Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Friendship Quilts

In the last post I mentioned a book by Linda Otto Lipsett, Remember Me, Women and Their Friendship Quilts, written in 1985. It has lovely photos of scrappy signature quilts along with stories of some of the women who made them.

I requested signature blocks from members of my Yahoo group while I was working on The Civil War Sewing Circle and was thrilled to be able to put them together into a quilt. Even more thrilling was the fact that this quilt appears on the cover of the book (see blog sidebar) as what I think is a wonderful tribute to women's sewing groups and the friendships that are formed within them.

If you look at the pattern in my book, you will see that I used 16 Star blocks (also made by members of the group) in the center, surrounded by the Signature blocks. I then added four more Star blocks in the corners to balance the quilt. A few Stars were left over and Bonnie  pieced these into the backing before she quilted it. What a lovely colorful, scrappy quilt it turned out to be!

According to Lipsett, friendship quilts were "a fad that spread throughout New England as well as along the entire eastern seacoast in the early 1840s. Thousands of friendship quilts were being made. In fact, so many were being made that a woman probably would have her name on at least one, if not several, of these quilts within her lifetime."

 "These friendship quilts were of the same simple patterns and techniques as the everyday scrap-bag quilts that they had begun learning to make by age four."

Soon the friendship quilt moved west, along with the women who were transported by their husbands and, "although patterns, fabrics and inked inscriptions varied from one region to another, America's friendship quilts were remarkably similar to each other." That is, they were primarily made from a one-block pattern repeated throughout the quilt.

I am in the midst of piecing my own blocks for a Signature Block Swap in my Yahoo group right now. I chose a simple nine-patch block similar to this one in the Lipsett book - but ours are reversed and will have signatures on the center square, made from muslin or a light print. Very simple and easy, the way I like it.

All the pieces are cut and I'm making most of the blocks from some of my favorite scraps that are left over from other quilts and so many of the blocks will be different. This takes a little longer than using the same fabrics for each one, but it's so much more fun!

In studying women's signature quilts from the nineteenth century, the author of Remember Me tells us, "Not until I made my own family  friendship quilt, however, did I realize the full depth of what I am doing - that in piecing blocks, gathering signatures, and signing cloth we are connecting with women's spirit of the past."

We could say the same for signature quilts made today and that is what is so special about quilts made in groups - the fact that you are connecting your spirit with the spirits of other women through your quilting. Or, in the case of online groups like my Yahoo group, the signed blocks allow us to connect with women we have never met, from all around our country and the world as well. Almost like a tribute to women and their signature quilts of the past. What a wonderful thing! I hope you all get a chance to participate in one someday.


Sue said...

I love this and I really need to get in there and chat in your group :0

It was fun making a collecting signature blocks almost two years ago from quilting bloggers. I've yet to sew up the quilt but it is on the to-do list!

Great post and I always love checking in here to visit :)


P.S. Thank you so much fir signing my Civil War Sewing Circles book:)

Kathleen C. said...

I came to your blog via onlydollquilts.blogspot, because I saw your post about Remember Me in her sidebar. Remember Me by Linda Otto Lipsett is one of my all time favorite books. My small local library has it, and I have checked it out often. Maybe more quilters could find the book through Interlibrary Loan through their libraries. Thanks for showing your signature blocks (another project on my list) and your lovely reproduction scraps.Now, I'll subscribe to the feed for your blog.

Impera_Magna said...

What a lovely idea... a friendship quilt! Or a family/friendship quilt with everyone in the family's signatures on it...

jolanda said...

This is so beautiful! 'spirits connecting'
I hope I can take part in such a friendship quilt someday.
Thanks for sharing, hugs jolanda

marian said...

a truly beautiful post, Kathy.
i feel so privileged to be part of your signature block swap.
what a thrill it will be to receive 50 signed blocks in return and piece them together in a timeless memory quilt.

Dorothy said...

Over the last couple of years I have been collecting signatures from everyone I have sewn with. I made up blocks and bought a good pen and carried a bag of them wherever I went. The quilt is away being quilted at the moment but I will put a photo of it on my blog when I get it back. [end of February]

Beginning Quilting said...

This is simply beautiful! A friendship quilt is indeed a great idea. Thanks for sharing! :)

annsquiltingjourney said...

Hello Kathleen, I wanted to let you know my book arrived today, "The Civil War Sewing Circle", I am thrilled with it. Congratulations, you must be so proud. I wish you all the very best, Ann ~ Australia.

Merilyn said...

I love your Friendship/Signature quilts, they are very personal items and beautifully put together, thankyou for sharing the story behind the one that Bonnie quilted for you! she did a lovely job!!!

Cheryl said...

My small scale quilt group is doing a signature block exchange at our Feb. meeting and we chose one of your blocks!!

Bonnie said...

Kathy -- thanks so much for the kind words and of course, the opportunity to quilt this very special quilt. I have to say making the backing of this particular quilt is the best use of extra blocks I've ever done. Mostly I piece bits and pieces of odd fabric together and go with it. And, thanks for the link -- I've had lots of visitors from here recently. Bonnie

Karen said...

Kathleen...your friendship quilts are such lovely keepsakes.
I so enjoy seeing your blocks pieced together. Your choices of fabrics and colors are beautiful and provide great inspiration for us all.
I know I would enjoy reading that book as well. I hope I can still find it available.
Thanks so much for sharing your joy of quilting with us.

terry said...

Just a few words to let you know how much I luv your new book. Got mine yesterday and haven't put it down. The quilts are yummy, the needful things are awesome, and the narrative is great. Don't know if I could have lived at that time - it's good that the womenfolk had their thread and needles. I know how they calm me.

Good job!!!!!

Terry in So. Calif.

kelley said...

Remember Me is one of my favorite books...seeing you post about it here I had to get it out to read again...

Another wonderful post...


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