New England Quilt Museum
Soldiers' Aid quilt
"I made one square quilt and bound it...."
"I went to the 'Knitting Society,' at Mrs. Metcalf's they sent me a special invitation I had a real pleasant time. I made one square quilt and bound it for a quilt for it was a foot square. they are going to send a box this week, two quilts and lots of stockings, hospital stores etc."
Susan Barbour Evans, Damariscotta, Maine to her sister Emma Sargent Barbour Whitney in Cambridge, Massachusetts, April 13, 1865.
Susan's letter at the end of the Civil War is more evidence
of the popularity and practicality of these individually bound
"potholder quilts" in New England and particularly Maine.
The New England Quilt Museum's soldier's quilt has
bound blocks almost 12" square.
Curator Pam Weeks believes the quilt above may have been organized by Rebecca A. Sibley in Boston in 1865. Many of the surviving quilts made for hospitalized soldier's bedding date to the end of the war in 1865. They may never have been shipped or might have received light treatment before going home with a mustered-out soldier. Thousands were used and used up.
Pam has found several references to New Englanders making soldiers' quilts by finishing them one block at a time. Persis Andrews Black helped with an album quilt for the minister's wife. She called it both an album quilt and a "variety quilt" in her diary, which probably refers to the variety of patterns in a sampler.
Maine Historical Society
Persis Sibley Andrews Black (1813-1891)
with daughter, 1844
by Caroline Hill Barker Wardwell
Susan Barbour Evans wrote numerous letters to her sister Emma, in which she told her about fabric, fashion, prices and quilting in Maine. Below Susan was probably discussing a quilt the family was making for brother William's bride-to-be Julia Battis of Roxbury, Massachusetts.
"I have at last made my square to Mrs. Davis Album Quilt & it is really beautiful...is only one foot square quilted & bound.
Persis's "beautiful block"
I do not approve of this way of making a quilt for the Minister’s wife, but I have a great deal of esteem & admiration for the lady & ... I wish to see the variety quilt finished as it wanted only half a dozen of the required 70 before I made mine."
Read more about this quilt in a section by Pamela Weeks in Laurie LeBar's Maine Quilts:
"I have seen those kind of quilts like Julia's. Mrs. Shaw...took the premium at the State fair at Augusta, it was splendid---Mrs Hunnewell and mrs. Marshall also had them not quite so elaborate---They make elegant patchwork quilts here. I saw two last week, which were being made for a young bride they were of pink and white, very handsome---but not so pretty as white, of course Mary's pink and white one has been a treasure to me." Susan to Emma, September, 1863
(Mrs. Shaw may be milliner Miss E. D. Shaw who entered hats in the local fairs in 1862 and 1863-but could find no reference to any quilts by a Shaw.) Were "those kind of quilts" made up in finished and bound squares?
On New Year's Day in 1862 Susan's family enjoyed roast goose, molasses candy and popcorn and had a party.
"In the P.M. we put a comforter into the frames and tacked it before night. I think we shall quilt this week."
Susan's letters to her sister are published in a collection of letters written to Emma by family and friends. Read the book:
Shirley Blotnik Moskow, Emma's World: An Intimate Look at Lives Touched by the Civil War Era
Emma Barbour Whitney's Cambridge grave:
My Grandma was a quilter. Sadly, I am not. I just admire!
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