Friday, 20 July 2012

Underground Railroad Sampler Quilt


This 'Underground Railroad Sampler' by Eleanor Burns
was my first shared quilting project - and it's been so much fun!

It's thought that slaves escaping from America's southern states
were guided to freedom by signs hidden in quilts they found
slung over fences or windowsills, seemingly to air. 
The patterns and colours were thought to hold directions and
 warnings to help fugitives reach the safety of Canada.
Quilts airing on a fence were a common sight, so neither the plantation
owner nor the overseer noticed anything suspicious

Some do question whether quilts were used in this way,
but what isn't in doubt is that a lot of people
risked their own lives to help others find freedom.


Finding the pattern was easy - group leader Jenny ordered it from the internet. Finding the fabric might be trickier....

Civil War fabrics are hard to find in the UK because tastes are different. 
We do order from the US on the internet - but tax and postage are a killer!
I'm not a fan of buying fabric I haven't seen and touched.

Buying from a single range produced by a manufacturer
you already know seems the best way forward, but,
having said that, I do love an element of unpredictability,
and would not want to go the 'range' route every time...

Anyone identify with this?

Looked for UK suppliers on the internet and found a couple who
 had odd bits, but we struck it lucky at Patchwork Chicks,
just twenty miles away in Barrowford.
Great to find that the girls are into the Civil War over there!

Charged with choosing the fabric, a few of us crossed
the Pennines into Lancashire.
Yardage worked out, money in hand, we walked purposefully
into the shop - and got totally sidetracked.
Too much to take in! Too many quilts, bags, wall-hangings...

Finished hyperventilating and got down to business.
Chose Moda's  Warm Memories range
 by Kansas Troubles

The group loved it too, thank goodness!
Such a responsibility parting with someone else's cash!

Fifteen patches of varying difficulty, fifteen volunteers keen to have a go

Group leader Jenny organised the distribution of patterns and
 fabric, and it was exciting to see some absolute
beginners and some who hadn't quilted for a while getting involved.

Fancied doing the Bear's Paw block
Loved the fabric choice, and it was so nice to make!

Folks, it was square - honest!
The camera does a fish-eye thing...

A number of people began searching the net for
supporting info and found some fun patterns - more on that later!
Books about the era were passed around, including one about
activist and former slave, Harriet Tubman.
 After escaping the slavery into which she was born, she rescued
 more than 70 slaves using the network of antislavery activists and
safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

It's a fascinating story - check it out on

Harriet (born Araminta) is the Minty mentioned in the notice below


Connie said...

Wow!!! What an amazing post. Bravo!!! The story about the underground railroad quilts was so interesting. It makes me want to do more research on the subject. I love this story. These people that helped the slaves were saints or angels in disguise. Your quilt is awesome. Hallelujah! Have a wonderful weekend. Connie :)

Lizzie P said...

Thanks, Connie - hope you enjoyed your holiday!

Jo Allen said...

Really fascinating story. Love how quilts wete used for so much more than keeping people snuggly! Hope you and Uncle Al are ok.

Connie said...

Hi Lizzie, thanks for the sweet comment. In answer to your question about my camera. I have two cameras this one is an Olympus E-500. It has interchangeable lens. My other is limited to a fixed lens, it is a Nikon COOLPIX 8700. I almost sold it to a friend last year . . . and then was so happy when she decided to not buy it. It is smaller and with the fixed lens it is much easier to pack around with me. I've had it for a longtime now and I do not intent on ever think about parting with it again. Now that I'm a blogger, it is nice to have a smaller camera that you can carry easily. Have a great week, Connie :)

Karen said...

How funny and the fabric is perfect!

Lizzie P said...

So glad you like the quilt, girls! Will post some photos of the group putting it together.