Wednesday, January 19, 2011


This will be the first post for those of you who are joining me in the Underground Railroad Block of the Month. Information and patterns are from the book "Quilt In A Day Underground Railroad Sampler" by Eleanor Burns and Sue Bouchard.

Each month, I will post the block that I have picked from the book along with the story that goes along with it. Also, there will be a picture of the block that I have made. My personal goal is to use fabric from my stash. That is, if it goes along with the civil war era. Feel free to use whatever fabrics you like, I just prefer the civil war era fabrics for this project. My intent is for this project to be fun. You can work at your own pace. Hopefully, by the end of the year, you will have twelve blocks to put together a quilt. If you only get a few done, you can always make a wall hanging or table runner.

So, here's the story!

Underground Railroad, also known as Jacob’s Ladder, the alternating path of dark and light fabrics cold be used to show the direction in which a “passenger” was to travel.

There is a story about a slave owner chasing a runaway slave. The slave owner swore the man vanished as if he had stepped on some kind of “underground railroad.” The idea of an Underground Railroad taking people north to freedom was used to describe the network of abolitionists and safe houses that helped slaves escape to Ohio and Canada. Safe houses along the way were known as “stations”. Those who guided the escapees were called “conductors”. The runaways themselves were called “passengers”.

Harriet Tubman was one of the best-known conductors on the Underground Railroad. She herself escaped from slavery and returned to the South a total of 19 times to bring over 300 fugitives to freedom. She never lost a single passenger. It was her mission to guide them through unknown lands and take care of their needs. She would tell them to wait in the woods while she went to the home of a friend to buy needed provisions. She would not return until nightfall, using a song to communicate safety or danger to those hiding in wait.

Reaching a “station” in the North meant food, clothing, and a place to hide when capture was imminent. But it did not yet mean freedom. The Underground Railroad took them all the way to Canada in some cases. Estimates are that as many as 100,000 people escaped slavery between the American Revolution and the Civil War.


  1. That's so neat, Michelle. Fascinating story, and I love the fact that this quilt was used to point a safe passage. Very ingenious.

    An ancestor of mine in New York had given aid to a runaway slave who ended up staying and working for him at his store. When the British invaded the city and tried to take the horse (my ancestor had died shortly before the invasion), the former slave screamed at them and I thinked brandished a weapon to protect it. He was fiercely loyal to the man who had not only protected him, but had given him the ability to support himeself.

    I wish I was talented enough to do this quilting with you. Are you going to machine piece or hand piece this quilt?


    Sheila :-)

  2. Thanks Michelle, I will figure out what material I want to use and get going!!! Bev