Wednesday, December 6, 2023

2024 Pieced BOM: Washington Whirlwind


Next year's pieced Block of the Month series here at the Civil War Quilts blog is scheduled to start on January 10, 2024 with twelve blocks published as free patterns on the second Wednesday of each month. The theme is Washington Whirlwind and the stories are from the Lincoln White House.

Willie on the left and Tad at right with the First Lady

We'll begin on a light note with some boisterous boys, the White House children during the Lincoln years. Willie and Tad were at the center of the whirlwind with accomplices in a pair of neighbors, the Tafts. Their older sister Julia Taft remembered the White House days; her memories were collected in a 1931 book Tad Lincoln's Father. 

Julia Taft's little brothers Holly & Bud

The monthly stories for Washington Whirlwind are drawn from hers and other White House memoirs, letters and diaries.

We'll show some different settings---the horizontal grid 3x4 for the 12 blocks and this version for 9 or 13 with blocks on point.

The nine purplish blocks here would be pieced.
The turquoise plain. 

Why purple? It was the fashionable color in the 1860s
and you know Mary Todd Lincoln was nothing if not fashionable.

First Lady's dress by Elizabeth Keckly
Smithsonian Collection

And quite a difficult character unfortunately.
But therein lies the family tale.

Becky Brown's solids---purples from Magenta to Solferino (period names)
with some complementary yellows, etc.
Jeanne Arnieri is using reproduction prints, a butternut
& blue palette.

Twelve blocks in a 3x4 grid = 48" x 63"
With a 6" finished border 
50" x 75"

In 2001, Tad Lincoln's Father was reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press's Bison Books.

You can buy a pattern packet for Washington Whirlwind ---14 pages to print yourself for $12. 

And we have a public Facebook group.
You don't have to join. Just check in regularly.
Post your blocks.

You have a couple of weeks to get your fabric together or you can wait to see what we are up to.
January 10th.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Herbarium #9: Laurel for Harriet Beecher Stowe


Herbarium #9: Laurel by Denniele Bohannon

Laurel from the Shelburne Museum's sampler

Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
Photo by Southworth & Hawes, about 1850.

FlorenceChristmas Day, 1859.

"My dear Husband,—I wish you all a Merry Christmas, hoping to spend the next one with you...we shall have quite a New England party, and shall sing Millais' Christmas hymn in great force. Hope you will all do the same in the old stone cabin. Our parlor is all trimmed with laurel and myrtle, looking like a great bower, and our mantel and table are redolent with bouquets of orange blossoms and pinks."

Laurel by Becky Brown

 When I visited the Stowe house in Connecticut I was impressed by the period look of house plants climbing the walls. Harriet Stowe, pictured above as a young woman, was quite a gardener. She may have learned her affection for botany at the Pierce's Litchfield Academy where she was a student of John Pierce Brace in her girlhood years there (1820-1824). She caricatured the botany teacher as Mr. Rossiter of the Cloudland Academy in her New England novel Old Town Folks.

See Block # 1 Civil War Quilts: Herbarium Block #1 for the Litchfield Female Academy

Harriet in Hartford

Harriet was not so much a botanizer or a student of natural history as an avid gardener. She and husband Reverend Calvin Stowe had a few arguments about her gardening extravagances and how to co-exist with her indoor gardens before she became wealthy from royalties on Uncle Tom's Cabin and Old Town Folks, among many other books.

Letter to husband

After the money began to accumulate she planned a dramatic glass conservatory on their new house in Hartford.

Account of a trip to the European mountains

Harriet, the romantic, was not a botanist with an urge to classify and learn the Latin names. Looking up a snow flower with a fringe: "I opened an herbarium and there were three inches of name...piled upon my little flower. I shut the herbarium."

 The Block

Laurel by Becky Collis

Laurel Flowers, far more complex than the simple block this month.
But we need a simple block this month.

Five of the 8 samplers show this 8-lobed floral; two have
birds in the corners. See the birds in Block #1 at the link above.

Our pattern puts the stem on the diagonal but it's up to you.

Asa Gray's discussion of the Laurel.

Robyn Gragg added more petals in her prize-winning version
Gloria based on pentagrams.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Mary Ellen Neese's Civil War


Quilt signed Mary Ellen Neese (1838-1906), dated 1861
Collection: Kansas Museum of History
The donor thought it might have been made in Shawnee County, Kansas.

