Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Slave Trade Toile

Traite des Negres [The Slave Trade]
Designed by Frédéric Etienne Joseph Feldtrappe
1820s. France.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This roller-printed toile with scenes of the slave trade is rather rare. You can tell it is roller printed due to the shorter repeat of about 15-18" rather than the full meter or yard repeat you'd see in a copperplate print.

The Met's online catalog shows it the best I have seen it pictured.
The colorway might be described as plum or purple.

From the catalog at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Frederic Feldtrappe produced this textile in the early nineteenth century during a moment of intense debate in France over the viability and morality of the slave trade. Of the four narrative scenes, two reference earlier paintings by English artist George Moreland and contrast the brutality of European slave traders with the kindness of Africans who minister to a shipwrecked European family. The other two scenes, based on engravings by Frenchman Nicolas Colibert, juxtapose a happy African family with the appearance of European traders in Africa. Their cache of trade goods (including textiles) ominously foreshadows the horrors of the traffic in human beings."

Bed with brown hangings in the pattern.
at the History Museum in Nantes, France

Read Cybèle T. Gontar's A Fashion for Abolition
And more about it in French

Here's a blurry example in a gold.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Traditional Sets for Westering Women

Barbara Schaffer's blocks in two pictures
Lots of stitchers have finished all 12 Westering Women blocks.
But few have got their tops finished.

Jeanne, however, whipped this out soon after the last block posted last month.

And Rina in Catania, Italy is finished with hers.
She doesn't have access to many repro prints in Sicily.

Both used the "official set" although Rina added an inner border to pick up the lighter colors in her blocks (looks like it might finish to 1-1/2" or 2"). A good balance of darks, mediums and lights.

Denniele's almost done.
She used 2-1/2" finished sashing strips.
Blue strips cut 12 1/2" x 1"  (Cut 62)
Cream strips cut 12 1/2" x 2"  (Cut 31)
Blue cornerstones cut 3" square (Cut 20)

Links to other posts on sets:

I have turned the patterns into a PDF for those of you who would like it in a simpler format. All 12 patterns and two sets are available in my Etsy Shop. See the section:

Patterns PDF & Paper

I'll mail you a 15 page paper pattern for $22.50 (US Postage) at this link:

Or you can download and print a PDF here for $15.

Do note I have used photos of your quilts to advertise the pattern. Check out the listings to see if you recognize anything.
Thank you very much, quiltmakers.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Birds in the Air Pattern & A Poetic License

Birds in the Air
See the free pattern below.

Question from a beginning quilter:
"I'd like to do an Underground Railroad quilt but I am confused about the Quilt Code. I don't want to fall into the trap of assuming escaping slaves used quilts to help them with maps, etc. Can you suggest a simple pattern with some meaning?"
The problem with using symbolism and Underground Railroad quilts is that there is no evidence anyone ever made a quilt as a map or guide for escaping slaves. This doesn't mean we cannot make quilts with meaning to us about historical issues. I wrote a book about ten years ago called Facts & Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts & Slavery to give quilters ideas on how to use traditional patterns to tell the story of slavery. One of the blocks is Birds in the Air.

Birds in the Air
Pieced and appliqued by Barbara Brackman
Machine Quilted by Rosie Mayhew
2006, 47" Square.

The pattern is a traditional design that goes back to the 1840s. One name, published about 1940, was Birds in the Air, a perfect theme to recall the idea of freedom.

Coats and Clark or Spool Cotton
published the pattern and the name.

During the 1930s the WPA project interviewed people who'd been born into slavery. One of my favorite quotes is from Edward Taylor who remembered the last days of the Civil War.
 "I used to hear the white folks reading the paper about the war and reading the Yankees beat them, and I wondered what in the world is Yankees. I thought they were talking about the birds of the air or something."
Perhaps the blue birds are the Yankees and emancipation.

Read more about the history of the quilt block and its names at this post:

You could print this poetic license, which is on page 9 of Facts & Fabrications.
It gives you permission to add a layer of symbolism to your quilts.

The block is a good one for a beginning quilter because it's simple piecing and simple applique. It would look good in Baltimore Blues, my recent reproduction fabric collection.

Here's the pattern from the book:

To Print:
  • Create a word file or a new empty JPG file.
  • Click on the image above. 
  • Right click on it and save it to your file. 
  • Print that file. 
  • Add seam allowances when you cut the leaves.
Cutting a 15" Block
A. Cut 4 squares 4-1/4" x 4-1/4"
B. Cut 4 rectangles 4-1/4" x 8"
C. Cut 4 squares 3" x 3" and 5 contrasting squares the same size for the center 9 patch.
D. Use the template to cut 12 leaves.

