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Thread: underground railroad quilt

  1. #1
    Senior Member ncsewer's Avatar
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    A couple of years ago I got a book that gives the history of the underground railroad and there is a quilt that goes with it. Certain blocks meant certain things so people that supported the underground would hang particular quilts to communicate with those that were fleeing.
    The colors are all browns and tans and that's not my style, but I'm intregued by the story and just love reading the book. Has anyone made one of these quilts and what else do you know about the quilts and the story? Is this a true story or something that's been embellished over time? Does anyone have a quilt that is said to have been used for this and want to share the story?

  2. #2

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    I have taught a couple of classes on this topic making blocks from Eleanor Burns book: Underground Railroad Sampler; there is some controversy with this topic and no known hard facts to substansiate that quilts were used to navigate the underground railroad; however, there is evidence that the information was passed down verbally via stories; at any rate the underground RR is a part of our history and there is a possibility that some did use the quilts as part of the Underground RR; but whether you believe the stories, or not enjoy the process of making the blocks;

  3. #3
    Super Member dotcomdtcm's Avatar
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    I think it's true. I also read that book & Jennfer Chiavareli uses the story in one of her books.

  4. #4
    bj
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    Super Member bj's Avatar
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    If search this site for URR quilts, several folks here have done them.
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-10116-1.htm
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-22541-1.htm

    These are a couple to get you started.

  5. #5
    Senior Member humbird's Avatar
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    There's a lot of arguments on this subject. Some say it is NOT true, others say it IS true. I enjoy the stories, and the quilts that go with them, there fore, I choose to believe it is true. I also believe in the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Clause, because I enjoy all those stories. I think everyone just needs to make up their own minds. Do you plan to make any of the quilts? You could change to colors to your own liking. Enjoy!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bj
    If search this site for URR quilts, several folks here have done them.
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-10116-1.htm
    http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-22541-1.htm

    These are a couple to get you started.
    What beautiful quilts. I'm going to get the pattern and make one myself. And...I believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny too. LOL

  7. #7
    Super Member jljack's Avatar
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    I think sometimes people discount history they don't want to acknowledge by denying it ever happened. I believe the stories of quilts used as signals for illiterate escaped slaves are true. It would be just like some of our clever quilting sisters to come up with such a scheme. How innocent would a quilt hung out to dry appear?

  8. #8
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    i made 2 underground railroad sampler quilts, one in 1800's repo fabrics (which i have to be honest and say is still blocks, some with sashing strips living in a pizza box) the 2nd one i made in 1930's fabrics, white back ground...it turned out very pretty and was sold i think the day i finished it and showed it off at a little festival in town...the darker one? well, every once in awhile i get the box out, look through the blocks and think...i should finish this some day; problem with that one? well, the fabric i decided to use for sashing...not enough...and maybe...just not my thing....some day maybe i'll just send it off to someone else to do something with...hmmmmmm there is a thought.

  9. #9
    Super Member dotcomdtcm's Avatar
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    Addie, The American Girl doll who is a freed slave has a quilt.
    It's a real beauty. We love AG dolls in this house. My girls read every book & still do!

  10. #10
    Power Poster CarrieAnne's Avatar
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    My DD always loved the American Girl stuff too, now my neice does as well. When they get those free catalogs, they practically drool, lol!

  11. #11
    Super Member brushandthimble's Avatar
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    I made the quilt, it only needs to be quilted. The last time I looked at it I did not like the last border, so some adjustment may need to be made.

    I BELIEVE, and have read the book on the story.

  12. #12
    Senior Member rismstress's Avatar
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    Barbara Brackman wrote a book on the story of the underground railroad quilts. She is a quilt historian and her work is so good. I don't have the book in front of me, but you can get it on Amazon.

  13. #13
    Member sarahbelle's Avatar
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    My LQS just started a block of the month with blocks from Eleanor Burns' book.

    I have half of my first block put together and went and picked up the second block just today!

