Valentine’s Day, The Civil War, and Quilts
At our house, our televisions are mostly silent – we’ve given up cable and use Netflix or online viewing (and only very rarely). Because this form of entertainment uses up costly bandwidth we read a lot more or play games or listen to audiobooks and music. I recently was able to get a digital version of The Civil War Love Letter Quilt borrowed through my local library and thought that my visitors might find it as interesting as I did.
The American Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865, which correlates with the time that Grace Marks would have been in jail and (hypothetically) making the quilt blocks in the Atwood book. As quilt block patterns then were mostly passed along from friends and family the designs, if not the names, would have been similar throughout North America. The Civil War Love Letter Quilt uses letters sent from men engaged in battle in one form or another to their loved ones back home, and takes a phrase from each letter to name a quilt block. The blocks are traditional and contemporary but the names all seem to be new.
It’s a fascinating read, because it features letters from men who are instructing their families from afar, dealing with death and disease themselves, some of whom die before reaching their loved ones again. One fellow signed up for battle and didn’t even go home to say to tell his family and say goodbye – and later died on the battlefield. There are various instances of men’s ideas of what women were supposed to represent at the time: fragility, flightiness, home-serving, pure. It’s not an ideal pattern book if you are looking for modern-day sewing patterns but if you have some reproduction period fabrics and like to create quilt blocks the old fashioned way, this book will be right up your alley. Any of the blocks would be fantastic in any fabric design, though – there are 121 patterns to be foundation pieced or pieced by hand or machine and I can picture them in the fabrics from Grace’s time or modern batiks.
These love letters from a distant era are a great way to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit and get acquainted with life as a Civil War soldier, with the added bonus of dreaming of the quilts you’d make with the blocks from each featured letter.
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!