Pam Weeks and Don Beld tell the stories of several Civil War era quilts. Quilts showcased in the first part of the book run the gamut from an elegant and beautifully quilted album quilt to Civil War soldier Stephen A. Lewis’ scrap quilt – a combination of old uniform and blanket pieces constructed while he was hospitalized in the Union Hospital, Louisville, Ky. Inscribed quilts and to this writer, the unusual “pot-holder quilts” are also described and explored in depth in the following chapters. Published in 2011, the 150th year of the beginning of the Civil War, Weeks and Beld provide a wonderful introduction to a few of the historic quilts that managed to survive both the War and the intervening years. The book’s Introduction provides a very readable, if brief, overview of the unpreparedness of soon-to-be soldiers, their families, and the governments of both North and South for the beginning and duration of the War. Civil War Quilts tells the stories of fourteen quilts and briefly highlights the lives of the individuals and organizations involved in their production.
A wonderful surprise awaits the reader – the second section of the book is a wonderfully developed How-To section. Consequently, today’s quilters can replicate the Civil War era quilts showcased in the first section of Civil War Quilts. Carefully crafted patterns and well written instructions make re-producing an antique quilt an easy and pleasurable effort for both experienced and novice quilters. Modern day quilters will be greatly helped in producing their Civil War replica by the colorful section designed to introduce today’s quilters to fabrics available before and during the Civil War. Fabric descriptions as well as dye options available and immediately prior to the Civil War are an aid to today’s experienced and novice quilters and will help in choosing appropriate modern fabrics.
During the Civil War, family members, friends, and concerned citizens produced an estimated 250,000 quilts for the use of soldiers during the Civil War. Some of the quilts shown in Civil War Quilts were prepared over months of careful stitching by a mother, wife or sister — often requiring precious moments taken from caring for children or other loved ones. For so many other women left alone to care for the family and farm and often forced to substitute for a husband by following the plow in an effort to feed the precious family left in her care, producing a quilt for her loved one required months of stitching long after children were asleep and nighttime chores were completed.
The development of Ladies Aid Societies and their interest in the war efforts produced many thousands of Civil War quilts. Many of the Ladies Aid societies attempted a “factory-type” system where several women would each produce a number of quilt blocks then gather at their church or nearby home to sew the blocks together and complete the quilt. Some Civil War era quilts were beautifully designed and quilted while others were prepared quickly to meet the desperate needs of soldiers in the field or confined to hospital by illness or war-related injuries: some prepared over months of careful stitching by a wife, mother, or sister and others sewn quickly by the many willing hands of the aid societies. Yet, regardless of who prepared the quilts, each was a welcome gift from home.
Photography throughout the book is excellent, and the authors combine the history of these Civil War quilts along with an exemplary How-To section and suggest that today’s quilters seek the “spirit” of the original quilt rather than attempting an exact duplication.
Title: Civil War Quilts
Author: Pam Weeks & Don Beld
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
-Review by Carol Campbell