Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Yankee Notions #12: T Quilt

Yankee Notions #12, The T Quilt by Dorry Emmer

The T quilt seems to have represented Temperance, a national reform movement but one many Southerners resisted until the latter part of the 19th century. The last Yankee Notions block can stand for a variety of female reform notions.

Lula Barnes Ansley (1861-1914) of Georgia was active
in the post-Civil-War Women's Christian Temperance Movement

We're most familiar with the temperance/prohibition movement and organizations devoted to abolishing slavery and winning women the right to vote because they resulted in Constitutional Amendments but there were many other ideas from dress reform to diet changes that captured the do-gooder's heart.

One could be a fruititarian as New Englander Louisa May Alcott's family was for a few hungry weeks, or replace white bread with whole wheat crackers, a diet that curbed one's sexual appetites according to Connecticut-born minister Sylvester Graham, inventor of graham crackers.

Most of these reform movements were Yankee Notions, originating in the North, perhaps another form of Yankee tinkering.

The T Quilt by Denniele Bohannon

The Inebriate's Hut or the First Fruits of The Maine Law
by Mrs. Southworth, best selling novelist

The first state-wide liquor reform law passed in Maine in 1851, soon adopted by other New England states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. Thereafter liquor prohibition laws were often called Maine Laws.

Block from the Griffiths Quilt, Orangetown Museum in New York.
The album quilt has a key in rhyme. For this block of a pitcher:

"Then the one by Mrs. Sarah Haring
Has a flower like the rose of Sharon,
Also a pitcher, let up fill our glass
And let us have the Maine law come to pass."

Campaigns to outlaw prostitution and publish information on birth control were subjects gentlewomen pretended to know nothing about.

British family of nine children, early 1860s.
Being as rich as Queen Victoria did not give one access to birth control information.

William Tracy Gould (1799-1882) 

Southerners like Georgia lawyer William Tracy Gould wanted nothing to do with reforming women. At the dedication of a Georgia girl's school in 1853 he decried "female reformers of the north and east," advocates of "revolting forms of modern fanaticism; the most absurd and ridiculous is that, which assembles... in those parliaments of petticoats, called 'Women's Rights Conventions'."

1860 Graduation Locket
 Southern Masonic Female College

The girls he addressed at the Southern Masonic Female College were not to be seduced by outside agitators, "silly women, captives of Satan." He knew of what he spoke, having been born in Connecticut and educated at Yale.

Why dress needed reforming

The Block

The T Quilt by Denniele Bohannon

BlockBase #2350 was a popular block with the earliest publication in 1896 in the Orange Judd Farmer (agricultural magazine with a publisher named Orange Judd.) Other variations were published in the 1880s as Double T and Capital T, according to Wilene Smith.

As a nine patch BlockBase #1662a

12-Inch Block
A - Cut 2 squares 4-7/8". Cut each in half with a diagonal cut. You need 4 large triangles.
B - Cut 4 squares 5-1/4". Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 16 small triangles.
C - Cut 4 rectangles 3-3/8" x 5-1/4". Trim. Or use the template. 
D - Cut 1 square 3-3/8".

18-Inch Block
A - Cut 2 squares 6-7/8". Cut each in half with a diagonal cut. You need 4 large triangles.
B - Cut 4 squares 7-1/4". Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 16 small triangles.
C - Cut 4 rectangles 4-3/4" x 7-1/2". Trim. Or use the template. 
D - Cut 1 square 4-3/4".

 The T Quilt by Dorry Emmer

This Month's Tangible Yankee Notion

She's using a sad iron, which she has heated on a stove.
The word sad here means heavy, an archaic meaning.

Sad Irons were manufactured items that iron foundries north and south produced before the Civil War and after.

The New England Butt Company in Providence Rhode Island
manufactured many.

A clever post-War Yankee Notion, Mrs. Potts's Sad Iron.

In 1870 Mary Florence Webber Potts of Ottumwa, Iowa was the young mother of a toddler, married to a drygoods merchant, both of which may have had something to do with her brilliant idea. She invented several versions of an improved Sad Iron. Her three improvements:
  • A wooden handle that did not get hot when the iron was heating.

  • A detachable  handle that was used with several irons, one "iron in the fire" while the other was being used and cooling down
  • Points on two ends to iron in tight spots.

She patented her first improvement in 1870. Mrs. Potts' Sad Iron was a huge success.

Mary Florence Webber Potts (1850 – 1922)

A cold handled sad iron: "Just what your mother wants."
You didn't have to use a hot pad to hold it or wait while another warmed up.

Improvements in ironing, more time to join reform groups.

The T Quilt by Becky Brown

Yankee Notions sampler by Denniele Bohannon
18" Blocks
And we are done!

Read more about the Maine Law:

And more about Mary Potts:
Posts about Temperance and quilts

The Tennessee project recorded a sampler with
papers telling each block's name. The T block
is labeled "Kansas T's."
Kansas passed a prohibition law in 1881.
We still live with parts of it.
Can't buy wine in the grocery store.


Erica in Alaska said...

I’d like to point out that despite the complexity of the block, Becky *still* managed to get all the text going the right way.

Cynthia@wabi-sabi-quilts said...

Sad irons, wow, truly we learn so much from your blog posts! I didn't join in on Yankee Notions but I enjoyed seeing your posts. I'm curious if you have any BOMs cooking up for 2021? ;).

Barbara Brackman said...

Erica---that Becky is good!

Barbara Brackman said...

Cynthia---here's what we are working on, a rather simple applique beginning in March for 12 months. And we need a pieced theme---I've been thinking.

Rina Spina said...

The history behind the sad iron is so interesting, i like so much the wood handle on the sad-iron.
I looked at the pictures of Dorry's block, and it seems to be pieced in anither way than the pattern, more simple i think! I see flying geese on it.
Am I wrong?

sewsandquilts said...

I have a Double T quilt, made by my great-grandmother, Julia Ann Frazier (1853-1923) in Frankfort, Clinton County, Indiana. Notes from my grandmother indicates that it was finished in time for her first wedding, 29 Sep 1870, to Joseph Gaskill Holliday. My research and learning about quilts makes me question the date the quilt was finished, for several reasons, including the indigo fabrics with tiny white motifs, and the temperance information. She divorced Joe for abandonment in August 1884, leaving her with 3 small boys to raise. The divorce case did not mention drinking, but it was clear that he had just gone away, leaving her to fend for herself.

She remarried 11 Sep 1887 to my great-grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Palmer (1847-1898). Together, they raised his five children, her three sons, and two more children.

In response to Rina Spina - it is pieced the way she sees the block, with flying geese. I would love to post a picture of the block here, but I am not sure how.

Rina Spina said...

Thank you, for your response! I always have trouble on using templates, it's more easy for me to piece. Anyway this is my fourth BOM, given by Barbara, that I follow, and every time I enjoyed the whole process so much. I'm looking forward the next one.

QuiltGranma said...

I am the lucky owner of 3 of those irons, one with a wooden handle and one all metal sad iron I found at a local second hand store for only $2.00! I was so happy with that purchase! It helped make up for what I paid for the other two. Thank you Barbara for sharing this history. I have loved the double T quilts for a number of decades now.

Barbara Brackman said...

Sewsandquilts---send a digital picture to me at and I'll post it.

Jeanne said...

I'm just browsing back through -- didn't do this BOM, but maybe I will later. Anyway, I have several old irons, including one that has the detachable handle. They are packed right now, but *one of these days* I'll unearth them and share a photo.