47" Square Quilt
4 Blocks Finishing to 15"
3" Finished Sashing.
    Cut 4 strips 15-1/2" x 3-1/2"
    Cut 1 Square 3-1/2"

7" Finished Outer Border
    Cut 2 strips 7-1/2" x 47-1/2"
    Cut 2 strips 7-1/2" x 33-1/2"

See the quilt on page 94 of Facts & Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts & Slavery , by Barbara Brackman (C&T Pub. 2006)

Here's a short preview of the book.

You can buy a print edition here:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Way West Set for Westering Women

Diane's set for her Westering Women blocks.

She used her own version of the alternate Way West set.
See the instructions here:

This set was inspired by several images. One is an old pattern which is usually seen going North instead of West

Fourth Corner Molly calls it Tree House and says that pattern historian Wilene Smith traces it to a 1907 issue of Hearth & Home magazine, which published it as Toad Stool.

A new trend is the idea of putting all the sampler blocks on one side of the quilt and doing something else (or nothing) on the other side of the quilt.

Like Liesel Rautenbach's Modern Sampler.

Split Personality by Thomas Knauer

Way West

More sets next Wednesday.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Small Civil War Battle in Winchester

This week's post concerns a smaller battle than the other three for which
Winchester, Virginia is known.

Abby Gibbons

Sarah Gibbons Emerson recorded this story about a problem with local Secessionists during the Union Occupation of 1864 in her book about her mother Abby Gibbons. Abby worked with the Sanitary Commission bringing relief supplies to Union troops in Virginia, Winchester residents had stolen some of their supplies.

Market Street in 1861 with Confederate Soldiers marching.
The town was occupied and  re-occupied.
"A friend called to say that stores deposited by me at the Relief Rooms in Market Street, had been taken by one Atwell Schell, a member of the church and greatly respected by the Secessionists of the town. We called on the Provost Marshal and stated the facts. He was prompt in giving assistance and allowed us two of his guard, bidding us to use them as we thought best. It was his first day of command."

Abby and her daughter are the seated women here at Fredericksburg

It was not Abby Gibbons's first day of command.
"Accordingly, upon reaching the house of Atwell Schell, and, after being denied a quiet surrender of the stores, I took command and directed one of the guard to remain with my companions below, while I accompanied the other upstairs; the lady of the house being of the party by invitation, to see that we  took our own property only. 
"While I turned out chests and trunks, and dragged out large bags from under beds and lounges, Atwell Schell put in an appearance, stationed himself against a panel of a door, but not a word did he say. Our goods had been packed with much neatness and care, and covered with their own quilts. Everything was turned out, and package upon package rolled down stairs, until a high stack was formed in the centre of the parlor. There was every variety of garment, bedclothes, delicacies for the sick — such as sugar, tea, chocolate, farina, arrowroot, gelatine, and corn-flour and barley in large packages.  
"We found many of our [liquor] bottles (empty, of course, but such as were not to be found in all Winchester). They had been filled with the best stimulants for the sick, but not any of it had been so appropriated — not even to their own Rebel men. No. The citizens of Winchester had stolen it ;  
"As I drew out the many heavy packages, the female present — who was either daughter or daughter-in-law of the said Atwell, and, as I afterwards learned, an accomplice in the theft — exclaimed with great vehemence,  'Did you ever hear of such an impudent woman?' 
Abby replied:
'And what do you have to say of the woman who took these goods and appropriated them to her own purposes? In New York, we should pronounce it theft and punish the transgressor!' 
 "Enough, perhaps, that we once more possessed our goods. We were not long in making them over to the 32nd Ohio Regiment, whose guard came to the rescue, and whose sick so much needed them.... Prudence admonished us to retreat the next day."
I couldn't find an Atwell Schell but perhaps the battle was with the Shell or Shull Family of Winchester.
UPDATE: Suzanne did a little genealogical work and found:
"Atwell Shell appears in the 1860 federal census in Winchester VA born in 1819 in VA, a day laborer by occupation owning real estate valued at $2600 and personal property valued a $300. He is not a man of wealth. He lives with wife Louisa b. 1817, son William H b. 1841 (the perfect age for the Civil War draft), daughter Mary born 1844, son Atwell V born 1849 and son Strawther b. 1856. He does not appear as a slave owner in the slave schedules."

Drawing of Winchester by James E. Taylor
Collection: Western Reserve Historical Society

See more about Abby Gibbons at this post from the past year:

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Westering Women 12: Road to California

Westering Women Block 12:
 Rocky Road to California by Denniele Bohannon

Mountains in the far western United States create a large desert region by blocking clouds and moisture from falling on the eastern slopes. This rain shadow formed a formidable landscape that had to be crossed before settlers found homes along the Pacific coast with more rain and cooler temperatures.

Trails forked near Fort Hall about 1300 miles from Independence, Missouri. The yellow cutoff road goes south to Sacramento, California. The main orange trail continues north along the Columbia River to the Oregon Territory.

