Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pot Holder Quilts

Quilt blocks that were pieced and then layered, quilted and bound where often sewn by groups of mid-nineteenth century women into community service quilts. Today we refer to these quilts as 'pot holder quilts'.

Shortly after the beginning of the War, the attack on Fort Sumter April 12, 1861, President Lincoln signed the legislation for the United States Sanitary Commission. The Commission's initial purpose(based on a British model from the Crimean War) was to work for better field and hospital conditions for the soldiers. America's 'industrial war complex' of the time was primitive and unprepared for the rapid call up of fighting men (75,000 militia) by President Lincoln. In especially short supply were articles of clothing and bedding. A call for quilts or comforts was issued by the Commission. The size requested was '8 feet long, 4 feet wide'--a good size for hospital cots and soldiers' backpacks.  The quilts donated were usually stamped with an oval containing the words "Sanitary Commission".

It is estimated that Northern women made and donated more than 250,000 quilts. Many quilts were used as shrouds; others were burned when a field hospital was moved.

There are only 6 known survivors.  Three are pot holder style: Rally Round the Flag, the Hingham, Mass quilt and the 6th which was seen in 1998 in Texas and is called the 'Long quilt').

Don Beld has developed patterns for 4 of these quilts. His latest pattern is a 4 block wallhanging done in the Pot Holder technique.  In January, 2010, he will have a new pattern with all 13 different blocks (including the block featured above) of the 5th Sanitary Commission quilt from Hingham, MA.


  1. Can you tell us any differences in double pinks over their long history? Any tips for identifying any period of them? Can any repro's be used for any period of their use?

  2. Useful information, Margo. Thank you for quick response.