Saturday, February 21, 2015

"Confederate Quilts"

Linsey nine-patch quilt
Did people refer to home-woven linsey quilts
as Confederate Quilts?

Regina Brant 1840
This is one of the few home-woven, wool/cotton fabric quilts I've seen with a date on it. The machine stitching and the print on the back indicate it was finished after 1840, however, probably after the Civil War. The signature style also seems inconsistent with a date of 1840. Shouldn't Regina have embroidered that signature in cross-stitch? The stitch style and the color of the thread also look late-19th century. Too bad the home woven plaids and solids offer us no assistance in dating the quilt.

A digital search for the two words Confederate Quilt does come up with one reference to a quilt of  home-woven fabric..

Newspapers printed an account of "Women's Wear in Wartime," which may have originated in the Charlotte Observer in 1905. The article was copied in many other papers, North and South, in 1905 and 1906.

The unknown author recalled:
"We had one cotton mill to spin a warp. The people stood in line to get a bunch of cotton for warp. The filling was yarn, cotton, flax and tow. We got our dyestuff from the forest...There was a great rivalry among the women to see who could have the prettiest dress. I have a quilt made of cotton and linen called a Confederate quilt."
The fabric she remembers was home woven cotton and linen. One sees more quilts made of combined wool and cotton.

In her article "South Carolina Quilts and the Civil War" in Uncoverings 1985, Laurel Horton writes that home manufactured cloth was "generically called confederate homespun. 'Confederate' was a term applied to many homemade, generally inferior items, such as 'confederate' coffee made from peanuts..." But, she notes:
"None of the makeshift 'confederate' quilts are known to survive."

Linsey nine-patch quilt, date?

In the thirty years since she did that research we still know little about homespun quilts made during the years of the Confederacy.

One problem is in dating the linsey and other homespun fabrics. They looked much the same throughout the 19th century so determining whether homespun fabric was made in 1790, 1860 or 1890 is difficult.

Home-woven fabric on the reverse side of a wool calimanco
quilt from the 18th century.
Missisquoi Historical Society Collections in Quebec.

The blue is probably wool, the lighter color linen:
traditional linsey woolsey.

Similar fabric in a Tennessee quilt, last half of the 19th century,
blue wool, white cotton.

Above and below, linsey quilts documented in the Quilts of Tennessee
Project, pictures from the Quilt Index, probably post-Civil War.

Other hits in online searches for "Confederate quilt" seem to mean a generic name for a Southern quilt. In the article below a Confederate Quilt was raffled. The only description: it "was a very handsome one."

Ocala (Florida) Banner,
June 30, 1905

Read Laurel Horton's article "South Carolina Quilts and the Civil War" in Uncoverings 1985 at this link at the Quilt Index:


Sharyn Mallow Woerz said...

Thank you Barbara, for so freely sharing your research and knowledge.

WoolenSails said...

Love the look of the fabrics. You have me looking at quilts every time I go into the consignments and antique stores, but I think most are from the 50's from the look and style of them.


irene said...

I love following your Civil War Blogs even though I live in South Africa. We actually have a similar history to you. Your research is fascinating. Thank you. Irene Hughes

Marianne said...

I love that blue plaid in the first quilt. I had no idea that plaid was used in this time frame, new reader to your blog. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Danice G said...

I have often wondered about this myself. During Colonial times, wasn't linsey referred to as" linsey-woolsey"? Or, is that some other cotton & wool fabric? When I see "linsey" or "homespun" fabric mentioned, it is difficult to accurately date that fabric.

Barbara Brackman said...

Linsey=linsey woolsey, and a better term than homespun is homewoven since many weavers bought the yarn. But the terms change with time and region. Linsey generally means wool crossed with linen or cotton.