Google+ Followers

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Inspiration for a Civil War Quilt Sampler

I'm not all that handy with a needle myself but I greatly admire those who are so I'm delighted to welcome keen and skilful quilter, Rosey Moffatt, to the blog. She's kindly agreed to share some of her knowledge of American Civil War quilts with us, so over to you, Rosey. 

It's a pleasure to be here, thank you for inviting me.
The history of the Civil War quilt is about necessity and need, none more so than for providing comfort for the soldiers during the four year hardship of the American Civil War.
Having spent a good deal of my life in North America I have long been fascinated by its history.  The stories of the people who landed on its foreign shores from all over Europe, persecuted for their non-conformist religious beliefs and forced to forge new lives in unknown territories are as big a story as was their feat in crossing those mighty plains and mountains.  Those early pioneers who forged out new lives for themselves and their families and who settled on a piece of land and struggled to live off of it, living in the privation of their wagons, or dugouts, before building simple houses, had to make do with everything they came into contact with. Nothing was wasted.
For warmth against the cold nights, quilts were made out of any materials they could lay their hands on.  I have read much about the early pioneering women who kept home and hearth together and sewed and quilted together to make warm comforters for their large families.    Although there is much to be said about these women, this is the background from which quilts were made in the American Civil War, which lasted from April 12, 1861 when the Confederates attacked the military installation at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, to April 9, 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered his troops to Ulysses Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.  Four years of hostilities and deprivation prevailed.
During these four years, the women at home aided their soldiers by making them quilts.  Soldiers were not provided for by government, so it was up to the women to provide for the men going to war.  The purpose of these quilts was to provide Union and Confederate soldiers with warm bedding, and to fundraise at local fairs for the war effort.  Quilts sold at the fairs were often of a better design, the nicer the design the more money could be raised.  Calico was too expensive to purchase, so they made do, by re-using fabric from old clothing the men left behind before they went off to battle.  Any available fabric was used, old shirts “shirtings”, old suits, worn-out blankets, denim work clothes, feed and fertilizer sacks.

Laurel Horton in her article on South Carolina quilts and the Civil War states that manufactured cloth was generally called Confederate homespun.  She claims that none of the makeshift Confederate quilts are known to survive.  The most basic quilt designs were limited by these fabrics, utility being their express purpose.  It was necessary that they were put together quickly and simply, and as soldiers died they were often buried in their quilts, so that very few survive today.  It is reckoned that over 250,000 quilts had been made for the Union soldiers of the American Civil War.
The Unionists of the northern States wore blue uniforms, whilst the Confederates of the southern “slave” states wore red uniforms.  Quilt colours of blues and grays, reds and browns, reflected these. The typical soldier’s quilt size was 7’4” x 4’ (223cm x 121cm) which was the size of a soldier’s cot.  Block designs were shared amongst quilters, becoming established designs continued and admired in quilts today.
I have just completed a small Civil War sampler quilt using typical block designs but adding some of my own colours and fabric patterns.  The style and designs are correct.

One of the most famous and intricate commemorative Civil War quilts, now in the Bennington  Museum in Vermont, is one made by Jane A. Stickle in which she embroidered the words “In War Time. 1868” on it.  It is made up of 5,602 pieces and was started in 1863 taking five years to make.  Many commemorative quilts were made after the war, and reproduction Civil War quilts continue to inspire today.

Reference:  Information on the 250,000 quilts made during the Civil War from Judy Anne Breneman, 2007.
If you would like to know more about Rosey’s work do visit


No comments:

Post a Comment