and 4 background rectangles 2" x 2-1/2".
C - Cut 1 light green square 2-1/2".
A block from about 1900---be careful how you turn your triangles.
This block was one of the most popular in the early 20th century.