Friday, December 28, 2018

Quiltmaking as a Necessity

Not every quilt made by our foremothers was a piece of beauty. Some were utilitarian and so necessary to ward off the cold in log cabins or sod houses or clapboard houses with no insulation in the walls. Often, they were constructed of the scraps left from when dresses or shirts were cut from whole cloth or the salvageable parts of ripped or worn clothing. Many quilts were of uneven fabric weights and the corners of the squares didn’t exactly match, but on a cold night, any cover was welcomed.

Some women (apologies to anyone whose male ancestor was a quilter) enjoyed a higher standard of living and purchased yard goods for the express purpose of designing and sewing a quilt. Those are the items that have most often been passed down within families or which have survived more than a hundred years and are curated in a museum. Women used quilts as an outlet for their creativity—inventing patterns around sights or events important to their lives. Patterns are named Rocky Road to California, Flying Geese, Tumbling Blocks, Mariner’s Compass, and Pinwheel.

In my latest release, Freedom’s Path, I included a plot thread of how quilts were used on The Underground Railroad. Although a federal law existed that forbade people from aiding an escaped slave, many people disagreed with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1852. Not much could be done if a slave was apprehended because the bounty hunters wanted their fee, as did the crooked judges. But abolitionist women set out quilts either on a fence or hung them on a clothesline to be a signal to escaping slaves as to which path was the safest and/or if the way was clear for them to proceed farther along the route. After reading Hidden in Plain View about these efforts, I couldn’t wait to include this fact in a story.

Abolitionist Sidonie Demers must keep her efforts secret in her work as a mail at the Deerbourne Inn. Corporal Colin Crawford searches for abolitionist activity while posing as a salesman. What will happen when their secret identities are revealed?

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