Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Civil War Quilt Block Seven—Log Cabin

Now, though the power came back on within a day or so (though, alas, not quickly enough to save the food in the fridge, well, except the ketchup which I never realized does not actually need to be refrigerated), the internet stubbornly stayed away till just last night.

I know, I know, oh the horrors of the modern age! Whatever shall I do!?!

Turns out I got rather a lot done without that habitual mindsuck. Funny, that.

But I couldn't look up the next block in Barbara Brackman's Civil War Quilt-a-long, though I knew it was called Richmond, and that it was complicated. I sketched a picture of the way I remembered it, but I wasn't sure (turns out I had it just fine, actually). So I skipped ahead a bit, because I knew there was a Log Cabin coming.

She connects the Log Cabin block with both Abraham Lincoln (it was his birthday week when the post was originally run), and with Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, which was instrumental in fuelling the Abolitionist cause.

I changed my Log Cabin block around a little, as the version Brackman gives is a little too simple for my tastes. I made the center looking-down-the-chimney-at-the-fire-in-the-fireplace block smaller, though it is of course still the traditional red (sorry, Santa—not safe!). I also made it into a Courthouse Steps version, as I thought the usual half square triangle Log Cabin would look kind of odd and unbalanced all by itself. I guess I think of Log Cabin blocks more as pieces of things than things themselves.

Anyway, here it is:

I decided also not to do the usual light and dark, but just went with blue and brown, both about the same in value. I'm really liking this darkish color palette, and may have to adjust a couple blocks to fit. I guess we'll see.

Civil War Quilt Block Five—Kansas Troubles

The next block, number five, in Barbara Brackman's Civil War Quilt a-long is called Kansas Troubles. She links this design with the tensions in Kansas when it was admitted to the Union; the voters there had a choice to pick whether Kansas would be a free state or a slave state (they chose to be a free state). Though the design goes back to before the Civil War, she points out that the name itself is only found in print from about 1890.

I stitched the first of these two a few days ago. But when I got it done I didn't like it:

The thing with sawtooth borders is that the two fabrics have to have sufficient contrast to work. In theory the dark brown should have shown up against the reddish medium brown just fine, but with the little paramecium spots on the dark brown it looks like little bites have been taken out of the teeth and it just doesn't read well. So I made another.

The second one I cut out by the fading daylight on Sunday, during the hurricane when we had no power. There isn't anything wrong with my handwork, and in fact I rather like sewing by hand, but since I'd done the rest of them on the machine I waited till the next day when the power was back to sew it, as I want them to all look consistent.

Here's the second version, which I like much better:

Contemplating this pattern it reminded me rather uncannily of another pattern I'd been seeing around the last couple of days:

So I wondered if maybe the original 'Kansas Troubles' referred to a tornado? The sawtooth border looks rather like the little flags meteorologists use to indicate a cold front, don't you think? They're even blue. Which I guess means my little quilted tornado is rotating counterclockwise, just like the real things.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Civil War Quilt Block Four—Texas Tears

And here's my version of the fourth block from Barbara Brackman's Civil War quilt-a-long, Texas Tears. I guess TTTT is for Texas. They think big down there, so I hear.

This block was complicated enough that I spent most of my brainpower trying to make sure it went together correctly. It mostly did, though I wish I'd caught the two swapped dark triangles; it would have been nice if the wiggly lines of the black were all horizontal. Oh well. Also I'm not sure about the colors. I mean I like the block itself, but I'm not sure it's going to match the indigo and black walnut color scheme I've sort of fallen into, and which I really really love.

If I were to do it again I think I'd cut some of the little triangles differently so that the right angle sides to them were on the square, not the bias, as it's just so easy to get everything wonky with that many biases in the thing. Still, though, I like it, especially the way I cut the stripes in the center square. I might try it again with the stripes the other way to form concentric squares.

Doing these blocks, while keeping the information Brackman provides in mind, has reminded me just how much I don't know about some things. Like Texas. Rattlesnakes, Houston, Mike Nesmith, Twisty Faster: that's about all I know of the place. And I suppose, to be honest, I hadn't missed it, up here in Massachusetts, where, though we're not dinky little Rhode Island, ho golly no, still, things are properly small and cozy here.

Although I guess that's not true. I have heard of Juneteenth, also called Emancipation Day. It commemorates the day, June 19th, 1865, when Texas finally got wind of the Emancipation Proclamation, given by Lincoln on September 22nd, 1862, and which officially went into effect on January 1st, 1863. Yeaaaah. Bit of a gap there, I notice. But I'm sure it's just that those nice nice Texas slaveowners simply honestly forgot to tell anyone, what with the one thing or the other. Slipped their minds, sure.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Civil War Quilt Block Three

And now the third in Barbara Brackman's Civil War quilt-a-long, which apparently had more than a couple people gasping because it involved—quelle horreur—appliqué. Fetch me my smelling salts.

Now I'm not saying my appliqué is perfect, though, really, I'm not sure how anyone can get those points pointy enough; but it looks nice and handmade, I think. I cut the backing square a quarter of an inch larger and then trimmed it, as I know that appliqué (especially just done in the air and without a hoop, like how I did it) can gather up the fabric a bit, and I didn't want it to be too small. I did end up trimming it a little.

