Saturday, May 20, 2017

Free Labor Fabrics & A Few Quaker Quilts

Detail of a silk patchwork quilt by 
Quaker Rachel Goodwin Woodnut,
Salem, New Jersey, 1827-1828
Collection of the Winterthur Museum.

In 1832 poet Elizabeth Margaret Chandler wrote about a quilting party in Tecumseh,  Michigan.
"I was at a quilting last week. There were about twenty girls besides myself and in the evening about the same number of men."
Elizabeth Chandler  1807-1834

Elizabeth, a Philadelphia Quaker, took antislavery sentiments with her to the Michigan frontier. These included a boycott of slave-grown cotton. She had promised a gift to her Aunt Jane Howell, but in 1833 apologized:
"I should like to have sent you thy patchwork by this opportunity, but have not yet got it finished, as sewing cotton run[s] low with us, and I felt unwilling unless compelled by actual necessity to purchase any of the slave manufacture.....I shall not be able to make it the full size as I shall not have pieces enough. It will I expect require a border, perhaps the width or a breadth of furniture calico."

C was for cotton-field in the 1846 Anti-Slavery Alphabet book

Free produce cotton, as it was called, was in short supply in the Michigan Territory, She was looking for chintz (furniture calico) and sewing thread not produced in the Americas where slaves suffered to supply the western world with the newly popular fabric.

Another early silk quilt from the Winterthur's Collection,
The maker of this strip quilt is unknown but she was likely a Quaker
who dressed in silks and wools rather than slave-grown cotton.

Elizabeth might have made her aunt a silk quilt instead, using the European fabrics that many antislavery Quakers preferred for clothing and patchwork. It was difficult to find free-labor cotton in Michigan or for that matter in Philadelphia, the nation's third largest city.

Free Labor Store in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio. 
Quakers maintained a store here
at 3 different locations from 1848 to 1857.

Antislavery shoppers could find free-labor sugar, rice, fabrics and other goods at Free Labor Stores. Benjamin Lundy's newspaper the Genius of Universal Emancipation discussed free labor stores in 1832. 

Above a list of fabric for sale at Lydia White's Dry Goods Store, 42 N 4th  Street in Philadelphia. She "has caused to be manufactured a number of bales of cotton ---the production of free labor---from North Carolina." Lundy also mentioned Jane Webb's Free Grocery Store in Wilmington, Delaware.

 Free Labor Store supposed to be Benjamin Lundy's in
Baltimore, often said to be the "first", although claims of "firsts" are always dubious.

I've never seen a cotton quilt with the story that it was made of free-labor cottons, but many silk Quaker quilts survive.

Center of a wholecloth silk quilt made by Philadelphia Quakers
Hannah Callender, Sarah Smith and Catherine Smith,
Dated 1761
Collection of Independence Hall

The Smith/Callender quilt is one of the earliest reliably dated American quilts.

Silk medallion quilt, collection: Smithsonian Institution, mid-19th century

A note with this quilt indicated it had been pieced of 
“Wedding and ‘Second Day’ dresses" from the wardrobe of 
Clarissa or Clara Tarleton Penn , St. Mary’s County, 
Maryland, who married March 7, 1809.

Read more about Elizabeth Chandler and Free Labor Stores here at Quaker Quilt History:

James & Lucretia Mott also managed a Free Labor Store

Read more about the Smith/Callender quilt:

Marsha J. Heringa Mason. Remember the Distance that Divides Us, The Family Letters of Philadelphia Quaker Abolitionist and Michigan Pioneer Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, 1830-1842. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2004.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Right Makes Might: Block 4


Time to look at finished flags, the April, 2017
block for Yankee Diary.


The print, a repro of a late 19th-c flag print




May is a long month (good thing). Next pattern in two weeks. But I have posted the PDF's in my Etsy store so if you would rather have the May-August patterns right away click on these links

This link takes you to the $10 paper pattern by mail.

This link takes you to the $6 downloadable PDF you print yourself.

I'm going on a vacation till the end of May so I might not get the paper patterns by mail out until June.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Anti-Slavery Boycotts: Sugar

Quaker Elizabeth Coleman Heyrick  (1769-1831) of Leicester

In 1824 Englishwoman Elizabeth Coleman Heyrick published a pamphlet titled Immediate Not Gradual Abolition, promoting the idea that slavery should be abolished now rather than in the rosy future.

Heyrick started activists thinking against gradual emancipation. The concept was radical, not only in its consequences but in the fact that a woman made the proposal. She also proposed that people stop using sugar grown and processed in the Caribbean, the "West Indies", by slaves.

Sugar cane and slave labor in the Caribbean

A sugar boycott had been discussed for several decades. Britain outlawed slavery at home but allowed it to continue in the colonies.  

Activists proposed women substitute East India sugar grown in Pacific islands---what is now Indonesia.

The Barbarities of the West Indies
by James Gillray, 1791

The renewed anti-sugar campaign was a marvel of the politics of protest. Not only did British sugar consumption decrease, a trade in anti-slavery sugar bowls developed.

