Wednesday, September 20, 2017


All summer my Do List has said "Bind Yankee Diary Quilt."

This week I ...
1) Remembered where I put the quilted top.
2) Remembered where I put the binding fabric.
3) Cut the binding fabric.
4) Began to trim the quilt.

And I saw the above. We had gotten to this stage in June. As I started to trim off the excess batting and backing a corner got stuck under something and I cut a big slice in the wrong spot with the rotary cutter.

I must have screamed, put it all away and forgotten the trauma.

Well, it can be fixed. (Just about anything quilt-wise can be fixed). I have put a white patch over the top, a backing patch over the backing and stitched the batting together.

And trimmed it


I hope your Yankee Diary project is going better than mine.
Next Wednesday pattern # 9. Be careful.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Emma Civey Stahl's Pictorial Quilt

Block 11. Detail of a pictorial quilt attributed to
Emma Civey Stahl
about 1870.
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Emma Stahl's quilt is called the Women's Rights Quilt or Suffragette Quilt
because several of the vignettes picture a woman involved in the movement.

But the quilt also includes pictures of Civil War soldiers. On the left Block 5, a bearded soldier in light or faded Union blue is leaving a woman with a checked apron. On the right Block 6, he is returning.

And perhaps this is also a
war-related image, Block 9, a bearded man with a cane
and some kind of assistance dog (or perhaps just a pet).

The use of  trained guide dogs for war-blinded veterans is not thought to have begun until the first World War. But this man with a cane and two angels above him may be evidence that informal use began earlier. Dogs are always eager for a job.
The museum has a good idea of the chain of ownership of this quilt so attributing it to Emma Civey Stahl seems accurate. I could find only a little about Emma C. Stahl: The record in Pleasant Valley, Iowa, of the birth of her second child Joseph Augustus Stahl in 1880. Her husband Jacob Shelden Stahl is listed as a laborer. He was born in Ohio, she in Missouri.

Her daughter Marion Stahl Gabriel was perhaps married to William A. Gabriel, chief watch designer at the Elgin Watch Company from 1888 to 1933. Marion apparently died August 24, 1965 at an Eastern Star home in Illinois on August 24, 1965. I first saw this quilt in the 1970s at a Chicago show, which makes sense chronologically.

Block 4. That flag says Woman. Notice her glasses.

I was impressed enough to remember it to this day because it was such a knockout. At the time there was a sheet of typed paper posted next to it. I made notes on what it said. I see by her 1990 book Wrapped in Glory: Figurative Quilts & Bedcovers 1700-1900 Sandi Fox also saw that paper. She wrote:

"All too rarely does an explanatory note accompany a quilt some point someone wrote...a series of comments on the figurative blocks (Footnote: Until several years ago, there was attached to each story block a tag with a number corresponding...)

4. She was told that war has been declared and she comes home and tells the husband he will have to go to war.
5. She gets him already to go to war and now he is telling her if God spares his life he will return
6. He does return and this is their meeting. This is all of the story. But in order to fill in the Quilt there is other pictures.
9. Angels are guarding the Blind man and his Dog. Notice how he is groping is way.
11. Is the Soldiers under the Flag of Freedom....There is not another quilt like this."

The notes add much to the quilt's interpretation. For one thing it is fascinating how the quilt centers on that woman. He doesn't go off to War, she tells him he will have to go to war. See Sandi's book for the rest of the notes. The book's so cheap used you should buy two.

You can view the individual blocks at the Met's website:
See also:

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Antebellum Album 1840-1860: Free Civil War Block of the Month 2018

Antebellum Album 1840-1860
We tend to picture all 19th-century Americans facing off across the Mason-Dixon line in a deeply divided North and South. But before the Civil War the border line was not so sharply defined. 

Yankees and Southrons shared many connections. Families moved from one culture to another, vacationed to escape the heat or the cold, sent children to far-away boarding schools and sought economic opportunities in different markets as teachers, merchants or entrepreneurs. Inevitably immigrants married new neighbors, producing offspring who could boast of cousins from Maine to Saint Augustine. 

Album quilts were tangible links between Northerners and Southerners who maintained bonds in patchwork blocks inked with names and sentimental inscriptions.

Mary Ellen Barnes, New York, 1845

The 2018 Block of the Month here at Civil War Quilts will look at North/South connections primarily through shared schooling. Each month we'll piece an album block popular with quilters in the antebellum (before the War) years as we read stories of schoolgirls who forged and broke links. 

