My mother taught me to use a sewing machine when I was 29 years old. She had bought said sewing machine for me as a library school graduation gift, but I had not been brave enough to try to figure it out on my own. So, in 2012, she declared that we would make a quilt together, and so I learned.
It was all downhill after that—-fabric budget-wise, that is. What I mean to say is, I was hooked. When we go on quilt shop hops (what’s that?), I always see these shirts and bags that say, “I’m a quiltaholic [or fabricaholic] on the road to recovery…just kidding, I’m on the way to the fabric shop.” And I chuckle. And I really should buy one sometime. But that would cut into my fabric money! Haha. I digress.
So, Mom and I were on a quilt shop hop at on April 11, 2015, when I saw this book in the store (on sale): Barbara Brackman’s Civil War Sampler: 50 Quilt Blocks with Stories from History.
I had to have it. I mean, look at it! Look at all those beautiful blocks and fabrics! I tend to gravitate towards the Civil War reproduction fabrics anyway; I guess I just like the color tones and the simple designs. All I wrote in my diary about it was that “I got a new Civil War sampler quilt book—-yay Civil War fabric!”
So I bought the book on April 11, and I just now realize that the siege of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the Civil War, was fought beginning on April 12 (1861)….well, isn’t that just freaky as hell?
So that seems like perfect timing to buy a Civil War sampler book and start working on it promptly, right? Of course not. Instead, I spent over 3 years buying fat quarters and other small cuts of reproduction Civil War fabric and building up my “Civil War stash” and then becoming increasingly overwhelmed at the idea of where to begin. I think I’ll just keep buying fabric instead… (Remember what I said about my struggle with fabricaholism?)
I didn’t even really look at the text in the book until I had owned it for a few years either. I had just glanced through the patterns, decided that, yes, these all looked like patterns I would like, and be able, to do, so I bought the book.
When I finally actually read the introductory text, I learned two things, one awesome and one a little less so.
First, the awesome thing:
The first line of the introduction Brackman writes is: “I was born to blog—a skill I did not realize until recently …” Wait, this is a Civil War quilt book with history and blogging?! I love this lady! Turns out, she shared the patterns and stories on her Civil War Quilts blog throughout 2011 (the start of the Civil War sesquicentennial—we ran a lot of Civil War stuff on our blog at work from 2011-2015 as well), then she turned it into a book later.
And the slightly less awesome thing: “I chose the blocks in the book for their symbolic names. Most of them were published in the 1930s in the newspaper columns… Few of the blocks actually date from as long ago as 150 years…”
Oh. Well, that was a little bit of a bummer, that the patterns are not actually Civil War era, in most cases. But never mind, never mind! They’re still beautiful patterns, and I’ve got pretty fabrics, and the symbolic stories that she’s paired with the block patterns are enjoyable to read.
I confess, I made my first two blocks before actually reading the stories that went along with them. For instance, the first block, called “White House,” I did in purple and gold, just because I love purple; I hadn’t read the text or even paid much attention to the name of it. Then again, if you think about it…perhaps in the case of some presidents who shall remain nameless, a “royal” color such as purple could be considered a totally legitimate choice.
But since then, I’ve accepted Brackman’s invitation to “add your own meaning with symbolic color, pictorial fabrics, and inked inscriptions…” Now I always read the stories first and try to put some meaning into which colors I choose, with the stories in mind, rather than just picking colors I like.
As you may have gleaned from the previous entry, I currently have a small child, and after finally finishing up some bigger quilt projects I wasn’t quite done with before the baby came (3 weeks early), I’ve been shying away from starting a “big” project. Although a 50-block sampler quilt is technically a big project, it’s broken down into manageable, self-regulating, bite-sized little chunks—each square is different colors, a different pattern. I can finish that in a day or two, a couple hours, and if I stop for a few weeks before coming back to it, it’s not like I’ve completely lost my place in the project. It’s easy to just make a square here, a square there…so that’s what I’ve been doing.
I’ve completed 10 out of 50 squares so far, since starting last June. Hey, that’s approximately “a block a month” (another quilting thing)! Aces!
And since it might be a while before I actually finish the thing, I thought it might be fun to share the blocks here as I complete them, with a link to Ms. Brackman’s blog post (with the historical story) and also my take on it when choosing my colors (if any). Plus, to be honest, I want to get my symbolic color interpretations written down before I forget them!
The patterns are all still available on Ms. Brackman’s Civil War Quilts blog (follow the left sidebar down to the Blog Archive and click on 2011). But if you are interested in obtaining a print copy of Barbara Brackman’s Civil War Sampler (2012), you get the book at Amazon or find a copy in a library. I am doing the patterns in the order presented in the book, which is not the same order as the online version.
I hope to see you again, and I hope you enjoy this adventure!