There’s a lovely thrill to opening a parcel of fabrics! I treated myself to a batch of 10 Moda fat quarters from the winter sale section of kalquilts – www.kalquilts.com/maincategory/Winter_Sale . The range of fabrics called ‘Perennials’ is quite old now and fits into the category of ‘reproduction Civil War prints’ -which I just love! It’s the deep warm tones and ditsy prints that appeal to me.
I think these were in the sale partly because the range is old and partly because this style of print is not ‘on trend’ (a phrase I heard last year when shopping for bridesmaids dresses with daughter and friends!). Just a quick glance across the covers of quilting magazines at the newsagents leaves no doubt as to the present dominance of modern bright, geometric prints. Look inside the magazines and most of the new fabric ranges are a variation on the modern style.
I’m not anti these types of prints at all and I really get wowed by the beautiful, bright photos other bloggers post of their latest fabrics and quilts but somehow they remain for me something to be admired but not used. This has saved me some money over the past months as I’ve been able to resist temptation and replace the magazines back on the shelves!
A check back through some of the magazines I’ve kept (hoarded?) confirms just how much the trends in fabric colours and prints have changed over the past five years. In 2009 when I first caught the patchwork and quilting bug the Civil War tones and patterns were very much on trend. Perhaps the association I have with them and the first books and magazines I read over and over again as I started out are another reason why I find myself returning to them? Maybe also the change of season – warmer, darker tones fit into the picture of snuggling down on the sofa under a quilt with the curtains closed and a fire flickering…
So, looking at my growing stash of Civil War fabrics and wondering how to use them got me searching for some information about the original quilts of the American Civil War. First things first a bit of history – gleaned from an excellent, brief, overview at www.civilwar.org/education/history/civil-war-overview/overview.html The Civil War began in 1861 and lasted four years. It was about forging a united nation without slavery. A Confederation of United States in the south opposed this plan and as a result over 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the War.
Where did quilts come into all this? Well, at the start of the war women, mainly in the North, who had been in the habit of making and selling quilts to support local churches and charities began making and selling quite elaborate quilts (some made of silk) to raise funds for the army. Women in the south did similar although they were hampered first by inexperience at ‘utility’ sewing (previously household slaves and servants would have been doing most of this) and by a lack of supplies as the Union Army cut off trade routes to the Confederacy. As the war progressed supplies and money began to run out on both sides and making quilts to raise funds was no longer economical. Instead quilts were made from homespun fabrics, re-cycled quilts and clothing (even the clothes soldiers had left at home when they went to war). These quilts were distributed directly to soldiers. Although a few of these quilts are still in existence most were destroyed partly due to the poor quality of the materials used and the heavy usage they received and also due to the practice of wrapping the bodies of soldiers in their quilts for burial. I found lots more information about the fabrics and quilts at www.barbarabrackman.blogspot.co.uk (she is an expert on old fabrics and quilts) and at www.womenfolk.com under ‘Civil War quilts’.
Apologies to anyone ‘across the pond’ reading this potted history – I am more than happy to have my knowledge of American history expanded (it couldn’t get too much smaller!).
I have searched on line for quilt designs suited to the Civil War reproduction fabrics and found plenty of links but can’t quite make up my mind – a quilt made of repeats of one or two blocks seems a likely choice – maybe a churn dash block or a star with a nine-patch? Take a look on my Pinterest board – www.pinterest.com/hochlandlass/civil-war-quilts/ for what I’ve found so far. I’d be very glad to receive your suggestions and links. Thank you!