In looking through quilts dated in the Civil War years I remembered this one in the collection of the Kansas Museum of History. When we began the Kansas Quilt Project in 1985 we looked at it as an example of a Kansas-made quilt and we expected to find many more like it.

Signature and date in a red chain stitch

We were quite disappointed to find that Kansans were really not making quilts in the first years of the Territory and Statehood (1854-1870). They brought their bedding with them. A little genealogical research on Mary Ellen Neese in the 1980s found she did not arrive in Kansas until 1872. She probably made the Civil-War-era quilt in Ohio.

So much for quilts made on the frontier.
Mary Ellen Hullinger Neese was 22 in 1860, living with husband David Neese, a bricklayer in Champaign County, Ohio. They had a 4-month old baby Albert at the time. She apparently went by the name Ellen. The Civil War began a year later. 

In the fall of 1862 forty-five men in Mad River Township, including David Neese, were drafted in an early version of the conscription act. The township had not sent the required number of volunteers so some residents were forced to enlist. Ellen's worries during the war included several soldiers named Neese and Hullinger.

Fortunately David came home.

By the 1875 census the Neese family was in Kansas. Son Albert recalled they had emigrated west when he was 12 in 1872. Many Union veterans looked to Kansas with its available Homestead land as a place to start over. The family farmed in rural Monmouth Township in Shawnee County.

Kansas Museum of History. Albert is in the center left.

When Albert grew up he opened a store in Richland. He also went
into banking and land management. 

Albert and wife Ella had two daughters, the youngest Georgia born in 1898. Georgia became an actress in New York but when her father became ill during the Great Depression she returned to Kansas. After his death in 1938 she inherited his business interests in Richland. Ten years later President Harry Truman nominated her for Treasurer of the United States, the first woman to hold the office.

Kansas Museum of History
An autographed five dollar bill by the woman whose printed signatures
appeared on the paper money for several years.

Further Reading:

Read this PDF file of "Quilts on the Kansas Frontier" in the Kansas History Journal, Spring, 1990, in an issue devoted to the findings of the Kansas Quilt Project.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Label for Atlanta Garden


Print this label out on treated fabric. It's about 4" x 6".
There's plenty of room for your information.

Wendy Coffin finished her version for her guild show.

Becky Brown put her I Spy black and white blocks
side by side.
See more  projects over at my Material Culture blog:


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Atlanta Garden #11: Stars & Stripe


Atlanta Garden #11: Stars and Stripe by Denniele Bohannon

Marietta Street, fall, 1864

Atlanta's city flagpole was bare when George Barnhard recorded the Union occupation in the photo above but several months later a Union flag, the stars and stripes, would be unfurled over the city.

At the end of the Civil War in April and May, 1865 the official
Union flag had 35 stars.

Local legend tells us the first post-war Union flag was raised on the public square by Unionist James L. Dunning who had owned the Atlanta Machine Company and spent time in prison during the war for refusing to supply Confederate machinery.

In 1868 Dunning was making political speeches for General Grant,
reminding Atlantans he was "a Union man and always had been," a memory
the editorial staff at the Atlanta Constitution did not care for.

Stars and Stripe by Becly Collis

Dunning may have raised a flag but the city history tells a different story of the official return to the Union with a flag on May 16th, 1865, stitched by the women of Atlanta, hung at half-staff to mourn Abraham Lincoln's assassination in a public ceremony.

Carrie Berry resumed her diary in May when "all hostility has seaced for a while and we hope we will have peace." She was back in school (her spelling no better) and enjoying time with her friends.

"The people say that piece is made and we are back in the union."

Stars & Stripe can celebrate Carrie's "Piece"


Stars and Stripe by Becky Brown

The Block

Once again block seams have been modified to make
it easier to piece and consistent with others in the series.
The inspiration block Star & Stripe (BlockBase #1982) is
 another Nancy Cabot design
from the Chicago Tribune's quilt column of the 1930s.

BlockBase shows several variations of the nine patch with a star in
the center.

Above the cutting instructions for 10" and 15" blocks.

Jeanne Arnieri is doing two versions of Atlanta Garden

Becky Collis's, quilted and bound.
One more block to go.