Saturday, February 22, 2014

Stitcher's Square Quilt Block and Main Character Elizabeth Keckley in Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

10" Stitcher's Square Quilt Block Pattern Information

Do you love to quilt AND love to read?  I invite you to join the free, online Quilters' Book Club.  Each month, we read a book, discuss it through comments on my blog posts, and then make a quilt block to represent that book.  I research several potential blocks to go with the book's themes, setting, main characters, and events.  And I find the patterns free on the internet, making it easy for everyone to access.  Each member can choose the block or blocks they'd like to make.  To join, become a follower of my blog so you won't miss any blog post.  To make it super convenient, you can also sign up for my posts to be delivered right to you via email.  If you love to quilt and read, please join us!  It's easy to jump in anytime.  Check out the Quilters' Book Club Schedule right here.  
Our book to read and discuss during February 2014 is Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini.  Get the book from your local library or bookstore and join us!  If you want to read it on your Kindle, you can get it here.

Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker was Elizabeth Keckley.  Here is some additional background information on her from American National Biography Online:

"Keckley, Elizabeth Hobbs (1820?-26 May 1907), White House dressmaker during the Lincoln administration and author, was born in Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia, the daughter of George Pleasant and Agnes Hobbs, slaves. Her birth date is variously given from 1818 to 1824 based on different documents that report her age. The identity of her father is also uncertain; in later life Keckley reportedly claimed that her father was her master, Colonel A. Burwell. George Pleasant, who was owned by a different master, was allowed to visit only twice a year and was eventually taken west.

"Elizabeth's life as a slave included harsh, arbitrary beatings 'to subdue her stubborn pride,' frequent moves to work for often poor family members, and being 'persecuted for four years' by Alexander Kirkland, a white man, by whom she had a son. Her life improved when she was loaned to a Burwell daughter, Anne Garland, with whose family Keckley moved to St. Louis. There, her labor as a dressmaker was the sole support of the Garland household of seventeen members for more than two years. Because of her skill, engaging personality, and capacity for hard work, she developed a devoted clientele among the city's elite women. She persuaded the Garlands to set a price, $1,200, for her freedom and that of her son. In St. Louis (probably in 1852) she married James Keckley, a man who had told her he was free but was actually a "dissipated" slave. Because of the strain of supporting both her husband and the Garlands, she could not save the money needed to purchase her freedom. Her customers raised it among themselves, however, and the Deed of Emancipation was registered in 1855. With her labor now her own, she was soon able to repay the loan. In 1860 she separated from her husband and moved to Washington, D.C., where she set up a dressmaking establishment that trained dozens of young women over the years."  Continue to read more at American National Biography Online.

If you'd like to make a quilt block to represent Elizabeth Keckley, here are some ideas to get you started:

Calico Spools Quilt Block shown below

Miniature Spools Quilt Block

Notions Quilt Blocks paper-pieced patterns for a pin cushion and a button jar

Star of Virginia Quilt Block

Calico Spools Quilt Block

Do you also make clothing, or do you only make quilts?  Inquiring minds want to know!  Answer in the comment section below for a chance to win a copy of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.  Plume Books is generously offering two copies of the book.  If you are reading this via email, you must click on the title of my blog post to be able to comment and read the comments of others.  Winner will be announced March 1. 

In March, the Quilters' Book Club will be reading and discussing A Drunkard's Path by Clare O'Donohue.  It's a mystery set in New York and is second in her Someday Quilts Mysteries Series.  Get the book from your library or local bookstore now and be ready to join us! 

You might also enjoy reading my previous blog post Hairpin Catcher Quilt Block and a Bad Hair Day.


  1. I've made a lot of clothing in my life, but do less of it now because it is so hard to find fashion fabric.

  2. I made my three daughters summer clothing and now my grand daughters clothing. Quilts for 10 grandchildren and 1 great grandson. I love to quilt and make clothes. Now i will start quilts for all the grown kids.

  3. I make Easter clothes for granddaughters; grandson doesn't want me to sew for him and hasn't since he was 3! He did let me make him a quilt and is ready for another. It's planned in my head or at least I have been collecting fabric. I don't make much clothing for me as it is hard to get to fit!

  4. For the last 5 years or so, I have been my mother-in-law's chief (and only!) dressmaker. I also make clothes for the grandchildren occasionally, and dolls clothes for their dolls. Too involved in patchwork now to do anything for myself. I am a bit self conscious about wearing clothes I make for myself - always think that you can see that they are home made.

  5. I made a top in home ec, but, it was way too big. I've also made a quilted jacket, but, I had help putting it back together again. I just don't get making clothes. I found 2 of the next three books in my stash. Not sure if I have the one for next month or not. I found another book by the same author. Oh well.

  6. When I was growing up, if you wanted something, you had to make it yourself. When my kids were growing up, I made their clothing, mostly by cutting fabric from things I had made for myself.I knit their sweaters and other warm clothing. I remember sometimes we bought fabric and I let the kids pick their own. We dressed their dolls in the scraps and I still have a few pieces remaining. These days I don't do machine sewing and my granddaughter's other grandmother is an excellent seamstress making her lovely clothing to go with the hand-me-downs from cousins.


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