Wincy Wadsworth, Cheraw S.C., 1851
Inscriptions from the same quilt in the collection of
the North Carolina Museum of History.

We'll follow that generation of women through the Civil War that changed their lives for better or worse.

I'll post patterns on the last Wednesday of each month in 2018. You don't have to sign up, the patterns are free here. If you prefer you can buy a PDF download of four patterns three times during 2018 from my Etsy store. I'll mail you the paper patterns or you can print them yourself. I'll keep you posted as to how to do that during the year.

I have signed up four model makers: Becky Brown promises her usual focus on reproduction prints; Denniele Bohannon is going to do a contemporary color take; Mark Lauer and Pat Styring will add new perspectives to remaking history.

Mark's doing a red, green & yellow palette. 

You can start thinking about fabric and colors. Towards the end of 2017 I'll let you know more about what we model makers are planning.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Old Abe the Eagle

The show of historical quilts now on display at the East Tennessee Historical Society
in Knoxville features Lillie Harvey's Knoxville Crazy Quilt with its image
of "Old Abe...dead & gone....Died in 1881."

It is an odd quilt, which seems to be an advertising medium.
"Old Abe is dead & gone---not so Dodd & Armistead's Drug Store &
they cut the prices right."

It would seem that Ms. Harvey is exploiting a patriotic image for financial gain. But who am I to judge?

Co-curator Merikay Waldvogel called my attention to this image of Old Abe several years ago.
What did it mean?

In the age of the internet, it's easy to find out. But ten years ago she had to work hard to discover that Old Abe was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army, nicknamed the "Eagle Regiment." The eagle was of course named for the President.

Old Abe and some of the Eagle Regiment
at Vicksburg in 1863

Once you realize that Old Abe is a captive bald eagle you start understanding the many references in the last half of the 19th century.  Photos were sold to benefit the Sanitary Commission towards the end of the war so many CDV illustrations survive.

Towards the end of the Civil War cards sold for
 15 cents to benefit the Sanitary Commission.
(Today I'd ask what percentage actually went to the Commission.)

The bird looks barely a fledgling in
this early cased photo. There is some question as
to Abe's gender---adult female bald eagles also have white heads.

Having had captive birds for a short time, I know that
the shield-shaped platform served several purposes.
I do not believe one can house break an eagle.

The eagle is often shown perched on the shield, an image not
often seen earlier than the Civil War.

A youthful Abe

Old Abe was an icon of pop culture in late Victorian America; a high point was his/her presence at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia
(or perhaps a low point if you are a captive bird.)

Stereocard sold at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876

Abe either was wounded twice or "didn't receive a scratch."
The stories vary in nearly every aspect.

Crystal bowl with Abe in the lid.

Old Abe provided much inspiration to artists, commercial and amateur. In 1888 Mary Webb took a "prize at the centennial exhibition at Columbus [Ohio] on 'Old Abe,' the war-eagle, a magnificent piece of silk embroidery."

Is that Old Abe with Miss Liberty?

The Rail Splitter antique shop
has this watercolor for sale. The script includes the following:
"On the twenty sixth day of March 1881, the old soldier eagle with a few of his old friends around him died in the arms of his keeper, George Gillies. This picture was done by mother Beth Wands who saw the old soldier bird many times when he was alive, has visited the place Eagle Point, where he was taken from the nest. "
 George Sutherland with a replica of Old Abe, about 1900.
This Wisconsin veteran provided patriotic entertainment
at reunions.

It's hard to know if a photo is Abe, his/her stuffed carcas
or a "replica."

The War Eagle must have had a great influence on patriotic imagery....

...Shaping iconography into other wars. I'd guess this embroidered
picture from about 1900 is an Asian export, 
perhaps framing an American soldier from
the Spanish-American War.

I have never seen another quilt with a captioned portrait of  Old Abe.

Quilt in the collection of the Clarke County Museum, 
Eureka, California

Although this flag quilt made as a gift for General Grant in 1864, which I showed in last week's post,
features the bird on a shield image.

The Burdick-Childs pictorial quilt in the collection of the Shelburne
Museum has a block with a familiar bird in the air.

You just have to know Old Abe to recognize the old bird.

For more information about Stories in Stitches: Quilts from the East Tennessee Historical Society Collection in Knoxville click here:

Co-curator Merikay Waldvogel will entertain you with a presentation on Lillie Harvey's Knoxville Crazy Quilt at the bottom of the page.

