Saturday, June 24, 2017

Potholder Quilt: Any Holder but a Slave Holder

"Good Bye Dixie"

A few years ago a California blogger wrote a post about a family hand-me-down: A crazy quilt from Beloit (Wisconsin?)

It's a typical crazy quilt from about 1880-1900, but
she thought the picture of the freed slaves saying "Good Bye Dixie"
indicated it was from the Civil War era, twenty years earlier.

The embroidered image might have been stitched in the 1860s, saved in the later quilt. The image is of a dancing African-American couple seen from the rear. It looks like Berlin work, what we'd call needlepoint, done with wool over a canvas.

The image of a dancing couple was familiar in the 19th century. They were stitched in front view and rear in potholders with a pun. "Any holder but A Slave holder"

St Croix Wisconsin Historical Society Collection.
Shown on Patricia L. Cummings's webpage.

Chicago Historical Society

The image is seen as an offensive stereotype today, but in the mid-19th century the "humor" of the pun and the figures indicated an antislavery sympathy.

The two in the Chicago museum were accompanied with the history that they were sold at one of Chicago's Northwestern Sanitary Fairs (1863 & 1865). Scholars Beverly Gordon and Beverly Lemire agree that these punning potholders originated with the fund-raising fairs during the Civil War. This is just the kind of  quick needlework with a message that children and women did to support the Union cause.

The Smithsonian owns one that shows how the work
was done, counted stitches over a coarsely woven fabric.
The background was not filled in on this example.

A child named Lena sent a cross-stitched piece to Frederick Douglass in 1882. The embroidery and his thank-you letter are preserved at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at the New-York Historical Society. Lena's caption "Any Holder but a Slave Holder" seems to be a relic of slavery days fifteen years earlier. The piece might have been made in the 1880s or have been an older souvenir.

The dancing couple continued after the Civil War with celebrations of freedom:

Cross-stitch on a coarse background from an auction.
Was it a potholder once the pun was gone?

It looks like a potholder.

The "We's Free" variation seems to have been sold as a commercial
embroidery project.

"We's Free"
Cross Stitch on perforated paper
Collection: Museum of East Tennessee History
Perhaps one bought this with the image already embroidered. The buyer filled in the background.

Front and rear of one from an online auction.

This paper pattern has a date of January 15th, 1865,
which may allude to the 13th Amendment:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude..., shall exist within the United States..."

The amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865.  The piece is probably commemorative, made later.

It's interesting that these punched paper pieces
have no embroidery in the backgrounds.

Back to the quilt at the top of the post:
I haven't seen another embroidery with the motto "Good Bye Dixie." I'd guess it was a late-19th century piece, probably done about the same time as the crazy quilt. Could it allude to the Exoduster migration about 1880 when thousands of former slaves left the South for lands in the Great Plains?

See the quilt at

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Flags & Baskets & Flags

Danice has finished Block #5
The Union Basket

And Vrooman's Quilts is on her way.

A few more flags from mid-19th-century albums.
Fitting a flag into a square, nicely done in
Mary Nevius Potter's album at the Newark Museum

Geometry based on five.
Not always easy.
Susan B. Rogers's quilt at the Smithsonian.

Wish I could see what is in the corers of this one from
a pre-war Rockland County, New York sampler.

Next Wednesday, June 28th, Block 6.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Quilts Buried With the Silver #3

Quilt in the collection of the Ohio Historical Society.

This is not an Ohio quilt. At first glance the cut-out chintz applique
looks to be a Southern quilt. The caption confirms that regional origin.

"Quilt made of cotton chintz dates from 1815-1840 and was possibly made in North Carolina."

When the donor gave this quilt in 1979 she told this story.
"Nathan Farmin, a Union soldier, found the quilt during a foraging expedition in North Carolina in 1861 and sent it north. He found it in a chest that had been buried."

Burying the quilt did not keep it safe. But the tale gives us more confirmation that quilts were indeed buried in trunks. And this one survived rather well.
No reports of silver.

See more posts about the topic:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thistle Quilters' Westering Women

The Thistle Quilt Guild in Nova Scotia, Canada, just had their quilt show. This display is all Westering Women samplers.

Sheila's model

Sheila, the program director, organized the guild's block-of-the-month last year.

The thirty or so members followed the monthly blog here and Sheila added a few more blocks to make the quilt larger.

They all used the traditional set. It's a small guild but obviously they are enthusiastic stitchers.

Sheila gave them 20 blocks instead of 12.
I Photoshopped her model to give you
a wrinkly picture of all 20.

I am always pleased to have guilds use my BOM's for their monthly programs. The Westering Women pattern began as a BOM for my own guild several years ago.  It's not too late to start Yankee Diary with your guild.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Antislavery Fair Crib Quilt by Mary Lincoln Cabot

Quilt by Mary Hersey Lincoln Cabot (1817-1897), about 1840
35-1/2" square

The Hingham Massachusetts Historical Society has in its
collection this anti-slavery crib quilt in excellent condition.
It's pieced of two polished cottons or cotton sateens.

