Tag Archives: crafts

Civil War Sampler #23: The Comfort Quilt

I interrupt your irregularly scheduled, numerically ordered Civil War Sampler quilt blog post programming in order to do an extremely unusual thing — that is, to make a square AND write the post AND release the post ALL on the same day — and that day is today. I feel like something would be lost in the significance of this one, unless I do so. (Don’t worry, you didn’t miss blocks 14-22. I haven’t written those yet, although I have made the squares.)

My Civil War Sampler Block 23 is The Comfort Quilt:

Block 23: The Comfort Quilt, completed Dec. 31, 2019

Block 23: The Comfort Quilt, completed Dec. 31, 2019

You may have noticed that I sometimes have trouble choosing the fabrics for the blocks — maybe partly because I am over-pressuring myself to try to attach some meaning to the color choices, with regards to the corresponding story.

I did not expect to have such trouble with the color choices in doing a sampler; I was expecting more trouble with all the blocks being different – just when I figure one out, it’s on to another! Haha. But seeing as how I am making a quilt that is basically “scrappy” – even though I’m using all new fabric, mostly fat quarters – and each one is different, with different colors too, that adds more to the mix of time and decisions.

Good news on this one though – I knew as soon as I saw the block title, before I ever even read the story, what fabric I wanted to use for this!

This was exactly what I needed tonight – a quick fix of sewing that would actually “come easy” this time. We’re coming to the end of a long winter break from work, my husband and I having been off work since December 21st — and to be honest, I think the three of us (him, me, and our 2-year-old) are starting to get a little stir-crazy. I just…needed something to relax with, to be comforting, tonight.

And this block delivered exactly what its title implied.

As I said, I knew exactly what fabric I wanted to use for this. No fussing around.

In the summer of 2016, I finished a large (approximately queen-size, or about the size of the top of a king bed) quilt made from Moda’s “Grant Park” line of fabric. The pattern was called “Stars and Bars” (from Kelly Einmo’s Jelly Roll Quilts & More).

Unfinished top: Grant Park Stars and Bars quilt, Summer 2016

Unfinished top: Grant Park Stars and Bars quilt, Summer 2016

I’ve slept under this quilt just about every night since it was finished. It’s too small to be the only quilt on the king bed, but I like having extra blanket weight on me anyway, so I use it as a sort of “topper” with a plain bedspread underneath. I’ve found this quilt to be a great comfort over the years (and so have my cats).

Grant Park Stars and Bars quilt topper on king bed, Aug. 2018

Grant Park Stars and Bars quilt topper on king bed, Aug. 2018

Sleepy fur babies on the Grant Park quilt, July 2017

Sleepy fur babies on the Grant Park quilt, July 2017

Imagine my joy (serendipity?) when I actually did read Brackman’s little story for this one and it included the following: “The patchwork imitates a woven comforter pattern, and bedcoverings were often called comforts.”


This might have been the easiest one I’ve made yet, just for color choice reasons alone. Not to mention there are no triangles, “scant” seam allowances, set-in seams, or any other even remotely complicated stuff.

That’s just what I needed tonight, to end the year.

That, and reading a nice book in bed under my own comfort quilt.

Civil War Sampler #13: London Square

My Civil War Sampler Block 13 is London Square:

London Square, completed June 24, 2019

London Square, completed June 24, 2019

The story for London Square on Brackman’s blog and in the book reference England’s role in the Civil War. She briefly states the relevant economic situation:

England was our greatest trading partner and cotton was the currency. Many in England supported the emerging Confederacy with its crop that was so vital to the English economy.

Translation: England wants alllllll the cotton for alllll their textile factories. And they want it at a good, cheap price… Though some were bothered by slavery as the means of that good, cheap price.

She then launches into the story of Fanny Kemble, a London actress who married a Georgia plantation owner and was horrified by what she saw there. When she published her diary as Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation (you can read it for free online in Project Gutenberg) in London in 1863, it had a strong impact on British readers regarding the Civil War. (Her marriage had self-destructed already in 1849, btw.)

