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.