 An Anti-Slavery sentiment is inked in the center of each block.

The block is a square in a square that
forms a checkerboard when the color is controlled.

The paper label stitched to the front:
"This quilt was made by Mary Hersey Lincoln of Hingham for one of the Anti-Slavery fairs held in Boston about 1840. Miss Lincoln was the first preceptress of Derby Academy.
Presented by her daughter Miss Theodora Cabot"
Theodora might have been wrong about her mother being first Preceptress of the Derby Academy as it was founded in 1784 and Mary was born in 1817 (The school still exists.)
UPDATE: Kathy tells us in the comments:
Mary Hersey (Lincoln) Cabot was the daughter of Nathan and Martha (Fearing) Lincoln. Her uncle Abner Lincoln was the first Preceptor of Derby Academy. 

Mary was an interesting person, an antislavery suffragist. She married Frederick Samuel Cabot whom she met at Brook Farm, a utopian community in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. Both were residents in 1844. After Mary left, friend Marianne Dwight described her in a letter in September, 1845:
"I miss Mary Lincoln much. The strange child! No one can accuse her of being a civilizee, for she is one of the least civilized beings I have ever met with. I can't help liking her, I believe her aims are high, ---but perhaps she is so independent as not to consult sufficiently other people's happiness and convenience---she is very childish----a mere baby in some of her ways; and to this I now attribute many of her odd actions. With much purity, she has, it seems to me, very little delicacy for a woman."

Brook Farm's main building during the Civil War.
The experiment in communal living lasted from 1840 to 1847.

Perhaps living in a communal situation was too much for Mary's independent nature.

Fred Cabot in his early twenties already had a reputation as an abolitionist leader in connection with the Latimer Case. In 1842 Rebecca and George Latimer escaped from slavery, leaving Norfolk, Virginia, for Boston. Latimer was recognized and arrested to be returned to Virginia. Fred led a protest, one of the first actions to demand that a formerly enslaved person in a free state was legally free.

He and two others founded the Latimer Journal & North Star, a short-lived abolitionist newspaper.

Mary Lincoln and Fred Cabot married in 1847 and had six children, two of whom died in childhood. They lived in Hingham, Massachusetts. After the Civil War Fred founded the Mill Owners' Mutual Fire Protection Company. He died in 1888 and Mary in 1897. Both are buried in Hingham.

See Mary Lincoln Cabot's quilt here at the Quilt Index:

Read more about the Latimer case and the Latimer family here:

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Digital Train Wreck

My digital pattern business has been a virtual train wreck this past few weeks.

At least for patterns 5-8 of Yankee Diary.

And it's all my fault. I went on vacation.

First I tried to get everything organized in a mad rush before I went to Spain for two weeks. So I mis-numbered the blocks.

If you ordered a PDF or paper pattern for Blocks 5-8 you may notice that the patterns go:

9 is really 8. So just cross out that 9 and write 8. Easy enough to fix.

I tired to fix it in the pattern file when I got back but I was so jet-lagged I have not been able to think straight for a week.
So I uploaded the wrong file. I think I have finally fixed that and everybody who wanted a PDF got the right file...
In which the patterns are numbered 5-8.

If I were you I'd ignore me for another week.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Dixie Rose

Block from a North Carolina quilt

The North Carolina Quilt Project discovered several unusual patterns, including this applique design, which local tradition called the Dixie Rose.

Quilt by an unknown maker, mid 19th-century.

Quilt date-inscribed 1855
made for Laura Brown McCallum, Robeson County, North Carolina

The only two versions of the design discovered so far are in these two North Carolina quilts, one
a sampler signature quilt, one a repeat block and both look to be sashed with cording.
A 1910 novel name "A Dixie Rose"

We don't know what Laura McCallum and her friends called the design. The term Dixie Rose is quite a Southern tradition, but seems to be found more towards the end of the 19th century and into the 20th as a given name for Southern babies, etc.

Grave of a woman born in 1924

When Terry Thompson and I started making Civil War commemorative quilts twenty years ago we were quite taken with the pattern and featured a couple of reproductions in our books.

Judy Davis made this one from a pattern I drew,
echoing the use of  fuss-cut paisley cones for the leaves and border
in the quilt at the top of this page.

A simpler version by Ilyse Moore
from another of my patterns.

Terry did a block for her Southern Memorial Quilt.

And designed a variation for her
book Four Block Quilts

Most of these patterns are out of print and hard to find but the pictures may provide inspiration.
Print this out at 200% for a rough 16" pattern.

Here are links to the files at the North Carolina project on the Quilt Index.
Laura McCallum's Sampler:

The repeat block version was once attributed to Sarah Williams but in the book North Carolina Quilts the caption says unknown maker. (See the quilts in book plates 3-14, 5-1, 5-2.)

A post I did several years ago.