This one is called Seven Sisters, and is based off an early flag for the Confederacy, with the seven stars representing the first seven states to secede: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

I assume that the title 'Seven Sisters' also references the Pleiades star cluster somewhere along the line. In Greek myth those stars were literally seven sisters, the daughters of Pleione, one of the Okeanids; their names were Maia (the mother of Hermes), Taygete, Asterope, Merope, Alcyone, Electra, and Kelaino, that last name shared with one of the Harpies. It is an old motif, certainly.

So as I stitched it I thought about each state in turn, and was surprised by how much I didn't know about them. Though I'm guessing that three of them—Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana, were actually named after kings, which is kinda funny given how anti-monarchy the colonies turned out to be.

And I thought of the story Brackman tells about nineteen-year old Sarah Morgan in Baton Rouge, and how she sewed and then wore a Confederacy flag as an act of rebellion when the Union occupied the city; and I thought, What a little snot. I mean, okay, nineteen year olds aren't generally known for being mature, I suppose; and yeah, it's what she knew, but still. What a privileged, entitled, little snot.

Civil War Quilt Block Two

So here's my version of the second block in Barbara Brackman's Civil War quilt-a-long, North Star.

This post to go with this block is about the Abolitionists in the North, as well as the North Star, Polaris, which surely must have provided a guide for escaping slaves.

There are a lot of people joining in with this quilt-a-long. There is even a Flickr group, which I plan to join when I can figure out how on this old browser. And at first I planned to alternate one block from the beginning with one block from the end, back and forth, so that I could at least kept up with the others in some way; but now I'm thinking that the order in which these are made is important, too. Because I know storytelling when I see it.

In making this second block, North Star, which Brackman is linking with the Abolitionists, right after the first one, Catch Me If You Can, which she uses to highlight the stories of escaping slaves, I found myself thinking about my own opinion of the Civil War. Now I like history; but the type I've usually been most interested in has been ancient history, like that of Rome, or of Egypt, or the Etruscans or Celts.

I'm a northerner, myself, a born New Englander, and I live in a two hundred and fifty year old colonial, the kind with the great central chimney. When I think of local wars, the Civil War isn't the first one that comes to mind. It's the Revolutionary War, or even King Philip's War, some of which took place very locally to me. So I haven't thought much about the Civil War. There are no Civil War battlefields anywhere near me that I know of. But I know which houses in the central village of my town were Tory houses, and I know that the garrison in Swansea, just over the river from me, was burnt down in King Philip's War.

So there's a distance to it. And, it is true, that distance means I think about it in rather simplistic terms. As in, my side, the North, was the right side, and theirs, the South, was the wrong side.

Now I don't actually believe that isn't true, complicated reality or not; for me it does boil down to South = slavery, North = doesn't. When I was in eighth grade, I think, I was taught that the primary reason for the Civil War wasn't necessarily slavery, but was economics; at the time I just said, Oh, and nodded, thinking that it was more complicated than it seemed; now, however, I know that calling it the very distant and sanitary-sounding 'economics' really makes no never mind when the economy of the South was based on slavery.

I think, actually, it is important to judge some things. An abusive person's version of an incident is not to be given the same weight, the same benefit of the doubt as what his victim says to be true; nor, I think, is it right to just say, Well that's how people thought at the time. Reading Huckleberry Finn in high school, I, like everyone else in my nearly all-white class, assumed that the copious use of the N-word in that book was simply reflecting how the word was ubiquitous at the time. That is true, I think, but my further assumption that since it was just what they called Black people at the time it was morally neutral was not true. It was as racist a word then as it is now. I think it is important to not lose sight of things like that.

I had no idea making a quilt would spark such musings. I really like this.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Civil War Block

Yeah, okay, I know, I'm real late to this party. But for some reason this week I found myself looking at Civil War reproduction fabric and falling in love with the designs. To modern eyes they just look so quirky, and not what I would have thought 'old-fashioned' fabric would look like at all. Also I'm in love with the colors, having done some natural dyeing myself. Oh, not that the reproductions are actually madder or indigo (or, thank the Gods, some of the literally poisonous dyes), being modern versions of the colors, which means they don't have that incredible depth that natural dyes give; still, they're just gorgeous.

So I've decided to join in on Barbara Brackman's Civil War Quilts block of the week quilt-a-long. I know, it's August now. Yes, she started in January. I have a bit of catching up to do. But one mustn't argue with the Muse.

So here's my version of the first block, Catch Me If You Can:

I really like that she is using these quilt blocks to tie together tales from the Civil War; she uses this first block, with its evocative (if somewhat modern) name, to remind us of the slaves who escaped, or who attempted to escape. It strikes me as proper, and honorable, to start a quilt about the Civil War with that: with centering the experience of the slaves.

I found I was very mindful of the stories of the slaves as I was making this block, and that is a good thing. This is going to be interesting.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Yo-Yoing Along

Just a quick note before I give the kitten his meds and then collapse into bed. I got another twenty-one yo-yos done tonight, bringing the total up to an even 250, which makes 24.8% of them done.