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The Quilt to Freedom

Rhonda Newman

Machine pieced, batik fabric, beaded & embroidery.

I made this quilt to commemorate the 150 year anniversary of the Civil War. The patterns come from the Eleanor Burns and Sue Bouchard book “Underground Railroad Sampler”.  I have always been interested in the path slaves took on their journey from the Southern United States to the Northern United States and Canada.  Quilts were used as signs and signals for the slaves.  The quilts would give the slaves directions to the next place where they could hide and hopefully be safe until their next journey. 
This multi-part project is the work of 8 members of North Suburban Needle Arts Guild. Each 8" x 8" work contains beading &/or embroidery and is based on a monthly color theme.
The story of the blocks and colors are as follows:
Underground Railroad or Jacob’s Ladder (white) this block has alternating path of dark and light that can be used to show a direction.  (p. 33)*
Monkey Wrench (pink and red) this block symbolized the time to collect tools they would need on their journey north to freedom. (p. 38)*
Wagon Wheel (green) Wagons with hidden compartments were one of the primary means of transporting escaping runaways. (p. 46)*
The Carpenter’s Star Wheel (pastel colors) future run-always recognized this as a directive to plan their escape. (p. 46)*
Bear’s Paw (purple) block, would lead tired, hungry runaways to food and water. (p. 64)*
The Basket (salmon) block, is a symbol of the provisions needed for the long journey North. (p. 72)*
The Log Cabin (red, white and blue) block may have indicated there was a specific log cabin that was a safe house.  (p. 84)*
The Crossroads (turquoise) block represents a crossroad or city where they would find protection and refuge.  (p. 78)*
The Shoo-Fly (rust and gold) block represents an actual person who might have helped escaping slaves.  His responsibility was to secretly aid and harbor fugitives.  (p. 90)*
The Bow Tie (orange and black) block was to teach slaves how to escape to freedom.  It was a directive for them to dress in a formal manner.  (p. 96)*
The Birds in the Air (brown) block is symbolic of flight or migration. (p. 106)*
The Sail Boat (red and green) block is a symbol of safe passage to freedom.  It also represents the importance of free black sailors to the Underground Railroad. (p. 122)*
This work was pieced, embroidered and beaded by me in 2014.



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Last updated November 6, 2014
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