Read more about Old Abe him/herself in this book:
Old Abe the War Eagle: A True Story of the Civil War And Reconstruction by Richard Zeitlin.

UPDATE: See the comments for more.

And Merikay sent a note with another Old Abe possibility On the USS Constitution Quilt, a pictorial quilt with the ship in the center. See a picture in Robert Hughes's American Quilts: The Democratic Art, page 133 in the second edition.

Looking at the first edition, I see a possible Old Abe in Catherine Cox Williams's 1873 pictorial quilt in the Shelburne Collection.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Civil War Quilts: Block of the Month

Trolling around to see what's up in the reproduction fabric world I've come across some Blocks of the Month designs that may interest you. Perfect for your reproduction stashes---or buy new fabric.
Pam Buda's Star Spangled Liberty is a year old. A very clever set!

Maywood Studio has a new BOM with a similar name and an ambitious center.

Kim Diehl's Pride & Joy is also new---6 months.

Carol Hopkins's It's Not a Square should be fun. 
If it's 57" across how big are those rectangles!
UPDATE: Karen says 4" x 5"!

More about what I'm planning here for 2018 next week. Antebellum Album will be 12 pieced blocks with monthly stories.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Grant Banner Quilt

Banner Quilt made for General Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War
by the Ladies' Social Circle of Eureka, California.
Collection of the Clarke Museum in Eureka.

Every couple of years the Clarke Historical Museum shows this fragile quilt. It's been on display this summer, coming down today, September 2, 2017. Humboldt County Quilts Over Time is showing over two dozen quilts from the Clarke Museum’s collection.

The center inscription:
"To Lieutenant General U.S. Grant, U.S.A. From the Ladies' Social Circle of Eureka, Humboldt Co. California."
It's been well documented. Kaaren Beaver Buffington published an article in Uncoverings 2004: "A Quilt for General Grant: A Local Response to a National Need, Humboldt County, the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the Great Civil War."

The Museum's notes:
"Before he became a Civil War hero and the 18th president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant served as a young captain at Fort Humboldt in Eureka from 1853 to 1854. In 1865 [Probably 1864] , to honor the famous former resident, members of the Ladies Social Circle of Eureka made a patriotic-themed quilt, which they auctioned off to raise money for wounded veterans."
Hand-stitched of red, white and blue silk, the quilt displays an American flag for every state in the then-reunited union. A center medallion of gold thread shows an eagle and the quilt’s dedication to the Civil War victorious Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. After the funds were raised, the “Grant-Banner Quilt” was sent to Grant along with a letter, and this brought a thank-you note from Grant himself. In 1991, the Grant family returned the quilt to Humboldt County, entrusting it to the Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka."

It seems that the quilt was exhibited at the San Francisco Christian Commission fair in August, 1864, and sent to Grant after the War was over. Grant thanked the ladies in July, 1866.

Mrs. Thomas Day, 630 Harrison Street, San Francisco---
Dear Madame: I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of the beautiful quilt, the handiwork of yourself and other loyal California ladies, which was voted to me by an ever generous public. Let me assure you that I duly appreciate this token of remembrance of the citizens of California, among whom I had the privilege of living for a brief period in past years.
Yours, very truly, U.S. Grant
The quilt alluded to was exhibited at the Christian Commission Fair, held at Union Hall last year and the General received the greatest number of votes-each visitor being allowed one vote in the disposition of the elegant testimonial.
Clarke Museum Curator Ben Brown was interviewed in the Eureka Times Standard:
"Grant was stationed at Fort Humboldt from 1853 to 1854 and several members of the Eureka Ladies’ Sewing Circle decided to make a quilt in 1864 to honor the general (and future president) for his efforts. During the Civil War, local quilters got together, made the quilt, auctioned it off quite a few times,” Brown said. “Basically, they had a fundraiser. People gave the money but didn’t get the quilt and they kept doing that. Money raised was donated to the U.S. Sanitary Commission and U.S. Christian Commission."
The newspaper went on:
"According to museum signage, after the fundraising auctions wrapped up, the all-silk quilt was mailed to Grant and eventually passed on to his youngest son, Jessie Grant, then his son, Major Chapman Grant, and finally to Mabel Grant Hazard, Grant’s great-granddaughter. After Hazard’s death, her husband and children decided the quilt should be returned to Humboldt County, so they donated it to the Clarke Museum in 1991."