Thursday, August 28, 2008

Review: african american quilting; The warmth of tradition

by sule greg c. wilson. Rosen publishing group, inc., 1999. In my recent quest for books on how to machine quilt I found this one at the library. It's an introduction to the history of African American quilting written for middle grade and up readers. Topics include an explanation of what quilting is, the history of quilting from a world-wide perspective ("there is evidence of cotton cloth in southwestern Asia between 3000 and 2500 BC"), textile work in Africa ("there is evidence that cotton cloth was being produced in the upper Nile Valley between 500 BC and AD 300"), quilting in America, and quilting today. The illustrations are photographs of quilts from museum collections, detailed examples of West African fabric samples, clothing decoration styles, and people quilting alone or in groups.

Mention is made of the theory of quilts being signals on the underground railroad. I have heard mixed ideas about whether this is accurate or not, with experts coming down on both sides, so I am not sure of the scholarship of this point. The book mentions that certain patterns of quilts hung outside safe houses could be markers for slaves running to freedom. Harriet Tubman was a quilter as well as a conductor on the underground railroad. Other well known African American quilters from previous centuries include Harriet Powers, a famous "story quilter" born in Georgia in 1837. She is known for her "Bible quilts", which told stories from the Bible. Elizabeth Keckley is another African American quilter. She was able to earn money sewing while a slave, supporting her family and the family of her owner. She bought freedom for herself and her son in1855. She later became seamstress and quilter for Mary Todd Lincoln. Martha Ann Ricks, and American that emigrated to Liberia in the nineteenth century, made a quilt for Queen Victoria as a gift from herself and Jane Ricks, the wife of the president of Liberia in 1892.

The final section of the book focuses on quilts of today, drawing in threads from southern quilting bees to the Civil Rights movement. Did you know Rosa Parks was a quilter?

There is a glossary and further resource list at the back of the book. This book would be a good addition to a library or home.

I am enrolled in graduate school for my Library Science degree now, in a two year online program. I've ordered my textbooks and joined the discussion boards. I am afraid I'll have to put my sewing machine away and push my interest in quilting to the back of my mind. Here's a few more pictures of what I've done the past two weeks:

orange bars quilt on the swing

Here's the orange bars quilt out in the sunshine on my porch swing. There was a nip in the air yesterday morning and we enjoyed a snuggle under it. After I washed and dried it the quilting puckered up and made it quite cozy. Here's the blue and green one:

bule green rail fence quilt on the swing

Folded up and put away:

100% cotton quilts


Leah said...

Your Quilts are absolutely lovely, beautiful colours. You must be very pleased with them. The photos outside really do them justice. Gorgeous!

mayhem said...

They are both beautiful, but the orange/fall one is my favorite! It looks perfect for the change of seasons. Apparently I'm ready for fall-- those colors are really appealing to me right now!

Jane said...

Gorgeous quilts! Did you find the patterns in that book? If not, where? Also, congrats on enrolling in the MLS program. I am also in the process of applying to the U of I program. Best of luck.

Cloudscome said...

Thanks for all the kind words for my quilts. Jane I actually made the patterns up based on others I have seen online. The first one is a "rail fence" pattern with only two blocks, one large and one 1/3 the width. The second one is based on the "Chinese Coins" traditional pattern. If you google those terms you will find patterns I'm sure. I just look at pictures of patterns, read the directions if I have them, and make it fit what materials I have on hand or the size I want. They turn out different every time of course!

Anonymous said...

I was very much into quilting until I began Library school. I packed everything away when I realized something that brought me so much pleasure was becoming a source of stress. I received my degree a few years ago. I have an entire closet filled with battings, fabrics, stencils and other supplies yet, I don't have a box filled with time! I miss that creative outlet.

e.beck.artist said...

have you ever seen the quilts from gees bend? they were in the high museum in atlanta and were beyond fabulous!