Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Civil War-Inspired Quilts

It was the final day of the exhibit.

In conjunction with the 150-year commemoration of the Battle of Galveston, the Galveston Historical Foundation was presenting “In War Time – 150 Years of Quilts Inspired by the Civil War.”

We walked around the room in which some 30 quilts were being displayed. Unfortunately, we had not entered the showroom through the door where the information sheets were located. And our visit had to end early because the Foundation was holding a meeting in this room.

As a result, I think we noticed the “trees,” but we missed the “forest.” As I read the material provided and read up on the meaning of the quilts’ designs, I realized that we had taken note of the detailed stitching on the quilts, but we missed the meaning of the quilting process itself and the colors and designs of these beautiful works of art.

Friends All Around

The quilt shown in these three photographs is a wonderful example of a "Round Robin" quilt. Jean Cloyd designed the center, which she gave to her friend Cynthia Clark, who designed and pieced the section surrounding the center. Then she gave it to Sue Garman, who added another surrounding section before giving it to Georgann Wrinkle.

In his article about the show, Richard Varr quotes the show’s curator Jenny Chiovaro as explaining, “Times were when women didn’t go off to war and were left behind to wait. Months could go by before word of a battle reached her home and then the waiting grew worse – waiting to hear whether her brother or husband or son or loved one was one of the fallen.

Fans and Feathers

This quilt is designed and appliquéd in the style of "Persian Embroidery" in which figures of a printed fabric are cut and appliquéd on a background cloth, often highlighting flowers or a scene.

“Many women of the era turned to intricate handwork as a comfort, hoping for loved ones to return. There is something very calming about pulling thread through cloth and something very satisfying about taking cloth, and with your own skill and patience, turning pieces into useful art” (

Southern Comfort

The pieced blocks in this quilt were part of a block exchange with friends; Cynthia L Regone designed the appliqué blocks to complement a commercial pattern.

So Many Triangles

Ona Patterson participated in an exchange of blocks at her local quilt shop in which Civil War reproduction fabrics were combined with other tan colors to make 2" squares, divided in half diagonally--called half-square triangles.

Jacob's Ladder

This quilt (next two photos) consists of a single block, which when repeated, looks like it's pieced diagonally. Although it looks tricky, it is relatively easy to construct.

As I reviewed the photos shown here in light of this background information, I developed a much deeper appreciation for the emotion invested in these quilts.

The exhibit is a collection of quilts made mostly in modern times, but all are united with their use of the muted, calming colors produced during the Civil War period. The Civil War reproduction fabrics are for the most part faithful to the patterns produced on cloth in the mid-to-late 19th century.

Some had Civil War themes, some highlighted colors of blue and gray, and others had quilt blocks inspired by war-era love letters.

Three of the quilts in the exhibit were examples of the latter category. One of these is shown here in the next two photos.
Civil War Love Letters Quilt

This quilt was inspired by the creation of Rosemary Young, who carefully researched love letters from Civil War soldiers to inspire her small blocks. Quilters who followed her use traditional blocks in modern settings, but each has its roots in a time so long ago, but so pivotal in our nation's history.

This quilt (above) was stitched by a group of friends, The Stitiching B's, as a raffle quilt.

Triple Four-Patch

This design is intriguing; I regret not having taken some close-up photos of this clever design. Sharon Meyer arranged the blocks produced by her friends so that the light-colored patches formed a symmetrical diagonal line.

Bull Run Nine Patch

Named after the Civil War battle, the pattern shown in these next two photos was a grand prize winner for the pattern maker, Jo Maury.

I See 22 Stars

Ronda Stockman used Civil War colors in this quilt featuring interlocking Lone Stars.

One Thousand Pyramids

This design dates from the Civil War era and is made using light and dark triangles sewn together in rows. In this pattern, the Churn Dash block is repeated in both small and large sizes. And can you calculate exactly how many "pyramids" are in this quilt?

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