Anyhow, getting back to the quilt block. Nothing in the story spurred any particular thoughts about colors or prints, so I looked to the block title. London…England…does London have a flag? Yes. Colors: red and white. Hmm…meh. Something else. England in the 1860s. Queen Victoria. Victorian era. Victorian prints.

So I let my eyes wander over the fabrics in my Civil War fabric “section” (yes, it’s come to that- it has its own section in my sewing room) and looked for anything that seemed “Victorian” to me. The dark print with the big flowers jumped out and said, “Pick me!” Is this historically accurate? I have no idea. But it fits the vague, hazy, two-time-history-degree-earner and archivist’s idea of what could possibly be a Victorian fabric? So I went with it and picked the others to coordinate.

Civil War Sampler #12: Louisiana

My Civil War Sampler Block 12 is Louisiana:

Louisiana, completed February 25, 2019

Louisiana, completed February 25, 2019

The story about the “Louisiana” block in Brackman’s book and blog centers around the diary of a young woman named Sarah Morgan, whose family home was a plantation outside of Baton Rouge. She wrote in her diary of the devastation their home suffered in August 1862 as part of the “celebrations” of victorious Union soldiers, after the Battle of Baton Rouge (never heard of it). Her words are truly chilling, as she describes all that was destroyed, some of it irreplaceable.

Sarah’s diary was later published (in 1913) and so, as it is squarely in the public domain copyright-wise, here is a slightly longer excerpt even than what was in Brackman’s book (courtesy of the University of North Carolina’s Documenting the American South digital project, where you can read the entirety of Sarah Morgan Dawson’s A Confederate Girl’s Diary online):

She says when she entered the house, she burst into tears at the desolation. It was one scene of ruin. Libraries emptied, china smashed, sideboards split open with axes, three cedar chests cut open, plundered, and set up on end; all parlor ornaments carried off – even the alabaster Apollo and Diana that Hal valued so much. Her piano, dragged to the centre of the parlor, had been abandoned as too heavy to carry off; her desk lay open with all letters and notes well thumbed and scattered around, while Will’s last letter to her was open on the floor, with the Yankee stamp of dirty fingers. Mother’s portrait half-cut from its frame stood on the floor. Margret, who was present at the sacking, told how she had saved father’s. It seems that those who wrought destruction in our house were all officers. One jumped on the sofa to cut the picture down (Miriam saw the prints of his muddy feet) when Margret cried, “For God’s sake, gentlemen, let it be! I’ll help you to anything here. He’s dead, and the young ladies would rather see the house burn than lose it!” “I’ll blow your damned brains out,” was the “gentleman’s” answer as he put a pistol to her head, which a brother officer dashed away, and the picture was abandoned for finer sport. All the others were cut up in shreds.

Upstairs was the finest fun. Mother’s beautiful mahogany armoir, whose single door was an extremely fine mirror, was entered by crashing through the glass, when it was emptied of every article, and the shelves half-split, and half-thrust back crooked. Letters, labeled by the boys “Private,” were strewn over the floor; they opened every armoir and drawer, collected every rag to be found and littered the whole house with them, until the wonder was, where so many rags had been found. Father’s armoir was relieved of everything; Gibbes’s handsome Damascus sword with the silver scabbard included. All his clothes, George’s, Hal’s, Jimmy’s, were appropriated. They entered my room, broke that fine mirror for sport, pulled down the rods from the bed, and with them pulverized my toilet set, taking also all Lydia’s china ornaments I had packed in the wash-stand. The débris filled my basin, and ornamented my bed. My desk was broken open. Over it was spread all my letters, and private papers, a diary I kept when twelve years old, and sundry tokens of dried roses, etc., which must have been very funny, they all being labeled with the donor’s name, and the occasion. Fool! how I writhe when I think of all they saw; the invitations to buggy rides, concerts, “Compliments of,” etc. -! Lilly’s sewing-machine had disappeared, but as mother’s was too heavy to move, they merely smashed the needles.