In 1854 Sarah Sutton found the Oregon branch of the trail less crowded than the cutoff.
"Here we had to part with two good hands, that started for Calefornia. We were all loth to part with each other but the best of friends must part, such is life. What a great change in roads. Now the gras is near two feet high on each side of the road and not trampt down with stock. There is but few going to Oregon."
The California bound followed the Humboldt River through the desert over the California mountains to Sacramento. From Independence to Sacramento was about 2000 miles.

Daniel Jenks recorded the journey in his 1859 sketches, which can be viewed at the Library of Congress.

Along the Humboldt
A few details show clothing styles and romance.

In memories of her 1847 trip Emma Ruth Ross Slavin told her family of romance and a honeymoon:
 "There was one marriage in our Co. After bride and groom retired to their wagon a party of men and boys hauled the wagon 1/2 mile from camp and left it there."
The Humboldt River soon disappeared into the Humboldt Sink and travelers faced a stark obstacle, the 40 Mile Desert. On the other side: The legendary Pacific Coast.

Currier & Ives print of California's coast.

Women on their way to the California gold fields.

By the time the immigrants arrived in their new homes they were worn out, malnourished, sunburnt and dressed in rags. During the first decades of the trail clothing was a valuable trade item. Coastal tribes were glad to trade salmon to hungry travelers for garments and blankets.

In 1853 Mary Woodland in Oregon wrote her mother about her wardrobe:
"Had it not been for trading our clothes with [Indians] we should have been hungry many a time. I parted with a good many of mine and threw the rest way so...I had no clothes at all when I got into Oregon...."
 Rocky Road to California by Becky Brown

We recall the last grueling weeks of the trail with Rocky Road to California, a popular late-19th-century block.

BlockBase #1693a with that name was published by the Ladies Art Company about 1890. I also once saw a sampler quilt with names stitched to each block. This one was called Home Queen. Different shadings have been published with different names, several having to do with travel.

 Cutting a 12" Block

A - Cut 2 squares 4-1/2".

B - Cut 4 squares 4-7/8". Cut each into 2 triangles with a diagonal cut.
You need 8 triangles.

C - Cut 12 squares 2-1/2".
Sewing the Block

Ragged and worn you may be but congratulations on arriving at the end of your journey.

Read Mary Woodland's letters online here:

And Emma Ruth Ross Slavin's memoir; Pioneer of 1847

Daniel Jenks's drawings at the Library of Congress:

This is the last of the free patterns for Westering Women. I'll leave them up here on the CivilWarQuilts blog for the next six months or so. I'm going to turn them into downloadable PDF's and paper patterns that you can order from my Etsy Shop. I'll let you know when they are ready for purchase.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Stitching Soldiers' Quilts at the Cooper Institute

Gulielma Field taught art at the New York School of Design for Women during the Civil War. The curriculum was designed to teach women skills in drawing and engraving for employment by publishers, printers, manufacturers. The school was housed in the new Cooper Institute building, still standing at 7th Avenue and 3rd.  Suzanne says I have it wrong:
 Cooper Union foundation building is at 7 East 7th Street between 3rd and 4th Avenues -- on the East side not the West side. Otherwise known as Cooper Square

Gulielma (it's a Quaker name---Mrs. William Penn's name) was first a student at the school in the 1850s and became a teacher of engraving. According to Alice Donlevy, one of her students, she also insisted her students learn to quilt.

Patient and Matron Anne Bell in a Nashville Hospital, 1863
Collection: U.S. Army Center of Military History

During the War Dr. Edward Curtis* asked his mother Julia Bowen Bridgman Curtis (one of the school's founders) if some lady might "organize the making of old-fashioned patchwork quilts" for his patients. He was sure that "many soldiers died in the hospitals of home-sickness."

The top floor was well lit during the day.

"Gulielma asked a Quaker family for the quilting frames, and Peter Cooper [of the Cooper Institute] for the room. ...Under her guidance many patchwork quilts were made during the Civil War, in an upper room in the Cooper Institute, where the students of the Art School came to quilt for any half hour they could spare after lesson times....

Illustration of a quilting bee, the kind of mechanical reproduction
the students at the art school were trained to produce.

She opened the every-day quilting bee with poetry," wrote Alice Donlevy in a remembrance of Field.
*I'm assuming the Dr. Curtis mentioned is Julia Curtis's son Edward who was an army surgeon in 1864 and 1865.
The reference to Gulielma's quilting room is an article by Alice Donlevy, "Quaker History and Biography: Guliema Field, Pioneer Painter" in Friends' Intelligencer, 1915.

Read it here at Google Book

And read more about Alice Heighes Donlevy (1846-1929) and the school here in a preview of chapters 1 and 2 from April F. Masten's Art Work: Women Artists and Democracy in Mid-Nineteenth-Century New York