R. Henderson advertised he sold an assortment
of abolitionist "sugar basins."

A virtual collection of abolitionist sugar basins
meant to hold sugar not produced by enslaved workers.

And a tea pot

Antisaccharrites by Gillray
The tea drinkers appear to be King George III, Queen Charlotte
and a few of their many unhappy children.

"Oh ye who at your ease
Sip the blood-sweeten'd beverage"
Robert Southey, Poems on the Slave Trade

One important aspect of the sugar boycott of the 1820s in England and the United States was that women asserted their power as consumers and reformers. In the year following Heyrick's pamphlet, Englsihwomen established the Birmingham Ladies Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves, assumed to be the first female antislavery organization.

English Berlin Work
Royal Museums Greenwich

According to Beth A. Salerno in Sister Societies: Women's Antislavery Organizations in Antebellum America, by the end of 1833 there were seven female antislavery societies in  the United States, the beginning of a trend to female activism. In 1837 there were 45 female societies.

"Remember the Slave"
Coin Purse in the Lynn  [MA]
Museum & Historical Society.
See more here:

Read about anti-slavery needlework at these posts:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pat's Westering Women

Pat Styring sent a photo of her finished Westering Women sampler.
She added some free-form floral applique---
Broderie Perse---to the blocks.

And stitched the name of each block in the sashing.

She says:
"Each month I looked forward to the new block. Had 'Road to California' not been the name of the last block I might have had space for 'Westering Women' on the front too. Thanks for the fun of thinking about my Nebraska Pioneer ancestors as I sewed."

The words are appliqued by machine with
raw edges....

Something Pat seems to be quite good at.

Love it!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Quilt for General Grant from Herkimer, New York

Eagle quilt, late 1860s.
Civil War Commemorative.

The eagle in the center of this quilt holds a banner with the words:
"Free and unfettered our Eagle shall soar. The reign of oppression forever is o'er."

The quilt was found in the West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search.
Click here to see the record:

It had been given to the owner's grandmother with the story that the top had been stitched by an unknown woman from Herkimer, New York.
"She had great admiration for General Grant and in the late 1860's designed and made this quilt expecting to give it to the then President Grant. She died before it was quilted (after working for two years on it) and a Mrs. Mae Petrie, who had given her a home, presented it to the owner's grandmother. The 39 stars represent the number of states in the Union in 1868. The top 13 represent the original colonies. The oak leaves are for strength and the laurel leaves for victory, and the words are for the freeing of the slaves. The ensign is the United States government."

This must be the "ensign" that stands for the U.S. Government. It's an unusual image, a furled flag that may be a bud. Like the poetry, this might be original to the quiltmaker.

When we were working on my first book about Civil War quilts Terry Thompson made this imaginative quilt she called Union Star. She included the furled flag ensign in the center left.

Below is the caption from
Quilts From the Civil War.

Apparently the family had the original top quilted later. The applique looks like an unfinished design---the maker needed another year or two. The center is so detailed and impressive, one would guess she had equally elaborate plans for a border.

Herkimer County is in the center of upstate New York,
the town of Herkimer is between Albany and Syracuse.

There are many Petries in 19th-century Herkimer. Perhaps a genealogist can find who was living with Mae Petrie in the mid-1860s.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Label for Westering Women

Brenda reminded me that I hadn't made a label for your Westering Women quilts. So here it is.
The black box is about 3" x 4-1/2".

I used an image from a cowboy-themed feedsack with a wagon drawn by horses. I liked the look but remember those westering wagons were pulled by oxen.

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 onto pretreated fabric.
Ellen at LittleJewelQuilts
Ellen's top is done. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Civil War Album Style

1861, Esther Griffin for her daughter Mary

It's time to think about next year's Block of the Month with a Civil War theme. I think it should be pieced as I wanted the piecers to have their year without the A word. So my first thought was:

Pieced blocks from album samplers dated between 1855 and 1865.

1862, From the collection of the American Museum in Britain

That sounds like a good idea but it wasn't.  I had to recalculate.

1863 John W. Hinton,
North Carolina Project & the Quilt Index

There are, surprisingly, very few pieced blocks from samplers dated 1855-1865. I began by looking at my files of quilts dated 1860-1865.

1864. For Robert W. Wilson

Above the pieced blocks---a checkerboard, a basket & a Cleveland tulip variation---and the last two have applique.

Quilters apparently did not contribute many pieced blocks to album/samplers dated 1855-1865.
This in itself is a style discovery.

By the late 1850s album samplers were composed primarily of applique blocks.

1864 from Rahway, New Jersey & Laura Fisher's shop.

And even those that had quite a few pieced blocks showed little variety in the pieced blocks: album blocks like chimney sweeps, stars and baskets, It would be a dull year.

I'll think of some other source for pieced blocks for 2018. And we'll do applique in 2019. At least now I know it would be historically accurate.

See more about applique samplers here:

Quite surprising how little appeal pieced blocks had for Civil-War-era stitchers making album quilts

Two sisters sewing, a stereoscopic photo from 1865
by the London Stereoscopic Company.
See their site here:

1860 ad from Harper's Weekly