I can’t even imagine. I think the parts about the letters and diaries and “private papers” and portraits of deceased family members bother me most – which makes sense, of course: as an archivist, it is literally my life’s work to preserve such things.

(Completely random coincidence I did not even discover until looking up Sarah’s diary in order to write this post: I made this block within days of her birthday, which was February 28, 1842. I made my block on February 25, 2019. Weird.)

Returning to the quilt block itself, let’s have a look at it again:

Louisiana block (once more, with gusto!)

Louisiana block (once more, with gusto!)

I like how the triangles sort of reminiscence of “broken dishes” – which, Broken Dishes is an entirely different block and much simpler – since Sarah talks about “china smashed.” But they’re really Flying Geese. (I kind of hate Flying Geese blocks, is it just me? I have a hard time lining up the triangles for some reason.)

For the colors, I thought, what colors or designs come to mind when I think of “Louisiana”? Again, I thought of the sports team colors. I don’t even watch sports, but it seems like you can hardly avoid knowing these things sometimes. Especially when the team’s main color is one of your favorites: purple. Any excuse to use purple!

The only other noteworthy design element (in my opinion) is that I took particular care to get at least a couple of “whole” cream-colored roses in each of the purple rectangles, and I placed them so that all the roses were “flowing” the same way – as if they are following one another in a clockwise circle.

Fabrics for my Louisiana block, including

Fabrics for my Louisiana block, including “Civil War Ladies” by Judie Rothermel

Have you ever noticed that pinwheels have a lot of seams in the center that can make a big bump in the middle of the block?

Detail of Louisiana block

Detail of Louisiana block

Well, there’s a way to sort of…swirl them around and make a little mini-pinwheel on the back side that helps flatten everything out. I did not come up with this; I think I first read about it in one of Eleanor Burns’ Quilt in a Day books. But here’s a helpful blog post from Rachel Rossi on “Getting a Perfect Pinwheel” (which, btw, mine below is not, but I got it mostly flattened out…).

Not-quite-complete mini-pinwheel on the back of the block (it was flat enough!)

Not-quite-complete mini-pinwheel on the back of the block (it was flat enough!)

I hope you enjoyed!

Civil War Sampler: #11B Sidebar, Kansas City Star

Funny story…a sidebar to my Civil War Sampler series.

So, remember how I said that in the introduction to the Civil War Sampler book, Ms. Brackman stated that most of the patterns actually came from 1930s newspapers and are not necessarily Civil War era patterns? Well, one of the newspapers she mentions is the Kansas City Star. (Doesn’t that just sound like it should be a quilt block pattern in and of itself anyway?)

Being a lifetime resident of the state of Ohio and not even particularly “into” news, I had never heard of the Kansas City Star until sometime after I started working at my current place of employment, the Special Collections and Archives at Wright State University Libraries.

There, we have one of the world’s largest collections of material about the Wright Brothers, who are widely credited with inventing the world’s first practical airplane. In addition to items related to aviation and to Wilbur and Orville, all of which seem to be obvious “givens” in anything called the “Wright Brothers Collection,” there are also many materials pertaining to other members of the Wright family, such as their father Bishop Milton Wright and their younger sister Katharine.

Katharine Wright, the youngest Wright sibling and only girl, spent much of her life unmarried, devoted to her father and brothers (Wilbur and Orville were also unmarried), in many ways filling in for her mother who had died when Katharine was a teenager. (More about Katharine Wright on our blog at work.)

But late in life, she fell in love with her former Oberlin classmate, widower Harry Haskell, and in 1926 at the age of 52, she married him. They were only married a few years before Katharine died in 1929.

What does all this have to do with the entry title or the quilt sampler?

Haskell was the editor of the Kansas City Star from 1928 until his death in 1952 (source). According to the National Quilt Museum, the (apparently famous) Kansas City Star quilt patterns began being published in the newspaper starting in September 1928 and continued until 1961.

