Quilts From The Civil War by Barbara Brackman

ISBN 1-57120-033-9, Softcover, 128 pages, $25.95, C&T Publishing

When I received my review copy, I immediately contacted some of the quilters I know and ask if one of them would like to review this book because they were more knowledgeable in that subject than me.  One quilter said yes and used it for a lecture at her local quilting meeting but then never seemed to have time to write a review.  The other two quilters were too busy.  What kind of response is that?  Quilts from The Civil War, I never would have guessed I would be reading this book or get real excited about it since I am not a quilter.  Was I surprised!

In her introduction, quilt historian, Brackman indicates the quilt patterns can be copied, adapted or used as inspiration for new interpretations.   Brackman had a brilliant idea when she included a Timeline of the American Civil War.  The Timeline gave me an overview of historical events leading to, during and after the Civil War.  I had forgotten so much since studying history in school, it was like a mini refresher course.  Squeezed in between all the political events are notes about beginning paper pattern making and other sewing tidbits.

I had no idea so many quilts were made in the United States during this time or their historical impact.  Most of us have or had mothers, grandmothers, and maybe great grandmothers that quilted, but do most of us non-quilters think past the beautiful quilts they made, about the historical nature of a quilt?  Not!

It never entered my mind that quilters actively participated in the abolition of slavery, taking part in anti-slavery activities such as donating handmade items for fund-raising, holding anti-slavery fairs and speaking and writing against slavery and sending petitions to Congress.  Brackman discusses misconceptions and ideas surrounding the Underground Railroad.       

The fabrics and their fiber content are covered in detail along with old photographs of people wearing those fabrics.  The need for handmade goods for the men are discussed, both Union and Confederate, and the many women that also supplied runaway slaves with clothing and other necessities to survive.  Quilts made by slave women and their stories are discussed, as well as those made by women of the Union and Confederate states.  Photographs and stories hit home the suffering of a nation.

Although I only see nine projects listed in the Table of Contents, I counted more than 12 throughout the book.  Each project is a replica of a quilt pattern created during this period of our history and complete instructions, templates or patterns, fabric requirements, cutting and sewing and any additional items unique to that quilt for finishing are included.  Color photos go with each project.  The history of each pattern and specific pieces are provided.  Quilt patterns vary from flag motifs to combination quilts of Union and Confederate motifs to stars, figures and other items that symbolized that period.

Looking through the pages of all the quilts tells an emotional story in itself; pain and suffering of all people, slavery, patriotism and quilt creativity of women of that time.  This is definitely a book for quilters in all aspects, but also of historical interest to the many non-quilters who identify with crafters in all mediums and appreciate the history we continue to create with our hands and spirits.