  14. #14
    Zoe
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    I read with interest the story of the Underground Quilts, and for what it's worth, here's what my mother and grandmother told me. We are from the bayous of Louisiana, and my grandmother would tell me that whenever there was someone with a contagious illness in the family, they would hang a quilt with a yellow symbol on the wall or the hedge. That was the universal sign of contagion and it meant "stay away". Conversely, if they were receiving visitors, a quilt with the pineapple design would be draped on the porch railing, the pineapple being the universal symbol of hospitality.

    I agree with the poster who chooses to believe these stories, because a lot of family lore, myths, and stories are passed down by oral tradition. Slaves, and many poor whites, were not taught to read or to write in those times.

  15. #15
    Member armywife's Avatar
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    I got the Burns book years ago, but haven't made the blocks yet. I made a virtual UGRR quilt in EQ.

    I do believe the stories. There was a discussion on another board about this topic and one of the posts came from a woman whose gg-grandmother was a Quaker in Ohio and verified the story

  16. #16
    Super Member raptureready's Avatar
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    When I first joined this board there was a BIG OL' debate going on about the truth of UGRR quilts. Doesn't matter what the truth is (and we'll never know for sure) it's a matter of what you choose to believe. Make the quilt, enjoy it. To me, it's kind of like most stories, part of it was probably true but a lot of myth has probably been tossed in too. Once again, make your quilt, enjoy it, and build your own stories as you go.

  17. #17
    Senior Member ncsewer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raptureready
    When I first joined this board there was a BIG OL' debate going on about the truth of UGRR quilts. Doesn't matter what the truth is (and we'll never know for sure) it's a matter of what you choose to believe. Make the quilt, enjoy it. To me, it's kind of like most stories, part of it was probably true but a lot of myth has probably been tossed in too. Once again, make your quilt, enjoy it, and build your own stories as you go.
    I went in and searched the archives and read those comments. I had forgotten I could search on it. I also went online and did a search and read some of the different sites. Quite interesting the different points of view! I think that there is probably some truth in there and lots of add ons and embellishing as we went along. Thanks for all the thoughts. Now to pick some colors, I don't want the dark colors, so something a little brighter will catch my eye I'm sure.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by twinquilter
    I have taught a couple of classes on this topic making blocks from Eleanor Burns book: Underground Railroad Sampler; there is some controversy with this topic and no known hard facts to substansiate that quilts were used to navigate the underground railroad; however, there is evidence that the information was passed down verbally via stories; at any rate the underground RR is a part of our history and there is a possibility that some did use the quilts as part of the Underground RR; but whether you believe the stories, or not enjoy the process of making the blocks;
    no quilt historian believes this to be true - it's called an urban myth

  19. #19
    Super Member brushandthimble's Avatar
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    no quilt historian believes this to be true - it's called an urban myth[/quote]

    Well I am not a quilt historian. I have read a few reasons why they disbelieve. Myths usually a at least a grain of truth in them.
    As mention we make our own choice in what to believe.
    I WANT to believe, so I do.

  20. #20
    Super Member deranged_damsel's Avatar
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    I have been to the underground quilt museum in "the underground" in ATlanta, GA. WOW!!! I certainly recomend a visit if anyone happens to be in the area!

  21. #21
    Google Goddess craftybear's Avatar
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    Eleanor Burns has an underground railroad pattern book

  22. #22
    Google Goddess craftybear's Avatar
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    you can buy her books on Amazon and get them used

    http://www.amazon.com/Underground-Ra.../dp/1891776134

  23. #23
    Google Goddess craftybear's Avatar
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    I have bought books on Amazon and very pleased with the books, service, etc.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Deara's Avatar
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    Here is the link to the one I made.

    http://www.quiltingboard.com/t-25502-1.htm

    Blessings to you,
    Sandi

  25. #25
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    A few yrs ago I visited the Underground RR Quilt Museum in Atlanta. I knew the stories and controversies about the stories. The granddaughter of the quilter who originally told the stories owned the museum and store. Her family quilts were hanging around the walls. In her explanation of the blocks she pointed to the "Sunbonet Sue" block and said that meant for the escapee to wear a white woman's bonnet so they would not be noticed. Now the Sunbonet Sue was not "invented" until the 1930's. I found this interesting and left.

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