This obviously includes the 1930s, which is the publication time period for most of the Kansas City Star patterns that are re-purposed in Brackman’s Civil War sampler book. (To clarify: only a handful of the 50 patterns did come from the Star – most came from elsewhere – but of the 4 or 5 that are  KCS patterns, all appear to be from the 1930s.)

I’m not saying that Harry or Katharine particularly had anything to do with this quilt thing. (It sounds like from the National Quilt Museum’s page about the KCS quilts, that it was mostly Edna Marie Dunn‘s doing?)

I can’t find any evidence in the Bishop Milton Wright diaries that Katharine did any quilting herself – but maybe such a thing was so commonplace as to be barely worth mentioning at that time? Supposedly (ref here and here), there is a quilt made by Katharine’s mother Susan on display at Hawthorn Hill, but I can’t find any pictures of it. Again, probably pretty common activity, right? Milton does mention creating a quilt pattern himself in 1857 (see diary entry: April 23, 1857), which was prior to his 1859 marriage. Interesting.

The Katharine Wright/ Harry Haskell/ Kansas City Star quilt pattern connection is probably just one of those weird little coincidences. It seems there’s no escaping the many and varied interconnections of history. Isn’t it fun?

(Note: The first pattern in the book to come from the Kansas City Star is #11: Blockade, which was published in 1938.)

Civil War Sampler #11: Blockade

My 11th Civil War Sampler block is Blockade.

Blockade, completed February 22, 2019

Blockade, completed February 22, 2019

The North setup a blockade of ships all around southern seaports to try to cut off the South from their important maritime trade connections (both bringing supplies in and shipping goods out, such as cotton to Europe). So having that cut off (or at least hindered, because of course there were always the blockade-runners!) caused many hardships for southerners (both civilians and soldiers).

The story in the quilt book (and also on Brackman’s blog) comes from the memoir of a woman who lived in Alabama during the Civil War and talks about what they had to do to keep shoes on their feet.

But when I thought of “the blockade,” the first thing that came to my mind was the massive seaport at Charleston, South Carolina. I later (in writing this post) found the following illustration, published in Harper’s Weekly, 1861 Sept. 21, and made available online by Library of Congress, that shows “The Blockade of Charleston:

“The Blockade of Charleston,” Harper’s Weekly, 1861 Sept. 21, made available online by Library of Congress

(Believe it or not, the ship on the left is apparently named “Vandalia,” which is also the name of a city where I previously lived. Weird.)

You can learn more about the blockade at Charleston specifically in the Charleston Post and Courier‘s “Charleston at War: Charleston harbor key blockade target” (2011 Feb 5) and the South Carolina Encyclopedia‘s article about blockade-running. (After skimming through the latter article, I suppose that I should start thinking of Wilmington, North Carolina, first in these situations: “Charleston was the second-most-active port in the Confederacy (Wilmington, North Carolina, was first).”)

Anyhow, getting back to my quilt square. I had a heck of a time picking colors for this one. I’m not typically great with the symbolism thing. (I also like poetry to rhyme and/or at least make really good logical sense—if I like it at all.) And so the first thing that came to my mind with this block and all its…sort of…nested…layers of triangles…was to recreate the image of, I guess, an island, surrounded by water: so, green and flowery in the center, something resembling sand outside of that, and blues around the outside for the water.

Here are some of the fabrics I considered:

Fabric stash musics for Blockade

Fabric stash musics for Blockade

When I couldn’t find anything in my stash that did this the way I wanted (finding a green I liked with any blue I had was especially problematic), I guess I got a little symbolically whimsical, and I am pleasantly surprised at the results. (I was really afraid this thing was going to turn out horrible and full of clash!)

Let’s look at that square again:

Blockade, completed Feb 22, 2019

Blockade, completed Feb 22, 2019

The red did a good job of representing all kinds of things, especially the “heart” of the southerners and also the little puffs look like cotton (and a little like hearts in some cases); also could be blood and fighting and suffering.

Then, the blue with the little…leaves?…well, I thought those could sort of look like the sails of ships, the Union blockade ships, and hey the Union uniforms were blue, too! And with a print like that, I try to be particular about which way the design is pointed, like in this case, I wanted all the sails “pointing up.” Although, it probably would have been better for the southerners if I’d turned some of them upside-down (although I am a Yankee, so…).

The red cotton puffs are sort of doing battle with the blue leaf-sail-ships both out in the ocean (the outer-most triangles) and also (figuratively) on the in-land as folks struggle to get the goods they need, to figure out how or if they can send their crops out to trade, etc.

And then, less symbolically, we have all the different variations of tan in between, as the “sandy” beach bits. The innermost brown/tan with the flowers on it looked like something that would be more in-land (like crops or flowers or what-have-y0u—-this is where I really wanted a green like grass but nothing looked good). And then the other two light tans- the one with the very pale dots was more like sand to me, and the one with the reedy leaves I thought kind of looked like the reeds or seaweed or plants you might find on or near the beach. (This coming from someone who has lived in the Midwest their entire life and only been to the ocean about a dozen times, so…)

The only other thing that jumps to mind about this block was…”Holy triangles, Batman!” This thing has 24 triangles in it, of various sizes. There was a lot of staring at the thing, trying to figure the best direction to iron each seam and also which piece(s) to attach next.


My “supervisor” judging my triangle seams, when he wasn’t walking on them, or stalking a bug in the lights.

See you next time!

Note: This post was actually composed in March 2019, much closer (than usual) to the time when the block was created – I didn’t want to forget all my thoughts when doing this one, which had a lot more “thoughts” than the others! But I kept it in draft until the posts for the earlier blocks were done as well.

Civil War Sampler #10: Yankee Puzzle

My Civil War Sampler Block 10 is Yankee Puzzle:

Yankee Puzzle, completed February 11, 2019

Yankee Puzzle, completed February 11, 2019

Both the Yankee Puzzle story on Barbara Brackman’s blog and the one in the book (which is what I’ve been using) center on Lincoln’s struggle concerning union and slavery. Nothing in the text particularly inspired anything with regards to colors or patterns, so I just browsed my stash for what looked good at the time. I went with another pink and green combination (the first was in Block 6, Port and Starboard) – this time with a theme of roses!

(Perhaps I should have read ahead, seeing as Block 14 is actually called “Rosebud,” but that’s a story for another time! And have I read ahead through the entire book even now? Of course not!)

Detail of center, Yankee Puzzle

Detail of center, Yankee Puzzle

Only tangentially related: The book story includes a quotation from a letter Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune (for publication, of course). I know little about Horace Greeley but that he was a big deal at the time…but every time I see his name, it makes me think of Andrew Greeley, an author (and Catholic priest) who wrote one of the first books I ever really loved: Irish Gold, which I read for the first time my senior year of high school. I was first attracted to this series by way of the fourth book’s cover graphic (this links to image only, not description, because spoiler alert!), which I saw while browsing the bookshelves at the local Wal-Mart: it featured a young couple holding hands while strolling through a cemetery — which, of course, spoke to me.

Civil War Sampler #9: Peace and Plenty

My Civil War Sampler Block 9 is Peace and Plenty:

Peace and Plenty, completed November 3, 2018

Peace and Plenty, completed November 3, 2018

There isn’t actually a story about Peace and Plenty on Barbara Brackman’s blog. She says that the book (which is what I’ve been using) contains 10 patterns that weren’t done on the blog and that she therefore has to write new stories to go with them.

Nothing in the story in the book particularly caught my imagination, so I just picked out some colors I liked for this one. More red, white, and blue, haha. This one had so many different pieces, I felt like I could “get away with” using the two lights that are the same print but in different colors. I guess I could have gone “wild” with six different colors entirely (which is how the one pictured on the blog is- there’s a picture of it but no story, on the blog), but that looked like “too much” for me. I had enough trouble choosing these six fabrics, haha.